Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs). Environmental Toxins. The Death by Suicide of a Famous French Painter

Jul 3, 2018 | Adverse childhood events, Environmental toxicity, Functional medicine

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Adverse childhood events (ACEs) include divorce, separation, incarceration, substance abuse, death of a close family member, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and trauma. They occur when we are a child or teenager. They have a profound impact on cortisol levels. Our “stress hormone”. This excessive cortisol changes our gene expression. Our epigenetics. Good genes are turned off and bad genes are turned on. This will set in motion physical and mental alterations that drive the development of chronic disease. If the ACEs are profound enough, these diseases can begin to show themselves when we are still young. Then as time goes on, our health just gets worse and worse. Or, these epigenetic changes, due to excessive cortisol, can start a process that only shows up decades later. Or, because these epigenetic changes are passed down from generation to generation (it looks like 4 generations can be adversely effected) maybe the diseases start to show up in a person’s grandchildren for example. The diseases driven by the ACEs include autoimmune diseases (ADs), depression, anxiety, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer etc… etc… As is the case with much of epigenetics, our systems really need to be set in a good place by age 19 if at all possible. Vitamin and mineral levels. Hormone levels and balance. Gut health. Any toxins that have accumulated cleared as well as possible. Sleep and stress management are working well. Same with the impact (or prevention of the impact) of ACEs. If these issues can be adequately addressed by age 19, the negative impact on future health, both of the person themselves and their descendants, can be minimized or eliminated. So few people understand this that up to this point almost no one gets the kind of help they truly need.

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Environmental toxins are everywhere. The industrial revolution started the process of adding new toxins to our environment. Now, nearly 100,000 environmental toxins have been released into our world. Our usual detoxification pathways (oh, how elegantly do they try and do their work) are overwhelmed. A 2006 study published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested the umbilical cord blood of newborns. The researchers wanted to determine, once and for all, whether environmental toxins only enter our bodies after we are born or do they come from the mother, cross the placenta, and enter the developing baby before birth. They knew there were already 10’s of thousands of environmental toxins in our world but they decided to test for only 400. On average, the newborns already had 200 environmental toxins out of the 400 tested, in their bodies by the time they were born! Every single child already had mercury, pesticides, herbicides and flame retardants in their system at birth.

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Some of the most offending toxins in our world currently are the toxic metals. Mercury of course but also lead, cadmium, nickel, aluminum, arsenic etc… A recent study, done in the United States, reported that perhaps half of all heart attacks are caused by low level exposure to lead. Yes, even low level exposures of these toxins are terrible for our systems. Once again, the toxins will change our epigenetics, turning on bad genes and turning off good genes. It is classic epigenetics that even minute amounts of exposure will create an “epigenetic instability” in a person that will show up in their grandchildren as chronic diseases. Thank you Norwegian and Iranian researchers (as I mentioned in my first blog post) who are doing great work in understanding how toxicity and epigenetics works. These toxic metals though can be easily tested for in a Functional Medicine doctors office.

Nicholas de Stael was a French painter of Russian descent. During his lifetime, he was one of the most famous painters in the world. Beginning at a young age, he travelled the world to great acclaim. Some of his most productive time was spent in the south of France. He had a wife and 3 children. At the height of his fame and creative powers he committed suicide at age 40.

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Before the age of 3 to 5 years old, young Nicholas and his family were forced to flee from  Russia to Poland due to the Russian Revolution. At age 8, his parents both died. He is then raised, along with his 2 sisters, by a family of Russian origin living in Belgium. Inspired by his time in the south of France as an adult, by 1955 “He is working flat out, painting several canvases at the same time-studios, still lifes. In Paris he attends two concerts of music by Schoenberg and Webern, which inspire his last major canvas, ‘Le Concert’. Nichlas de Stael commits suicide in Antibes on 16, March” This, according to the exhibition notes from the Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix en Provence, south of France.  I read this and immediately thought “can anyone say Adverse Childhood Events?” Wow, classic impact of ACEs causing the long term depression that eventually led to this talented and world famous artist to take his own life.

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Then the exhibition notes go on to say “Contrasting tones of bright red and deep green… gives the colour striking visual impact.” Guess what is used in such enormous amounts in the “colour” to give it that impact? Cadmium! The same toxic metal I, and other Functional Medicine doctors, find all the time in Patients with chronic diseases such as depression, Autoimmune Diseases (ADs) etc… Then, I remember that the toxic metal lead is used to make black paint black. Oh my, the blackness of Nichlas de Stael’s blacks his his paintings! Then, I think of the fact that people in some professions are exposed to a lot more environmental toxins than other people in different professions. This includes professions that use solvents and paint thinners and probably ones who use large amounts of Cadmium and Lead to make their colours have a “striking visual impact”.

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Most problematic environmental toxins are fat soluble. That means they dissolve in fat but not water. With our brains composed of almost 80% fat, these toxins love to get into out brains and cause issues. They of course also love to disrupt our immune systems.

A recently published study suggested that perhaps one half of all heart attacks in the United States are caused by low level exposure to lead. One half! Low level exposure! Another recent study published in The Lancet Public Health said death due to lead exposure in the United States is 10 times worse than we previously thought. Environmental toxicity is felt by many people to be the driving force behind the huge surge in Autoimmune Diseases (ADs). When I was in medical school, 1 in 400 people had an AD. Now it is 1 in 9 women and 1 in 12 people overall. These toxins include the toxic metals such as Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Aluminum, Cadmium, Arsenic etc… Because of this, testing for toxic metals can be helpful in optimally managing these people with ADs and other chronic diseases. Even depression.

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Nicholas de Stael was in his day and still is one of the most famous painters in the world. He had everything you would think someone would need to be happy. Fame, fortune, a wife and 3 children. He had become a greater success in his chosen field of endeavor than he probably ever dreamed about. But he struggled his whole life with depression. Did the ACEs and high levels of exposure to extremely toxic metals contribute to this lifetime of depression and ultimately suicide at 41 years of age? It makes you wonder. Particularly when Functional Medicines practices deal with these issues every day.

“Got a Revolution, got to Revolution.”  Jefferson Airplane


Dr. David Bilstrom
Autoimmune Functional Medicine Doctornatural treatment for autoimmune disease by Dr David Bilstrom Functional Medicine Doctor MD



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