For most of us, walking into a public restroom that’s just been cleaned with bleach, or even walking past someone who’s overdone it with the perfume, can be unpleasant. That sudden waft of chemicals can knock you back for a quick second and you might even hold your breath until you’re out of range.
But if “unpleasant” is all that happens, count yourself lucky, because these kinds of everyday nuances aren’t a temporary or mildly uncomfortable experience for everyone.
These days, most of us are chemically sensitive to some degree. But there is a large and growing population suffering from a heightened sensitivity to chemicals, where the faintest synthetic smell, or even the odorless presence of chemicals, can bring about a debilitating headache, nausea, dizziness, itchiness, and irritating brain fog. And that’s just the beginning.
An innocent whiff of common home cleaners, synthetic fragrances, or that quick off-gassing of nastiness that smacks you in the face when you excitedly open that package of whatever you ordered online… these common malodors can make anyone sick in large doses, but they can leave the chemically sensitive with lasting skin rashes, extreme joint pain, difficulty breathing, and deep fatigue with only a tiny amount of exposure.
The condition is known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) and the symptoms, as well as the degree of sensitivity, can vary greatly by person.
While symptoms can sometimes look or feel like an allergy, the body is not ‘exactly’ having an allergic reaction. This can get confusing because it’s not uncommon for those with MCS to also have allergies. But in terms of treatment, there is a difference.
When you’re allergic to something, your body releases immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies to battle the offending substance. During an allergy test, this response helps your doctor to pinpoint your triggers. Depending on the allergy, she may prescribe pills, an inhaler, or other remedy to help manage your body’s response.
But with a “sensitivity”, your body is clearly reacting to something, yet it doesn’t produce IgE in response. Traditional allergy tests often don’t help for those who are sensitive, but not allergic. And unlike an allergy, it’s not just one substance that triggers a particular reaction; there are multiple… Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS).
Unfortunately, mainstream doctors are not always equipped to help. Many are convinced that MCS is purely a psychological reaction and recommend a therapist. Others can misdiagnose the condition entirely.
The good news is that there are several types of doctors who absolutely can help. Many MCS sufferers have been properly diagnosed by allergists, immunologists, environmental medicine doctors, holistic/integrative/functional medicine doctors, and yes, even some psychologists.
It can take a while to find the right help. And even when you do, MCS is a tricky bugger. What triggers a reaction for some folks, doesn’t trigger others. Likewise, the remedies that help some, don’t help others. Or they do help, but then they stop working after a while, which is frustrating.
So, what’s going on?
When you suffer from an acute sensitivity to chemicals, your body is essentially overburdened with toxins and simply can’t process them fast enough. You might think of it like a huge backlog of paperwork sitting on your desk that continues to grow faster than you can get through it.
But in today’s industry-driven, chemical-filled, plastic-packed, and wifi-enabled world, toxins are nearly impossible to escape. If your body can’t manage the constant influx, the contaminants accumulate and can really wear you down.
Life gets pretty tough at this point. Shopping at the supermarket, working in an office building, attending your kid’s soccer game… basically, all the things everyone else takes for granted become a burden, at best.
You’d think home was your safe haven, but if you live next door to an incessant smoker or two floors above your apartment building’s laundry room vent or your neighbor is a big fan of spraying pesticides on his lawn, well, sorry Charlie.
If you or a loved one are hypersensitive to chemicals, you know the path to long-term MCS relief is long and filled with challenges.
- It involves eliminating the chemicals in your personal environment in order to reduce or prevent symptoms.
- You need to detoxify your body to reduce its chemical load.
- And you need to boost your immune system to better handle the inevitable contaminants of the environments you cannot control.
Ultimately, managing your triggers requires knowing exactly what you bring into your home, what you put into and onto your body, and how to maintain your indoor air quality at all times. MCS symptoms can be triggered by a myriad of contaminants and not everyone is affected equally. And, as mentioned, some solutions work well for some, but not at all for others.
While it would be impossible to hit on all the variables, this free ebook covers the broader spectrum of what to avoid, the natural alternatives you can choose in their place, and the product recommendations that aim to help.
MCS Facebook Groups
You may find it helpful to join one or more of these Facebook groups to discuss challenges and share solutions.
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: a place to share personal stories, find solutions, and help each other to cope
- MCS Herbal and Nutritional Remedies: a group focused on nutrition, supplements, protocols, and holistic healing modalities for MCS recovery
- EI Safe Housing: a network of people with environmental intolerances that share email notifications to try to help place others in safe housing
- MCS Housing Community Discussion: general discussion of multiple projects for building MCS community housing developments