Simply stated, Environmental Medicine is concerned with the interaction between mankind and the environment. More specifically, Environmental Medicine involves the adverse reactions experienced by an individual on exposure to an environmental excitant. Excitants to which individual susceptibility exists are found in air, food, water, and drugs, and are frequently found in the home, work, school, and play environments. Exposures to these agents may adversely affect one or more organ system and this effect is commonly not recognized by individuals and their physicians.
Environmental Medicine offers a sweeping reinterpretation of medical thinking, especially in its approach to many previously unexplained and ineffectively treated chronic diseases. The basis of this view is the simple concept that there are causes for all illnesses, and the obvious but not well accepted fact, that what we eat or are exposed to in our environment, has a direct effect upon our health.
The basic theories of Environmental Medicine include the "total load" concept, individual susceptibility, and adaptation. The "total load" concept postulates that multiple and chronic environmental exposures in a susceptible individual contribute to a breakdown of that person's homeostatic mechanisms. Rarely is there only one offending agent responsible for causing a diseased condition. Multiple factors co-exist, usually over a prolonged period of time in bringing about the disease process. Individual susceptibility to environmental agents occurs for a variety of reasons including gentic predisposition, gender, nutritional status, level of exposures to offending substances, infectious processes, and emotional and physical stress. Adaptation is defined as the ability of an organism to adjust to gradually changing sustained circumstances of its existence. Maladaptation would be a breakdown of the adaptive mechanism.