Environmental Toxins

Can the Environment Impact Our Immunity?

How your environment can affect your autoimmunity.

Imagine that you’re a homeowner – or maybe you currently are one! On a scale of one to ten, how hard would (do) you work to keep your house clean? (One meaning that you don’t care about the home whatsoever, and ten being that you want the home in tip-top shape on a consistent basis). If you answered ten, what do you do when you spot unwanted pests, dirt, and bacteria within your residence? Most people will attempt to clean their house and kill all pests, dirt and bacteria in order to maintain a spotless home, however those who are disorganized or hoarders may not care as much, thus allowing dirt and bacteria to seep in.

Similarly, the immune system within our body works the same way. Our body represents the home while the immune system represents the homeowner. Its job is to eliminate all of the “dirt” or foreign antibodies in order to keep it healthy and strong. Even though this is its main function, occasionally an abnormal immune system (the disorganized homeowner) will mistake healthy cells for foreign antibodies and attack them. When this happens within the body, it’s called an autoimmune disease, and it can affect multiple areas of the system including the joints, digestive system, neurological system, the skin, the thyroid, and many others.

Research around the issues of autoimmunity have been studied since the 1950’s, and to this day, doctors still have unclear answers as to the precise cause of an abnormal immune system. Certain factors such as bacterial infection, nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, and DNA all play significant roles in its development. However, one major key factor that conventional doctors tend to underestimate is the environment as a whole. Toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, bacteria, and many other parasites are extremely prevalent in today’s society, and while our systems are built to protect us from them, there is only so much that it can do before it becomes overworked. Therefore, the question remains: how does the environment impact our immunity? Furthermore, what can we do to ensure our immune system stays safe from potential autoimmune conditions?

The History of Environmental Involvement in Diseases

To truly prove the environment’s impact on the immune system, it’s important to analyze the full history of how society has evolved and how the environment played a role in multiple illnesses around the world. If we rewind back to the middle ages, one of the most famous diseases known for the death of 25 million Europeans is the Bubonic Plague. Back then, people weren’t provided with the proper tools for quality hygiene care (unless one was considered royalty, wealthy or of high social class), therefore most middle and lower class nobleman, farmers, craftsmen, merchants and peasants lived in rather dirty or unclean environments. This made it easier for rats, fleas, and other contaminated animals to spread bacterial diseases throughout towns and communities. Additionally, medicine was extremely scarce and wasn’t as scientifically evolved compared to today.

In the case of the Bubonic Plague, bacteria from rats, fleas, and person-to-person contact caused the disease to spread like wildfire, thus leading to the death of millions. As society changed, more diseases made their debut from yellow fever (late 1700s), smallpox (1870-1874), influenza (late 1800s-early 1900s), polio (early-mid 1900s), and tuberculosis (1900s) and were becoming more prevalent as the environment transformed. This meant that more heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria, and other toxins were finding ways to infiltrate our system and obstruct it. Fortunately, medicine has also come a long way since then to help strengthen immunity, thus extending the average human life span.

The History of Autoimmunity

The discovery of autoimmune conditions was not introduced until the mid-20th century. Initially, the belief that the immune system could cause harm to itself was widely disputed. It all began in the early 1930’s when unusual diseases that developed in 14 patients in New York was discovered by gastroenterologist Burrill Crohn. These patients experienced symptoms of bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lesions on their bowel walls. Interestingly, more cases of this disease began developing in other parts of North America and Europe and continued spreading until after World War II. Today, this autoimmune condition is widely known as Crohn’s disease.

In the 1950’s, famous immunologist Henry Kunkel performed more research on the existence of two more specific autoimmune diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. Eventually, lab tests from various patients revealed the presence of chronic inflammation within blood vessels and identified the immune cells that were producing factors against the body. Today, there are over 80 different autoimmune diseases that affect about 10% of the world’s population. Coincidentally, more autoimmune conditions kept arising as time went on rather than the opposite effect, and it’s highly speculated that advancements in environmental conditions are partially to blame.

The Environment’s Effect on the Immune System

Environmental factors include the development of the industrial industry, manufacturing, technology, machinery, and earth elements. While beneficial to the global economy, the growth of many of these industries excreted various poisons into the air, water, and daily products such as cleaning supplies. These poisons include heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria, and pollution that crawl into our system and obstruct it with inflammation. As autoimmune conditions continued to evolve in congruence with the environmental enhancements, researchers began to speculate their effect on the immune system and whether or not these toxins played a dynamic role. Initially, it was hypothesized that genetics were a factor in autoimmunity, but after a series of experiments, “researchers found that non-heritable influences outweighed heredity in about 75% of all immune parameters, and almost exclusively determined more than half of the parameters¹.”

Preventing Autoimmunity at LifeWorks Wellness Center

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, treatments for autoimmune patients can range from multiple intravenous therapies, gut programs, autoimmune injections, ozone therapies, peptides, supplementation, and dietary changes. If environmental toxicity is detected through bloodwork or other test results, some detoxification treatments may also be included in the plan. Before starting a treatment plan or supplement regimen, patients are required to consult with a LifeWorks practitioner to discuss medical history, past or current conditions, past or current medications, allergies and other factors that may impact one’s health. From there, we will proceed with further testing and based on results determine an accurate program that will provide the patient with the best healing results.

If you or someone that you know currently suffers from a form of autoimmune disease or environmental toxicity, please call to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians at 727-466-6789.

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About Dr. Minkoff

Dr. David Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then completed both a Pediatric Residency and a Fellowship in Infectious Disease at the University of California at San Diego. He worked at the University of California and Children’s Hospitals in San Diego as an attending physician in infectious disease while conducting original research on Ribaviron, a broad spectrum anti-viral agent to fight disease. He also co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine. In 1992, Dr. Minkoff’s attended a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, widely considered the father of functional medicine, during which he had a eureka moment, and began pursuing the alternative health field with a vengeance, studying under the most accomplished thought leaders on natural & integrative healing. In 1997 Dr. Minkoff and his wife set up a small clinic to help friends with their medical problems. What began as an experiment blossomed into LifeWorks Wellness Center, one of the most successful clinics for complementary medicine in the United States.