For years, physicians who practice environmental medicine, including myself, have been advising their patients to avoid toxicants that can produce problems with our neuralogical, endocrine and immune systems later in life.
In my own practice, many patients have taken my words to heart, and let me guide them on a detoxification program to chelate heavy metals and to remove solvents and pesticides. Many of my patients have told me they feel significantly better after they complete this program. Often they will report better cognition when we have finished.
However, the majority of physicians do not pay attention to this and do not encourage their patients to pay attention to this.
Now just in the last 10 days, I am delighted to see several articles all confirming what I have been telling my patients and readers for many years.
The three organ systems that heavy metals, solvents and pesticides , affect are the neurological system, the immune system, and the endocrine system system.
A new article from the prestigious Environmental Health Perspectives, a United States governmental publication, has just come out entitled Time after Time: Environmental Influences on the Aging Brain.
Here are some important quotes from that article:
“The population of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to double between 2010 and 2050, and by midcentury the proportion of the human population made up of people over age 80 is projected to have quadrupled since 2000. So factors that affect this aging population are of increasing importance. Of particular concern are the neurological diseases and disorders typically associated with advanced age, among them Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, dementia, and reduced cognitive function. Investigators are studying the effects of not just present-day exposures and environmental influences such as physical and mental exercise, but also exposures that occurred much earlier in life, whose effects may only become apparent in old age.”
Please note this includes exposures in the womb and in childhood.
“Now, however, there is increasing evidence that the brain is capable of generating new neurons and other functional brain cells even during advanced age. There is also evidence that the older brain can respond quickly and positively to external influences such as physical exercise and intellectual stimulation. This is prompting considerable interest in developing strategies for protecting and enhancing neurological function in the elderly.”
Lead has particularly been studied for its known ability to damage neurological tissue:
“One study assessed 466 elderly participants in the VA Normative Aging Study who were environmentally but not occupationally exposed to lead. The study showed that higher bone lead levels were associated with steeper declines in these men’s cognitive skills over several years of followup, even after adjusting for confounding factors. Other work assessed the impacts of low-level lead exposure combined with self-reported chronic stress in 811 older men participating in the same study. It, too, found these exposures to be associated with impaired cognitive ability.”
“Lead and mercury have been associated with liver disease, which itself is associated with adverse neurological health effects, including a condition that produces a type of neuronal plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Chemical exposures that adversely affect kidney and liver function can also hamper the body’s ability to detoxify and excrete environmental toxicants, thus letting them remain in the body—an effect that may be particularly problematic in advanced age when a body’s defense mechanisms are in decline.”
This is one reason I advise my patients to stop eating mercury-laden fish. In addition, many of my patients are getting chronic low lead exposure, due to dishes and drinking glasses that they have bought at common retail outlets. Many of these dishes are made in China where lead is everywhere.
I would advise all my patients and readers to ask their doctor at their next physical exam to get a blood lead and blood mercury level to make sure that they are not in the toxic zone of these harmful heavy metals.
Solvents too are a problem. To quote further:
“More substantial evidence links various solvent exposures to other neurological conditions, including cognitive impairments, neuropathy, and what is sometimes called “pseudodementia,” when temporary neurological dysfunction produces symptoms similar to those of dementia. Organic solvents, including toluene, have also been found to impair color vision, while other solvent exposures have been linked to hearing loss, particularly when combined with noise exposure. Such exposures have been primarily studied when they occur occupationally, but some epidemiological studies suggest there is also potential for adverse effects from ambient environmental exposures.”
I am also delighted to see that this article brings up the role of gonadal hormones in maintaining neural cognition. I have seen this in my practice in many women who choose at menopause not to start on estrogen. I am glad to see that more research will be done on this subject.
Here is what they said:
“Weiss says gonadal hormones (i.e., androgens and estrogens) also deserve far more research attention for their influence on neurological function in the elderly.29 These hormones determine sexual differentiation, but they also are involved in neurogenesis and have demonstrated neuroprotective effects in adult male and female animals.”
The good news about this article is that it ends with looking at protective factors for our precious brains. Increasingly, physical exercise is being found to offer significant protection for the aging brain. Here is what they say:
“Some studies have reported a doubled or even tripled ability of the dentate gyrus to generate new neurons in rodents that exercised. Growth of new dendritic spines, which are important for learning and memory, appears to be stimulated as physical or aerobic exercise increases the expression of genes associated with regulating the secretion of neurotrophin proteins, particularly brain-derived neurotrophic factor, says Kirk Erickson, principal investigator of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Aging and Cognitive Health Laboratory. One hypothesis for this, he explains, is that because exercise stimulates blood flow, it may also increase available levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor”
“In experiments with mice, aerobic exercise has been associated with improved spatial memory.38,40 Such activity has also been associated with increased hippocampus size, Erickson explained in a talk at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science,42 and “no pharmaceutical treatment has been able to replicate this effect.” According to Kramer and Erickson, findings from human studies that examined the effects of brisk walking and other aerobic activity have been consistent with those in animal studies.”
In Other New Environmental News
In other news, just released this past Sunday, September 21, 2014, a new study from Duke University has shown that flame retardants in furniture pose significant danger. They were looking for exposure in children who were bornt to mothers who were exposed to it during pregnancy. This is what they found:
“A study by Duke University and the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group found evidence of exposure to a potentially harmful fire retardant in the urine samples of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested. On average, the children had nearly five times more than their mothers of a chemical formed when the fire retardant, TDCPP, breaks down in the body.
TDCPP – a primary focus among the chemicals studied – is often present in the foam used to make sofas, pillows, mattresses and carpet padding, among other household items. California has declared TDCPP a cancer-causing agent and includes warnings on all products using it and selected other chemicals. The Consumer Product Safety Commission lists TDCPP as a probable human carcinogen.
“The general population of the U.S. has constant, chronic exposure to these chemicals,” said Heather Stapleton, assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “In some homes, it’s a much higher concentration than in other homes” – depending on myriad factors including the house’s size and ventilation rates, where the furniture was bought and what kind it is, and the type of home insulation.”
In yet another article just released, the EPA is proposing changing standards for pesticide exposure to farmworkers. This is an effort to give more protection to the workers exposed. But what about us, the consumer who constantly gets exposed to this low-level pesticides on a daily basis? That builds up to create what we call a body burden, which then affects our long-term health.
I am very pleased to see that the EPA is stepping in to change the standards at least for farmworkers.
It is very exciting that this new information is showing that aerobic exercise can bring benefits to our brains. That combined with avoidance of exposure to solvents pesticides and heavy metals, can go a long way towards helping us to stay neurologically healthy.
Drop me a note on twitter! Are You paying attention to these toxicants? Is your doctor getting a blood mercury and lead level on your annually? what your thoughts about chemical exposures in our society today?
I hope to hear from you!
Wishing you the best of health!