TOXINS… Mercury, phthalates, and lead, oh my!

Frances T Meredith, MD

We are swimming in toxins every day from the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we use on our bodies, and in our homes and yards. We have all heard the story of Flint Michigan. But lead exposure is just the very tip of the iceberg of our daily toxin exposure.

Toxins now are well established to impair the ability of our mitochondria, the batteries in every cell, to create energy. That has downstream effects in every organ system. Many studies clearly establish that toxins underlie many chronic diseases including neurogenerative disease (think Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS), autoimmunity, hormone disruption (think thyroid and endometriosis) and > 50% cases of gout. Did you know toxins often lurk beneath depression, anxiety, and ADHD?

There are simple things we can all do to both decrease our exposure and assist our body in moving out toxins. The first step is a good look at where the toxins are coming from. Stop the inflow! Environmental toxins include chemicals, metals, mold, particulate matter in the air, ozone, radiation, and EMF. And don’t forget those ever-present psychic toxins that have escalated in the past few years: toxic relationships, social media, and news. Toxins also can come from within, in the byproducts created by intestinal bacteria, our own hormone processing, and our own natural detox pathways. Then we often “choose our poisons”, drinking that evening wine to wind down, vape, diets that are too acidic, or choosing non pure forms of hemp, and often using them for the wrong reasons.   

I’d like to take a bit of time to dig into environmental toxins. First, metals. We all know about lead exposure, but did you know that our city water has arsenic? Kale is often filled with thallium? Do you have mercury fillings? If so, are they stable or are they leaking low level mercury into your body every day?

Next, a bit more focus on chemicals. Many chemicals are known to be “gender benders”, disrupting our hormone pathways, plugging into the estrogen receptors and not letting go, decreasing fertility in women, sperm counts in men. The big offenders on the “gender bender” list are phthalates, bisphenols, parabens, triclosan in antibacterial soap, and PCBs. Below is a list of chemicals to which we are frequently exposed, creating buildup over time.

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): burning of tobacco, oil, coal, gas, garbage
  • Plastics (phthalates): from plastics and from anything with “fragrance” or “parfum” not labelled as organic (think Bath and Body Works); microplastics are also in our water
  • Phenols, particularly bisphenol, (BPA); found in hard plastics, sippy cups, linings of beverage/food containers, transferring through the skin of your hands on your Publix receipt.
  • Parabens: in many cosmetics, creams, medications etc
  • Organochloride pesticides: DDT is still  in soil from use 1940s-1960s
  • Organophosphate pesticides: RoundUp etc
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxin and furan (dioxins): exposed in high fat dairy/meat/FISH
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): illegal 1979, but we are still exposed in high fat dairy/meat/FISH
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): flame retardants, FATTY FISH     
  • Polyflourinated compounded (PFCs): stain, grease, water resistant products

So how can we help our body deal with this onslaught of chemicals? First, stop the inflow:

  • Clean Air: Create a “scent free zone” in your home. Avoid living near highways if possible. Add plants that absorb toxins (ficus, mums, gerber daisies). Leave shoes at the door. Just 2 days with clean air improves health
  • Clean Water: Quality water filtration is essential, such as Aquasana, or Zero Water
  • Clean Food: Organic where possible using Clean 15 Dirty Dozen list; grow your own food where possible; wash chemically grown food in acidic solution such as vinegar, no plastic for food storage, no perflouride based nonstick pans
  • Clean up household, lawn, personal hygiene products using www.ewg.org and the Think Dirty Shop Clean app to guide product choice. No RoundUp.
  • Clean frequently, especially with crawling children in the home.

Then we can get the body ready to move toxins out. This will take guidance from your Functional Medicine provider and will include essential nutrients, balancing the intestinal bacterial microbiome, an “oil change” to remove and replace damaged oils in cellular membranes where toxins reside, adding binders to catch and remove toxins as they are excreted by liver/gallbladder into the intestinal tract. The “prep” also includes many pieces to get liver and kidneys ready. Then, and only then, can we proceed to escort the toxins out without creating further damage. “Detox” without this prep is very dangerous.

