When a body is continuously exposed to a broad spectrum of chemicals, it reaches the point where chemical sensitivity can become acute – a condition referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). The body’s intelligence steps in to say “don’t expose me to these chemicals, I can’t handle anymore.”
Many people with MCS can react severely to even a very brief exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals – at concentrations of parts per million versus parts per billion. Substances from pesticides to chemical perfumes can create a broad range of physical symptoms that can seriously affect people’s health and lifestyles.
The more internally burdened their bodies are by toxic chemicals, the more sensitive they become to external toxic substances.
The long-term effect of chemical sensitivity
Dr. Sarah Myhill, MB BS, Member of the British Society for Ecological Medicine in the UK explains: “Chemical overload, by which I mean heavy metals, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds, get in the way of the normal healthy biochemical function of the body and stop it from working normally. Overall they have the effect of accelerating the normal ageing process so that we get diseases before our time.”
Dr. Myhill emphasizes the long-term impact and how chemical sensitivity can increase the rate of aging: “With the current load of chemicals that humans are now exposed to as a result of pollution of the environment, we can expect to see people developing diseases of old people when they are young. We can expect to get degenerative conditions when we live to 100, but not in our forties and fifties!”
Which chemicals trigger this sensitivity?
Typical irritants include: car exhaust, diesel fumes, perfume, aftershave, air freshener, fragrances, washing powders, chlorine, polyester, formaldehyde, foam, plastics, rubber, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, mothballs, disinfectants, paints, solvents, gas, newsprint, cigarette smoke, wood smoke, artificial colourings, flavourings, preservatives, and other food additives.
Heavy metals are also involved
Lawrence Wilson, MD, of Prescott, Arizona draws attention to the extent to which heavy metals are related to MCS: “Many of those with chemical sensitivity have an elevated copper level or elevated levels of other toxic metals.”
Dr. Wilson explains further: “Excess copper is stored in the liver, where it can interfere with the normal detoxification functions of the liver. Copper imbalance is also associated with dysfunction of the adrenals and the thyroid gland. Other toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, arsenic and others can have wide-ranging effects on health, including the development of allergies.”
What kind of signals does the body send out?
Philip Ranheim, M.D. of Lake Stevens, Washington describes the many different distress signals that the body sends out as MCS becomes acute: “The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, weakness, muscle and joint pain, depression and irritability, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, impaired memory and mental focus, difficulties breathing and swallowing, a cough, gas and bloating, urinary frequency and urgency, visual disturbances, palpitations and chest pain, nasal congestion and sinus pressure, burning of the eyes and nose, and skin rashes.”
What is affected?
Dr. L. Christine Oliver, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Harvard Medical School draws attention to how debilitating MCS can be to individuals and how it can affect their lives:
“Systems that are affected by MCS include the respiratory system, the neurologic system, the gastrointestinal system, the skin in some cases. For those more severely affected, however, symptoms can be truly disabling. They interfere with a person’s ability to engage in gainful employment. They interfere with a person’s ability to use public transportation. They interfere with a person’s ability to live in a multifamily housing unit. They interfere with family life. They are isolating in short. Individuals with MCS often feel very isolated. I see this in my patients at MGH, Massachusetts General Hospital.”
How to go about reducing toxicity-induced chemical sensitivity
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine highlights how essential it is to take prompt action in reducing the body’s toxic load: “Early recognition of chemical sensitivity can spare affected individuals tremendous physical and mental distress and can prompt initiation of specialized treatments specifically designed to reduce the total body load of toxic pollutants and to replenish the total body reserves.”
“In truth, every effort must be made to reduce the patient’s ongoing chemical exposures and to support the patient’s self-healing capacities. If these corrective measures are not taken, the patient’s health may well continue to deteriorate from continued exposures to everyday toxins.”
The plan of action for those suffering from MCS is clear:
- Reduce the known chemical exposure as much as possible, and
- Decrease the accumulated toxic load present in the body now.
- Decrease the accumulated toxicity
Science is now recognizing that chemical sensitivity is linked to accumulated toxicity, both chemical and heavy metal. The solution to recovery, as with other toxicity-related problems, is to prevent future accumulation and to unburden the body’s present accumulation, to enhance and assist the body’s innate ability to self-heal.