Environmentally-Triggered Chronic Illness

It is essential to determine the cause of chronic illness and to determine those treatments that are effective instead of those treatments that merely attempt to suppress symptoms while ignoring the underlying cause of the illness.

In 2004, the Milken Institute (non-partisan, non-profit) issued its report, An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease citing the seven most prevalent chronic illnesses in America as: lung disease, heart disease, hypertension, mental illness, cancer (all types), diabetes, and stroke. Milken reports that 50% of all Americans have at least one of these chronic illnesses. Each of these chronic illnesses could have an environmental contribution that is rarely identified or evaluated. Yet billions of dollars are spent—often wasted—by trying to suppress symptoms without identifying the cause of the illness. The healthcare costs, and dollars lost in productivity are staggering.

For years, there has been a debate whether certain chronic illnesses are psychosomatic (the mind creating a physical illness), or illnesses emanating from the body with psychological/psychiatric consequences. Those who insist these illnesses are psychosomatic probably have never fully evaluated the patients to determine whether an underlying physical illness, nutritional deficit, or environmental exposure might be contributing to the psychological/psychiatric features. The phenomenon of a healthcare practitioner ascribing a psychiatric/psychological diagnosis to a real physical illness is eloquently penned by Harvard researcher Jerome Groopman , M. D. in his book How Doctors Think. Repeatedly, Dr. Groopman documents that serious and even life-threatening illnesses go undiagnosed by “well-trained” physicians who have a pre-conceived idea of what the patient should have, and are inexperienced in the patient’s particular presenting diagnosis. Illnesses from celiac disease to Wilson’s disease have been missed by physicians. In both of these cases, the patients would have died without the correct diagnosis which was later made by a more thorough and experienced doctor.

This issue of misdiagnosis due to inexperience raises grave questions about medical competency, medical training, patient outcome, and healthcare costs. In every instance of misdiagnosis, the patient is harmed and loses faith in a medical care system that should be wiser.

Environmental medicine physicians are trained to diligently search for the cause of the illness, whether physical or psychological/psychiatric. Often environmental factors such as chemical exposures, food hypersensitivity, inhalant allergy, heavy metal exposure, prescription medications, and other products can cause serious illness. Nutritional deficits and occult infections can also cause debilitating illness. Comprehensive evaluation and treatment is required for chronic illness.

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