Once we move into the process of escorting out the toxins, we choose supplements, foods, and sometimes medications to grab and move toxins out of tissues. At the same time, we use many modalities including lymphatic massage, infrared sauna, castor oil packs, and CranioSacral therapy to support the lymphatic system whose job it is to move those toxins through and out.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in an organic world as did our predecessors. We are swimming in toxins every day and all have a role to play in the cleanup and healing of our planet. As we set this intention, we must support the beautiful creation that is our body in order to survive and thrive in this toxin filled world.

“Detox your mind, body, AND your contact list”

-Supa Nova Slom

Your provider at Carolina Total Wellness would be happy to discuss strategies to better optimize your body’s ability to thrive in this world of toxins.

Your partner in health,

Frances T Meredith, MD

Welcome to Tick Season

Frances T Meredith, MD

Prevention is the best medicine

We are all familiar with Lyme disease and likely know someone who has had to deal with this incredibly complex, and sometimes debilitating disease. Lyme, caused by multiple species of the Borrelia bacteria,  is not new, the Borrelia bacteria having coexisted with humans for thousands of years. What is new is that our immune systems are increasingly compromised by the stressful and no longer organic world in which we live. In addition, ticks that most often carry Lyme disease are now all over the United States. Lyme is now endemic EVERYWHERE in the US, though the species of the Borrelia bacteria vary in different areas of the county. And thanks to global warming, tick season is now all year round in many areas, though certainly numbers increase as temperatures warm in the spring.

To make things more complicated, Lyme disease, most often spread by hard Ixodes ticks, is also carried by other ticks as well including several soft ticks. Lyme bacteria are also found in mites, fleas, mosquitoes, biting flies and in tick feces (and those little suckers poop continuously while feeding; think bite, itch, scratch, I’m in!). Other infections often travel along with Lyme including Babesia and Bartonella. These little suckers are smart and know how to evade our immune systems to become “baggage for life” and create havoc all over our bodies.

 Prevention is indeed the best medicine with avoidance and early detection of tick bites the goal. According to Stephen Buhner, an internationally renowned expert on Lyme and coinfections, a blend of essential oils is about 99% effective for repelling the major tick species that carry the many Borrelia species that carry Lyme and coinfections (Healing Lyme, 2015)

Here is his recipe: Take ½ teaspoon of each of the below essential oils, add the oils (4 tspn total volume) to 8 oz pure grain alcohol (95%), blending well and storing in a brown glass bottle out of sun. Subdivide this into 1-2 oz brown herb bottles with spritzer/spray attachment, using this to apply liberally and often during tick season when going outdoors.

-Rhododendron tometosum (Labrador tea; NOT Rhododendron anthopogon)
-Tagetes minuta
-Chamaecyparis nootkatensis
-Artemisia absinthium
-Myrica gale (bog myrtle)
-Juniperus Virginia
-Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon eucalyptus)
-Origanum majorana (marjoram)

I have just ordered these myself, most of them very cheap on Amazon, though several more expensive and coming from Canada. The bottles are also available on Amazon. The total price was $152 which should provide a family with several seasons of protection.

In addition Stephen Buhner suggests Andrographis tincture applied to tick bite site, covering with a “moistened glob of bentonite clay, cover with thin cotton, and leave on for 12-24 hours)”. This tincture is also easily available on Amazon.

This will make for a fun and fragrant home chemistry session! Time to get out there and enjoy some gorgeous spring weather, safely.

