Can smells actually damage your liver?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by pepper, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. pepper

    pepper New Member

    My liver, like many of yours, is enlarged and fatty as shown on ultrasound. My liver enzymes are also elevated.

    Smells (chemicals, perfumes, after-shaves, cleaners, etc.) really bother me.

    But does smelling these things, ie. letting the molecules into the body through the nose, actually damage the liver further, or is it just an annoyance?

    I would like some hard information if they do to convince those around me not to use these things.

    Thanks for any information.
  2. Shirl

    Shirl New Member

    Would like to know the answer to this one too Pepper. Odors make me ill.

    Shalom, Shirl
  3. allie42

    allie42 Guest

    My mother in law as she went through the "change" became terribly sensitive to odors like the orange blossoms we have here in the spring, and people's perfume and after shave, the exhaust fumes. I also thought it was increased allergic sensitivity. I'm a lot more sensitive to perfumes than I was in my 40's and 50's.
  4. Jeanne-in-Canada

    Jeanne-in-Canada New Member

    though I think you can still recover from it if you get your total load back down. If you aren't familiar w/ "total load" it's how env. med. describes your full accumulation of toxicity and all the things that would stress your body, bad foods, smoke, pollution, and allergens all fall in this description.

    I was once bedridden. I probably wouldn't have gotten that way if I hadn't stayed in a highrise taht was renovating EVERYTHING for 5 mths. Add a move to BC and move back in half a year, which got me stuck staying w/ friends there, sans provincial disability, which I'd given up to start again BC. I thought I was all better you see.

    In desperation I got the cheapest basement apt. I could get, still on welfare. Not an ideal situtation still, but a bit better. My liver swelled noticably and my doc noted it on exam several times. He ws quite concerned about that and some alarmingly enlarged lymph nodes in throat and armpits (and you know how much it takes to alarm a GP).

    He was not as concerned aobut painful swollen intestines and colon. But was most concerned about a cycle of depression I got every year for at least 4 mths. to his credit, bless his soul, he knew I was dangerously sick and never blamed it on depression, since he knew that part was transitory and probably just part of the syndrome.

    I've recovered a huge amount, and my liver is fine since. I'm about to get a wack of blood tests (not standard), good ones my env. doc has ordered. I'll let you know.

  5. pepper

    pepper New Member

    for your input.

    Anybody else?

  6. pepper

    pepper New Member

    for more input.
  7. pepper

    pepper New Member

    But what about stuff like perfume that so many people think smells great? My sister and my aunt say that they don't feel "dressed" until they put perfume on. I used to be the same. But now the smell of perfume makes me ill. And they often forget to leave that part of "dressing" out when we get together.

    I guess I am wondering if we should just put up with some odours because we can't always get what we want (to quote Mick Jagger).

    Or should we avoid these things because they will damage us in some way?

  8. pepper

    pepper New Member

    I am just bumping to see if anyone knows the answer to this question. It has been bothering me for a very long time. Every time I smell something offensive I wonder if I am harming my poor stressed liver.

  9. pepper

    pepper New Member

    one more time!
  10. Jeanne-in-Canada

    Jeanne-in-Canada New Member

    it sums up everything I've been through, or tried to tell people. It's also a reminder to stop sacrificing myself to be around people. My friends are wonderful and know my problems very well.

    My fiance's family is great to me as a person, but terrible to the person I am w/ MCS. Ron and I have been at a standoff about how we get married. I have various reasons I don't want a big ceremony, I'd just as soon elope. I put my foot down yesterday and reminded him how much his family sucks at accomodating my allergies, and how I'm not going to let them ruin my marriage day. Closed ceremony, w/ our mothers and then probably an outdoor potluck type reception w/ a public blessing by a pastor or priest. That was his own mother's idea. He's coming around, he'd better if he wants it to happen.

    I've stopped going to most of his family functions because there is usually scented candles burning and plug in airfresheners. I send a reminder before every event. Now they complain becasue they don't see me much. TOO RUDDY TUDDY BAD. Too many chances at my expense.


  11. Jeanne-in-Canada

    Jeanne-in-Canada New Member

    The Role of the Brain and Mast Cells in MCS

    by Gunnar Heuser, MD, PhD, FACP

    Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) was first described in the 1980s, yet it has remained controversial. The resistance to the concept of MCS has come from scientists who pointed out the lack of solid scientific diagnostic tests. It has also come from the industry which has trouble accepting the proposition that their products make a great number of people sick.

