Dr Damien Downing writes;
We have poisoned our planet and all its inhabitants. Small birds are disappearing from our hedgerows, bees suffer colony collapse (with pesticides now a known cause), many streams and rivers are toxic sewers. Even the badgers blamed for carrying bovine TB are the victims of a poisoned ecosystem. Humans are not exempt; sperm counts are dropping, allergies, intolerances and auto-immune diseases are soaring, and so are neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Those of us with environmental illnesses are the “pit canaries” who have been exposed more, or simply developed symptoms earlier, than most people. It might even be good news in a way, because you will have to do something about it now, and not wait until it has given you something irreversible.
There is no single clearly defined environmental illness, no single chemical sensitivity syndrome; there are perhaps as many different subtypes of illness as there are sufferers, and each sufferer may have several diagnoses, including toxic symptoms, allergies, auto-immune, endocrine and neurological disruptions, and of course fatigue.
We work with leading laboratories worldwide to provide the best up-to-date analyses. There have been important advances recently in laboratory techniques relevant to EI.
Toxic chemicals tend not to remain in blood for very long. But they can stay in fat for years and years. This is why we use a Fat Biopsy (through a small needle, it’s less unpleasant than an injection) to assess how much of the main toxic chemicals you are carrying around. Common findings include pesticides, petrochemicals and dye/colouring components.
Toxic metals we normally assess on a urine test (and sometimes other tissues). Lead, mercury and cadmium are all common findings, but nickel is a surprisingly common problem – both toxicity and sensitivity.
It is possible to test the degree of reaction by your immune cells (i.e. white blood cells) to specific toxins. If your first line of defence, the detox enzymes, fail to remove the toxins, the immune system can become involved in trying to deal with them. But this is not very efficient, and is likely to cause allergy-related symptoms. You then have a double problem; toxicity and sensitivity. We can measure the sensitivity, and sometimes that is all we need to measure; it makes sense that there can be no sensitivity without prior exposure to the toxin.
It is now possible to look at and identify chemicals attached (adducted) to our chromosomes. Sometimes the toxins are attached to specific genes, where they may have “epigenetic” effects – i.e. influence the switching on and off of genes. Now that we have “cracked” the human genome, epigenetics is the next, much bigger, job. The genome is not the instruction manual for the cell – it’s more like the dictionary, and epigenetics determines the words that the cell uses.
In any case, if a toxin has penetrated so deeply into your cells that it is stuck to your genes, then it is likely to be having a whole range of effects throughout other parts of your tissues. This short abstract sums up a scientific view of the value of examining adducts.
In the 10 years since completion of the Human Genome Project, the various sub-fields of genetics have grown astronomically. Small variations in your DNA code can alter the way you function, and your risk of certain illnesses, rather than directly causing genetic disorders such as Down’s or Huntington’s. The science is still in its infancy, growing rapidly but with a long way to grow.
Genomic testing provides insights into your metabolism of chemicals and drugs, cardiovascular risk, osteoporosis and so on. Most important, it can tell us what your resources are that can be employed to detox and improve health.
For instance there is one combination of gene changes that gives you an estimated 18 times the risk of developing chemical sensitivity. And there’s the APOE gene, an alteration in which can give you a similar increase in risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Neither of these is a life-sentence though; they tell us about what we, and you, need to do to treat your problem.
The cheapest genomic panel in relation to environmental illness is about €300 — and not always necessary, but you only need to do it once, and it can tell a lot about your individual biochemical make-up.
My colleague Dr Stephen Davies coined the phrase Nutrient-Toxin Interface; in order to handle, and not be harmed by, toxins you need adequate amounts of a number of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fatty acids. The more toxins you’re exposed to the more nutrients you need. We can advise you on what is important, and organise testing for these. Many of the tests are done at Biolab in London.