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Our food, water, air, makeup, lotions, perfumes, furniture, carpets, mattresses, automobiles, exhaust fumes, and clothing are all made with chemicals or contain chemical residues. Even fresh, whole foods are sometimes laced with chemicals to protect them from pests and rot.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences describes multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as a chronic, recurring disease. It is caused by intolerance to environmental or foreign chemicals.
In a nutshell: When you have MCS, it is difficult to tolerate specific outside chemicals. And you are more sensitive than most. This means that the smallest amount of a chemical can send your body into a tailspin.
The American Medical Association does not recognize MCS as a disorder caused by chemical exposure. In fact, many healthcare practitioners believe that MCS is more a sensitivity to smells or that it is purely psychological. Nonetheless, the California Department of Health Services reports that nearly 16% of Americans are affected by MCS. (1)
In 2003, researchers at the State University of West Georgia surveyed a small pool of Americans and reported that:
- Over 11% of Americans may have an unusual hypersensitivity to common chemical products (like perfume, fresh paint, and pesticides).
- Roughly 31% of Americans are sensitive to fragranced products, such as household cleaners, detergents, and air fresheners.
- Over 17% of those sampled have trouble breathing when exposed to air fresheners.
- Chemical sensitivity affects both men and women, but it is more common in women. (2)
What Causes Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Those who are affected by multiple chemical sensitivity may be able to pin down a specific event—such as a chemical spill—that is responsible for their symptoms. Others may believe that repeated exposure to low levels of a chemical could be responsible for the symptoms associated with MCS.
If you have multiple chemical sensitivity, you may be intolerant to environmental or foreign chemicals. Roughly 16% of Americans are affected by MCS—triggered by toxic chemicals in perfume, pesticides, cleaning products, plastics, and more.
This includes groups of toxic chemicals found in:
- Tobacco smoke
- Auto exhaust
- New carpet
- Paint fumes
- Cleaning products
- Synthetic fabrics
- Scented products
- Petroleum products
In 2009, Anne Steinemann at the University of Washington published a report on fragranced products. (3) She found that fragranced products contain hazardous chemicals that are not listed on the product label or on material safety data sheets!
These fragranced products are widely used in homes, businesses, and public places and include:
- Air fresheners
- Laundry supplies
- Personal care products
Many synthetic and fragranced products are laden with chemicals that disrupt hormones and provoke asthma. (4) There is no U.S. law that requires manufacturers to reveal all of the chemicals used in their product. Many of these products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are considered toxic or hazardous under federal law.
Worse—products labeled as “green” may still contain significant amounts of VOCs.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Toxin Overload
When it comes to poisons in our environment, not everyone will have the same level of sensitivity. This is because it is not just exposure to a poison that creates signs of disease. In other words, avoiding a chemical may only treat the surface of the disorder.
A major player in toxicity and sensitivity is the body’s ability to neutralize and clear toxic chemicals.
When the systems that are responsible for clearing chemical waste fail, we see extreme sensitivity to the environment, to food, and to small amounts of hazardous chemicals that are found in synthetic and fragranced products.
To get to the heart of multiple chemical sensitivity, you must assess the liver and the immune system. The liver transforms toxins and eliminates oxidative stress, both of which can break down your chemical tolerance. To do this, the liver produces a key antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione detoxifies the body and defends against disease.
Glutathione production in the liver is essential to life. Animal studies with mice show that pups unable to make glutathione in the liver die within one month after birth. Glutathione cannot be taken as a supplement because the body breaks it down in the digestive tract. However, you can eat fermented foods to support the synthesis of glutathione. Of course, at Body Ecology, we love cultured cruciferous veggies.
Fermented cruciferous vegetables restore glutathione in 2 ways:
- Research has shown that cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli help to protect against cancer because they restore levels of glutathione and relieve oxidative stress. (5)
- Other studies show that probiotic bacteria support the entire glutathione pathway—supplying enzymes necessary to make glutathione and supplying glutathione itself. (6) In animal studies, probiotic bacteria were even able to prevent the depletion of glutathione in inflamed tissue. (7)
If you are showing signs of multiple chemical sensitivity, your levels of glutathione are already low.
