Those who view multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as a real syndrome often describe it as an untreatable condition involving permanent brain damage due to chemical exposure. The defining criteria, as listed on the MCS Referral and Resources Inc.
website, includes: a chronic condition, with reproducible symptoms, from low levels of exposure to multiple, unrelated chemicals, the symptoms of which improve or resolve if these chemicals are removed from the sensitive person's environment.
In my experience, MCS symptoms can include almost anything. Certainly headaches, neurological dysfunction and digestive problems are common, as are urinary dysfunctions; menstrual complaints; irritability; sensitivity to noise, light and electromagnetic fields; skin disorders; emotional problems; and cognitive disorders.
Almost any symptom can be caused by MCS (and usually every system is affected) in traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis. People with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or attention deficit disorder all have some degree of chemical sensitivity. Sometimes the connection is apparent: a discrete exposure followed by a distinct reaction. However, most sensitivities and allergic reactions are not distinct because many exposures are more or less continuous.
It is therefore difficult to associate most reactions with an exposure until a person becomes extremely sensitive. A good example is pesticide exposure. Most people are continuously exposed to pesticides in buildings and on food. If they fly on a commercial airliner or walk into a building that has been recently sprayed with pesticides, they feel worse. If they never leave their homes; haven't used pesticides in their environment in years; eat only organic food; and don't wear new clothes (of natural fibers grown with pesticides), they feel better. For most people, avoiding pesticides is impossible; if they are sensitive, their reactions are chronic.
Clearly, chemical pollutants in our environment are the primary culprit in MCS and other allergic problems. It is no wonder MCS is so controversial: it shatters the myth of "safe levels" of toxic chemicals in our environment. As our environment becomes more toxic, we become more overloaded with toxins, and more people become sensitive and allergenic. Subsequent generations are born allergic, as it is a basic law of allergies that a child will inherit a tendency for both parent's allergies. Sensitivities and allergies usually become more severe and more deeply ingrained in the person's constitution over time. Increased toxicity levels in the body cause increased reactivity. Humanity is becoming more allergic and more sensitive, and our collective karma for our toxic lifestyles and shameless priorities comes due.
A commonly repeated scenario in my practice is as follows: a person grows up in our toxic environment, eats processed food full of chemicals, and gets cavities. Dental cavities are commonly filled with "silver" amalgam fillings (50% mercury plus silver, copper, tin and zinc). According to Dr. Hal Huggins, the dentist who pioneered the safest protocol for the removal of these fillings, 90% of the population is allergic to mercury; 95% is allergic to copper. The person's health is compromised by the fillings in many ways, including the following: mercury follows a kidney pattern in Chinese medicine, lodging primarily in the brain, bones, teeth, pituitary gland and kidneys. Endocrine functions are thrown out of balance; brain damage ensues; and sinus, ear and bladder infections are all common. Each time the person chews, mercury is released and enters the digestive system, ultimately compromising digestion.
Mercury has the paradoxical nature of being both hot and cold simultaneously in its actions on the body. Mercury's cold nature harms the spleen; its hot nature harms the kidney and heart yin. Mercury toxic environments are ideal for invasive fungal strains of candida albicans, which then proliferates in the sinus cavities, ears, bladder and gut in particular. The invasive, damp nature of candida further compromises the spleen and causes "leaky gut" syndrome by perforating the intestines, which shows up as yin deficiency of the colon. It is commonly believed that food particles that are too large pass through the compromised intestinal wall into the blood system are then attacked as foreign intruders; thus, food allergies are born. Candida dumps acetaldehyde into the system, which is damp, extremely toxic, and affects the liver in particular. Each time the person inhales, they breathe in mercury vapors continually from their fillings, especially when they chew, clench or grind their teeth.
The person now has spleen deficiency, kidney yin deficiency, large intestine yin deficiency, heart yin deficiency, liver qi stagnation, liver dampness and lung qi deficiency. They may have a great deal of phlegm and dampness in their systems. They are allergic to metals, foods and food chemicals, and are especially allergic to aldehydes, petroleum products and mercury. Pesticides follow a petroleum pattern: hot and systemic. (The body translates allergies from one item to another as if they are similar.) This person has become reactive to most (if not all) chemicals.
This person has little in reserve to handle a major stress. They may or may not have serious or overt allergy symptoms, but generally they do not feel well. Now imagine of the person's home or office gets remodeled; they get a new car; or they move into a brand new building, any of which involves a major exposure to formaldehyde, a substance prevalent in new, man-made materials. At this point, the person's health collapses. They easily become a universal reactor, allergic to everything.
The factors in this scenario are at work on all of us to a greater or lesser extent. Each if us has a unique threshold of toxicity tolerance that, when overwhelmed, leads to allergies. Some people can tolerate this chemical onslaught better than others, but no one is unaffected. Most people have allergies they are unaware of, and allergies tend to get worse over time, leading to a myriad of health imbalances.
In my next column, we will discuss treating "untreatable" conditions and healing "permanent" brain damage..
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