What is Environmental Medicine?

Environmental medicine involves diagnosing, treating, and preventing illness while looking at the effect our environment has on overall health. By taking into account both internal and external factors and focusing on the cause (or causes) of a disease and not just its symptoms, environmental medicine doctors hope to restore health to individuals suffering from chronic medical conditions such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and cancer.

Environmental Factors that Cause Disease

Some of the external environmental triggers that can make people sick include:

  • Organic inhalants, such as pollen, dander, mold and dust
  • Chemicals
  • Diet
  • Infectious organisms
  • Radiation
  • Heat, cold, humidity
  • Vibrations, noise, electro-magnetic fields

Internal stressors are taken into account by environmental medicine as well. These include:

  • Psychological stress
  • Genetics
  • Malnutrition
  • Physical dysfunction

Environmentally Triggered Illnesses

While not every chronic illness is associated with environmental disease-causing factors, it is likely that there is an environmental component to most. With many long-term health conditions, standard therapies which treat the symptoms are not effective and do not contribute to a better quality of life.

Environmental medicine, which seeks out the root cause of the affliction, may prove more successful in treating many health ailments such as:

  • Asthma
  • Migraine headaches
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Anemia
  • Infertility
  • Neurological and Neurobehavioral disorders
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Eczema
  • Lupus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer

Treatment for Environmentally Triggered Diseases

Environmental medicine stresses early detection and prevention; however, for those already suffering from chronic illness, a customized treatment plan will be established to address the external and internal factors specific to the patient.

Forms of therapy that might be recommended include customized diets and nutritional supplements, immunotherapies, psychotherapies, detoxifications, limiting or eliminating environmental toxins, drugs, surgery and patient education for future prevention.

Some of the larger issues being addressed at the moment include:

  • Environmental triggers of asthma
  • Disease clusters (unusual groupings of health events in space and time)
  • Pediatric environmental health
  • The effects of air and water pollution on health
  • Heavy metal poisoning through diet (mercury in seafood) or exposure (lead-containing products)
  • The effects of dioxins and other chemicals on health and cancer


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