Multiple Chemical Sensitivites

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by hope2001, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. hope2001

    hope2001 New Member

    Environmental Illness / MCS

    Signs, symptoms and indicators | Conditions that suggest it | Contributing risk factors | Other conditions that may be present | Treatment recommendations

    Chemical sensitivity disorder or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is defined as "an acquired disorder characterized by recurrent symptoms, referable to multiple organ systems, occurring in response to exposure to many chemically unrelated compounds at doses below those established in the general population to cause harmful effects."

    Most of us need little convincing that our urban environments are polluted. The belief that the food chain is contaminated with toxic chemicals is universal and readily validated. The exact number of persons suffering from chemical sensitivity is unclear, but the rise in immune and nervous system disorders indicates that this problem is becoming more common, and somewhat more widely recognized.

    Everyone knows someone who is sensitive to particular household products. We all recognize that people vary widely in their response to a room full of cigarette smoke - some people can ignore it easily while others react with stuffy nose, teary eyes, coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath. It should be no surprise, therefore, to learn that scientists are now confirming that different people react differently to modern compounds such as dry cleaning solvents, perfumes, detergents, glues, waxes, pesticides and other common household and industrial chemicals.

    It has been suggested that MCS is not the best name for this family of ailments because it fails to reflect the importance of the initiating chemical exposure. Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) better describes the true nature of the illness(es) initiated by a toxic exposure which leads to the loss of tolerance of common chemicals. Different initiating events may give rise to somewhat different ailments, all of which cause sensitivity to chemicals - just as different infectious diseases can all cause a fever.

    Some people react violently to chemicals, to the point of being made ill by very low doses of common substances. Typical symptoms include fatigue, severe migraine-like headaches, nausea, that "run down" feeling, rashes, itching, swelling, pain, stuffiness, disorientation, and dizziness. This group of symptoms goes by various names: ecological illness, total allergy syndrome, environmental illness, and MCS.

    There are over 70,000 chemicals commercially produced in the United States today. The long-term, low dose effects of many of these chemicals have never been investigated. With the construction of closed buildings, the rise in use of toxic construction materials, and an increase in the use of office machines, an environment of indoor air pollution has been created. Some 60% of indoor chemicals are generated by products or machines used indoors.

    MCS is thought to afflict somewhere between 2% and 15% of the American public, and appears to be increasing, according to a publication of the American Chemical Society.

    The prevailing rational and scientific viewpoint is that although some people are sensitive to small amounts of one or a few specific chemicals, there is no general hypersensitivity to chemicals. Scientifically oriented allergists, psychiatrists and occupational health clinicians suspect that the majority of "MCS" (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) patients suffer from psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety reactions and somatization (bodily reactions to stress).

    On the other hand, clinical ecologists (doctors who specialize in environmental illness), believe that MCS is a widespread condition caused by exposure to common foods, chemicals and other stressors that can sensitize people, causing them to react adversely to even tiny amounts of these substances.

    Both inorganic compounds (such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and heavy metals) and organic compounds (pesticides, formaldehyde, phenol, etc.) are involved. A major indicator of chemical sensitivity is multi-system disease: this is because once the chemicals enter the body, they enter the bloodstream and circulate to all parts of the body, even the brain.

    Two important phenomena to understand regarding the symptoms are spreading and switching. Spreading occurs when additional organ systems are involved, or when a patient additionally becomes sensitive to inhalants, foods, dust, animal danders, or other environmental exposures. Switching occurs when the same exposure produces entirely different organ involvement e.g. photocopier fumes initially caused headache, and subsequently caused no headache but wheezing.

    The main mechanism for chemical sensitivity seems to be the failure of the body’s enzyme detoxification pathways to adequately clear chemical compounds. Both immune and non-immune processes have been involved. Chemical sensitivity can develop after a massive chemical exposure, after specific non-chemical events such as massive trauma or surgery, after severe infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic) or with no identifiable cause.

    Because most of the toxic chemicals involved are fat-soluble, they become stored in the body’s fat, resistant to metabolism and excretion. In fact, chemical levels measured from fat biopsies are sometimes 300 times greater than circulating serum levels.

    The timing of symptoms after exposure, reproducibility of the symptoms, spreading, and switching must all be investigated. Serum levels of suspected chemicals confirm the diagnosis. If serum levels are negative and suspicion is high, a fat biopsy must be performed to complete the diagnosis. Additionally, chemical challenge tests can demonstrate the cause-and-effect relationship between a chemical exposure and symptoms.

    Signs, symptoms & indicators of Environmental Illness / MCS:
    Symptoms - Abdominal Pain (Severe) abdominal discomfort

    Symptoms - Cardiovascular
    Heart racing/palpitations Heart palpitations and dysrhythmias can be caused by chemical exposures in sensitized individuals.