Research shows that chemicals will activate the immune system—and cause symptoms of MCS—only after glutathione exhaustion. (8)(9) This means that in addition to boosting levels of glutathione and supporting liver health, you must also soothe an overactive immune response. The good microbes found in fermented foods do exactly this: They soothe inflammation in the body, helping to regulate an overactive immune system.
To boost liver health and support detoxification, Donna designed LivAmend with milk thistle, artichoke leaf, wasabi, and sarsaparilla. These herbs help the body cleanse, open up the elimination pathway of the colon, contain antioxidants, and support antioxidant production—including glutathione.
The principles of The Body Ecology Diet were designed to protect the immune system by removing common inflammatory triggers found in food—like wheat gluten and milk casein—in addition to providing support with probiotic foods.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Harmful chemicals in the environment can be found in food, water, air, makeup, furniture, clothing, and more. Even fresh foods may have hidden chemicals that protect against pests and rot. With constant exposure to dangerous chemicals, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a possibility. MCS is marked by intolerance to environmental or foreign chemicals.
The California Department of Health Services estimates that close to 16% of Americans have MCS; MCS affects women more than men. Even worse is the fact that fragranced products containing hazardous chemicals aren't required to list such chemicals on the product label or material safety data sheets. Potentially harmful products may include laundry supplies, personal care products, air fresheners, and cleaners that can disrupt hormones and provoke asthma.
You can fight multiple chemical sensitivity by supporting the body's ability to cleanse and detoxify:
- Eating fermented foods boosts synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione in the liver that is essential for detoxification and defense against disease. Signs of MCS mean that glutathione levels in the body are already low.
- You can further support liver health and detoxification with LivAmend—the herbs milk thistle, wasabi, artichoke leaf, and sarsaparilla open elimination pathways, promote cleansing, and enhance antioxidant production, including the vital antioxidant glutathione.
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- Caress, S. M., & Steinemann, A. C. (2004). Prevalence of multiple chemical sensitivities: a population-based study in the southeastern United States. American journal of public health, 94(5), 746-747.
- Caress, S. M., & Steinemann, A. C. (2003). A national population study of the prevalence of multiple chemical sensitivity. Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 58(6), 300-305.
- Steinemann, A. C. (2009). Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 29(1), 32-38.
- Dodson, R. E., Nishioka, M., Standley, L. J., Perovich, L. J., Brody, J. G., & Rudel, R. A. (2012). Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products. Environmental health perspectives, 120(7), 935.
- Joseph, M. A., Moysich, K. B., Freudenheim, J. L., Shields, P. G., Bowman, E. D., Zhang, Y., ... & Ambrosone, C. B. (2004). Cruciferous vegetables, genetic polymorphisms in glutathione S-transferases M1 and T1, and prostate cancer risk. Nutrition and cancer, 50(2), 206-213.
- Kullisaar, T., Songisepp, E., Aunapuu, M., Kilk, K., Arend, A., Mikelsaar, M., ... & Zilmer, M. (2010). Complete glutathione system in probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. Applied Biochemistry and Microbiology, 46(5), 481-486.
- Peran, L., Camuesco, D., Comalada, M., Nieto, A., Concha, A., Adrio, J. L., ... & Galvez, J. (2006). Lactobacillus fermentum, a probiotic capable to release glutathione, prevents colonic inflammation in the TNBS model of rat colitis. International journal of colorectal disease, 21(8), 737-746.
- Tada-Oikawa, S., Kato, T., Kuribayashi, K., Nishino, K., Murata, M., & Kawanishi, S. (2008). Critical role of hydrogen peroxide in the differential susceptibility of Th1 and Th2 cells to tributyltin-induced apoptosis. Biochemical pharmacology, 75(2), 552-561.
- Zhang, D., Shen, J., Wang, C., Zhang, X., & Chen, J. (2009). GSH‐dependent iNOS and HO‐1 mediated apoptosis of human Jurkat cells induced by nickel (II). Environmental toxicology, 24(4), 404-414.
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