Your partner in health,
Frances T Meredith, MD

How To Choose A Safer Sunscreen

Caroline Wilson, M.Ed., FMHC



Summer is coming and while sunlight is vital for health AND is an important way for us to obtain Vitamin D, it is important to practice safe sun exposure and prevent sunburn, which is a risk factor for skin cancer. A recent study in JAMA found that chemical ingredients from sunscreen were detected in the bloodstream after one use, sometimes for days after. These ingredients are also detected in breast milk, and have been associated with lower testosterone levels in teenage boys.
Recently Johnson and Johnson voluntarily recalled 5 of their sunscreens due to the presence of benzene, a carcinogen in these products. 
Using a safer sunscreen without known harmful chemicals is important.  EWG, the Environmental Working Group, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They score products based on safety data. EWG scores 0-10, 0 is the cleanest and 10 is the worst. Here is a list of ingredients to avoid with the EWG ratings:

  • Oxybenzone(EWG 8), sometimes called benzophenone-3, is banned in Hawaii due to its harm on aquatic life, and yet still found in around 40% of non-mineral based sunscreen. In animal studies, it is an endocrine disruptor and there is some evidence it has a similar impact in humans too – In an evaluation of CDC-collected exposure data for American children, researchers found that adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements had significantly lower total testosterone levels. It is also a contact allergen, may cause systemic toxicity, and be harmful to aquatic life.
  • Octinoxate(EWG 6) – (aka OMC or methoxy-cinnamate) linked to endocrine disruption as well as reproductive toxicity in animal studies. Harms coral reef.
  • Homosalate(EWG 4) – linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity. 
  • ParabensPhthalates – endocrine disruptors, can hide under the guise of ‘fragrance’, so avoid the word Fragrance on that ingredient list. 

Lowest Risk Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (EWG 2), Titanium Dioxide (EWG 2), Avobenzone(EWG 2).

Some recommended brands that use the better ingredients are Babo Botanicals, Earth Mama, 365 Clear spray, Think Sport, Blue Lizard and Badger. For a complete list of safer sunscreens you can go to www.ewg.org.

For more information on using safer products for your skin, contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our Health Coaches.   

Your Partner in Health!
Caroline Wilson, M.Ed., FMHC

Nasal Cleansing Using A Neti Pot

Breathing is a necessity of life. Keeping the nasal passages clear is an important part of the body’s immune defense system.

As we breathe, we inhale various pollutants, allergens, mold, and dust into our nasal passages. The nasal passages are designed to protect us by filtering out these airborne particles. Unfortunately, this filtering system can become overloaded by inhaled irritants, resulting in congestion, inflammation, or infection. Additionally, certain foods can promote inflammation and mucus formation, further clogging of the nasal passages and sinuses.

Nasal cleansing can help keep sinuses clear and improve the ability to breathe freely. The practice of nasal irrigation (also known as neti) has been around for thousands of years. Water, and in some case herbs, are used to gently open and stimulate the nasal passages. Using a neti pot or similar device makes this process easier.

Basic Nasal Cleansing/Neti Pot Protocol

Materials needed:

  • 8 oz water—distilled, sterile, or boiled for at least 3 minutes and then cooled (note: do not use water directly from the tap)
  • ½ teaspoon uniodized (or Kosher) salt, or botanical glycerate/tincture as has been recommended
  • Nasal cleansing (neti) pot


Directions:

  • Prepare the saline solution and fill the nasal cleansing pot
  • Lean over a sink and tilt your head to one side so that your forehead and chin are at approximately the same level. (This can also be done easily when taking a shower.) This prevents water getting into your mouth.
  • Place the spout of the pot into your upper nostril. While breathing through your mouth, pour half of the solution through the upper nostril so that it drains through the lower nostril. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it. Persevere.
  • Blow the nose to clear both nostrils.
  • Turn head and repeat on opposite side with the remaining solution. „When finished, wash the nasal cleansing pot.
  • Repeat once or twice a day as recommended.
  • Note that for 15-30 minutes following a session you may find you need to blow your nose as the stimulatory action of the salt or medicated solution result in additional ‘flushing.’ These recommendations should be followed under the supervision and guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.


If you or someone you know can benefit from working with our health coaches please contact our office to make an appointment. 

In health,

Clarissa A. Kussin, N.D., FMHC, ERYT-500

SPRING ALLERGIES ARE HERE!

New Allergy Clinic

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

If you are like me, your Spring sneezing and sniffles have begun.  In our area, tree pollen begins in March with grass pollen beginning in April.  A look at the Allergy Season chart for the Southeast reveals that we allergy sufferers can have symptoms anywhere from February through October in North Carolina. 