    Symptoms - Environment
    Suspected environmental illness
    (High) chemical sensitivity
    (High) cigarette smoke sensitivity

    Symptoms - Food - General
    Strong appetite

    Symptoms - Gas-Int - General
    Meal-related bloating

    Symptoms - General
    Constant fatigue Daytime grogginess is a possible symptom of environmental illness.

    Symptoms - Metabolic

    Symptoms - Mind - Emotional

    Symptoms - Mind - General
    Having trouble concentrating

    Symptoms - Muscular
    Tender muscles
    Individual weak muscles The muscular weakness may be due to a nerve problem caused by chemical exposure and immune system changes associated with MCS.

    Symptoms - Nervous
    Numb/tingling/burning extremities

    Symptoms - Respiratory
    Shortness of breath

    Symptoms - Skeletal
    Joint pain/swelling/stiffness Joint pain is a possible symptom of environmental illness.

    Conditions that suggest Environmental Illness / MCS:
    Allergy Allergy to Foods (Hidden) People with multiple chemical sensitivities often have multiple food allergies as well. While reactions to chemicals in the environment are generally quicker and more easily identified, food allergies are usually delayed, making it harder to pinpoint the offending food. People with MCS are often unaware of hidden food allergies which could be contributing to their overall allergic load.

    Autoimmune Tendency Reports of autoimmune markers in MCS patients, like most MCS data, are inconsistent. One report demonstrated antibodies to smooth muscle (muscle tissue that functions without conscious thought - such as the heart) in half the patients seen in a clinical practice. In some cases, MCS could be viewed as a chemically-formed autoimmune disease. [Environ Health Perspect 105(Suppl 2): pp.417-436 (1997)]

    Raynaud's Phenomenon
    Bruising Susceptibility
    Arrhythmias/Dysrhythmias An irregular or rapid heart beat and awareness of your heart beating are listed as possible symptoms of environmental illness.


    Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome MCS is a distinct illness that many times is diagnosed secondarily to CFS and/or fibromyalgia.

    Poor Memory

    Migraine/Tension Headaches Central nervous system dysfunction is common, resulting in headaches, chronic fatigue, poor short term memory, hyperactivity, and increased appetite leading to food cravings and overeating.


    Asthma Respiratory complaints include adult onset “asthma”, shortness of breath, and fibrotic lung disease.

    Symptoms - Environment
    Environmental illness (confirmed)

    Risk factors for Environmental Illness / MCS:
    Symptoms - Muscular History of tender muscles

    Symptoms - Urinary
    Bladder infections

    Environmental Illness / MCS suggests the following may be present:
    Allergy Allergy to Foods (Hidden) People with multiple chemical sensitivities often have multiple food allergies as well. While reactions to chemicals in the environment are generally quicker and more easily identified, food allergies are usually delayed, making it harder to pinpoint the offending food. People with MCS are often unaware of hidden food allergies which could be contributing to their overall allergic load.

    Asthma Respiratory complaints include adult onset “asthma”, shortness of breath, and fibrotic lung disease.

    Recommendations and treatments for Environmental Illness / MCS:
    Dental Dental Metal Removal Hypersensitivity to dental metals and nickel is frequent in patients with CFS and MCS-like syndromes. Ongoing metal-induced inflammation can be present in the oral cavity and/or in any other place of metal deposition. Metal-driven chronic inflammation may affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) and trigger a myriad of non-specific symptoms characterizing CFS, MCS and other related diseases. The removal of metallic restorations can reduce lymphocyte sensitization and improve the health of patients. [Neuroendocrinology Letters, 20: pp.289-298, 1999]

    Sauna Detoxification Program To decrease the fat stores of chemicals, a heat (sauna) detoxification program has been developed consisting of selected nutrients, colon cleansing, heat therapy and massage. The protocol of nutrients, colon cleansing and heat therapy can often reduce the serum levels of these chemicals to "non-detectable".

    Liver Detoxification Phase II Support Reducing the body burden of chemicals can be enhanced by maximizing Phase II liver detoxification pathways with selected nutrients.

    Chemical Avoidance Avoidance of chemicals, especially those you are sensitive to, is the first step in treatment. Face masks and air filters can minimize exposures when total removal is not possible. Circulating clean air into confined spaces will help, but total removal of oneself from the source should be accomplished whenever possible.

    Selenium Allergy Protocol

    KEY Weak or unproven link
    Strong or generally accepted link
    Proven definite or direct link
    May do some good
    Highly recommended


    Allergy (Allergies)
    Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.

    Antibody (Antibodies)
    A type of serum protein (globulin) synthesized by white blood cells of the lymphoid type in response to an antigenic (foreign substance) stimulus. Antibodies are complex substances formed to neutralize or destroy these antigens in the blood. Antibody activity normally fights infection but can be damaging in allergies and a group of diseases that are called autoimmune diseases.

