Environmental Sensitivities and Allergies Explained



Environmental sensitivities and allergies are on the rise. Around a quarter of the population has an allergy or environmental sensitivity of some sort. Our modern way of living seems to have given us some discomfort to go with all of the benefits we enjoy. But not everyone suffers equally. Some people have more allergies or sensitivities than others. But what’s going on, and what can we do about it?

An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a chemical the body sees as a threat. The chemical involved in prompting this disorder is called an “allergen.” To most people, the substance of the allergen remains entirely harmless, causing no reaction whatsoever. In those with an allergic reaction, however, their immune system produces antibodies to fight off the foreign substance, creating inflammation that can range from mildly uncomfortable in some to life-threatening in others.

Symptoms can include swelling of tissues like those in the nose, sinuses and airways, or they can include redness and itching around the eyes, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, eczema, hives, bloating, vomiting and diarrhea.

Sometimes referred to as “multiple chemical sensitivity” (MCS) or “twentieth century disease,” environmental sensitivities can result in symptoms that look like those of allergies. The key difference is that these sources of irritation do not directly affect the immune system. In other words, there is no allergen.

In the United States, the American Medical Association and other professional organizations within the mainstream medical community do not recognize this as a treatable illness. This is because some clinical trials related to this ailment have shown strong reactions to both placebos and the tested chemicals, suggesting to some healthcare professionals that the problem is purely psychological.

Symptoms of environmental sensitivities can resemble those normally associated with allergic reactions. They can also include headaches, nerve pain, dry eyes, dry mouth, weakness, trembling, tendonitis, seizures, overactive bladder, joint pains, dizziness, insomnia and problems with eyesight, like an inability to focus and blurring of vision.

A 1995 film called Safe, starring Julianne Moore, championed the plight of MCS sufferers. In 2007, the Canadian Human Rights Commission officially recognized environmental sensitivities as a disability. This affects Canadian anti-discrimination laws, prohibiting employers from taking action against employees who suffer from this type of ailment and encouraging companies to help reduce the potential impact of chemicals on workplace sufferers.

Some of the possible triggers for environmental sensitivities include,

  • Video display screens
  • Furniture and carpets
  • Glues, paints and varnishes
  • Air fresheners, perfumes and personal care products
  • Tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust
  • Bacteria or molds in ventilation systems or other parts of buildings
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Noise

In a person with environmental sensitivities, the triggering substance or environmental condition does not generate antibodies and is thus not an allergy. Taking steps to reduce stress, such as regular exercise or behavior modification can help improve the body’s ability to cope with such triggers.

By contrast, allergies are commonly treated with medication and immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves the introduction of controlled quantities of an allergen into the body to desensitize it, decreasing the allergic reaction.

At SEHC, we are here to help! Call us at 910-202-4341.

Are Smartphones Really Addictive? What’s the Evidence?



Although the term “addiction” is usually applied to ingested substances such as drugs or food, we can also become addicted to things and behaviors. The pleasure centers in our brain respond to anything that provides us with a reward, and smartphones are expert at providing those rewards. Although it is not “officially” classified as an addiction, many who use smartphones are increasingly showing signs of addictive habits.

A study conducted on 1,600 professionals by Leslie Perlow, PhD, from Harvard Business School, found the following interesting statistics:

  • 70% of subjects reported checking their smartphone within an hour of waking.
  • 56% check their phone within an hour of going to bed.
  • 48% check their Smartphone over the weekend, including Friday and Saturday nights.
  • 51% check their phone continuously while on vacation.
  • 44% reported they would experience “a great deal of anxiety” if their phone was lost and they could not replace it for a week.

An estimated 56% of all Americans now own a Smartphone. Videos, Twitter, Facebook updates and the occasional pleasant e-mail are all ways in which we become “attached” to our smartphones. Psychologist David Greenfield, PhD, who specializes in helping people deal with technology addiction, says that computer technologies can alter your mood and trigger feelings of pleasure. He notes “It’s like slot machines. We’re seeking that pleasurable hit.”

