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Article: Respond, Don’t React

Respond, Don’t React


Learning how to respond, rather than react, is an important life skill. We usually see this concept through the lens of emotional intelligence and personal relationships, but it also connects to our physical body. 

Late-Onset Allergy Development

Increasingly, we hear customers lamenting that their bodies have transitioned to a state of reaction instead of response. "I've developed adult-onset allergies" is a common complaint. To what? Food, my friend's laundry detergent, essential oils, the markers in my desk drawer and even supplements. 

The development of allergies later in life is often attributed to genetics, exposure to a new allergen or changes in the immune system response. “Avoid” tends to be the cultural reaction to the development of these kinds of sensitivities. We encourage you to employ a a different response: use this over-reaction as an opportunity to find the root cause. Your body’s inflammatory response is a clue to solve the most critical question- “why?” 

What causes an allergic reaction?

The immune system's abnormal response to a substance it considers “foreign” is the root cause of an allergic reaction. It can result from any substance that is ingested, inhaled or comes in contact with the skin. 

Why are allergies on the rise?

One theory is that the increase and severity of allergies is due to our diet. More processed foods, less fruits and vegetables, fewer traditional diets and higher consumption of inflammatory foods. 

Another theory is called the “hygiene hypothesis” which essentially theorizes that we live in a world that is too sanitized. The use of antimicrobials whether for cleaning our hands, belongings or our food, along with our limited interactions with the microbes found naturally outdoors has backfired. Our immune systems no longer know how to properly respond when they encounter microbes and therefore react. 

Indoor Air Quality

While we sanitize many parts of our world, the one area that is often overlooked is our indoor air quality. As we've shifted to a culture where people spend a significant amount of time indoors, we are exposed to microscopic indoor pollutants such as VOCs from off-gassing building materials and appliances and numerous toxins: radon, carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide gas and the numerous toxins that result from unnoticed or improperly remediated water damage. Most of these toxins are invisible, odorless, colorless and such a small particle size that we’d never know that they come in with every breath.

If you are navigating a medical mystery, first rule out compromised indoor air quality. Since the pandemic, many of us work at home and spend more time indoors.  The air we breathe while we sleep is of particular concern. Sleep, especially REM sleep, deepens the way we breathe, making us more susceptible to the toxins we breathe in. The most potent route of exposure to inflammatory toxins is almost always inhalation. Inhalation exposure to airborne toxins is an overlooked, under-acknowledged root cause of systemic inflammation. While poor indoor air quality can be caused by numerous factors, hidden water damage is a major culprit. Studies done on buildings in the United States estimate that up to 85% have had water damage. 

Indoor Air Quality Contaminants

The interior environment of a water-damaged building creates a microscopic, invisible, toxic soup of poor indoor air quality. If there is an active leak, often hidden behind walls and ceilings with no visible signs of water damage, not even the most expensive and highest-rated air purifier on the market can counter that level of pollution, the leak must be identified and stopped. The many toxins associated with water damage are insidious: mold spores, actinomyces, mycotoxins, bacteria, bacterial endotoxins and exotoxins. Every occupant of a home can react differently to exposure, depending on age, gender, genetics and previous toxic exposure, adding to the confusion about whether or not your home could be making you sick. Some people may get chronic sinus issues, while others may develop more complex illnesses such as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), known as Gu Syndrome in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The presentation of CIRS is so broad and varied it is easy to misdiagnose as another illness.

There are many ways to assess the quality of your indoor air, from affordable and easy-to-use gravity plates that show colony counts of mold to more specific and slightly more expensive dust tests that measure historic levels of bacteria, mold and their associated toxins, to environmental hygienists and hidden leak detection companies that can determine if a slow, seemingly minor leak is contributing to your health concerns.

How To Respond, Not React 

The emotionally intelligent approach to a thoughtful response encourages you to pause, slow down, breathe, get perspective, gather facts and determine the best course of action. Avoidance is a short-term fix that seldom guarantees deep-level or lasting improvement. The same approach should be taken for the physical body. If you are reacting to something new, pause. Focus on lowering your body's inflammatory response and get curious about the root cause of why you are overreacting. The use of Chinese Herbal medicines supports a balanced response as you determine why your body has developed a reaction equivalent to a chronic, inflammatory response. Once you have solved the mystery of why, you may realize that the problem wasn’t the offending “allergens” but rather your body’s reaction to them.

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