Everyone has that strange friend who acts like perfume is a deadly poison, won’t use dryer sheets and keeps a mask and rubber gloves for pumping gas. When you can’t even smell anything strange, they’re turning pale and complaining that the scents are giving them migraines.
That’s me! No, I mean, really, that’s me. I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Otherwise known as “I think I’m allergic to the world.”
It has taken me a while to fully accept that I do, in fact, have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). It’s a controversial health condition not currently recognize by major professional medical organizations.
That doesn’t bother me too much, though. A lot of health conditions go from unrecognized to recognized.
Symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity vary, but include:
- brain fog or mental confusion,
- aching joints,
- restless leg syndrome and
- gastrointestinal disturbances
The triggers for these vary less.
Those who suffer from MCS are affected by cigarette and cigar smoke, car exhaust, gasoline fumes, paint fumes, perfumes and colognes, cleaning products, petrochemicals, pesticides, new carpeting and furniture, and a variety of other commercial products.
When someone enters my home wearing clothes that were dried with fabric softener sheets, my condition changes rapidly. Within fifteen minutes, my throat and voice are scratchy, my eyes are red and watery – instant “flu” symptoms.
Remove the offending substances, and the symptoms (eventually) go away.
Maybe you’ve had a holistic doctor suggest that that’s the issue.
Or perhaps, like so many, you’ve never let your doctor know that you’re constantly ‘sick’, that your immune system seems to have taken a hike, and that you feel ‘allergic to the world’.
That’s what it feels like, doesn’t it?
Health professionals who do not acknowledge MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) as a real illness chalk symptoms up to the following possibilities:
- Extreme sense of smell caused by a neurological abnormality
- Psycho-somatic reactions or learned behavioral conditioning (patients have come to expect reactions when exposed, thus causing them in their own minds or neurology)
- General mental illness or a nervous condition of some sort resulting in hyper-sensitivity
Health professionals who do acknowledge that MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) is a real and debilitating condition for many people that is based in environmental causes, cite the following as possible contributing factors:
- Leaky gut. Perforations in the digestive lining causes partially digested proteins to leech through the stomach and enter the bloodstream, making the organs work harder and impairing the body’s ability to detoxify itself through the liver and kidneys
- Female hormone imbalance. Many pregnant, perimenopausal or menopausal women report increased sensitivity to smells as well as a host of physical ailments that match up to the list described. It is often noted when steps are taken to balance the hormones, the symptoms disappear.
- Sensitization as a result of a more severe chemical exposure, for example to pesticides or known environmental hazards.
However you choose to label it, physical reactions after exposure to toxic chemicals – even in miniscule amounts generally considered safe – are a disabling reality for many people.
It certainly does not help that people with MCS may come to anticipate, dread, and fear the reactions. This creates a “vicious circle” of nervous tension that may be partially physical and partially mental, with the two feeding into each other.
Some people live in denial that their health may be impacted by the amount of chemicals their bodies are assaulted with on a daily basis.
But for those of us who suffer chronic headaches, tiredness, digestive disturbances, arthritis, and other common maladies often dismissed by experts in the medical community as psychosomatic, it is worth conducting an experiment to see what happens when synthetic substances are greatly reduced from the surrounding environment as a means of providing relief so that healing may begin.