MCS And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
A study relates MCS to chronic fatigue syndrome stating that researchers looking for the origins of MCS in participants found that over one third of the cases studied had previous diagnoses of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Their MCS could not be associated with any previous toxic exposure and was considered a manifestation of chronic fatigue syndrome.
In other words, many people with chronic fatigue syndrome will develop MCS as part of their illness. So should multiple chemical sensitivity treatment be considered part of your overall chronic fatigue syndrome treatment?
The general public has become more aware of the negative consequences of living in our over- chemicalized world, and none more so than those suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is also known as ‘Sick Building Syndrome’. Other names it goes by are ‘Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance’ and an ‘Environmental Illness’.
It is a condition where people report psychological and physical symptoms that are not specific. The causes are thought to be from exposure to all sorts of biological, physical and chemical irritants in the environment. Put simply, the sufferer has become allergic to chemicals.
What Is MCS And Its Causes?
Often members of the public in general are sceptical of people with MCS, in the same way they are of people with chronic fatigue syndrome, but both are complex chronic problems.
In the case of MCS the scepticism can be because low level toxins can have a negative effect on one person but do not affect others.
The symptoms often seem impossible or unrealistic as many people do not experience the same symptoms when exposed to the same things.
Some people can be sensitive to minute amounts of a toxin, and every time exposed it can cause an allergic reaction. Whereas, to most people, these toxins are undetectable and have no effect on them.
What is not understood about MCS is that people have negative reactions to a whole range of unrelated irritants. These can include pollen, perfumes, chemicals, dust mites, and so on.
This is where the scepticism comes in, as science says this is impossible. According to conventional thought and knowledge, a person usually has a response to a specific toxin they have not come across before.
But a lot of people with MCS have reactions to many different toxins and all with the same set of symptoms.
Medical professionals find this inexplicable. There are now so many people suffering from the same symptoms and problems in a modern world.
How Do You Recognize MCS Symptoms?
The symptoms of MCS vary. They are also like the symptoms of other conditions. These can include chronic fatigue syndrome and immune dysfunction syndrome. Many MCS sufferers report having several of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Changes in heart rhythm
- Sore throat
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Muscle pain or stiffness
- Breathing problems
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
What triggers an episode varies as well in different people and can happen for many reasons. Sufferers are not sensitive to the odour but to the chemicals themselves as toxins. The list of triggers is long and varied. The following list is only an example of the triggers which includes:
- Tobacco smoke
- Exhaust fumes
- New carpet
- Washing powders
- Food preservatives
- Outdoor pollutants
- Printing products
- Petrochemical products
- Fluoridated water.
Currently there is not enough scientific evidence to prove the relationship between triggers and people’s sensitivities. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Allergy and Immunology does not recognise MCS as an organic illness. But, that does not mean MCS does not exist
Diagnosis is difficult because of the variances in symptoms and similarity to other conditions. It is important to go to a practitioner sympathetic with MCS who will avoid the use of expensive and potentially harmful tests and treatments.
A naturopath or functional medicine doctor can help you get back to having as close to a normal life as possible.
Work with an open-minded practitioner who shows compassion for what you are going through. MCS is difficult to diagnose and it may be made even more tricky if you are also dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome.
It may be a case of the ‘chicken or the egg’, which came first? Working with your practitioner will give you the best outcome to unravel what is going on in your particular case.
There are some theories about why MCS happens including:
- Immune system damage
- Enzyme depletion
Immune System Damage
Researchers believe immune system damage and malfunction can be a cause behind MCS. This can make you sensitive to different triggers rather than to just one. Immune dysfunction has long been recognized in chronic fatigue syndrome too.
There are many toxins that have been a cause of MCS after only a single exposure. They are well known as disruptors. These include herbicides, formaldehyde, organophosphates, pesticides and organochlorines.
Something that makes diagnosing MCS so difficult is it can increase other issues in a patient. Things like allergies, depression, food intolerances, asthma and common allergies.
The enzymes in the liver detoxify the body. This includes removing chemicals from the system. When these enzymes become depleted or damaged, they have trouble metabolising the toxins which lead to the issues associated with MCS.
Some poisons use enzyme depletion by using a blocker. So when you come into contact with it the poison stays in the system longer than it should and becomes more toxic than normal.
Enzyme deficiencies are also genetic which can mean other family members can suffer with MCS. Your practitioner can help run some tests and advise a protocol to improve liver function.
Psychological conditioning can be a part of MCS but this does not mean it is all in the mind of the sufferer. What it does mean is that conditioning can make any sensitivity that already exists worse.
Conditioning occurs when two events happen at the same time so they become associated with each other. So, if one of these events recurs, the second one manifests in the sufferer as well.
An example is if someone is not feeling well and comes into contact with tobacco smoke. This can make them sick and often nauseous. Or, coming into contact with tobacco smoke can produce nausea in someone who had not felt sick before. This type of conditioning is real and is more positive used when losing weight or quitting smoking.
Another trigger that is similar is generalisation. The effects of this is real but is it not a true allergic reaction to something.
This is best explained by someone who is the victim of a violent crime. Afterwards, when they see someone who looks like those involved in that crime, it triggers fear although there is no threat.
Generalisation and conditioning can be an explanation of why MCS sufferers react to more and more different triggers over time.
There is no reliable way of diagnosing MCS and there are no proven treatments for the condition.
