The Associated Press reported last week that the U.S. government is recommending reduced fluoride levels in our drinking water for the first time in 50 years. They are citing “a fresh review of the science.”
Today, we begin a series of articles on fluoride by Sylvia Onusic, a frequent contributor for Hartke is Online!
Introducing Aliss Terpstra, Fluoride Poisoning Survivor
Part 1 of 4
By Sylvia P. Onusic, PhD, with contributions by Aliss Terpstra, CNP
Aliss Terpstra is a slim, vibrant woman, self assured, sporting a page boy streaked with grey. She radiates an air of confidence; her smile is warming and kind. But the truth is that now, in her late fifties, Aliss cannot take her health for granted; she can become ill very quickly, like a person with celiac disease for whom wheat gluten is toxic. In her case, the toxin is fluoride.
Aliss has become a fluoride barometer. If there is increased fluoride in the air, the food, a vitamin pill or even the glass of water she is drinking, her body lets her know it, with unpleasant and sometimes debilitating symptoms. Aliss was chronically poisoned by fluoride that accumulated in her body since conception and childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, America’s first city to have artificial water fluoridation. This affected her bones and endocrine system in adulthood. Today her body’s calcium reserves are low; she can’t cope well with a sudden increase in fluoride intake, and she must be very careful about choosing medications, what she eats, drinks, and even breathes.
Even Small Amounts Have Severe Effects on Aliss
When she encounters a sudden increase of even half a milligram of fluoride, such as from three glasses of her Toronto tap water or a cup of tea, her thyroid function is immediately affected and blood calcium levels get depleted, triggering the release of bone-dissolving parathyroid hormone. Then the symptoms begin. She suffers from headaches, fuzzy vision, muscle tremor and weakness, joint and muscle pain, low body temperature, brain fog, gastric pain and diarrhea, insomnia, raging thirst, frequent urination with diluted urine, and dehydration that defies correction no matter how much water is consumed. If the exposure is high or continues for a time, red welts appear on the skin of her arms and legs. One of the biggest challenges for her is coping with accidental overdose from food and water when traveling.
Aliss talks about fluoride’s effects on her thyroid, and how it impacted her life in Toronto after the premature birth of her first child: “Breastfeeding makes you thirsty, and I drank two to three times more water than usual (and two to three times more fluoride). The hormones usually make new mothers feel warm and perspire easily, but I was always chilled and dry. I drank hot tea (more fluoride) a few times a day to keep my energy up, but I was so tired, cold and depressed that if I walked five minutes to the grocery store, I would have to rest under a blanket for half an hour. And that would be it for the day. I was a mess. I descended into hell – that’s the only way I can put it. I developed irritable bowel, allergies to perfume and exhaust, chronic yeast infections, recurrent bronchitis and pneumonia, and fibromyalgia pain so severe that at times I thought I should die. Medication didn’t help. Weaning the baby did not help at all. Following a vegetarian diet (higher in fluoride), and then Macrobiotics (lower in calcium), didn’t either. I just got skinnier. I was tired, I had fibrocystic breasts, disturbed sleep, lots of allergies, asthma, cold all the time but felt suffocated by summer heat, had heart palpitations and panic attacks, terrible PMS, migraines, joint pain, frequent urination with terrible thirst (actually it was diabetes insipidus). I was experiencing what I now know as the symptoms of chronic fluoride poisoning. For three years we tried to have another baby but I seemed to be infertile.”
Medical Professionals Didn’t Recognize the Symptoms
She did not have the stamina to work or hold down a job. Doctors could find nothing wrong; medications (some containing fluoride) made things worse. They began to tell Aliss it was all in her head or “normal” for a busy mom who had “waited too long” to start her family. But after learning that fluoride was toxic to the thyroid and bones, she began to avoid fluoride toothpaste, tap water and tea with immediate improvement.
Aliss developed a non-genetic type of breast cancer at age 47, as did her grandmother before her in Grand Rapids. Surgery to remove the tumor under general anesthetic provided a large dose of fluoride her body was unable to tolerate. Aliss developed life-threatening consequences of fluoride poisoning, the early stage of osteoporosis, thyroid disease, damage to kidneys, and extreme hypersensitivity to fluoride as a result.
Aliss’ sister was born two months premature in 1950 and Aliss was born a month premature in 1952. Their mother had evidence of low thyroid function and vitamin D deficiency, not uncommon in the Great Lakes area with long winters and low iodine and selenium in the soil. The increased fluoride intake made these deficiencies worse and more harmful during pregnancy. Bottle feeding with boiled tap water and partly skimmed milk formula powder was the norm, increasing the fluoride intake of babies more than 200 times above what breastfeeding would supply.
Aliss Seeks Help from Abroad
Aliss wanted confirmation that she was fluoride poisoned but no North American doctors could help her. Most doctors in Canada and the US belong to professional governing bodies that endorse water fluoridation as safe and beneficial, even essential for public health – not as the preventable cause of serious chronic disease in millions of people! Scientists at Toronto’s Mt. Sinai hospital derided her when she asked for fluoride testing and clinical diagnosis at their internationally known bone research clinic.
She had to travel to the Netherlands to see Hans Moolenburgh, MD who confirmed her symptoms as chronic fluoride poisoning. Dr. Moolenburgh had designed the only double blind crossover study ever conducted on the health effects of fluoridated water. The results showing health harm to 6% of the controls were enough to cause the Dutch parliament to reinforce their constitution to prevent public drinking water from ever being used as a vehicle for adding health-altering substances, no matter how seemingly pure the motives of public health officials.
Sylvia P. Onusic holds a BS in foods and nutrition, and a PhD in Health Education and Wellness, and has completed studies to qualify for RD (Registered Dietitian). She was a home economics teacher for many years. Her concentration is in holistic nutrition with a focus on the evolution of food and the human body in relation to food allergies and disease. Sylvia is the mother of two teenage sons, one on whom has celiac disease. She has several food allergies as well.
Aliss Terpstra, the subject of this story, contributed to and edited this article. Today, she is a nutritionist (CNP) and member of Weston A. Price Foundation in Toronto teaching clients how to find real food, prepare it and eat it to improve health.
For more information, see the Fluoride Action Network website.
See also, Fluoride: Worse Than We Thought on the the Weston A. Price Foundation website.
In part 2, Sylvia delves into the history of Aliss’s case, in The Grand Rapids Fluoride Study.