Information On Chemical Sensitivity

<<a href="//">p>Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is something of a medical mystery. The medical community is divided over whether or not MCS actually exists.

Some physicians acknowledge MCS as a medical disorder that is triggered by exposures to chemicals in the environment, often beginning with a short term, severe chemical exposure (like a chemical spill) or with a longer term, small exposures (like a poorly ventilated office building). After the initial exposure, low levels of everyday chemicals such as those found in cosmetics, soaps, and newspaper inks can trigger physical reactions in MCS patients. These patients report a range of symptoms that often include headaches, rashes, asthma, depression, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, memory loss, and confusion.

Others in the medical community, however, do not accept MCS as a genuine medical disorder. The Centers for Disease Control, for example, do not recognize MCS as a clinical diagnosis. There is no official medical definition of MCS, partially because symptoms and chemical exposures are often unique and are widely varied between individuals. Some physicians are skeptical of concluding that low concentrations of the same chemicals that are tolerated by everyone else can cause dramatic symptoms in MCS patients. The American Medical Association denies that MCS is a clinical condition because conclusive scientific evidence is lacking.

Numerous factors may participate in the development of hypersensitivity to even minute levels of toxic and generally non toxic chemical substances. Normal responses to subtoxic doses of chemical substances may be affected under the following conditions.

  1. Genetic and individual abnormalities in enzyme and protein synthesis. Approximately 50% of the population are slow acetylators, i.e., they detoxify some chemicals slowly and thus are at risk to chemical sensitivity.

  2. Poor diet and deficient nutritional states.

  3. Obesity and/or increased fat/muscle ratio.

  4. Age extremities elderly and new born.

  5. Disorders of kidney and liver function.

  6. Gender of the individual.

  7. Unstable hormone status.

  8. Environmental stress conditions heat, cold, dehydration, deficiency of oxygen (asthma), noise.

  9. Achlorhydria is common in many chemically sensitive individuals and hence vitamin B12 absorption may be impaired.

Chemical sensitivity or the allergic tendency of an individual can be inherited. However, allergic tendency, with no previous family history of allergy, can also be acquired in a number of ways. Hypersensitivity may follow viral infections such as mononucleosis or viral pneumonia, or severe emotional reactions such as grief. The most common incitement appears to be low grade, long term chemical exposure, although a short term high level exposure, such as seen in industrial accidents, may produce similar effects.

There is apparently no consistent pathway by which the immune system mediates chemical hypersensitivity or loses its control mechanism and begins to sensitize inappropriately to chemicals. The pathways used by the immune system to develop this phenomenon not only vary from chemical to chemical but from exposure to exposure, and certainly differ from individual to individual.

There are also the secondary effects or pathways of allergic inflammation to be considered, for instance, gastrointestinal symptoms range from vague indigestion to full blown colitis (inflammation of the colon). These may result in nutritional deficiencies.

The deficiencies begin with increasing the sensitivity of the immune system to food. Generalised inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract secondary to food sensitivity often causes poor nutrient absorption which leads to vitamin and mineral deficiency. Eventually the individual may become deficient in digestive enzymes, which in itself will initiate food intolerance or sensitivity.

With increasing vitamin and mineral deficiency and enzyme deficiencies, the end result is an inability to detoxify chemicals giving rise to more food and chemical sensitivities. Thus a vicious cycle is set that will only be overcome by judicious supplementation of vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes.

Biochemical Considerations

Phenolic compounds present in plant food stuffs and pollens, food additives, perfumes, tobacco smoke, air pollution (benzene), preservatives and pesticides can activate the release of arachidonic acid and thus giving rise to the inflammatory response.

This inflammatory process occurs through a non-immunological mechanism associated with symptoms described as "allergic". Patients presenting with symptoms of IgE are very possibly chemically positive. Relative frequency figure of immunological V's non immunological reactions is approximately 1:4. However, in either case treatment must include attenuating or inhibiting the inflammatory cascade.

Many phenolic compounds potentiate the toxicity of adrenalin and nor-adrenalin by interfering with their oxidation (inactivation). These adrenalins give rise to symptoms of palpitation, mood change, panic attacks etc. They also cause the release of eicosanoids and thus precipitate the inflammatory cascade.

Nutrients that decrease chemical sensitivity


Molybdenum is essential in the function of four or five enzyme systems, all of which effect normal function in the chemically sensitive.


