Toxic chemicals are the plague of modern times and the source of much puzzling illness, but until 1991, any suggestion of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) was viewed as a psychiatric disorder-essentially all in a patient's head. But after detailed review of the evidence by a team of scientists, many in medicine now accept that that MCS is legitimate and that a good number of patients simply cannot adapt to their total toxic environmental load.
From the research we now know that a spectrum of disorders leads to a loss of specific tolerance to particular chemicals, foods, drugs, herbs and complex homeo-pathic remedies.
Chemical overload may be caused by a vast range of agents (such as solvents, combustion byproducts, pesticides, bone implants, vaccines, dental materials, formaldehyde, fire retardants and plast-icizers) and lead to a diverse spectrum of diseases.
In my own experience, the 26 most common triggers are: paint and/or thinner; organic solvents; pesticides; detergents (especially oxidizing agents in laundry powder); xylene; phenol; formaldehyde; sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS; found in most shampoos and toothpastes); ammonium compounds; freon; solder flux; welding fumes; perfumes; diesel; benzene; petrol (gasoline in the US); paraffin (kerosene in the US); nail polish; carbon tetrachloride; some dental and/or other metals; polyvinyl chloride; hair sprays; glue; sulphur dioxide and/or sulphur-based preservatives; tar; and wood dust and/or resin.
Isolating the cause is so difficult because chemicals wreak havoc on the entire body. Responses can affect any and every organ system and vary greatly, and there seems to be no single biomarker of response. It's likely that puzzling new illnesses like Gulf War syndrome are simply chemical overload.
In my opinion, the body becomes chemically overwhelmed in response to latent and increasingly disordered cell activity, which is always under the control of mitochondria (the 'power plants' of cells that convert energy into usable forms). Such 'damaged' cells can no longer respond as they should.
Allergic-type reactions to our toxic environments can be treated effectively even before the worse symptoms develop.
Treatment needs to be focused on mitochondria with a view to re-establishing orderly cell activity. This has been my own therapeutic approach and I've had a notable measure of success with it.
Here are my suggestions about how to isolate and treat any condition that is suspected of being caused by chemical sensitivity.
u Seek out a naturopath who asks detailed questions about any environmental contributors to your illness.
u He or she should be asking detailed ques-tions about your dietary and exposure histories, including the kinds of chemicals to which you are exposed every day.
u Make sure to have him or her review your symptoms involving each of the body's systems. Environmental exposure can provoke symptoms in several systems at the same time, and even minuscule levels of chemicals can cause chemical overload in those with heightened reactivity.
u Use the 'lymphocyte chemical sensitivity test' or other tests to test for hypersensitivity to solvents, pesticides, combustion by-products, off-gassing from particle boards (chipboard, pressed wood, hardboard, masonite), metals and plasticizers.
u If you still can't isolate the offending substances, try inhalation challenges using specially constructed exposure chambers (this is useful for disability litigation cases).
To treat chemical sensitivity, I find the following useful:
u avoiding exposure, whenever possible
u isopathic drainage (treating the condition with a homeopathic version of its trigger)
u enzyme-potentiated desensitization (EPD, using enzymes to build resistance to toxic allergens)
u nutritional supplements, particularly selenium, vitamins A, C and E and other antioxidants (Arch Environ Health, 1974; 28: 105-113)
u homeopathic immunotherapy (using nosodes)
u chelation therapy (using substances to chemically 'grab' the toxins in the body and flush them out
u treatment for a leaky gut.
In my own practice, each of these works to mildly varying degrees, depending on the patient, although I often use two or more approaches in combination after doing the appropriate testing.