Ask Dr. Julie / Health & Wellness

Healthy Environment, Healthy Us: How Our Surroundings Affect Our Health

"Healthy Environment, Healthy Us: How Our Surroundings Affect Our Health"All too often we ignore the fact that our environment has a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Whether it’s negative energy from other people or the lack of sun light or the smells and sounds that surround us, our mood and how we feel are definitely inseparable from the environment in which we surround ourselves.

We are also subject to the negative impact of our internal environment; also known as our diet. What’s interesting though is that our internal environment is heavily dependent on our outside environment; also known as our family’s preference for foods, socioeconomic status, house, work, and the machines in our life like our car.

So, while we sometimes like to think we are just us and only what we do affects our health and mood, we have to give our environment some credit to its impact on our body and mind because if we ignore that, we can find ourselves in a less than optimal situation in regards to our health.

I’ll give you some examples of situations I see in my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose CA. I had a patient who developed dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath. He had been evaluated for his heart and lung function and a medley of other tests. We finally figured out that it was from a leaking pipe in his car and that the fumes were likely causing his symptoms since once his car was fixed, he immediately started feeling improvement.

Another example is a patient whose fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain improved dramatically once she retired from her stressful job. She was then able to eat a healthier diet since she had more time to cook. Her retirement fund allowed her to be able to afford healthy foods and thereafter, she has been feeling well.

These are just two examples of how our life and our environment, whether it is our car or our job, can significantly affect our health in a very significant way. So, why am I bringing this up?

The reason I am discussing this topic is because I would like to address the top three categories that frequently cause health issues from our environment and I want you to start paying attention to them so that you do not have some of the health issues I see in my patients.

1. Factors that affect our five senses: sight, taste, smell, sounds, and touch. Those are our five senses and if there are factors in your everyday life or environment that can adversely affect any of these senses on a regular basis, you may want to remove those factors. The reason is because our body’s receptors to these sensations are keen and directly transmits information to our brain. Therefore, although we may not be conscious of its regular impact, you can be sure that it is in fact impacting your health. For example, one of my patients felt significantly dizzy and nauseated intermittently. We finally figured out that it was a perfume that was causing such drastic effects. So, never underestimate the impact of our five senses on our health.

2. Our house and machines: There are many aspects of our home that brings us joy. But there can be many factors that can adversely affect our health as well. It would be prudent to have your home and drinking water tested for heavy metals or toxins. The same concept should be applied to your machines including your car. I’ve had patients with chronic lung infections from long term mold exposure to patients with headaches or neuropathy due to heavy metal exposure in their homes. It’s important to have your frequently utilized machines, vents, and flooring, just to name a few aspects of your environment, evaluated for negative triggers of your health.

3. Our internal environment (diet): I am always surprised at what my patients are willing to pay money for and what they refuse to spend money on. Usually, early in the process of treatment, my patients will still hold onto their habits of paying money for unhealthy things like junk food or cigarettes. As we progress in the treatment process and I work with my patients on educating them about how various things can impact our health, I am happy to see most of my patients switch their priorities into spending money on healthy foods and activities like exercise. Typically, I would have to encourage my patients into trying healthier things but when they start to feel amazing and happy, they are then willing to continue in that lifestyle long term. Think about all the things you can do if you had more energy and better mood. That’s right, my patients thought it was worth it too. With so much more energy and the great mood to motivate themselves, my patients started to enjoy their life and live it the way they always wanted to but never could because they were always too tired before.

So, the next time you want to ignore things in your environment and diet that bother you but you think you’re too busy to address it, just think about those patient examples I just mentioned. Eventually, those negative factors in your environment will force you to address them because when your health is less than optimal, at some point, you will simply not be able to ignore the symptoms anymore. Let’s not wait until then, it’s always better to maintain your health rather than try to pick up the pieces after your health has deteriorated. So, who’s up for some house/car testing and refrigerator/pantry cleaning? Your body will thank you for it!

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