Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) no longer is an enigma in our society. Unfortunately, more and more people have it in some form or another as many in the health care industry are accepting it as a concrete diagnosis. What is it? MCS is defined as a multi-system disorder usually brought on by toxic exposure to a chemical or chemicals. The exposure can be acute, i.e. a large amount of a toxin over a short period (hours to days) or it can be long-term, a low-level exposure over a period of weeks, months or years.
An example of an acute exposure is a chemical spill and an example of a long-term exposure is a person living in a house that has been tented to kill termites and gets progressively sick.
MCS over the long haul depletes an individual’s nutritional stores and causes problems in many different systems and organs in the body. Hence the term multi-system disorder. The person becomes sensitized to the particular chemical. With repeated exposure, the sensitivity increases.
Also, there is what is called a spreading effect where the individual is bothered by many more different chemicals. As this happens, more body systems become involved. MCS almost always effects the Central Nervous System.
According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) the diagnosis, treatment, and etiologic assessment of MCS had remained a troublesome medical and social concern for individuals, physicians, government and organizations. Also, according to the ACOEM, the condition was first described in 1952 and has since amassed over 20 different names, including “environmental illness”, “total allergy syndrome”, “20th Century disease” and “Chemical Aids”. My personal favorite is 20th Century disease.
In my mind, this name is totally appropriate since our society’s quest to preserve everything from food to building materials has created this mess.
ACEOM recognizes that there is a lack of scientific research about MCS. However, they support tentative conclusions about MCS. These conclusions are: 1) that there is no immunologic basis for MCS. 2) that there is an overlap between MCS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other historic non-specific condition.
An article by Japanese physicians from the University of Tokyo School of Medicine is pretty much in agreement with the statement of the ACOEM. Baisky AJ,Borus from the Division of Psychiatry at Birgham and Womens Hospital in Boston Massachusetts in an article titled Functional Somatic Syndrome which is another way of saying MCS states that even though physical causes may ultimately be found in patients with MCS, the suffering of these patients is exacerbated by a self perpetuating, self-validating cycle in which common endemic, somatic symptoms are incorrectly attributed to serious abnormality reinforcing the persons belief that he/she has a serious illness. In other words, although there may be just medical cause for this condition, much of the symptoms are psychological. I am in total disagreement with this statement as I believe and will try to prove to all that MCS is a toxic reaction to chemicals that creates abnormal physiological function in the body.
In 1999, consensus criteria for the definition of MCS were formulated because even though there continues to be a lack of objective physical evidence that support the diagnosis of MCS, government studies in the U.S., U.K. and Canada revealed 2-4 times as many cases of chemical sensitivity among Gulf War Veterans than soldiers who weren’t deployed to the region.
Also, state health department surveys of civilians in New Mexico and California showed that 2-6% respectively, have been diagnosed with MCS and that 16% of civilians reported and “unusual sensitivity to common everyday chemicals. Those criteria are as follows: 1) chronic condition. 2) symptoms that occur reproducibly. 3) symptoms that respond to low levels of exposure. 4) symptoms to multiple unrelated chemicals. 5) symptoms that disappear or are reduced when the chemical is removed. 6) symptoms that occur in multiple organs.
In my opinion, the best thing that is happening with regards to MCS is awareness. Today, there are more governmental agencies and health care providers who acknowledge MCS.
BBC News Online did an article March 15th,00, called Household Chemicals Health Warning by Alex Kirby. In the article, it talks about Drs. Keith Eaton and Honor Anthony who are the authors of the report Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Recognition and Management that was published in the British Society for Allergy, Environmental and Nutritional Medicine. ” Drs. Eaton and Anthony urge the British government to tighten the regulation of chemical use, including stricter controls on the authorization of new chemicals and the removal of persistent chemicals from food.” Interestingly, only 14% of the most heavily used chemicals used in Europe have a full set of basic safety data publicly available. I find that incredible.