    My personal experience (I have evaluated several thousands of chemically injured patients) has convinced me that MCS is based on a physiological and not on a psychological mechanism. This is why I have been interested in finding objective evidence for MCS. In this paper I will present a mast cell hypothesis, a limbic system hypothesis, and an office approach to objective testing for MCS.

    Mast Cell Disorder and MCS

    Patients with mastocytosis can be exquisitely sensitive to even small amounts of chemicals. When mast cells discharge histamines and other compounds, patients often develop flushing and a metallic taste in their mouth.

    A few years ago I decided to test some of my patients for mast cell disease. Some of these patients with MCS actually turned out to have mastocytosis. Other patients were found to have a mast cell disorder.

    All diagnoses were made on the basis of skin biopsies done in an area which on inspection and palpation, showed no evidence of abnormality. It was also made on the basis of an elevated tryptase (an enzyme produced by mast cells) level. If mast cells were present in excess and/or if tryptase levels were elevated we would make a diagnosis of mast cell disease or disorder, if the clinical picture was also consistent with that diagnosis. In a few patients we also used a bone marrow biopsy to assist in the diagnosis.

    Mastocytosis is considered to be a very rare disease. Yet, I have accumulated more then 20 patients with that diagnosis in a matter of two to three years.

    At this time our testing is done on a random basis. We are now developing a protocol by which we will introduce a challenge (e.g. perfume, nail polish, chemicals found in a carpet store, etc.) and then test at a time when the patient is symptomatic from that challenge.

    We also hope to work with the Mastocytosis Society1 in further developing diagnostic approaches to the overlapping syndromes of mastocytosis and MCS.

    At this time the diagnosis of MCS is considered justified only in the absence of diseases such as mastocytosis and porphyria.2 This exclusion will require that all patients with MCS be tested for mast cell disorder and porphyrinopathy. I believe that this indeed should be done.

    In summary I postulate that chemical injury can trigger a mast cell disorder which in turn can cause MCS. This concept was recently published.3

    Limbic Hypermetabolism and MCS

    Patients with MCS often show emotional instability during their reactions to small amounts of chemicals. This has been likened to the epileptogenic effects of kindling which is particularly effective in the limbic system of the brain. Yet no proof of this concept has come forward to date.

    We started doing PET brain scans on some of our patients with MCS and found that the limbic, hypothalamic and brain stem areas are hypermetabolic (in terms of their radioactive glucose uptakes) and therefore hyperactive (almost as seen during focal seizure activity).

    Since the limbic system contributes emotional reactions and interpretations to sensory input, and since patients with amygdaloid (the amygdala is part of the limbic system) seizures can develop panic and related attacks during an amygdaloid seizure, our data appear to explain the emotional instability during a reaction to chemicals.

    The previously mentioned structures also serve memory and cognitive as well as neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous system functions, all of which can be deranged in a patient with MCS.

    In summary, I have shown that patients with MCS can develop hyperactivity in deep structures of the brain and that this may explain their emotional instability which therefore develops on a physiological rather than psychological basis.

    It should be mentioned at this time that patients who are impaired and/or disabled from chemical injury and resultant MCS often become depressed. This depression would obviously be a natural reaction to their impairment and/or disability and therefore be a secondary depression.

    Our findings were first published in 19994 and will soon be published5 in proceedings of a meeting on Chemical Intolerance. In this volume, kindling and related mechanisms are also discussed.

    Challenge Testing in the Medical Office

    A few years ago, at a meeting on MCS, testing of patients in an environmental chamber was suggested as the most scientific approach to proving MCS. This suggestion proved impractical which is why so few publications exist which provide a protocol for testing a patient for MCS.

    In my office we have developed a protocol by which a patient first undergoes baseline testing of pulmonary and immune functions as well as 24-hour urine collection for porphyrin fractions. Then the patient voluntarily inhales (via mouth and nose) nail polish, perfume, or exposes himself/herself to a chemical environment. Once symptomatic from that exposure, the patient undergoes follow-up testing of the same parameters and of course, undergoes a follow-up physical examination with special attention to neurological abnormalities and/or changes on auscultation of the lungs.

    Ideally, the patient brings a non-sensitive person (age and sex matched) who undergoes the same testing. Patient and volunteer (control) are carefully observed by my office staff who make detailed notes.

