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Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a chronic medical condition characterized by symptoms due to chemical exposure. Common sensitivities include smoke, pesticides, plastics, synthetic fabrics, scented products, petroleum products and paints. Symptoms include nausea, fatigue, and headaches.

Not unlike other poorly defined illnesses, many doctors believe hypersensitivity to chemicals is a psychological illness. But, the medical profession's track record for correctly identifying what is and is not a psychological illness is poor. That said, the exact pathophysiology of the disease is unclear. Given the size of the human microbiome and its ability to dysregulate the immune response, microbes, especially microbes in the gut, undoubtedly play a role in MCS.

A number of Marshall Protocol patients have reported improvement in their chemical sensitivities since starting the treatment.

Prevalence

A 2012 paper in Annals of Family Medicine reports a study finding that 1 in 5 patients in a family practice doctor's waiting room are likely to be suffering from chemical intolerance.1

This is interesting both from a perspective of quantifying that portion of the population who are suffering from MCS, and that I see this as being a symptom of relatively advanced disease, certainly not common in the early stages of neurologic comorbidity.

Trevor Marshall, PhD, MarshallProtocol.com

Cognitive, behavioral and psychosocial explanations

Sigmund Freud and Jean-Martin Charcot were born 150 years ago, but their ideas about the effect of the subconscious on disease continue to resonate in the scientific community.2 Freud and colleagues argued that unconscious mental processes such as sublimated rage could manifest as physical symptoms. However, with the advent of superior technology, one by one, many diseases once supposed to be caused by psychological stress have since been attributed to other factors including infections.

According to the Marshall Pathogenesis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity and other chronic inflammatory diseases are likely caused by pathogens, yet many physicians consider these diseases to be “medically unexplained.” Medically unexplained diseases are widely prevalent3 but at the same time have few discernible markers or objectively measurable symptoms. While a lot of Freudian ideas have fallen out of favor, one legacy remains: difficult-to-explain diseases are still routinely attributed to psychological causes. The process by which patients supposedly manifest psychological problems as a disease has been named and renamed, classified and reclassified: hysteria, psychosomatic disorder, somatoform disorder, conversion disorder, functional disorder, etc. In each of these diagnoses, however, the stated origin of disease is unchanged: symptoms that cannot be explained are ultimately “all in a patient's head.”

While there is no denying the existence of some sort of “mind-body connection,” there is minimal compelling evidence that as the 19th century Swiss physician Georg W. Groddeck claimed: “Illness has a purpose; it has to resolve the conflict, to repress it, or to prevent what is already repressed from entering consciousness.”4 Despite the stark absence of evidence supporting these views, it is not unusual to read papers describing how patients with long-term so-called psychological illnesses may be subconsciously manifesting them, because it would allow them to have more “care, attention, disengagement, or even financial benefits.”5 Nor, is it uncommon for new theories to spring up along these lines. In one example, a 2008 continuing medical education publication taught physicians that when a celebrity becomes ill, healthy people are suggestible enough to develop long-term illnesses consistent with the celebrity's descriptions of their conditions. Such claims are recklessly speculative, harming patients and stalling needed research.

Treating patients who complain of so-called medically unexplained symptoms with cognitive behavioral therapy or, in the case of chronic fatigue syndrome, graded exercise therapy, may do more harm than good.6 The emergence of metagenomic technologies offers a more sophisticated set of tools for detecting and characterizing microbes in these disease states. Perhaps it is only the use of this technology that will finally relegate the notion of patient as attention-seeking victim to historical relic.

Patients experiences

It is now 9:45, and I have been home for 1 1/2 hours, still not in need to shower the fragrance off of me. I spent 2 hours at the Mall, after 3 months of being home. Before I started the MP, I would get so sick from a trip to the Mall. My throat and ears would swell, and my lungs hurt terribly. If I did not immediately shower, I would become worse. I can smell the fragrance, but, my body is not reacting. Thank You MP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lori, MarshallProtocol.com

Keep in mind that when you start Benicar, you may have a lot of symptoms related to shifting hormones as well as possibly some immunopathological responses (herxheimer) that might confuse you as to whether it's a reaction to the medication or something else.

You will not be reacting to the Benicar, although it may feel like it. Practically everyone who goes on the MP has some adjusting to do to the benicar which is why you're told to wait at least 2 weeks before starting the minocycline. We may have even more adjusting and therefore symptoms than some others as we may be in a more seriously altered state starting out. I've talked to many people with severe MCS on the MP and all of them have been able to tolerate the Benicar. You might have problems with an abx, but others can be substituted.

You will become more light sensitive adding more confusion and symptoms to the mix. This makes it highly important for us to make every effort to avoid light as much as possible especially in the beginning. But, I can tell you, it is worth it. I've been on the MP for 1 yr now, just last night was looking at my journal from 6 mos. ago and was so surprised to see how much my symptoms have receded since then, like they say, the healing sneaks up on you. ~Pam

My chemical sensitivities are essentially gone!!! I can now use bleach if necessary, and perfumes no longer bother me.

