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Environmental Illness and IC

Chemicals and toxins are all around us and can have an impact on people with a dysfunctional immune system. Chemicals can also be responsible for a dysfunctional immune system. A number of IC patients experience chemical sensitivity to medicines, fragrances and scented products, and occasionally experience bladder symptoms when they are exposed to gasoline fumes, paint and certain chemicals. Some patients believe that they suffered with sensitivity before they had IC. Patients with fibromyalgia (FMS), mitral valve prolapse (MVP) and hypothyroidism appear to be more sensitive to chemicals.

August may be the most polluted month in our hemisphere. The highest concentrations of ozone occur when sunlight is most intense. Ozone air pollution forms when emissions from motor vehicles, power plants and industry react with sunlight. Ozone irritates the sensitive tissue of the eyes, nose and lungs, causing inflammation, chest pain, and difficulty breathing (The American Lung Association). In general, there is more exposure to toxins in the summer. People spend time outdoors, in swimming pools and parks. They use sunscreens and bug repellents. They travel in cars, airplanes, and trains, and eat fast foods. They often choose to renovate, or build new additions to their homes.

The body is exposed to toxins and allergens through substances that are inhaled, touched, eaten, applied in, or on the body. Common symptoms of chemical sensitivity are usually experienced in the sinuses, respiratory system, and central nervous system. Symptoms include:

· headaches, including migraines
· hacking coughs
· bronchitis
· dizziness
· tremors
· swelling of the lips, tongue, and eyes
· conjunctivitis
· dermatitis
· fatigue
· cardiac symptoms, such as palpitations, and irregular heat beats
· muscle and joint pain
· numbness
· flu-like symptoms and colds
· low grade fever
· depression

Reactions can cause:

· genitourinary problems
· hyper-reactive behavior
· short term memory loss
· hyperactivity in children
· learning disabilities in children

Although having IC does not mean that you will also have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), taking control of your environment and avoiding irritating products are healthy lifestyle choices. The following suggestions are geared to bring attention to a spectrum of sensitivities and various environmental factors that may impact your health:

· Avoid using perfume, scented shampoos, lotions, soaps and scented laundry detergent. Most commercial scented products are petrochemical neurotoxins. Ninety-five percent of the chemicals in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. The contents of these fragrances have been found to cause cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions.

· Wash or air-out new clothing before wearing. New clothing usually contains dyes, dry cleaning solution, masking fragrances, and sometimes fire retardant. Pure wool may be mothproofed.

· Avoid clothing and sheets containing polyester or permanent-press, because they may also contain formaldehyde.

· Avoid chlorine bleach, ammonia, commercial floor and furniture polishes, oven cleaners, waxes and strippers. Use cleaning products from the health food store. Baking soda is a natural cleaning replacement and can be mixed with vinegar or water.

· Avoid aerosols and room deodorizers. Avoid all pine scented cleaners and disinfectants.

· Avoid insecticide sprays, no-pest strips, moth balls, crystals and mothproofed paper, as well as natural insect repellants, such as cedar wood and chips (cedar is an irritant). Instead, use garlic sprays and safe insecticide soaps. Contact Gardens Alive for organic garden products ( Don't use fly- paper if you have humming birds. The little birds can get stuck on it.

· Avoid foods treated with pesticides and farm grown vegetables sold at stands close to busy roadways. They are exposed to carbon monoxide.

· Close off the fresh air vent in your car while driving in traffic. Use a small, specialized charcoal filter air cleaner in the car. Avoid ozone air cleaners.

· When remodeling avoid particleboard, plywood, medium-density fiberboard and wood veneers (most of these products contain formaldehyde, so check all contents before using).

· Avoid vinyl-coated cabinets, vinyl floors and wallpaper.

· Avoid oil based paints.

· Replace the chlorine (and bromine, if sensitive) in your pool with an alternative disinfectant. Contact The United States Water Fitness Association (561) 732-9908.

· Use sunscreens that are made with natural ingredients, such as grape seed oil.

· Only exercise in a fresh air environment.

If you experience shallow breathing after exposure to toxins, try the following exercise (in a fresh air environment) to clear your lungs and restore full breathing:

To begin, lie on your back, place your hands on your lower ribs and rest your elbows out to your sides. Now, gently breathe in through your nose and imagine your lower rib cage (front, back and sides) expand and become wider, so you are aware of the three dimensional movement of your whole rib cage. On your exhale, picture your ribs resting down and coming closer together. As you continue this exercise, gradually move your hands and breath up your rib cage so you feel the movement under your arms and across your shoulders. Make sure that your inhale is natural, gentle and not forced, and that you use a long and slow exhale.

After you have breathed into your upper ribs, slide your head back as far as you comfortably can. Now take a good cleansing breath and let your chin slide back down on your exhale. You will probably notice that your chin is less tucked, which will help you to breathe more fully. Adjust your head position for comfort.

I learned this breathing exercise from movement pioneer Judith Aston. This style of breathing should encourage a natural response of movement in your belly without stirring the inflammation in your bladder. Be sure
to take a few moments before standing after this exercise.

About The Authors:
Gaye is an author and IC patient & support group leader who has been involved in IC work for years. In 1990 she published "Stretch Into a Better Shape" and produced a stretching and exercise video for IC patients in 1993. She is a specialist in Aston-Patterning movement and muscle re-education.

Andrew has over ten years of clinical and health care management position. He is currently the Administrator of Maison Hospitaliere, located in New Orleans. Andrew holds a Ph.D. in Special Education, a M.A. of Health Adminstration, M.A. of Clinical Psychology.

They welcome your comments and feedback on their articles at: The Sandlers

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