    Table 1 shows comparison of some immune parameters with regard to the above-mentioned tests. So far, we have found that MCS patients indeed respond more to chemical exposure than their controls. This is also true of pulmonary function which is more impaired when the patient becomes symptomatic after exposure to a small amount of chemicals (see table 2).

    We addressed elevation of TA1 (CD3+CD26+) cells in an earlier publication.6 Our data on T3+ (CD3) cells are unpublished. These cells can, in my opinion, be used as indicators of reactions to chemicals although they do not seem to contribute to any symptomatology.

    We are in the process of adding additional measurements (e.g. cerebral blood flow, tryptase blood levels, and others) to our protocol. Naturally, we do challenge testing only when the patient needs to prove MCS to Social Security, insurance carriers (long-term disability) and the courts. We are slowly accumulating data for future publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

    If other interested physicians were to use our approach, data would quickly accumulate and hopefully become statistically significant much sooner than using an environmental chamber approach in an academic setting.

    In summary, I have shown approaches to MCS which in my opinion are promising and will help to further define the mechanisms underlying the development of MCS.


    Gunnar Heuser, MD, PhD, FACP, FACFE, BCFE

    NeuroMed and NeuroTox Associates

    A Medical Group

    28240 W. Agoura Rd., Suite 203

    Agoura Hills, California 91301 USA


    Fax 818-865-8814


    1. The Mastocytosis Society, Inc. 2010 North Grand Avenue, Connersville, IN 47331.

    2. Bartha L, et al, Multiple chemical sensitivity: A 1999 consensus. Arch Environ Hlth 1999; 54:147-149.

    3. Heuser G, Letter to the editor regarding Mast cell disorder to be ruled out in MCS. Arch Environ Hlth 2000; 55:284-285.

    4. Heuser G, Wu JC, Subcortical hypermetabolism and cortical hypometabolism after neurotoxic exposure. Human PET studies. 7th International symposium on neurobehavioral methods and effects in occupational and environmental health. Stockholm, Sweden June 20-23, 1999.

    5. Heuser G, Wu JC, Deep subcortical (incl. limbic) hypermetabolism in patients with chemical intolerance. Human PET studies. Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences. 2001(in press).

    6. Heuser G, Wojdani A, Heuser S, Diagnostic markers of multiple chemical sensitivity. In: Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Addendum to Biologic Markers in Immunotoxicology. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 1992; 117-138.

    Baseline + 4 hours + 20 hours

    TA1 # 820 1170 820 pt 1

    570 760 680 pt 2

    580 588 660 control

    T3 + # 1460 1880 1280 pt 1

    1460 1650 1440 pt 2

    1030 1170 1090 control

    Table 1 shows changes from baseline in two chemically sensitive patients exposed to perfume. Note lesser or no change in age and sex matched control when counting TA1 and T3 + cells four and twenty hours after exposure.

    pt. 1 pt. 2 control

    FEV 0.5 -25 +11 +37

    FEV 1 -11 -5 +5

    FEV 1/FVC -3 -4 +3

    FEF 25-75% -33 -14 -5

    Table 2. % changes in some parameters of pulmonary function in two chemically sensitive patients in comparison with an age and sex matched control after exposure to perfume.

    (from Townsend Letters)
  12. CFIDSNicole

    CFIDSNicole New Member

    But, from what I understand of those articles, it doesn't answer her question if smelling something can hurt her liver. I would be inclined to say that just the act of smelling cannot harm your liver; if you ingest something or soak it in through the skin, perhaps it can harm your liver then, but I have never heard of smelling alcohol hurting a person's liver, for example.

  13. Jeanne-in-Canada

    Jeanne-in-Canada New Member

    Maybe it wasn't an official article, and maybe the point got lost in my usual wordiness, but I was attempting to describe the long term chemical assault I sustained.

    I'll reiterate, doctor examination noted distended, painful liver and most organomegaly, and dangerously swollen lymph nodes from chemical inhalent allergies. The prolonged exposure made me sicker than I had ever previously been. It endangered my life, I had wasting and dangerous weight loss. I could not eat enough to keep weight on me, could barely maintain 106 lbs. I'd had a great remission before it, but the prolonged chemical exposures set me back over 5 yrs in recovery. I've never completely recovered from it!

    I saw stars constantly, nausea daily, vomited on occasion, people had to change their clothes to visit me........

  14. matthewson

    matthewson New Member

    If you are breathing in methylene chloride such as in paint stripper, that is toxic to the liver. But just normal everyday smells are not.

