Chemical sensitivities include smoke (tobacco, wood or plant smoke), perfumes and other fragrances, insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, materials found in carpets and clothes, paint, diesel or gasoline fumes, various chemicals used in making plastics, additives or preservatives in packaged or prepared foods and chemicals in any number of the modern tools, gadgets and widgets that many people use on a daily basis.
Food sensitivities such as gluten- or dairy- sensitivities can be thought of as a form of chemical sensitivity, but the sensitivities to chemicals can go way beyond foods.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is also known as “environmental illness,” “sick building syndrome,” or “idiopathic environmental intolerance.” The cause of MCS is unknown—and, in fact, many medical doctors doubt that it is even a “real thing”. However, that was also said of fibromyalgia, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other disorders. There is no reliable diagnostic test and no treatment other than avoiding those chemicals that result in symptoms. However, as with all forms of chemical sensitivity—including food sensitivity—the immune system is thought to be involved.
The symptoms of MCS can range from mild to severe and usually include headaches (sometimes migraine headaches), fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, changes in heart rhythm, breathing problems, nausea, upper respiratory congestion, itching all over the body, sneezing, sore throat, muscle pain or stiffness, skin rash, diarrhea, abdominal bloating and gas, confusion, trouble concentrating, memory problems and changes in mood. Some people have difficulty sleeping or may be lethargic.
MCS and Other Disorders
MCS is often found along with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This makes diagnosis and treatment much more difficult because the symptoms are very similar and at times, some treatments make one disorder better while the other is worse. MCS for example, can get worse with some medications used to treat fibromyalgia. Some treatments have had better success than others, whether treating MCS, fibromyalgia or CFS or some combination of these. The primary treatment remains avoiding the triggering agent—which can work quite well… IF you can identify it.
Various stress management and stress reduction techniques have been relatively successful in treating MCS (and both fibromyalgia and CFS).
Mindfullness-based stress reduction techniques seem to be most beneficial. Mindfullness techniques are based on the idea that being aware of the present, focusing on the present—where you are, what you are doing and what you are thinking (or not thinking) in the moment—while observing any reactions without judgment or critical thought and accepting any thoughts, sensations or feelings “as is” can calm the mind, body and spirit. Mindfullness stress reduction techniques include meditation, yoga, tai chi and qigong though any form of meditation or breathing exercises can be useful.
Nutrition and MCS
A strong body requires strong nutrition! The immune system—believed to be hypersensitive in those with MCS, fibromyalgia and possibly CFS—needs constant nourishment. “Feeding” the body whole grains (when tolerated), lots of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, healthy fats from olive oil, raw nuts and seeds will strengthen the immune system. Along with a healthy diet plenty of water; sleep, adequate rest, relaxation and some daily physical activity will be the lifestyle that will help strengthen the body.
Good health comes from daily decisions. Remember, YOU have the power to transform your health … ONE healthy choice at a time!