Katydid, MarshallProtocol.com

One of the symptoms of my MCS has been that I smell things more acutely than other people. Things that really are there, but just in very low concentrations. And, if I've been overexposed to chemicals, the sense of smell can really go haywire and then I end up getting smells really mixed up, like the smell of tuna or rice crackers smells like something burning (when family members have opened these I have been known to look around frantically for a fire) and the smell of fruit smells like a really heavy perfume. And the smell of heavy perfume, well that just feels like I'm drowning with no oxygen to breathe, seriously.

Good things I've noticed are that I tried reading a newspaper this week and didn't react to the ink (used to give me a headache if not a migraine). I also had 2 other 2nd hand exposures (meaning another family member had an exposure) which normally would've given me big problems and while I could notice it, they were not big deals.

prugg21, MarshallProtocol.com

She purchased the newspaper while we were out and I picked it up and was reading it. She was shocked and asked if not the ink and smell from the paper bothered me anymore. It didn't at that time anyway. Wow. Is the end of MCS symptoms/allergies in the horizon for me? I believe so …thank God. I'm truly liking the small pieces of the puzzle too!!!

Toni, MarshallProtocol.com

I also have had such a drastic reduction in smell sensitivites, it is unreal. I can handle almost any scent I come in contact with and some of them actually smell 'normal' and good. WHAT A BLESSING.

Barney, MarshallProtocol.com

After taking an abx holiday for a couple of months, and I have changed my antibiotic combination, my MCS,and insomnia are the best yet with no fatigue or any other symptoms. My innate immune system seems to be functioning at a very high level. I'm working in an office enviroment with lots of cologne and perfume around,W/O HARDLY ANY SYMPTOMS WHATSOVER!!!

Sam, MarshallProtocol.com

We've found that hypersensitivity, whether skin reactions to metals or reactions to fumes, dust, odors, smoke, etc., resolves with recovery on the MP. Evidently when the Th1 inflammation is under control, normal homeostasis is reached. The MP will change your sensitivities as you recover.

I know this will be hard to believe. I myself find it astonishing that I can wear jewelry without rashes, touching and eating certain foods no longer bothers me, and I pay little attention to smoke, orders and fumes. It's quite a change in my life after 40+ years.

Exposure to paint, varnish and other fumes or odors used to do horrible things to me. I couldn't put fuel in my car or even be in the car when it was fueled. Cigarette smoke yards away would send me into coughing spasms that seemed to have no end.

It's all gone now. I even use hairspray myself.. except when I go to the doctor's office.

Belinda, MarshallProtocol.com

I'm only at the very beginning of Phase 2 (having to switch to Modified) but after six months on Phase 1 have already had some slight relief from MCS. I notice, also, that I can go into smelly stores which used to wipe me out, but now I don't notice them so much and can last a little longer before they overcome me. Constant exposure, even low level, is the thing which does me in, though, and that hasn't changed yet. But I do notice my tolerance and, most importantly, perception of the strong smells is lightening up a little. And when you're this disabled by it, a little goes a long way!

Joy, MarshallProtocol.com

I am pleased at my slow improvements. I can get gasoline without much problem now and go to restaurants and movies with less symptoms. It has been some time since I have had an acute upper airway reaction to fragrances or VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

P.B., MarshallProtocol.com

My food sensitivities have gradually improved to the point where I seem able to eat anything!!!

Jenny, MarshallProtocol.com

After 1 1/2 years on the MP, I NO LONGER have the need to wear my personal air purfier!!!! Thanks MP.

Lori/LH1953, MarshallProtocol.com

Patient interviews

Peter de Jager

chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple chemical sensitivities

Read the interview

P. Bear R.N.

chronic borreliosis (“Lyme”), multiple chemical sensitivities, chronic spinal inflammation, peripheral neuropathy

Read the interview


Interviews of patients with other diseases are also available.

References

1 Katerndahl DA, Bell IR, Palmer RF, Miller CS Chemical intolerance in primary care settings: prevalence, comorbidity, and outcomes. Ann Fam Med. 2012;10:357-65.
2 Friedman L Reasons for the Freudian revolution. Psychoanal Q. 1977;46:623-49.
3 Nimnuan C, Hotopf M, Wessely S Medically unexplained symptoms: an epidemiological study in seven specialities. J Psychosom Res. 2001;51:361-7.
4 Webster, R. 1996. Why Freud was wrong: sin, science and psychoanalysis. London, HarperCollins.
5 Barsky AJ, Borus JF Functional somatic syndromes. Ann Intern Med. 1999;130:910-21.
Last modified: 08.28.2012
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