Although it seems a harmless enough addiction, excessive smartphone use can begin to interfere with your daily life. And this becomes a larger and larger risk as people use it more often in ways that cause them to “disconnect” from the real world around them while “staying connected” to the virtual one online.  Examples are easy to find:

  • Actually ignoring a friend at lunch to update a Facebook status about having lunch with a friend.
  • Texting at the movie theater.
  • A disturbing 10% of smartphone users have admitted to texting while having sex. For young adults aged 18-34, this number jumps up to 20%!
  • Using a smartphone while driving. Texting while driving is 6 times more dangerous than driving while drunk.

Nicholas Carr, author of the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, believes that smartphones are interfering with our brains in a way that reduces our ability to concentrate and think properly. He says, “It’s an environment of almost constant interruptions and distractions. The smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts.”

The reason for our smartphone addiction is likely tied to our primitive roots. For much of our evolutionary history, it has been very important for us to be aware of everything happening around us. Carr explains, “That instinct probably helped us survive when we were cave men and cave women. I’m sure one of the main reasons people tend to be so compulsive in their use of smartphones is that they can’t stand the idea that there may be a new bit of information out there that they haven’t seen.”

In particularly “wired” societies—South Korea, where smartphone penetration is over 100%, is a great example—the issue of technology addiction among children is emerging as a national health problem. The South Korean government estimates that 1 in 5 students is now addicted to smartphone use.  They define “addiction” as spending 7 or more hours each day using the device and experiencing distinct signs of psychological withdrawal—anxiety, insomnia and depression—when forced to go without.  There is already compelling evidence that smartphone use is not only distracting students from their studies, it’s also damaging children’s interpersonal skills.  For instance, they’re becoming “very bad at reading facial expressions” as they spend more time texting and less time interacting face-to-face.

At SEHC, we are here to help! Call us at 910-790-3666.

What’s Occupational Health and Safety All About, and How Can a Chiropractor Help?



The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that workplace-related injuries cost businesses nearly $170 billion each year. With money like this at stake, it’s easy to see that keeping your workers healthy through an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) program could have a very high return on investment. And chiropractors can play a major role in helping companies to manage risk and improve productivity.

An estimated 60 to 70 percent of all workplace-related injuries involve the musculoskeletal system. And of every worker’s compensation dollar spent, 90 cents is used for the treatment of this type of injury. Those professions with the highest rates of musculoskeletal injury are trucking and vehicle operations, manufacturing, nursing and healthcare, and work involving repetitive motion or prolonged periods of sitting.

Gerard Clum, D.C., is a spokesperson for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) who attended the 2013 American Occupational Health Conference (AOHC). He explained, “Doctors of chiropractic provide a conservative, patient-centered approach that is well-documented for its clinical and economic value. When included as members of occupational health teams, doctors of chiropractic can facilitate and drive reduced costs and better clinical outcomes, as well as improvements in safety, general health and communication.”

Many chiropractors have received postgraduate training in occupational health and applied ergonomics. This makes them particularly valuable as members of an OHS team that may include such other professionals as occupational medical physicians, occupational nurses and human resources coordinators. Preventive medicine and risk management will become increasingly important with the implementation of the new Affordable Care Act, which will be rolling out slowly over the next 7 years.

Among other things, chiropractors are able to provide on-site chiropractic care, including structural care, ergonomic improvements and advice on lifestyle and nutrition. This can contribute to creating lower workers’ compensation premiums, a reduced rate of absenteeism, and greater productivity, worker morale and employee retention. In addition, many chiropractors are certified to provide on-site DOT screenings and physical exams to employees, saving employers thousands of dollars.

Chiropractors are excellent at providing preventive care, which can help save businesses considerable amounts of money. But in addition to the financial benefit, employers benefit further by making their employees feel valued, which increases worker satisfaction. Daniel R. Nobbe, from Fiberteq LLC in Danville, IL, said “There are many benefits from developing a safety culture at your company – none of which is more valuable than employee loyalty. When employees know you care about their personal well-being and you prove that to them in their workplace, it increases morale, engagement, awareness, motivation and productivity.” And including a skilled chiropractor as part of the OHS team is part of this strategy.

At SEHC, we are here to help! Call us at 910-202-4341.