One of the television news magazine’s here in the US did an hour show on Sick Building Syndrome. It featured the total disruption of families because of fungus growing rampant in their house. The other story that they did was the family disrupted and forced to move out of their house because they had their house sprayed for termites. These are real phenomenon, no one would ever imagine this. Because of all the chemicals in the products that are put in our buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency calls indoor air quality one of the top five environmental health risks of our time.
Benzene and formaldehyde both, both carcinogens are only protected by OSHA which is the Occupational Health & Safety Administration in a white collar setting. Elissa Feldman, EPA’s associate director of Indoor Environments Div. states “There is no federally guaranteed protection from exposure to unhealthy air indoors.” Feldman also calls the air going through the buildings “chemical soup. Of course, there are many other ways and many other chemicals that can cause Sick Building Syndrome. I’m limiting it simply because of space.
Let us talk for a minute about formaldehyde. Another name for it is embalming fluid. It’s a preservative. I tell you, it is everywhere, from foods to drinks to walls, just everywhere. Remember, I said in the previous paragraph that it is carcinogenic. That means cancer causing. Amazingly, there are only two beers that I have found that does not have formaldehyde in it.
What about pesticides that are known cancer causing agents? Sure, the US government bans them from being used on produce in the US, but we still import produce from other countries that use those harmful pesticides. I ask why?
People who are affected by MCS usually have experienced toxic amounts of substances through repeated exposure to synthetic chemicals. Remember, I stated that you can have either a repeated exposure to small amounts or a one time exposure to a large amount. Notice I said synthetic chemicals. Man- made products are causing this to happen to us. We are doing this to ourselves. It’s the odor of the chemical for the most part that causes the damage. This includes many of the common household products that are in our cabinets now.
From what I can gather, MCS affects about 16% of the population. Now that is a huge percentage of the population. Why though only those 16%. No one can say for certain. Obviously, the 16% have some sort of vulnerability, maybe some genetic predisposition. That is the conclusion that I come to.
When MCS occurs through the odor of the chemical, it effects the oldfactory (nasal) system. Now remember from above that MCS is a multi-system condition. This being because it affects the Central Nervous System, the brain if you will. The odor then goes from the nose to the different parts of the brain. That is how it reaches the multiple systems. Not a good thing! Again, we are doing this to ourselves. When MCS occurs through the ingestion of the chemical for an example in our food, it is treated like any other chemical that enters our body and causes a reaction.
What about food? Much of our food is chemically treated so that it is more profitable to the companies. Ingesting these foods and chemicals can cause a myriad of health concerns. Most of these pesticides are neurotoxic which means that they adversely effect the Central Nervous System of the insects that are targeted to kill. An individual who is vulnerable will have an adverse reaction. Also, just as a side bar, simply because a fruit or vegetable is classified as organic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have pesticides. Some organic growers spray the soil not the plant itself and call it organic. You have to be an investigator.
There is much discussion about Phorphyrin Metabolism problems as they relate to MCS. From the Porphyria Educational Services Bulletin, Vol. 1 No. 39, Sept 22, 1999. To paraphrase, it states” that chemicals do indeed play a large part in triggering acute attacks of porphyria in today’s modern environmentally unsafe world. However, porphyria as a disease on it’s own was around long before chemicals played a roll in the increase of the disease. The well known MCS writer, Cynthia Wilson who spent her life in research and writing on our toxic world, found by her research that there are 3,700 toxins that are directly linked to porphyria. As you can see, the chemical toxicity causes the porpyria, the porpyria doesn’t cause the chemical toxicity.
Researchers at the University of Washington and The University of California at Los Angeles in August of 1998 as reported in the Journal Nature, began mapping out how differently people react to the same pesticides and chemicals. They found through their research that one person can be 100 times as sensitive to a particular chemical than another person. “A little bit of difference in metabolism can make a lot of difference in response,” says Clem Furlone, a professor in the UW’s Department of Environmental Health. They concluded that the difference in people stem from an enzyme in the body. This enzyme apparently is a contributing factor for vascular disease and also regulates resistance to some pesticides. “Someone with low levels of this enzyme would be very susceptible to those pesticides,” says Furlong.
