Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Model of What it is, and treatment experience

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity has been an unwelcomed visitor at our house for 15+ years. During those years we have reviewed most of the literature and tried various treatments. This post summarizes our model of what it is and some possible ways of treating.

Bogus chemical signals of pending infection

Often CFS has been described as an unregulated immune system; an immune system on heighten alert. We assume that this is correct and that the chemicals being reacted to are mistaken as chemicals being produced by attacking infections. The body goes into defensive mode which includes trying to contain the infection until it can prepare appropriate antibodies. Containment means preventing the infection circulating — restricting blood vessels (often by inflammation)  and producing coagulation. These responses will typically produce headaches, nausea.

It has often been said that many CFS patients are sensitive or allergic to alcohol. My own experience with willing CFSers has been that alcohols with complex aromas (beer, wine, whisky) produce a reaction while others being favored pure alcohols (vodka, gin, ouzo) did not. In fact, the CFS could drink them without apparent ill effect. This appears to confirm the above model.

Our own personal experience of MCS causing coagulation came from full coagulation panels before and two weeks after a MCS exposure — the measure of the amount of active coagulation (a measure with a half life of 45 minutes) went from normal range to 6 standard deviations above normal.

We have also observed that the duration depends on whether the chemical is water soluble or fat soluble. A water soluble chemical typically flushes thru the system in a few hours. Many fat soluble chemical may persist for days or weeks!   Fat soluble chemicals are often preferred in perfumes because the scents will persist for the entire day or longer. This latter type is very nasty for MCS suffers.

The problem for recovery is getting the fat soluble chemicals out of the system. Fortunately, modern medicine has looked at removing some fat soluble chemicals from humans — typically PCBs. Items like oral activated charcoal have not been proven effective.   “Cholestyramine therapy, sauna bathing, and fasting have all been attempted and have proven unsuccessful (AAP 1999). In fact, PCBs stored in fat can be mobilized by the patients crash dieting.”[CDC]

I would never do this if there was an alternative…

” Now olestra may be set to take on a new role: as a way to rid the body of toxicants such as dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).” [2005] Which is echoed in a variety of articles:

Getting Olestra is a bit tricky, you will never find it in a health conscious food store. In fact you will find pages on the web stating “Do not eat these products” – which fortunately tell you what products have it — like this one! Today, we depend on Walmart to have Olestra chips reliably available.

Our experience has been that Olestra chips greatly reduces the duration of a MCS reaction. It is nasty stuff — but it is the only thing available with proven benefits.