There is no effective cure for MCS from the standard medical community. The condition is complex with many triggers. Stress, genetics, chemical and food exposure, and so on, all play a part. These have a cumulative effect on the sufferer over time.
Working with your natural health practitioner to treat your MCS will combine a multi -faceted approach. This can include education, diet, detoxification, avoiding allergic triggers, cleaning up your home environment, immunotherapy and immune stimulation and enhancing nutrition.
Your practitioner may suggest gene testing for impaired detoxification pathways. The results of these tests can assist with developing a treatment plan using supplemental nutrients that modulate the compromised pathways. As an added benefit, the tests help provide reassurance that it’s not all in your head and that you do have an actual biochemical condition.
Treatment can also include addressing a patient’s emotional and social wellbeing. It is important for an MCS sufferer to develop a trusting relationship with their practitioner, with a professional who takes your complaints seriously.
You may think that avoiding what sets you off is the best way to prevent the effects of MCS but it is not that simple.
It can be easy enough to avoid triggers when you know what they are. Or if food, the physical environment, or toxins in the air or water are triggers. But because there can be so many sensitivities or allergens there is potential to use sensitizing agents.
For example, drink bottled spring water if water is a trigger. Spring water does not contain fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals used in domestic drinking water. But you also need to be careful of buying spring water in plastic bottles as it can absorb the chemicals used to make the plastic. Water bottled in glass is best.
Often chemicals in food can trigger symptoms in MCS sufferers. Switching to an organic diet can help avoid a lot of the chemicals in food.
Air pollution indoors is another major trigger. It can be a lot more polluted than the air outside. Using air purifiers will help clean indoor air and reduce triggers.
However, you need to ensure you choose the right type of air purifier that has the ability to neutralize the chemicals you are sensitive to. Many air purifiers are not powerful enough to eliminate chemicals to the degree needed by sufferers of multiple chemical sensitivity.
Carrying out an audit of the cleaning products you use and switching to natural items where possible e.g., baking soda and lemon juice etc., can help.
Other things you can do is remove carpets and items that are combustible (wood heating, natural gas cooking and heating) to improve the quality of the air indoors.
MCS sufferers do better in indoor environments that have hardwood floors. Other floor covering products have glues, solvents and other chemicals such as formaldehyde. These emit gases that contaminate the environment, often for many years.
It is a similar case with synthetic fabrics especially materials made from petroleum products such as polyester. Minimising these types of products in the environment will benefit people with MCS.
Diet and nutrition
Poor nutrition is a cause of immunodeficiency. The human body relies on having enough vitamins, minerals and other essential elements for enzymes, and to metabolise and detoxify the system. Poor nutrition can be a factor for people suffering with MCS.
Magnesium deficiency is another factor for MCS patients and poor nutrition causes this. You can take oral supplements. However, intravenous supplementation of magnesium, B vitamins, vitamins C and trace minerals can help. They detoxify the system and enhance the immune system.
Gut issues can also play a part in MCS as it can in chronic fatigue syndrome. So, don’t be surprised if your practitioner suggests a gut healing protocol too.
In the meantime, using a rotational diet can help to minimise food triggers. Work with your practitioner to devise a diet that also has adequate nutrition. This will help to minimise exposure to foods that MCS sufferers are sensitive to.
There are several types of tests that can help evaluate you if you suffer from MCS.
Pupilography evaluates MCS patients. It does this by assessing the autonomic function by scanning the eye surface. It looks at its response to different light exposures. It measures how the pupil changes in size, the speed of dilation and contraction, and recovery time. Some MCS sufferers often display autonomic instability that deviates from the baseline.
Posturography is another method to evaluate MCS sufferers. Using a computer, it assesses the neurologic integration from the ears, eyes and peripheral nervous system.
There is often an imbalance in MCS patients and people with a history of chemical exposure. Detoxification can assist metabolism and eliminate toxins from the system to improve the balance.
Low dose chemical exposure
Low dose chemical exposure in a controlled environment can help evaluate patients with MCS. This is usually done in a hospital environment, and uses placebos such as saline and water as well. Patients are normally in a sterile environment several days before the testing for consistent results.
The antigens used for intradermal testing come from organic products that do not contain preservatives or chemicals. This is instead of using the common antigens on the market that contain glycerine or phenol to stabilise them.
There are also skin testing techniques available such as prick or scratch testing to help devise a treatment program for MCS patients. This can have the potential for creating treatments for chemicals, foods, microbial substances, inhalants and bacteria. This can help people with chronic sinusitis or rhinitis.
Another treatment that can help MCS patients is immune stimulation using the transfer factor. It works by transferring white blood cells that contain properties to stimulate the immune system. It is of particular help where there is leukopenia or the patient has a reduced leukocyte killing capacity that contributes to infections that keep recurring.
Your doctor can prescribe antidepressants or sleep medications, however going the natural route is often preferable for symptom relief while you work with your practitioner on building your gut health, immune system and detoxification pathways.
Working on finding the route cause of your chronic fatigue syndrome and starting treatment can also help alleviate the symptoms related to MCS.
Often people find their own solutions by trial and error. They know what chemicals and foods can trigger and make their MCS worse so they avoid them. But avoiding triggers, quitting your job and eating a strict diet can be difficult. A more practical and sustainable approach is talking with your practitioner to devise treatments so you can live as close to a normal life as possible.
Putting It All Together
Avoidance of chemical triggers in the initial stages provides symptom relief while you work with your practitioner to find out what is causing your over sensitivity to chemicals.
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