    Apprehension of danger, or dread, accompanied by nervous restlessness, tension, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath unrelated to a clearly identifiable stimulus.

    A lung disorder marked by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the lungs. The episodes may be triggered by breathing foreign substances (allergens) or pollutants, infection, vigorous exercise, or emotional stress.

    Autoimmune Disease (Autoimmune)
    One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.

    Bacteria (Bacterial, Bacterium)
    Microscopic germs. Some bacteria are "harmful" and can cause disease, while other "friendly" bacteria protect the body from harmful invading organisms.

    Removal of a sample of tissue from a living being for diagnosis. A pathologist later uses a microscope to look for certain features, such as cancer cells, in the sample. A fine-needle aspiration biopsy involves inserting a thin needle to remove a small amount of tissue, sometimes using CT or ultrasound to guide the needle. A core biopsy involves obtaining a sample of tissue with a thick needle or by inserting a thin, lighted tube (laparoscope) into a small incision in the abdomen. Another biopsy method is to remove tissue during an operation.

    Chronic (Chronicity)
    Usually referring to chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.

    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, Chronic Fatigue)
    A disorder of unknown cause that lasts for prolonged periods and causes extreme and debilitating exhaustion as well as a wide range of other symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache and joint pain, often resembling flu and other viral infections. Also known as Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus (CEBV), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), "Yuppy Flu" and other names, it is frequently misdiagnosed as hypochondria, psychosomatic illness, or depression, because routine medical tests do not detect any problems.

    Colon (Colonic)
    The part of the large intestine that extends to the rectum. The colon takes the contents of the small intestine, moving them to the rectum by contracting.

    Crave (Craving, Cravings)
    To have a strong desire for; to feel the need for.

    Enzymes (Enzyme)
    Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.

    Fibromyalgia (FMS)
    Originally named fibrositis, it is a mysteriously debilitating syndrome that attacks women more often than men. It is not physically damaging to the body in any way, but is characterized by the constant presence of widespread pain that often moves about the body. Fibromyalgia can be so severe that it is often incapacitating.

    Immune System
    A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.

    The largest organ in the body, found behind the ribs on the right side of the abdomen. It has many important functions, such as removing harmful material from the blood, making enzymes and bile that help digest food, and converting food into substances needed for life and growth.

    A type of white blood cell found in lymph, blood, and other specialized tissue such as bone marrow and tonsils, constituting between 22 and 28 percent of all white blood cells in the blood of a normal adult human being. B- and T-lymphocytes are crucial components of the immune system. The B-lymphocytes are primarily responsible for antibody production. The T-lymphocytes are involved in the direct attack against living organisms. The helper T-lymphocyte, a subtype, is the main cell infected and destroyed by the AIDS virus.

    Metabolism (Metabolic, Metabolize, Metabolizes, Metabolizing)
    The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

    Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (Chemical Hypersensitivity, Environmental Illness, MCS)
    The diagnostic label of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is being applied increasingly, although definition of the phenomenon is elusive. MCS has become more widely known and increasingly controversial as more patients receive the label. Persons with the label of multiple chemical sensitivity are said to suffer multisystem illnesses as a result of contact with - or proximity to - a spectrum of substances, including airborne agents. These may include both recognized pollutants and other pollutants ordinarily considered harmless. Some doctors believe that MCS is a purely psychological issue. Others, however, counter that the disorder can cause the kinds of problems that keep those who are affected from leading a normal life.

    Symptoms resulting from an inclination to vomit.

    Nervous System
    A system in the body that is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia and parts of the receptor organs that receive and interpret stimuli and transmit impulses to effector organs.

    Parasite (Parasites, Parasitic, Parasitical)
    An organism living in or on another organism.

    The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.

    Short-Term Memory (Short Term Memory)
    Also known as immediate memory or working memory, this is a phase of memory in which a limited amount of information may be held for several seconds to minutes. In general, up to 7 'chunks' of information are stored for about 20 seconds.

    Smooth Muscle (Involuntary Muscle)
    The human body contains 2 types of muscle - smooth muscle and striated (skeletal) muscle. Smooth muscle is found in our internal organs such as stomach, intestines, blood vessels, or uterus (womb) and causes them to contract. These muscles are involuntary - that is, we don't control their movement.

    Physical manifestations (bodily reactions) to stress. Some psychological precipitant or factor, such as recent trauma or learned behavior, causes a physical manifestation or symptom which has no other known medical explanation. It is not a form of malingering, where someone is faking or intentionally producing the symptom.

    A condition defined by a cluster of related symptoms or disorders.

    Last updated: Nov 22, 2005

  2. hope2001

    hope2001 New Member

    thanks, prickles!

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