This is an explanation of why individuals are sensitive only to some pesticides. Logical deduction would lead on to believe that MCS sufferers have deficiencies in different kinds of enzymes that make them susceptible to a particular one or group of chemicals.
In 1998, a research group lead by Diane M Shih found that mice lacking an enzyme called serum paraoxonase are susceptible to organophosphate toxicity. I believe we are getting there people. Only closed minds will prevent us from understanding more and more about this disease as time goes on
My husband who was a chiropractic, homeopathic and acupuncture physician prior to his disability keeps pointing out to me while writing this article is that in his opinion, the MCS patient is hypersensitized. What does he mean by that? In this case, hypersensitized means that you can and or will react to almost anything. Does that mean that your toxicity is to everything? No! My husband says that because of the toxicity to the one or 2 chemicals, your system is now sensitive to any and every chemical. In my husband’s opinion, the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity comes from being hypersensitive to multiple chemicals because of the toxic overload by one or two chemicals to your system. My husband goes on to describe two types of unfavorable reactions in the body. A histamine reaction which we all know as allergies that are treated for the most part by antihistamines, and a kinin reaction. Histamine reactions are caused by pollens, dust, mites, etc. Kinin reactions are cause by chemicals and such. It is the kinin release that caused the hypersensitivity. Because of this, my husband believes that finding the chemical that cause the initial kinin release is imperative.
OK so you suspect or are certain that you have MCS. What next? Do you simply go to any physician that is available? The answer to that is a resounding NO! First off, you need to make sure that the physician you choose believes that MCS is a physical, not psychological condition. The physician needs to believe that synthetic chemicals toxically overload your body. Don’t even let him/her make the implication that your condition is psychological.
So what do you do if you have or think you have MCS? The first thing that you need to do is to seek medical help. What kind of physician do you go to? I think that the best answer to that is one who understands what MCS is. That could be a MD, DO, DC, Acupuncturist or a Homeopath. To find the right person nearest you, you need to do some investigating. Check with MCS organizations to try and find the nearest one to you. Personally, my preferences are the homeopathic practitioner and the Acupuncturist, because in my opinion you need natural approach.
There are acupuncture points that will drive toxins out of the body. The homeopath is equipped with remedies that will counteract most chemicals. My husband a retired Chiropractor, Homeopath/Acupuncturist treated many people with MCS and according to him with good results. He states that he used a combination of acupuncture, homeopathic remedies and nutrition to help combat this condition. The one thing that he stressed to his patients was that it was mandatory that they get out of the environment that is causing them to be sick. Without that, nothing will work.
Without taking an active role in helping yourself, you will become a prisoner to the chemical environment. Some of you are too damaged already for many things to help. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Keep on trying.
In order for you to have a chance of getting better with a certain physician, in my opinion he/she needs to make a declaration to you that they recognizes the intensity and the reality of your symptoms and that they are indeed related to a chemical toxicity. Without that declaration, in my opinion you will not have any confidence that he/she can help you and consequently, you will not receive any help.
Remember you doctor can not give you all of the answers on the first visit. It should take time to gather all of the information needed to properly advise you. When your doctor is taking your initial history, you should make sure that you review each symptom that you have. You need to tell him/her when the symptom started and probably more importantly how did it start? Was it after a specific exposure to a specific chemical? How long was the exposure? What have you done to try to heal yourself?
The doctor’s examine should focus on the body parts in question with specific blood work for the specific organ system. Just as important as doing the proper tests for the specific organ in question, don’t allow the doctor to order tests that are not necessary and therefore will cost you more money. The following tests are not recommended for routine evaluation of MCS because either they can precipitate a violent reaction or because they are worthless for the diagnosis. Notice I say routine. There could be a specific reason for anyone of these tests. Let your doctor explain to you why you need the test. 1) Environmental challenge test. 2) Quantitative encephalography. 3) Brain electrical activity mapping. 4) Neuropsychogenic testing. 5) Brainstem evolked potentials. 6) Position emission tomography. 7) Immunologic testing and determination of blood levels of trace volatile organic compounds or pesticides. These tests sound important but don’t help in the diagnosis of MCS.