With the Spring sniffles you may be breaking out your Claritin, Zyrtec, Flonase or Pataday, or maybe all of these!  For some of us, it is hard to imagine enjoying a beautiful Spring day free of sinus congestion, headaches or itchy eyes without the use of some allergy medication.  Fortunately, there is hope for allergy sufferers.  Here are a few simple tips to help you reduce allergy symptoms and allergy medications while still enjoying the beautiful Spring weather.

  • Perform nasal rinses with warm saline water and a neti pot before bed.
    • DON’T open those windows and doors to let in “fresh” air.  This will increase the pollen counts in your indoor air.
    • DO use a high-quality indoor air filter such as IQAir or Austin Air Health Mate Plus to reduce indoor allergens.
    • Shower before bed, including hair rinsing or washing, to reduce nighttime exposure to allergens trapped on skin and hair.

While these steps may help to reduce allergy symptoms, elimination of allergies requires testing and treatment.  After trying and failing allergy shots myself, I am now treating the root cause of my allergies with allergy drops.  Allergy drops are clinically proven to be as effective in reducing and even eliminating allergies as allergy shots.  However, allergy drops do not require weekly visits to the office and are less expensive than weekly allergy shot copays. 

If you are interested in treating the root cause of your allergies and eliminating allergy symptoms for good, consider allergy testing and allergy drop treatment at Carolina Total Wellness.

https://carolinatotalwellness.com/allergy-drops.php

Allergy Clinic Details

New Allergy Clinic
By: Susan Denny, MD

Here in North Carolina, allergy season is just around the corner.  For those of us with pollen, grass or tree allergies, symptoms typically begin in February and can last until November.  Many of us, however, may have indoor allergies to dust, mold or pet dander and suffer from stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, wheezing or headaches year-round. 
 
We are now offering a simple allergy treatment for both indoor and outdoor allergies.  Sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, is a safe, convenient way to treat the cause of your allergies and help you build long-term tolerance to the things that once made you miserable. 

  • The patient tailored drops work similar to allergy shots, but are delivered through a liquid drop under the tongue at home or wherever you are.
  • This method makes it easier to stay with your treatment and requires fewer office visits than with other methods.
  • Although most allergy sufferers can benefit from allergy drops, they’re especially ideal for those who can’t tolerate or don’t respond to allergy shots, as well as those who are unable to commit to allergy shot therapy.
  • Allergy drop therapy typically lasts 3 to 5 years, similar to allergy shots, however, the total cost of treatment is typically less expensive than the weekly copays required for allergy shots. 

 
INITIAL ADULT AND PEDIATRIC PATIENT ALLERGY DROPS VISIT: $240
Please allow 45 minutes for your initial visit which will include consultation with your physician or physician assistant, physical exam and discussion of allergy testing.  Skin prick testing will be performed at this visit and results and interpretation will be discussed.  Prescription will be provided for allergy drops and we will review how to administer these at home. 
 
FOLLOW UP ALLERGY DROPS VISIT: $85
Please allow 15 minutes for your follow up allergy visits.  This will include review of your allergy symptoms and immunotherapy plan of treatment as well as new 3 month prescription for allergy drops.  Follow up visits are recommended every 3 months for the first year and then every 6 to 12 months for the subsequent 2 to 4 years, depending on your response to treatment.
 
FOLLOW UP ALLERGY SKIN PRICK TESTING: $125
We recommend follow up skin prick testing for environmental allergies every 12 months to assess progress of immunotherapy and adjust your prescription allergy drops as needed.
 
If you are interested in more information, please call us at 919-999-0831.

Allergy Treatments

New Allergy Clinic
New Allergy Clinic

With pollen seasons getting longer and stronger, you may find that allergy symptoms get in the way of fully enjoying your life. You know the symptoms – drippy or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose and throat, or worsened asthma.

We are now offering a simple allergy treatment.

Sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, is a safe, convenient way to treat the cause of your allergies and help you build long-term tolerance to the things that once made you miserable.

