By Lawrence Wilson, MD

© December 2010, The Center For Development

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), sometimes called environmental illness, is becoming much more common. In fact, it affects millions today, though some of these are totally unaware they are so affected.
I was very chemically sensitive for a few years, so I am extremely aware of this serious health problem. It is characterized by allergic reactions to a wide range of foods, chemical odors, even electrical fields and other phenomena.
Chemical sensitivity often develops after an exposure to a toxic substance, or after an infection or other illness. Symptoms may include virtually anything. Chemical sensitivity can mimic other illnesses, and can contribute to the development of other disorders.


Environmental illness is a stress overload condition. The stress theory postulates that our bodies are designed to adapt or compensate for the effects of stress. However, once a certain amount of adaptation occurs, symptoms appear.
A principle of the stress theory is that energy must be expended to adapt to stress. Early symptoms of adaptation such as fatigue, colds or other 'minor' symptoms are usually ignored. However, the body continues to adapt.
Finally, a threshold is reached. It is different for each person, because each person's adaptive capacity is different. At the threshold, there is insufficient energy to maintain health. This may occur after a few minutes or a few years depending on the intensity of the stress and the health of the body. At this point, some body system becomes dysfunctional. The symptom depends upon the individual pattern of adaptation. The adrenal glands, charged with enabling the body to adapt to stress, are depleted. The body's ability to cope with stress is greatly diminished.
Chemical sensitivity can cause any imaginable symptom, mental or physical. Each person can react differently to the same chemical. Only the stress theory can explain this.


Mineral analyses of those with chemical sensitivity often reveal a slow oxidizer pattern with very sluggish adrenal gland activity. This is not surprising, as the adrenals are a primary defense against allergic phenomena.
Many people know that adrenal hormones such as cortisone and epinephrine or adrenalin are the treatment of choice in the hospital to stop allergic reactions. If our bodies produce enough of these hormones, they protect us from many allergens in the environment. Slow oxidizers are usually quite toxic and depleted, nutritionally. Many have 'leaky gut syndrome' and impaired cell membrane permeability that may also open them to allergic reactions more than others.
Low energy and allergies. Slow oxidizers often have poor energy to begin with, impaired digestion, and an accumulation of toxic metals due to their slow rate of metabolism. All this can contribute to environmental illness.
Slow oxidizers tend to be withdrawn and fearful. Chemical sensitivity is a contributor and perhaps a result of fears. Routine interactions with one's environment can become a nightmare, perpetuating a cycle of fear.
Rarely one is a fast oxidizer. At times, a person with chemical sensitivity will reveal a fast oxidation pattern, usually with a low ratio of sodium to potassium. This ratio is another adrenal exhaustion pattern. When the individual is exposed to an allergen, the adrenals are unable to provide more anti-inflammatory hormones, and a reaction may occur.
Fast oxidizers also have excessive cell permeability due to lower calcium levels. This means that it is easier for allergic substances to enter the cells, where they may cause a reaction. Fast oxidizers also tend to have a high level of histamine, a chemical associated with allergic reactions.


Many of those with chemical sensitivity have an elevated copper level, or elevated levels of other toxic metals. This, too, is not surprising. Excess copper is stored in the liver, where it can interfere with the normal detoxification functions of the liver. Copper imbalance is also associated with dysfunction of the adrenals and the thyroid gland.
Other toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, arsenic and others can have wide-ranging effects upon health, including the development of allergies.


Often, multiple chemical sensitivity begins with a reaction to one type of chemical or food, but then spreads to many others. This disturbing phenomenon is called spreading. The severity of reactions can also come and go, depending upon conditions inside and outside the body. This can be explained by the stress theory of disease.


Nutritional balancing programs are often totally effective for multiple chemical sensitivity, providing a person is willing to go through some healing reactions that can include a flare-up of symptoms, temporarily. It is important to keep in close contact with your practitioner in these instances. I have now overcome this condition, and I know others can do so as well. Basic steps are:

1. Clean up your environment to avoid exposure. Chemical sensitivity often forces individuals to really clean up their diet and lifestyle. Organically grown food, pure water, clean air, and a natural environment are often essential. Synthetic carpeting, synthetic fabrics, solvents, herbicides, molds, yeasts, dust and many other exposures must often be avoided.

2. Detoxification. Detoxification procedures such as infrared lamp saunas and coffee enemas are often essential and not optional. I used coffee enemas every day for 15 years. They were life-saving and many clients report the same thing. The liver and other organs must be cleansed at a deep level. Other methods are not as helpful as daily use of a near infrared sauna and the coffee enemas or possibly colonic irrigations.

3. Nutritional supplements. Taking the supplements on the nutritional balancing program may be difficult. If so, the following suggestions may be helpful:

a) Grinding up supplements or chewing them will make them more digestible. Always take them with food.

b) Modify the supplement program if a particular supplement causes an adverse reaction.

c) If a supplement continues to cause a reaction, try a different brand of supplement, and/or a different form of the supplement.

d) Rotating foods and even brands of supplements may be helpful.

e) Most important, you may need to endure some reactions if you are to obtain results. Often, when toxic metals are being eliminated, there will be reactions to supplements.

f) Having a reaction does not necessarily mean one should abandon the supplement program. Take the supplements one is able, in the quantity that one is able. Use other natural therapies to strengthen and balance the body, so that more of the nutrition program can be tolerated.

g) Check in with your practitioner and make sure the practitioner understands that at times one must persist through healing crises and even some natural products can cause sensitivities that are unavoidable at times. This is where hair analysis is so helpful because we can tell, often, that zinc, for example, is needed, even if it causes some reactions because it may eliminate some toxic metals.


It is important to note that chemical sensitivity is not always a sign of illness. In fact, as one becomes healthier, one should become somewhat sensitive to chemicals and other toxins in the environment. Most people today have their senses dulled due to the overwhelming load of toxic substances we breathe and ingest every day. They appear to live well in polluted environments without reacting. However, I maintain that the toxins in the air, water and elsewhere are still affecting those individuals. They are simply unaware of the effects.
This is similar to the observation that many people live on highly sugared foods and consider the sappy sweet taste absolutely normal. Only when they stop putting sugar on everything, do they become aware of the real taste of foods.
The purpose of "healthy sensitivity" to chemicals is to warn you of danger from breathing or ingesting the substance. Animals often still possess this sense and instinctively avoid bad food or noxious odors.
So do not consider sensitivity to chemicals necessarily bad, although I admit it requires taking more care in your life regarding where you go and what you buy for your home.
For example, I was recently in a store that sells beds. I developed a headache within 10 minutes. I had to leave the store quickly. New car smells, scented detergents, perfumes and much more are in fact often noxious and toxic chemical smells. You will need to exercise some caution, but it is best to avoid these chemicals. If your body assists you in this process by warning you, all the better.

All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.