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Hopper: How your environment can negatively affect your brain
Prior to my journey with a disabling illness, I was living life to the fullest.
I had a successful counselling practice, a newspaper column and was also a featured guest on local talk radio.
I was involved in community theatre, a choir, my church, traveled extensively, had many friends, and was in an amazing relationship.
That all ended in 2005 when I suffered from toxic overload that triggered a brain injury.
This resulted in developing what is known as environmental illness.
Illnesses that are classified in this category include multiple chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and electric hypersensitivity syndrome.
The word “environmental” tends to make you think “outside.” But the actual cause of the injury for me was inside my office, and I didn’t even know it.
Unbeknownst to me, the toxic insult consisted of a unique combination of toxins found in new paint (volatile organic compounds or VOCs), mold and chemical cleaners that were stored in the janitors supply room next door to my office.
During the years when I was disabled from illness, I lived a very isolated and constricted life, despite the fact that I was not the only one suffering.
Through research, I discovered that there are millions of other people all over the world have some form of environmental illness.
Although this illness has reached epidemic prevalence, public awareness of the common causes of illness and preventable measures remains limited.
It is estimated that 74 million North Americans have some form of chemical sensitivity (also known as “chemical injury” or “chemical intolerance”) or other environmental illness.
Symptoms can be mild like a temporary headache from the odour of perfume, fresh paint, fabric softener or deodorizers.
However, there are about 10 million people who are so severely affected that the illness severely restricts how they live and what they can do.
They are known as the “canaries”—an early warning sign of the perils and human cost of the chemical revolution of the 20th century.
This misunderstood and often misplaced population of society are largely undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by our mainstream medical system.
Why the term canary? Miners used to keep a canary in the shafts to determine air quality.
When the canary stopped singing or dropped dead, they knew poisons were present and it was time leave.
Chemical injury can alter the body physiologically and also change the structure and function of the brain.
The disorganization of neural networks that take place with chemical trauma cause deep protective brain mechanisms within the limbic system to fire more rapidly, throwing those who suffer into a constant state of survival.
This perpetual state of chronic stress affects many systems of the body involved with communication, rest, digestion and detoxification.
Toxic overload also commonly affects respiratory, cardiac, immune, musculoskeletal, reproductive, endocrine system function and often is involved with heightened sensory perception.
Fortunately, I recovered from Environmental Illness in 2008 through neuroplasticity or healing the brain.
It is from this place of recovery that I find myself in the unique position to help others recover through rewiring the limbic system function.
With this in mind, I am happy to announce that I have been invited to speak at the American Academy of Environmental Medicine Conference in October in Phoenix, Ariz., about neuroplasticity and limbic system rehabilitation as a viable form of treatment for environmental illness.
My deepest desire is to be a strong voice for hope and healing for those who suffer from this illness.