Glycine, along with taurine and glutamine are utilised in xenobiotic peptide conjugation reactions using acyl CoA. Glycine metabolism can be impaired in the chemically sensitive with pyridoxal phosphate (active B6) dysfunction. Glycine alleviates the toxic effects of several substances such as phenols, benzoic acid and methionine.


Taurine and to a lesser extent glycine are the major amino acids associated with the removal of toxic chemicals and metabolites from the body. Low taurine levels appear to be a major factor in the chemically sensitive, particularly to chemicals such as chlorine, chlorite (bleach), aldehydes, alcohols, petroleum solvents and ammonia.

Taurine can also reduce severity of reactions to hypochlorite ions produced by phagocytes in response to wheatgerm agglutinin, fluoride, and an ionic detergents.

Pollutant damaged individuals with pancreatic dysfunction, duodenal acidity and food allergies often present with deficient urine levels and marginal or low blood levels of valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Chemically sensitive individuals often have difficulty in maintaining adequate pH and need copious bicarbonate supplementation to allow the pancreatic enzymatic activity to be adequate when disturbances occur in the digestive tract, amino peptidase enzymes (activated by zinc) hydrolysed small peptides to release these branch chain amino acids. As enzymatic activity is dependent on pH, bicarbonate from the pancreas is needed to bring the pH of the small intestine up to 7 or higher to allow the peptidase enzymes to work. Thus, inadequate bicarbonate secretion or supplementation can heighten the chemical sensitive to food allergy and further inflammation.


Methionine conjugates xenobiotics through methylation reaction. It is the most frequently impaired or disordered amino acid metabolite in the chemically sensitive. It helps detoxify the body of adrenalin, nor adrenalin and serotonin. It's assimilation is often disturbed as it requires proper stomach pH for pepsin activity, proper duodenal pH for normal pancreatic function and proper activity of carboxy pepidases (some requiring zinc for activation). Co factors that improve methionine metabolism are magnesium, pyridoxal phosphate, serine, folic acid, betaine, and vitamin B12.

Impaired methionine metabolism increases sensitivity to hypochlorite and give symptoms of headaches, eye strain, muscle weakness, fatigue, myopia, and mild myopathy.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Approximately 20% of chemically sensitive individuals are deficient in this vitamin. Supplementation often results in improvement in chemically sensitive individuals.

Pollutant injury to thiamine (B1) occurs from excess intake exposure to formaldehyde, alcohols, glycols, or by over use of the aldehyde detoxifying mechanism. Thiamine act as an intermediate carrier of aldehyde groups, without, it aldehydes can accumulate in the body. It must be noted that thiamine is very important in energy production. A relative deficiency will cause tiredness, weakness and anxiety. Symptoms of which are common in chemically sensitive individuals.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

60% of chemically sensitive patients are deficient in B6, whether they are taking oral supplementation or not. The active form of vitamin B6 is pyridoxal 5 - phosphate, which can be overwhelmed by exposure to aldehydes.

Deficiency in pyridoxine or suboptimal co enzyme activity of pyrodoxal - 5 - phosphate may lead to subnormal taurine levels, with the subsequent increase in chemical sensitivity. Drugs such as the oral contraceptive, chlorpromazine, amphetamine, reserpine and isonizid can all lead to a relative B6 deficiency.


Chronic ingestion of a diet deficient in choline has a major consequence that include hepatic, renal, memory and growth disorders, all of which are seen in some chemically sensitive patients. Disturbances in methionine and/or B6 metabolism is frequently seen in the chemically sensitive, which may inhibit the efficient production of choline, therefore, causing methylation reaction.

Folate and Vitamin B12

Approximately 35% of chemically sensitive individuals are low in folate and approximately 15% are deficient in vitamin B12. Many medications such as aspirin, the oral contraceptive and anti convulsants interfere with folacin absorption and metabolism. Disturbed B12 and folate metabolism results in impaired methylation of xenobiotics with exacerbation of chemical sensitivity, particularly to chlorines.


Approximately 40% of chemically sensitive individuals are magnesium depleted. As magnesium is involved in over 500 enzyme systems, its depletion can result in poor detoxifying ability. Substances that deplete magnesium are pollutants, alcohols, diuretics, steroids, glucose, phosphate depletion and pesticides.


