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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Real or Psychological?

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Four senses (sight, smell, taste, and touch) out of our five, encounter common chemicals every day. They’re found in pesticides, petrol, perfumes, vehicle exhaust, household cleaning products, personal care products, cigarette smoke, and others. Do you feel the following symptoms when you’re around these common chemicals?

Mental/Neurological Heart/Cardiac Lungs/Pulmonary
Short-term memory problems







Rapid heart rate

Irregular heart rate

Difficulty breathing

Shortness of breath

Gastrointestinal Non-specific


Abdominal pain


Muscle & joint pain

Flu-like symptoms



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If you experience the symptoms mentioned above in the presence of common chemicals, you might have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, also known as Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance. Simply put, it’s a collection of signs and symptoms you may experience upon repeated exposure to small amounts of chemicals you encounter every day over a prolonged period. It’s unfortunate that at the writing of this article, there’s still much debate as to whether Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS for short, is a real disease entity or just a psychological one (it’s all in your head). To make matters worse, there’s no universally accepted definition of MCS, but there are six criteria.

What are the causes of MCS? What are its known triggers?

Chemicals in everyday products are the known triggers of MCS. But what is its exact cause? Nobody knows the exact cause or causes. A person who notices that he is sensitive to a chemical will quickly experience the onset of symptoms over a relatively short period. That’s why some authorities see it as a psychological problem. Those who insist that it’s a medical condition argue that chronic exposure to low levels of everyday chemicals will eventually lead to a point where your body can’t tolerate them any longer. You then become sensitised (your body becomes irritable) leading to the development of MCS symptoms.

Results from studies have found the following about MCS:

  • The limbic system in your brain becomes hyperactive. Your limbic system is responsible for your emotions, mood, and communication in your autonomic nervous system. It’s no surprise that many symptoms of MCS can involve mood and behaviour. Researchers have observed that electrical activity in patients with MCS is increased, leading to heightened sensitivity to everyday chemicals compared to those who don’t have MCS.

  • People with MCS were also found to have defective detoxification of xenobiotic chemicals (foreign chemical substances) and low levels of glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) which is important for part of your livers detoxing actions. You know what that means, you get more circulating levels of toxic chemicals in your body.

  • Chronic, low-level exposure to everyday chemicals may impair parts of your body’s immune system.

  • MCS may be related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

The table below shows a list of common chemical triggers of MCS found in everyday products:

Cleaning Products Vehicle Exhaust
Diethyl phthalate
Yes, it’s full of:
Carbon monoxide
Nitrogen dioxide
Polycyclic hydrocarbons
Petrol fumes
Propylene glycol
Sodium lauryl sulphate
Cocamide DEA
Pesticides Cigarette Smoking Others
Carbon monoxide
Nitric oxide
Chemicals in: Food additives & preservatives
New Clothes & Furniture
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Chemicals in these products create a toxic environment for you and your family. Find out more about toxins in your environment by clicking here.

What does it mean if you have MCS?

Being diagnosed with MCS will affect your quality of life. It’s certainly stressful. But, it is manageable. More research is being conducted to determine possible ways for how you can cope better with this illness whether you’re on the medical or psychological side of its existence. Responding negatively to everyday chemicals around you can bring a lot of anxiety and can even lead to depression.

MCS Treatment Options: Mainstream and Natural

  • Mainstream: Health experts who believe that MCS is a mental illness treat it with psychiatric drugs and cognitive behaviour therapy. Those who think that it’s a medical condition treat it with advice to avoid exposure to the suspected chemicals, exercise, sauna, and cold showers to effectively eliminate circulating toxins (detoxify). Specific medications for symptoms experienced by the person will also be prescribed.

  • Natural options include supplementing with the following products which…

    1. Support liver detoxification: dandelion root, globe artichoke, greater celandine, turmeric, milk thistle and schisandra. To read more about how to support your liver click here. You can also check out our easy detox tips here.

    2. Reduce inflammation and provide protection against ROS (reactive oxygen species):
      • Glutathione – referred to as the “Mother of All Antioxidants”.
      • Curcumin is turmerics most prized active component. In addition to its antioxidant action, it also supports liver function.
      • High doses of vitamin C.

    3. Further support for your cells:
      • Phosphatidylcholine is an important component for healthy cells and also key for brain health.
      • Omega-3 essential fatty acids help to support a healthy inflammatory response.

Whether MCS is scientifically validated or not, if you suspect you might have it, consult your healthcare practitioner. They can run some tests to investigate your symptoms. You can also try our suggestions above which promote better health, even if you don’t have MCS.

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