  • The patient tailored drops work similar to allergy shots, but are delivered through a liquid drop under the tongue at home or wherever you are.
    • This method makes it easier to stay with your treatment and requires fewer office visits than with other methods.
    • Although most allergy sufferers can benefit from allergy drops, they’re especially ideal for those who can’t tolerate or don’t respond to allergy shots, as well as those who are unable to commit to allergy shot therapy.

Do allergy drops work?

Use of sublingual immunotherapy in the U.S. dates back nearly 100 years, and research has proven allergy drops’ effectiveness.

  • Allergy drops are custom to each patient based on testing, history and exam.
    • Drops can be used safely for a broad range of people including infants and children, those with food allergies, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, and those with multiple allergies.
    • World Health Organization research has shown the use of allergy drops is an effective alternative to shots.
    • Allergy drops provide you with an opportunity for lasting, and often permanent, benefits.

If you’re interested in more information, please call us at 919-999-0831 or visit our website, www.carolinatotalwellness.com.

We appreciate being part of your care and are pleased to bring you this option.

Hair Dyes and Relaxers Linked to Significant Cancer Risk

926 hair dyes cause cancer

It is hard being a woman in a society that disapproves of aging women and favors straight hair. In fact, coloring and straightening hair is regarded as “professional,” “good grooming,” or “taking care of yourself.” But at what a cost — a new study shows hair dyes and relaxers are significantly associated with breast cancer…especially for black women.

The Journal of Cancer article showed the results of a study that tracked more than 45,000 women over eight years. Black women who regularly used permanent hair dyes had a 60 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than black women who did not. White women had an 8 percent higher chance.

Women who used chemical hair straighteners were 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. While some white women straighten their hair, in the study three quarters of the black women straightened their hair.

Why the cancer link? The researchers pointed to toxic compounds in hair dyes known as “endocrine disrupters.” This means these compounds mimic hormones and interfere with normal hormone function, thus causing imbalances and an increased risk of cancer.

The chemicals used in products geared towards black women may be more “hormonally active,” according to researchers.

Women are increasingly being encouraged to choose health and longevity over toxic cosmetic options. For instance, a movement is under foot to embrace silver and gray hair and black women are encouraged to embrace their natural hair, with one state so far banning discrimination against black people who wear their hair naturally (many employers discriminate against black women who forgo chemical straightening).

Black women bear the brunt of toxic hair products

Although most commercial women’s hair and body products are laden with toxins, hair products aimed at black women contain a disproportionate amount of chemicals linked with early puberty, obesity, asthma, and cancer.

A 2016 study showed black women’s bodies contained higher burdens of the toxic chemicals found in hair products than in women of other ethnicities.

Researchers have so far identified more than 70 harmful chemicals in relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products.

Toxins in these products (and in other beauty products in general) have been shown to have the following impacts on health:

  • Parabens and phthalates disrupt hormone function and are linked to early puberty and pre-term births.
  • Nonylphenol is linked to obesity and cancer.
  • Formaldehyde is linked to miscarriage risk and respiratory issues.
  • Various compounds irritate the eyes and skin, burn and blister the scalp, damage hair follicles, cause hair loss, and cause respiratory disorders.
  • Hair relaxers are linked to uterine fibroids in black girls and women at a rate two to three times higher than in other women. Uterine fibroids affect up to 80 percent of black women during their lifetime.
  • Cosmetologists exposed to these products during pregnancy experienced twice the rate of miscarriages.
  • Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among black women; they generally have a more aggressive forms of cancer compared to white women.

Just one product alone can contain 30 different toxic chemicals. How these chemicals affect human health when in combination with one another has not been studied.

Toxic hair products could help explain why black women suffer from more endocrine disorders than white or Hispanic women.

While these products harm black women, the Black Women for Wellness Report also points to the complexity and conflict between harmful hair products and the positive role of hair salons in black communities.

Ask my office for advice on how to lower your toxic burden, buffer your body from the effects of toxins in our everyday lives, and improve your overall health and well being.