Your physician’s primary objective is to help you uncover which chemical/chemicals are causing your condition. You need to work as a team with your physician to uncover this mystery. Note nothing is trivial in this investigation.
While a number of different types of treatments may help improve you overall health, only complete and strict avoidance for the specific chemical/chemicals will stop the progression and if not to much damage has occurred, improve the health of a MCS patient. The most essential part in treating a patient with MCS is identifying and then avoiding the chemical/chemicals that triggered your body’s reaction. Even with strict avoidance of the trigger chemical/chemicals, improved health may take up to a year.
The web site http://www.ourlittleplace.com has a wonderful page named guidelines for Non-toxic Living. I’m going to highlight them for you but feel free to go to the site and read them thoroughly. 1) Avoid all scented products. 2) Avoid all fabric softeners, dryer sheets, Clorox scented detergents, etc. 3) Avoid all pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers. 4) Use only non-toxic cleaning products and person care products. 5) Drink and bathe in filtered water. 6) Eat organic food. 7 Wear only natural-fiber clothing, 100% cotton, linen, wool or silk. 8) Use only 100% cotton, wool or pure silk bed linens and blankets. 9) As much as possible avoid plastics. 10) Open your windows as often as possible. 11) Certain houseplants are beneficial to remove toxins from the air. The best are philodendrons, spider plants, aloe Vera etc. Go to the site to get the rest.
The second thing that the MCS patient needs to do to improve their health is to maintain optimal nutrition. What is optimal nutrition? You need to make sure that you are eating enough calories. My research has lead me to the opinion that your food intake should be 40% protein, 30% fats, and 30% carbohydrates, very similar to the Zone diet. In the next couple of paragraphs, I’m going to outline some natural therapies. Prior to outlining them, I did research into their efficacy and spoke to a number of physicians including my husband. I am not giving out medical advice; I am simply trying to expand your knowledge. I suggest that you do your own research, speak to your own physician and come to a conclusion if you want to try any of these natural therapies.
Nutritional supplementation in my opinion is very important. A general multivitamin is fine to take as a baseline. Make sure that your multivitamin is entirely natural. Do not take any synthetic vitamin! Synthetic vitamins are man make chemicals. That is what got you feeling sick right! Along with your multivitamin, according to my husband, you should take a B complex 75 mg., and approximately 2 grams of Vitamin C. Also, very important are proteolytic enzymes. These should be taken immediately upon awakening in the morning and then wait an hour before you have something to eat. With all supplementation, you need to follow the directions on the bottle. Most importantly, you need to investigate and find these vitamins in an all-natural source. Again, do not use synthetic vitamins or one with fillers.
Acupuncture therapy can be very beneficial to the MCS patient. There are specific acupuncture points that release toxins from the body. There are also points that can strengthen specific organs. I would be very cautious taking Oriental Herbs though. If you are being treated by an acupuncturist who wants you to take pre- packaged Oriental Herbs, make sure that there are no synthetic chemicals or fillers in the herbs. Also, make sure that any bulk herbs that you take have not been sprayed with anything. This can be dangerous to you. Ask a lot of questions and be a good investigator. A good acupuncturist is worth their weight in gold to a MCS patient in my opinion.
Homeopathy in my opinion can be extremely helpful to the MCS patient. A good Homeopathic Physician is priceless. The Homeopath needs to take an exhaustive history to match your symptoms to the proper remedy. There are many different kinds of remedies that can be prescribed. My husband tells me that each case is different to the homeopath. However, he used three remedies a lot with MCS patients. They were Nitric Acid, DDT, and Formaldehyde.
When it is all said and done, I believe that combining all three of the natural remedies along with strict avoidance of the offending chemical/chemicals will give you the best chance of regaining some of your life.