    There must be something else going on with your liver. Is the Dr. doing any further investigation?

    Take care, Sally
  15. pepper

    pepper New Member

    for all that information. I am printing it out for reference.

    In answer to my initial question, re-stated by Nicole, do I understand correctly that if a sensitive person is exposed to a chemical (in a perfume or scented soap for example), harm can be done to the liver and other organs since those molecules remain in the body for some time?

    So, in addition to feeling poorly after exposure, we would also experience organ damage. One more reason to avoid scented anything.

    Thanks for all your help.
    [This Message was Edited on 08/23/2005]
  16. pepper

    pepper New Member

    It seems that you disagree with what I understand Stormyskye and Jeanne have stated. After reading those two articles do you interpret that the annoying scents as opposed to pesticides, etc. do not cause damage? That was what I was wondering about myself.

    I interpret both Stormyske's and Jeanne's answers as stating that they do cause damage. I am going to have to re-read all this when I am fully awake.

    The doctor is doing another ultrasound at the end of this month to see if my liver has healed in the past three months. It is always sore so I doubt that it has but you never know.

    Any corrective measure I have tried for my liver (even Milk Thistle) has made me extremely ill so I don't even know what else can be done.

    Thank you for answering my post. I appreciate your interpretation of the above.
    [This Message was Edited on 08/23/2005]
  17. CFIDSNicole

    CFIDSNicole New Member

    I think you are interpreting Stormyskye and Jeanne correctly--after their posts to my response, that is what I gather that they think. I know that smells can make people with MCS sick---results in many horrible symptoms; however, I don't think it causes organ damage.

    I guess I just don't agree with them; I agree with Matthewson. Ask your doctor your question and see what he says.

    Take care,
  18. tansy

    tansy New Member

    Hi Pepper

    Since my illness and neuropathy affect my sense of smell I can get reactions to things even when I don’t know they are around. Of course if what you smell indicates the presence of agents that are toxic for you, then it is wise to avoid them; hence the example of perfume and the explanations as to why it may adversely affect health in Stormyskye’s reply.

    When Dr Kerr had his initial changed gene expression findings published recently, they included one that implicated OPs, and was similar to that found in GWS/I. Many with these DDs say toxin exposure has contributed to their illness, or seemed to be the trigger.

    It’s not unusual for the liver problems you describe to be found in people with these DDs. There are various ways to approach treating these and this is where doctors who practice integrative medicine and practioners who use alternatives, are often most able to help. I believe there is a test for the different detox pathways, and there are some topics on these boards that discuss them that might give you some important clues.

    Ralph often posts about the products he uses they can include specific formulas to support the different liver detox pathways.

    Love, Tansy
    [This Message was Edited on 08/23/2005]
  19. pepper

    pepper New Member

    I appreciate your opinion. I will ask my CFS doctor next time I see him. The truth is that I find this board to be a more valuable resource than any of my doctors!

    Since opinions seem to differ on this topic, I will ask him.

    Thanks a lot.
  20. pepper

    pepper New Member

    I have tried so many things to heal my poor liver and every single thing has made me horribly ill. I have tried Clear (I think that was the name of the drink), UltraClear, Milk Thistle and others (can't remember now). They all made me so ill that I couldn't get out of bed even to go to the bathroom 20 steps away. I had to have my sons support me.

    My alternative doctors have tried so many things including the above and they cannot believe my bad reactions. They figure that my liver is so toxic that once the toxins start coursing through my body, my body just cannot handle it.

    I started seeing a naturopath a year ago and he tried a very gentle liver cleanse. He made sure it was very gentle because I had told him of my past reactions.

    Well, you guessed it, I was laid up for weeks. I was unable to do anything except some days have a bath and get dressed.

    I have The Healing Triad by Dr. Jack Tips (recommended by Ralph) and am going to read it when I am able to.

    I have read many many suggestions on this board for helping the liver. I think I have tried them all but because of my toxicity I just get sicker.

    I think that being exposed to pesticides was what started the domino effect to get me as sick as I am today. So I do think you are right in stating that exposure to chemicals is what triggers MCS. I believe that is what happened to me.

    Thanks for your help.

    Edit: I just saw in your post that you indicated that there is a test for the different detox pathways. I will hunt for that. Thanks so much.[This Message was Edited on 08/23/2005]
    [This Message was Edited on 08/23/2005]

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