The Charity for Environmental Illness

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Feeling ill and don't know why?

If you're suffering from a variety of unexplained symptoms, it could simply be due to a sensitivity to a food or chemical in everyday products. Reactions can vary from headaches, joint pain, stuffy/ runny nose, bloating, exhaustion and wheezing, to skin rashes, mood swings, hyperactivity or depression. If your symptoms are due to a sensitivity reaction, simply replacing the problem food or product with an alternative can help you feel better again.

Food Sensitivity

Food sensitivity / intolerance is usually temporary. After avoiding the problem food for 6 weeks many people find they can eat small quantities again without symptoms. In medical terms, food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. A classic allergy involves the body producing lgE antibodies, which cause immediate and sometimes life-threatening reactions. In contrast, food intolerance does not usually involve lgE antibodies and symptoms can occur anytime between the food being eaten and excreted (usually 3 or 4 days). lgE allergies are permanent and life-long; food intolerance is usually temporary. If you're not sure, ask your doctor to do a blood test to see if your reactions are due to an lgE allergy.

It is possible to be sensitive to any food, drink or ingredient. A lot of people find they actually crave the food they're sensitive to (possibly because it makes the body release "feel good" hormones). Common culprits include dairy, wheat, yeast, colourings and preservatives.

Because non-lgE sensitivity reactions can involve lots of different body systems there isn't a medical test to diagnose food intolerance. The easiest and cheapest way to find out what you're reacting to is to keep a DIARY of everything you eat, drink and any symptoms. After a week, look back and see if there are any patterns. Alternatively, you could try an ELIMINATION DIET or one of the many food intolerance tests available in health centres. YorkTest and others offer simple blood tests, while Vega tests, kinesiology, and dowsing use the body's natural energies to diagnose. No test has yet proved 100% accurate for all people but they can be a very good guide if used with common sense. Once a suspect food is excluded you should notice an improvement of symptoms within 1-2 weeks. Retry the food again after 6 weeks and if there's no reaction you can happily eat it in moderation. In the meantime replace the excluded food with an alternative to avoid malnutrition. There are plenty of wheat and dairy-free products in supermarkets and health food shops, or substitute different fruit and veg like cassava, yam or plantain available from Asian groceries.

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Chemical Sensitivity

There have been huge changes in our environment and lifestyles over the last 50 years, with new products to make our lives easier, safer and cleaner. It is possible to react to any synthetic or natural chemical in everyday items, the most common triggers being laundry detergents, perfume, shampoo, cosmetics and cleaning products.

Chemicals can enter the body through the skin, by breathing, eating or drinking and can affect virtually any body organ or system. This leads to a huge range of symptoms, from wheezing, headaches, mood swings or feeling sick, to ongoing problems like exhaustion, skin rash, depression, aches and pains. The easiest way to diagnose chemical sensitivity is to keep a DIARY of symptoms, activities and what you eat or drink. After a couple of weeks look back and see if you can identify any recurring patterns. Alternatively, you could try one of the tests mentioned in the section above. Once you've worked out what’s triggering your symptoms, avoiding the product should help you feel a lot better. There's no need to go without, simply replace the item with an alternative. "Fragrance-free" and "environmentally-friendly" brands are less likely to contain allergic triggers or see the list of SUPPLIERS.

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Electrical Sensitivity

An increasing number of people are becoming sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), WiFi and mobile phone frequencies. Symptoms can manifest as headaches, blurred vision, tingling, numbness, nosebleeds, palpitations, joint/muscle pains, insomnia and others. Once sensitised it is quite difficult to recover so it's a good idea to limit your daily exposure.

Tips include :

  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Sit at least 1m away from TV screens.
  • Take a 5 minute break every hour when using a computer.
  • Make sure you're not sitting or sleeping in an area affected by strong electrical fields or phone mast radiation (you can hire measuring equipment to test).
  • Limit the time you hold your mobile phone next to your head - text or use the speakerphone option. Turn your phone off at night or redirect it to a landline.
  • Consider a cabled internet connection instead of wireless.
  • Various meters are available to measure Emf and microwave radiation, and shielding materials can be made or bought

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Further Information

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