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What is Adaptation?

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The human body is brilliantly designed. A complex and miprehensive network of psychological, neurological, emflfcrinological and immunological mechanisms maintain good health and equilibrium called "homeostasis."

The human body is brilliantly designed. A complex and impressive network of psychological, neurological, emflfcrinological and immunological mechanisms maintain good health and equilibrium called "homeostasis." The chronic stress from exposure to environmental toxins is handled by adaptation which allows for compensatory physiological responses (such as detoxification). Illness occurs when the adaptive process becomes exhausted.

Adaptation, through "masking," sometimes makes it difficult to see the connection between a particular exposure and symptoms. If you renovate your home and do some painting, install new flooring and carpeting, or spray your home with pesticides, the initial odor of out-gassing chemicals is strong. You can hardly breathe upon entering the house. After a while you get used to the smell or use air "fresheners" and believe the problem is gone. However, you begin to increasingly have headaches, eye, nose and throat irritations, fatigue and muscle pains. The toxic effects have continued and led to an illness "of unknown origin."

Another example includes narcotics, nicotine and alcohol, which can be addictive. After a possible initial unpleasant reaction (cough, vomiting, throat and eye irritation), tolerance develops. Deceptively "pleasurable" effects on the central nervous system are experienced.

With time, more of these substances are needed in order to maintain the same effect. If the addictive substance is removed, severe withdrawal reactions such as irritability, fatigue, moodiness and headache can occur. Several days after the withdrawal reaction, the individual remains hypersensitive to secondary smoke or the smell of alcohol. Upon exposure, there is a recurrence of the initial unpleasant reactions but there may remain a strong need to continue the habit.

At this point the individual can tough it out, kick the habit and regain health or he can return to the habit to "feel good" or "relieved" while overindulgence causes toxic effects to damage the heart, brain, lungs, liver and other organs.

The same masking phenomenon can occur with low-level exposure to chemical toxins. This has been documented in studies on factory employees exposed to solvents, nitroglycerin, welding fumes, cotton, grain and other organic dusts.

Workers unknowingly experienced withdrawal symptoms on the weekend and often preferred to return to work where these symptoms cleared upon re-exposure to the substances at work. However, years of exposure led to visible pathological changes in the central nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular and immune systems. This results in disease. Low-level exposures over a long period of time can be as harmful as acute exposure. Early intervention (avoidance, making the workplace safe and detoxification treatment) can prevent development of chronic illness.

Unlikely Suspects

Something similar can happen with foods that are consumed every day (breads, sweets, coffee or milk). The individual learns to eat a particular food repeatedly at whatever interval of time is required to feel satisfied. When the consumption of this food is postponed or missed, withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, irritability and headache occur. Consciously or not, a "fix" is needed.

By eating the masking food regularly, a gratification effect is maintained. A typical pattern may include cereal with milk for breakfast, coffee and danish/muffin for a mid-morning break, cheese sandwich with milk or pop for lunch, afternoon coffee and snackbar break, pasta for dinner with a sweet dessert, milk and a cookie at bedtime. Patients often can't understand that commonly eaten and well-liked foods can be the cause of their ill health, since food is considered beneficial, not harmful.

It is not known how we become addicted to foods. Foods consist not only of protein, fats and carbohydrates, but also of natural chemicals (phenolic food compounds and even morphines). Daily indulgent consumption of a limited number of foods can cause not only nutritional deficiency but also sensitization and allergy. This creates immune complexes, which can cause inflammation of target organs in susceptible individuals, which leads to various symptoms. For example, wheat products can be a factor in irritable bowel syndrome for one person, migraines in another, arthritis in a third and eczema in a fourth. Foods can also cause psychological symptoms in the genetically susceptible individual.

Patients without an understanding of adaptation mechanisms rarely suspect the possible origin of their illness. Neither do most physicians. If the doctor doesn't know that environmental factors can be the underlying cause of their patients' symptoms, the complaints will only receive a diagnostic label and medication offering symptomatic relief while the disease process continues uninterrupted.

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