As a doctor who practices integrative medicine, I focus on health care and not just disease care. I always attempt to understand the deeper underlying causes of any illness or condition and not simply treat superficial symptoms. So when it comes to looking at causes of disease I am working from the inside out rather than outside in.
This is such an important topic that I devoted an entire chapter to it in my latest book Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine, but in brief I believe that cellular dysfunction is one of the main causes of body imbalance, inflammation, and dis-ease. The health of our cells is affected adversely by two primary factors – deficiency, by which I mean not enough intake and assimilation of the necessary nutrients; and toxicity – contact with too many harmful man-made chemicals.
As for nutrients – we need an adequate supply of amino acids (from protein foods), fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (these are chemicals that plants produce and use to stay healthy – providing protection, for example, from insect attacks or radiation from UV rays and also providing significant benefits for humans). A deficiency of any of these nutrients can diminish cellular function.
As for toxins – the external environment has a significant impact on our cell health –from the level of contaminants, chemicals and artificial additives in the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, and with a special concern for the products we use in our homes and gardens, or put on our bodies.
In fact personal care products are one of the most common yet overlooked sources of environmental toxicity. The average adult uses nine personal care products a day, exposing themselves to more than 100 different chemical ingredients. What makes things worse is that items like toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, makeup, or deodorant, are not held to the same quality or safety standards by the FDA as food or drugs, all items that we put into our bodies.
Hair coloring, for example, is potentially one of the most toxic of all, linked to increased rates of breast cancer in recent research by Rutgers University, which studied over 4,200 women between the ages of 20 and 75. This is especially troubling given that an estimated 75 percent of U.S. women over age 18 color their hair. In addition, many such cosmetics are now imported with virtually no regulation or inspection – the FDA recently stated that they had just 6 inspectors for the more than three million shipments last year from over 180 different countries and 29,000 foreign companies. They inspected just 0.3 percent of these shipments and ran actual lab tests on only 364 of them!
Obviously we need to know more about the short and long-term health implications of using these kinds of products, and we need to be watchful consumers especially when children are involved where any negative effects can be even more serious and long lasting. A great resource that I recommend is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) online cosmetic database.
This is all part of living more naturally, using fewer chemicals on and in our bodies and in our surroundings overall; this is a conscientious reduction in the use of synthetically made and petro-chemically-based products, which have a negative and toxic downstream effect in both our local and global environments.
This shift to a more natural lifestyle is growing across our nation and the globe, and is based largely on the same principles as those of NEW Medicine: taking personal responsibility for our health and for the planet, and recognizing the incredibly complex interactions between the decisions we make, the products we use, and their affect upon our entire environment and ecosystem, including our own and our family’s health.