Robin had to move several times in the past two years because she is so sensitive. Her first house in Santa Barbara had a lot of new work done. There was an addition put on with new carpeting, which she found was leaching formaldehyde. So, she had to leave.
Robin then moved to a “clean” condominium with wood floors and all-natural furniture. But, the gardeners were spraying weed-killer and fertilizer – so she had to move again.
This time, she moved to another home where she could control her environment. Unfortunately, the next-door neighbor was covering her garden with bug spray, which drifted over the fence. This made Robin feel fatigued and ill.Finally, Robin moved out of town. But thanks to industrialization, chemical toxicity is everywhere. If only avoidance were as simple as it sounds. For Robin, it is almost impossible to navigate the world without being immersed in tens of thousands of potentially troublesome human-made chemicals to which she reacts.
Chemical companies no longer deny that chemicals accumulate in our bodies, simply by virtue of being alive. While the too-low concentrations of those chemicals supposedly exist to cause any harm, MCS would suggest otherwise. The brutal sensitivity to the cumulative effects of these interacting chemicals causes extreme suffering. These can begin to have many adverse symptoms that slow or prevent normal functions of the body. People with MCS can be sensitive to anything, and it can change over time, trapping them in a modern, chemical world.
Medical Doctors and MCS
Mainstream medicine doesn’t recognize MCS as a real disease, having failed to agree on a case definition for the disease. This makes getting a diagnosis a battle. Many doctors consider it an emotional or psychological problem.
Studies have failed to recognize any consistency in symptoms, diagnosis, or treatment. A person with MCS may have reactions to a chemical at one time, and not another. Furthermore, different people respond differently to each type of chemical stimulus. Moreover, both the severity of the reaction and the types of sensitivities change over time.
The problem with the way we do research is that by using groups of people we assume they are similar, when, in this case, none of them are. The factors responsible for MCS are numerous, including the function of multiple enzymes and detox pathways, as well as the burden of various toxins already in the body. All of this changes continuously, making quantification of sensitivity very difficult.
What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is just what the name implies. People are sensitive to many things in their environment, food, or even their own waste. This is brought on by a broad array of everyday chemicals. Exposure levels far below those that seem to affect the rest of the population provoke the symptoms.
The experience of each person is constantly changing, due to the environment. These are better and worse over time, due to a wide range of toxins. MCS has been equated to other problems including:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Sick building syndrome
- Gulf war syndrome (GWS)
Symptoms of MCS may include:
- Muscle stiffness
- Joint pain
- Inability to concentrate
- Sleep problems
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Food intolerances
- Difficulty breathing
These and other symptoms may come on during exposure to certain substances, and they go away when avoiding problem chemicals and exposure.
Causes of MCS
Of course, a multi-factorial illness will not have a single cause. There are many factors which lead to this problem, most of which may include:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Poor digestion of food
- Yeast overgrowth
- Inadequate absorption of nutrients
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Hormone imbalances
- Genetic detoxification weaknesses
- Dysbiosis (bad bacteria in the intestines)
- Immune dysfunction
- Emotional factors
- Celiac disease
- Viral infections
- Previous chemical exposures
- Heavy metals
- Food allergies
While we can test for the problems above, none of the tests are diagnostic for MCS. People may test positive for Leaky Gut Syndrome, for example, but do not have MCS. Diagnosing MCS is purely clinical. It’s the patient who comes in with the diagnosis, having noticed that they are sensitive to many different things.
- Some of these sensitivities may be perfectly natural, such as an actual deficiency in amino acids due to incomplete breakdown of proteins in the digestive system.
- Others may be sensitive to toxic substances such as alcohol, dyes, or pesticides.
- Still others are sensitive to smells. The actual molecule that stimulates the olfactory (smell) system isn’t big enough to create an immune reaction. However, even natural perfumes may create a debilitating reaction.
Since these sensitivities are not usually created by the immune system, they are not true allergies. This is why allergy testing is not useful. Moreover, the actual sensitivity may change over time. For all these reasons, we rely on the patient to notice environmental triggers of their symptoms.
The Shoe Factory
Karen had MCS for a couple of years as a result of her job in a shoe factory. After working there several months, she began to notice that when she went to work she got tired and achy. She would get fatigued. She began to have headaches and dizziness. Her eyes hurt, and she would get shortness of breath with only walking.
Since she was in her 30s and usually active, she wondered why this only happened at work. After a period of time, she found that when she just walked into the building she would immediately start feeling her symptoms. She thought she must be crazy, and maybe she was just stressed at work, but she liked her job, and was generally happy there.
After months of getting worse, she finally was unable to go to work, and decided to take a leave of absence so she went out on disability. It took about six months of treatment for her to feel normal again, but when she tried to go back, she got the same symptoms. She had to quit her job, and find another that allowed her to be away from the glues and offgassing of the shoe factory.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Treatment
So, this begs the question about getting relief from MCS. Do people really have to move multiple times, avoid contact with others, leave their work, severely limit their diet, or live in a bubble all their lives? No.
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