The Effects on the Family
Not only are the service members affected by these health conditions, so are the family members and their unborn children. Spouses and children all endure the most of an emotionally and physically ill/injured soldier. The third and fourth order effects of these problems not only cause distractions from work and affect job performance, they are also a financial burden on the Department of Defense and service members. How many men have sexual dysfunction and fertility issues? How many military families have kids on behavioral medications? How many military members have had kids born prematurely? How many children have birth defects? How many military member’s kids have Autism? How many spouses are being treated for mental health issues because their husbands have been deployed for over 75% of their marriage? Is the military tracking these statistics? Does the military wonder why this is happening? Has anyone bothered to ask military members and family members these questions? Military members and family members know that there is a considerable number of these problems, but they cannot find any information regarding the causes of these health issues and solutions on how to minimize the effects.
Deployment Related Exposures
Until recently, deployment related exposures were not even considered by the military as probable causes of illness until recently. Deployment related exposures can cause chronic low-level inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, damage DNA, insulin resistance, damaged sperm, and damage gut flora. All these things can pass onto a child before, during and after pregnancy. Conditions such as premature birth, Autism, allergies, heart conditions and other developmental disorders can all linked to occupational and deployment related exposures/stressors and poor lifestyle choices. There is overwhelming research that not only supports these claims, but the United States Government conducted a considerable amount of it until recently the military was not putting any effort into testing service members for deployment related exposures either because of blatant disregard for safety or because of ignorance. Neither reason is acceptable.
Service members are exposed to toxic exposures daily, both deployed and during training. Exposure to toxins causes toxicity, exposure to neurotoxins causes neurotoxicity and neurotoxicity causes neurodegeneration. Chronic neurodegeneration leads to chronic encephalopathy. Carcinogens can cause cancer, if you live in an environment full of carcinogens, you increase your risk of cancer. If the major causes of cancer and encephalopathy are caused by environmental/occupational exposures, it would be wise to start testing service members for them.
Deployment Related Exposure Initiatives
Thanks to ground root efforts made by active duty service members and veteran groups, there are programs like Task Force Dagger Foundation’s SOF Health Initiatives Program and the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) War Related Illness Injury Study Center (WRIISC). Task Force Dagger Foundation has lead the way with advanced diagnostic testing for deployment related exposures, TBI, PTSD and Neuro Endocrine Dysfunction (NED). The WRIISC has an entire research program dedicated to Deployment Related Exposures but here is one big problem with the WRIISC, the vast majority of VA providers and veterans do not even know the WRIISC exists. The Department of Defense itself still does not have any programs to effectively screen service members and treat them for deployment related exposures. A Center of Excellence for Deployment Related Exposures should be created to meet this demand.
Lifestyle and Environmental Factors
Your lifestyle and environment are major contributing factors that directly affect your health and well-being. These stressors include stress at home (relationships, financial, personal loss), drinking water, air quality, climate, sleep habits, diet, prescription drug use, alcohol consumption, tobacco use or exercise. To live a healthy life, your mind, and your body both have to be balanced. That means you must either control your environment and lifestyle or learn how to protect yourself from them the best you can. If you live your entire life in a stressed condition (sympathetic/fight or flight/gas pedal) your body will adapt appropriately and will eventually being to break down (disrepair/catabolic) unless you apply the necessary, repair/recovery mechanism (parasympathetic/feed and breed/rest and digest/brake pedal). Being aware of your environment and lifestyle enables any individual to easily find unhealthy stressors and enables them to minimize the exposure and damage caused by them. Any person can learn to counter the effects by offsetting them with simple life choices like improving sleeping quality, relaxing (mind/body/yoga/meditation), eating healthier, drinking less alcohol, quitting tobacco products, exercising correctly, and giving the body a chance to clean and repair itself. All these things can be accomplished without health insurance or a prescription they just require dedication.
Lifestyle choices are critical parts to keeping a healthy balanced life. You cannot always control your environment, but you can control how react to it and how to protect yourself from it. The first step to treating any toxic exposure is to identify the source and removeyourself from the source. If you cannot remove yourself from the source, you need to protect yourself the best you can. Part of healing and recovery is being in a healthy environment. You really are a product of your environment. If you want to recover and heal, you must have an environment that promotes recovery and healing. That includes both lives at home (family) and at work. The family heals together as a unit, if one person is wounded, injured or ill, the entire family unit will feel the effects. This same concept applies on the battlefield. You cannot recover from injury or illness by continuing the lifestyle that is causing the damage. All you can do is mask the consequences of that environment and lifestyle with prescription drugs and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. If you do not know how your lifestyle and environment is affecting your health, you will never know how to implement the correct changes needed to maintain and repair your health.
Military life in general (chronic stress) predisposes you to metabolic illnesses. Irregular sleep, heavy metal exposure, prescription drug use, TBI, poor nutrition and other exposures all decrease or inhibit sex hormone production. For men the primary sex hormone is testosterone, for women it is estrogen. Both sets of hormones directly affect behavior and health, and both are critical for sexual and reproductive health and anabolic function. Combat alone (sympathetic activation) will keep the hormone pathway focused on the production of glucocorticoids (cortisol). Cortisol is critical for the preservation of life under stress. If you live in a constant state of stress you will become catabolic. Hormones control every aspect of your nervous system, neurogenesis in the brain, regulate heart rate, vasoconstriction, body temperature, cholesterol, digestion, sleep, memory, and emotion. The body can only support regular sex hormone production in a parasympathetic state. Insufficient relaxation, nutrition and sleep means insufficient repair and recovery.
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