Q.: I’ve noticed recently that the smell of perfume, diesel exhaust, or the detergent isle in a grocery store is bothering me more then usual. I’ve heard about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or “MCS”. What is it and what can I do to get rid of it?
Multiple chemical sensitivity ("MCS") is a chronic condition characterized by different adverse affects from exposure to chemical substances in our environment.
The concepts underlying chemical sensitivity were developed by physician- allergist Theron G. Randolph, M.D. (1906-1995), who stated that patients can become ill from exposures to substances at doses far below the levels normally considered safe.
In the 1950s, Dr. Randolph suggested that human failure to adapt to modern-day synthetic chemicals had resulted in a new form of sensitivity to these substances.
You probably have heard about Gulf War syndrome, sick building syndrome, or toxic carpet syndrome. These are just a few examples of numerous manifestations of chemical sensitivity.
How to recognize chemical sensitivity
1. Changes in your appearance
- Dark blue, black or pink eye circles
- Nose rubbing
- Clearing the throat or coughing
- Locking lips
- A puffy face, hands and knuckles
- Bright red cheeks, nose or earlobes
- Spaced out look
2. Changes in your behavior
Chemicals can cause changes in many areas of your body affecting your feelings and thinking. Some of the signs are:
- Cough or wheeze, stiff joints, sinus congestion
- Burning or numbness of the face, arms, legs or feet
- Prolonged flu or repeated ear, sinus or lung infections
- Stomach pain, belching, gas or diarrhea
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden urge to urinate
- Sudden hoarseness
- Ringing in ears
- Behavioral changes are: hyperactivity, crying, irritability, anxiety, panic attack, difficulty learning, and hiding in dark places, moodiness, and aggressiveness. Some children and adults become so agitated, they simply cannot sit still. Other patients tend to become too quiet, fall asleep, or do not want anyone to be near them.
3. Changes in your breathing
Some patients after being exposed to chemicals may experience wheezing, shortness of breath or coughing.
4. Changes in your heart rate and blood pressure
If the cardio-vascular system is affected, the following symptoms might possible develop:
- Irregular pulse
- Very rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
5. Changes in your writing
Did you know that writing and drawing reflect how we feel? Some patients after they smell an odor, or eat an allergic food, might suddenly begin writing upside down or backwards. The writing can become too large and sloppy or tiny. Drawings by children often clearly reflect feelings of sadness, depression, anger or aggression in the form of violence or very dark colors. Actually, any form of creativity can be affected, such as poetry, painting, music, etc.
What are the most common hidden chemicals?
Here are just some examples of chemicals in our everyday life that we cannot think of:
- New furniture with synthetic covers, new synthetic cloth
- Heating/air conditioning system. Improper filter care or chemicals in the ventilation ducts
- Toxic pesticides sprayed around your home or your neighbor’s home
- Heavy metals, for example lead, which has been found in Calcium supplements, the lead-based paint in older housing, or burning candles with lead-containing wicks
- Fluorescent light fixtures, commonly found in offices and schools, contain small amounts of mercury, which can be released into the air if they break. Mercury is also contained in the new “energy saver” bulbs
- Artificial food colors. Many dyes that were manufactured from coal tar are still in use today, while many newer ones are petroleum extracts. They might contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. These don’t sound like foods you would like to add to your family’s dinner menu!
Does everyone become ill from chemical exposure?
No. The reaction of the person to variety of chemical exposures depends upon the strength of his or her immune system, and of course on the types and duration of chemical contacts.
However, under the prolonged stress of continuous exposure even a strong person might experience some symptoms.
How to Detoxify Your Body
- Determine the offending chemicals and allergens
- Avoid all known offending chemicals in your air, water, food, clothing, home and work areas as much as possible
- Strengthen your immune system with better nutrition: eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organic fruits and vegetables. Beets, artichokes, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.
- Cleanse and protect the liver with dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle.
- Eliminate as many of the stores chemicals in your body as possible by the use of different forms of detoxification, such as homeopathic treatment, herbal formulas
- Lymphatic drainage, to improve lymph circulation, is also essential for detoxification.
- Get you allergies and food sensitivities under control
- Purify your drinking water and the air in your house
- Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions.
- Exercise one hour every day
- Homeopathy can be extremely helpful. It strengthens the immune system and minimizes reactions to environment. There are many different kinds of remedies that can be prescribed individually for each patient.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to help your family and friends. The most important task in treating chemical sensitivities is to change the emphasis from treatment to prevention. In the long run prevention is both healthy and cost-effective.