  1. Determine which chemical gives the worst reaction. This chemical may, in sufficient dilution, be used in sublingual treatment in controlling reactions.
  2. Filter or boil all drinking water.
  3. Use toxic cleaning products sparingly.
  4. Reduce the use of plastics, toxic paints and varnishes. When painting use odourless alkali-based paints.
  5. Do not wear synthetic under garments or clothes. Cottons and woollens are usually safe. Do not dry clean clothing and use simple soaps for washing.
  6. Do not use kerosene heaters during the winter. Heating should be electrical or solar based.
  7. Electric stove in preference to a gas stove or range should be installed. If this is not possible ensure adequate ventilation within the cooking area.
  8. Insulation material and floor coverings should be inert. Rock wool insulation is usually satisfactory. Preferably hard, inert materials such as stone, terrazzo, hardwood, cement, brick, and terra cotta tiles should be used for flooring. Be careful of wool carpeting with latex or rubber backing.
  9. Soft plastics, such as plastic bags, wrapping, window screens, plastic containers, vinyl seating, plastic tablecloths, and other plastic furnishing should be removed from the home. Use glass containers, cellophane bags. aluminium wrapping and wall paper.
  10. Remove any synthetic or rubber furnishing in the bedroom. Use all cotton pillows and mattresses. Electric blankets should not be used. Cane or hardwood, leather, wool or other natural fiber should be used in furnishings. Cabinets may be made of formica, hardwood or metal but not of chipboard and without silicone chalking.
  11. Other sources of chemical exposure are from chemicals released from glued parts and grouting, particularly when heated; chemicals used in hobbies such as photography, photocopying machines; pesticides used indoors or in the garden; timber impregnated with chemicals; tobacco smoke.
  12. Avoid all formulated foods or drugs that contain artificial flavorings, coloring or chemicals.

Nutritional Supplement

Supplements suggested below will reduce the inflammation and hopefully improve the metabolism of these chemicals. The nutrients such as Taurine, B1, B5, Glycine, Methionine, B12, and Folate need to be taken regularly to improve tolerances to chemicals.

  1. Vitamin C can improve tolerance to many chemicals, however in a few individuals it can increase chemical toxicity. In these individuals Alkali, one hour after meals may be of great benefit.
  2. Digestive enzymes should be taken with every meal.
  3. Hydrozyme or Apple cider vinegar one teaspoon in water with meals may aid stomach digestion.
  4. Fish oils or linseed oil, 1 or 2 dessertspoons per day may reduce inflammation.
  5. Ginger is a thromboxane synthetase inhibitor and can reduce inflammation.
  6. Vitamin B5 and taurine may reduce formaldehyde sensitivity.
  7. Vitamin B6 and C reduces MSG sensitivity.
  8. Vitamin B12, Glycine and Molybdenum supplementation may reduce metabisulphite and sulphite sensitivity.
  9. Try neutralizing dose of quercetin and rutin.
  10. Zinc supplementation for tartrazine sensitivity.
  11. Alkali may need to be taken in between meals to improve digestion.

The nutrients mentioned above reflect the major nutritional supplements that may help the condition. Please do remember however that nutritional supplementation is an adjunct to medical treatment and in no way replaces medical treatment.

- Henry Osiecki. The Physicians Handbook of Clinical Nutrition. 1 875239 11 1

Discuss It!

Irene Robertson ·

I have had MCS For most of my life since working in a printing factory in 1964 no one would listen to me , doctors even laughed when I said how ill I was becoming... 42 years on and not much has changed, Ive read your site and thank god for people like you who know at last what this is like, the causes, symptoms and how to help it.. Ill be adding to my vitamins tomorrow I do take.. B12. cod liver oil. glutamine, glutothione , Selenium and visionace for my eyes, am I doing the right thing or should I be taking more. would you please help me..

robert ·

IV vit. c with glutathione 2x aweek for 2 months can help alot.

mark ·

Irene, i hope your using sauan and trying other detox methods as well as eating only unadulerated foods(organic), i found that made a huge difference with me! best of luck in your ongoing recovery. Mark

Monique ·

I got MCS after quitting smoking in 1988. I have found Amygdala retraining helps and also Body Talk but only temporarily like a massage might help sore muscles. Also I bought a unit that delivers dry salt particles like is used in 'Salt Caves' which gives me much relief and relaxation. Good Luck all.

