After the initial bewilderment and panic of becoming sensitive to what were previously harmless everyday items and environments, everyone who suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) quickly realises that there is yet more suffering in store for them. Firstly, their regular doctor is unlikely to take the condition seriously or diagnose it correctly, instead opting for a psychiatric diagnosis. Secondly, no treatment actually targetted at MCS is likely to be forthcoming.
Even when naturopathic doctors and other alternative practitioners who do recognise MCS for what it is are consulted, the treatments on offer are often expensive and only partially successful at best.
For this reason I decided to compile the following list an summaries of five MCS treatments which are most likely to help you if you suffe from this debilitating and isolating condition. I decided on the five treatments based on my own recovery from MCS, feedback from other MCSers (on this site and thewider web), and of course reviewing the current scientific and lay literature.
N.B. The tratments are in no particular order.
1. Chemical Avoidance
This is just as it sounds - the avoidance of chemicals that trigger symptoms and if possible, also those that don't currently cause problems. For most people this is the foundation of managing and recovering from chemical sensitivities. It can be very difficult at first to replace all your usual personal care and household cleaning products as well as detecting hidden sources of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that cause problems in MCS - but it is by far the quickest route to relief from symptoms. In the book Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Survival Guide author Pamela Reed Gibson, Ph.D. includes very useful results from her research in the appendices. From a survey of 917 MCS patients 'chemical avoidance' and 'chemical-free living space' were overwhelmingly the most effective treatments according to respondents (additionally there is zero risk of side-effects). There is also evidence that chemical avoidance over the long-term (most likely years) can actually result in a cure (or at least remission). Anecdotal reports suggest that sustained chemical avoidance can lead to the MCS sufferer regaining tolerance to previous triggers.
2. Martin Pall Protocol
Martin Pall, Ph.D. has established himself as somewhat of a cult figure in the MCS community and for good reason. Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences, Washington State University and Research Director, The Tenth Paradigm Research Group, Pall has published several scientific papers on his theory of the pathophysiological processes that underlie MCS (and other invisible illnesses) and also published a book available to the general public titled Explaining "Unexplained Illnesses". He proposes that highly reactive oxygen and nitrogen-containing molecules - specifically nitric oxide (NO) and peroxynitrite (ONOO-) are produced in excess and these drive a cycle of inflammatory immune responses and other dysfunction. Other independent researchers have confirmed aspects of Pall's theory, notably oxidative stress (an excess of reactive oxygen-containing molecules). The logical treatment for MCS based on Pall's theory is to break the cycle using a combination of antioxidant nutritional supplements. Pall has worked with Allergy Research Group to develop supplements specifically for this task (read more here). Although the Martin Pall Protocol has yet to be put through clinical trials it is not hard to find MCS patients who attribute improvements or recovery to this approach. Prominent medical doctors in the field (e.g. Grace Ziem, M.D.) have also adopted Pall's protocol or variations upon it.
3. Phospholipid Exchange (PLX)
This is essentially a detoxification therapy at the cellular level. Each cell in the body has a cell membrane made up of fatty substances called phospholipids, along with fatty acids. These fatty substances give the cell membrane a level of fluidity that allows them to efficiently allow nutrients to enter the cell and toxins to be excreted. Richie Shoemaker M.D., Patricia Kane, Ph.D. and others have determined (much like Pall) that exposure to environmental toxins, infections, and other stressors can induce oxidative stress and chronic inflammatory processes that lead to a breakdown in the integrity of the cell membranes - untimately resulting in MCS. PLX involves supplying the phospholipids (mainly phosphatidylcholine), essential fatty acids (EFAs), and supporting nutrients to restore cell membrane integrity and the ability of cells to obtain nutrition, detoxify themselves, and generally function as they should. PLX is ideally performed via a series of intravenous infusions but the nutrients can also be supplied orally using nutritional supplements, healthy cold pressed oils, and oils obtained from a specific diet. PLX is somewhat analogous to a car's oil change in which dirty oil that clogs engine components is removed to be replaced with new, clean oil. PLX has been pioneered by Kane and collegues in their Detoxx System and is now used by many doctors who include nutritional medicine in their practise. I have heard firsthand from a number of people affected by MCS who credit PLX (even orally administered) with great improvements and even full recovery.
4. Ashok Gupta's Amygdala Retraining
The basis for Gupta's therapy is the theory that MCS is the result of chronic activation of the amygdala, a region of the brain that is responsible for the body's response to threats of all kinds, including exposure to chemicals. The aim of the amygdala retraining therapy is to reduce the reactivity of the amygdala to chemicals and therefore break the viscious cycle of dysfunction and disease that has been perpetuated by its chronic activation. Gupta's Amygdala Retraining is a psychological, or mind-body, approach to treatment of MCS. It incorporate elements of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), meditative practices, mindfulness, yogic techniques, and others. Many in the online MCS community have reported success with Gupta's approach, although like any MCS treatment it is far from universally successful. Read a forum post from an EiR member who recovered from MCS using Amygdala Retraining here. The Amygdala Retraining program is available on DVD - www.guptaprogramme.com
5. Annie Hopper's Dynamic Neural Retaining (DNR) System
The DNR System developed by Annie Hopper is similar in principle to Ashok Gupta's Amygda Retraining in that it asserts that the pathophysiology of MCS lies in the area of the brain where the amygdala are located, the limbic system. It also uses various psychological techniques that must be practiced regularly to retrain the brain to be tolerant of every chemicals. Hopper prefers to use the term "rewire" based on the phenomenon of neural plasticity, the brain's ability to change itself (for good or bad) in response to repeated stimuli. Hopper teaches her DNR System at seminars and DVDs are also available - www.retrainingthebrain.com
I personally recovered from severe MCS (I had to live alone and wear a carbon filter mask at all times) using a combination of the above approaches and support the theoretical and practical aspects of each. I am currently working on my own treatment program in the form of an eBook which I hope will contribute to helping other MCSers overcome their illness - look out for The RADD Protocol in the coming months. MCS is not permanent as many have been led to believe. People can and do recover!
If you have tried any of the five MCS treatments discussed above or have had success with any others than please leave a comment below...
About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.