Tag Archives: Itchy Skin

Suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)? Another Reason to Go Green!

The rate at which people are experiencing a barrage of health problems such as rashes, allergies, respiratory problems,  difficulties focusing mentally due to fragrances and a gambit of other chemical sensitivities to cleaning supplies, off-gassing clothes, furniture, varnishes, new carpets etc., is rising substantially.

There are at least two good reasons to consider purchasing organic clothing:  one, your clothing is intimately in contact with the largest (and arguably, most neglected) organ of the body, your skin!  Organic clothing has not been treated with harmful pesticides, insecticides and dyes, and is therefore not contributing to the pollution of your own body’s biological terrain.  Two, organic clothing made from natural fibers and materials are eco-friendly, are from renewable resources and is also *hopefully, socially conscious.

Persons who might benefit the most in making this conscious change are persons who have itchy, irritated skin, are constantly sneezing, coughing or congested, or persons who have multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).  These persons may find organic clothing is an essential component of their self-care plan in reducing their exposure to the vast array of toxic chemicals that we are unknowingly (and now knowingly) exposing ourselves to every day.

When I think of organic clothing, the first eco-friendly material that pops into mind is hemp.  It was the original eco-fabric incorporated into t-shirts and denim.  It grows quickly and does not require the use of pesticides.  It is an environmentally positive crop, which means it actually improves the condition of the soil it grows in!

Organic cotton is grown without the use of herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides resulting in finer, naturally softer fabric with higher thread counts.

Jute, likely more commonly known to you as burlap or hessian, is produced from a plant that matures in less than 6 months and is therefore highly renewable.  Moreover, it is biodegradable and recyclable and a great alternative to plastic.  While this may not be your first choice for eco-friendly fibers against your skin because of its coarse texture, it is durable and breathable and is used in bags, shoes and jackets.  The camouflage suit (known as a ghillie suit) was initially used in the military for concealment.  For civilians, this material is used in camo jackets worn by hunters and serious paintball or airsoft participants.

Clothing (I digress a moment – as well as flooring in our homes) made from organic bamboo is another growing hot commodity amongst contemporary green clothing line designers.  It is a plant which you know grows readily in our households, without the need of harmful fertilizers and pesticides.  Material made from bamboo, does however undergo some degree of chemical processing by the time it gets to your wardrobe.

Lyocell fibers, whose trademark name is Tencel, are made from wood pulp cellulose.  Cellulose is a natural polymer found in the cells of all vegetation.  Although it is generally eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable, its soft and durable qualities making it desirable, it can undergo the same harsh chemical treatment conventional clothing undergoes from its natural fibers to your garments.

Other natural fabrics which are increasingly “all the rage” and are being incorporated into luxurious clothing designers’ green lines (and eventually percolates into the average persons’ wardrobe) include: aloe (Germany, Spain and Italy), modal (Beech tree cellulose), soy (“vegetable cashmere”) and yak (long-haired bovine that is indigenous to the Himalayan mountains).

We are becoming increasingly aware of the food we put into our bodies.  Perhaps it is also time we become conscious of the clothes we place against our skin.

Spring Has Sprung…and So Have Allergies

It’s that time of year when patients waltz through the doors of my office, looking for natural alternatives for their over-the-counter (OTC) medicine cabinet staples – the most popular being Claritin, Allegra, Aerius, Reactine (oral antihistamines), Visine (antihistamine eye drops) and Sudafed (decongestant).

Not sure you suffer from allergies? Typical symptoms and signs can include an itchy nose, eyes, or mouth, sneezing, tearing of eyes, runny nose (post-nasal drip or rhinorrhea), swollen nasal cavities (rhinitis) and nasal and sinus congestion (rhinosinusitis). You may also get frontal headaches as a result of a sinus obstruction. If you also suffer from asthma, your symptoms may also include coughing and wheezing. Parents of little ones may also commonly report the chronic nasal obstruction in their child reliably precedes the complaints of a chronic inner ear infection (otitis media).

Seasonal allergens may include tree pollen (late-April through May), grasses and weeds (late-May through mid-July) and weed pollen (late-August through late-Fall). Perennial allergies affect sufferers year-round and are typically triggered by indoor allergens like dust mites, animal fur and dander, mould, feathers and/or cockroaches. Environmental exposure to pollution, perfume, aerosol sprays, cold air, humidity and second-hand cigarette smoke can further exacerbate seasonal and perennial allergies.

Interestingly, the allergies you experience are caused by a mishap or hypersensitivity of your immune system. While a properly functioning immune system is able to distinguish a true foreign invader from that of a “harmless” or innocuous substance, a person with a hypersensitive immune system will respond to the allergen with furry, initiate an immunological response when it comes in contact with IgE antibodies, and causes immune cells to release histamine, causing blood vessel dilation and smooth muscle contraction to varying degrees.

Several natural therapies that can block the allergic response or can target inappropriate inflammation at the root of allergic symptoms include:
Quercetin, a widely consumed flavonoid in the diet, and a potent inhibitor of allergic and inflammatory responses, which inhibits histamine release.
Butterbur, (latin name, Petasites hybridus) a shrub found in North America, Europe and Asia. Its antihistamine effect is comparable to Cetirizine, a popular antihistamine for seasonal allergic rhinitis minus unwanted sedative effects. It is also able improve lung ventilation and decrease bronchial reactivity.
Rosemary, whose medicinal constituent is rosmarinic acid, is able to inhibit alternate pathways of inflammation via the complement system. It is able to block cytokines IL-4 and IL-5 (protein messengers).

In addition to some of the above strategies, one of my natural favourites is the use of a netipot with warm saline water diluted with some of my favourite immunomodulating herbs, as guided by my patient’s concerns.

While OTC medications may be used to suppress unwanted spring time symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause of allergies. Get a head-start on building your allergy strategy by asking yourself the following questions prior to your visit with your Naturopathic Doctor or other healthcare provider: What symptoms do I typically experience? When do my symptoms typically occur? Are my symptoms triggered while indoors or while outdoors? Before starting any course of treatment, particularly if you have moderate to severe allergies, it is important for you to begin treatment supervised by a regulated healthcare provider to ensure your safety.

Your Naturopathic Doctor can assist you in developing a plan that is most appropriate for you and may include management techniques, provide you with practical recommendations you can incorporate to alleviate and remove/avoid known triggers, as well as the suitability of sublingual immunotherapy to help desensitize your immune system to specific allergens.