Amanda ·

I have found the more you try to explain why you do things differently to avoid getting sick,the more people think your sick....they dont realize you are actually talking about how you keep yourself well.The number 1#thing you need to get BETTER is Love and the #1 thing that can make you ill is Love SO BECAREFULL WHO YOU LOVE ,AND WHEN YOU LOVE SO MAKE SURE YOU DONT SCARE LOVE AWAY ,CAUSE IF YOU SAY YOUR SICK THEY WILL RUN.TELL THEM LOVE IS MEDICINE AND YOU NEED IT TO SURVIVE AND WITHOUT IT YOU WILL DIE.(wELL SOMETHING WORSE THEN DEATH )CAUSE WE ALL KNOW WE GET VERY DIZZY AND SICK WHEN THE EMOTIONAL STRESS TAKES OVER!!!BEWARE OF THE GUYS YOU DONT WANT TO GET STUCK WITH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bella ·

I Have the Love of Music ,and it has helpped me get threw some pain unadmaginable....IF you have something you love my advice stick to it ,or at least some aspect of it you can still follow.....Love will find a way

grant ·

Wow!I am so ecstatic to find such a fantastic review of these crucial components of the human physiology. It's frightening that so many are unaware or are misinformed about the inexplicably important alpha amino acid taurine and its essential role in our bodies, as well as the extraordinary compounds otherwise listed. I always tell people somewhat in jest that I see Vitamin C fit to be considered as a macronutrient, haha, but it's so important. Acetl-L-Cysteine is essentially the go-to antioxidant in clinical trials whenever they are trying to counter-act the toxic effects of a particular substance. In fact, the seemingly omnipotent neurotoxin MPTP, used to induce parkinson's disease in laboratory animals is even to a great extent hindered by this thiol-group containing amino acid conjugate. Everything here is state-of-the-art and equally important, I have taken almost 30 supplements a day for several years, all of them appearing on this page, and have only miraculous improvements in my general health to speak of. I plan on making as much of a contribution to the general education of other physicians and patients alike regarding these nutritional wonders.( just for everyone's information )

grant ·

I would like to add one important compound called Acetyl-L-Carnitine if I haven't missed it. It is a compound which can directly reduce the severity of hyperthyroidism,and it is a key promoter of mitochondrial function and brain function too. The myelin sheaths, as we have all heard of before, are retroactively adjusted according to several models of how our brains work, and they are adjusted to essentially store memories and modulate the speed at which the thought-impulses travel within our minds. These sheaths are analagous to the coatings on eletrical wires, whereby the prevent short circuits and insulate the currents so they may travel quickly and so they may be of greater power. Ultimately, the ingestion of 500mg-1000mg of acetyl-l-carnitine, especially in the presence of phosphatidyl choline supplementation, (from soy lecithin is good), and fish oil to boot, the body will readily acommodate the brain-cells with more needed supplies to perform fatty-acid metabolism. The mechanism behind this, regarding acetyl-carnitine, is that it is used in a process called beta oxidation, as performed by the mitochondria to manipulate myelin sheaths depending on certain specific cell's activities. Taurine would be good to have too since astroglia, the neuron's little maintenence buddies, which live in our minds in coordinations with neurons, maintain them and are responsible for transporting materials into the brain sometimes. Astroglia use taurine as an essential modulator. Hope this wasn't too technical, I want everyone to be able to picture how these things actually work, taken from someone who's up to date on the good science :)

grant ·

RE Irene Robertson: I suggest including Taurine 750mg daily and l-carnitine or acetyl-l-carnitine 500-1000mg daily. Better than gluthianone would be to use acetl-l-cysteine and perhaps BCAAS (branch chain amino acids, the amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. body building stores advertise pure powders of this, and taking a little bit of this may be okay to try. It has reported side effects but i would expect there to be none if you concurenntly take magnesium 500mg/ day as per the RDA, and take taurine too,

Tina ·

My daughter has recently contracted a severe allergy to formaldehyde. Results include an blistery itchy rash over 90 percent of her body. She lives on Benadryl and prednisone. She has changed every product and food in her life. Need help with a simple vitamin deficiency plan. She is 27 yrs old and weighs 125 lbs. thank you so much.

Liz ·

I have dealt with some chemical sensitivity much of my adult life, off and on, with the latest episode being the most severe. I've developed a rash (eczema) due to our new Pergot floor, believing the main offender to be formaldehyde. I was deeply saddened to read the note from Tina, posted 2 years ago, about her 27-year-old daughter. I hope that taking Benadryl and prednisone was brief - recently learning that Benadryl can CAUSE rashes, and steroids thin the skin. I'd been using cortisone cream very sparingly, when I "cut" my arms twice with my fingernail. The testimonials I found online were heartbreaking! I know now, more than ever, that natural methods are our only hope! From what I've read, leaky gut is the crux of the problem. Am currently taking bone broth for the amino acids, including addition to many of the supplements named above, as well as sea buckthorn (liquid and oil).