Add multiple chemical sensitivity to the long list of chronic diseases that have been written off as psychosomatic for far too long. Chronic diseases are inherently complex and confusing for patients and doctors alike.
Fortunately, we live in a time where awareness for ‘invisible illnesses’ are on the rise. Hopefully, we can continue to spread awareness and get quality information into the hands of those that need it.
Today, I want to talk about multiple chemical sensitivity and dive deep into the science behind it.
What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Multiple chemical sensitivity is a condition that is activated by specific classes of chemicals which act along different pathways in the body and cause an increase in N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) activity. NMDA receptors are critical in neuroplasticity, which affects your memory and brain function. NMDA is an amino acid that mimics glutamate, which is the neurotransmitter that normally binds to NMDA receptors.
Another way of saying this is: instead of glutamate acting on the NMDA receptors (which helps with normal brain function), multiple chemical sensitivity causes a higher level of NMDA to replace the glutamate, which can cause brain dysfunction.
These reactions in the body are lowered by NMDA antagonists, which suggests that it’s our body’s way of dealing with these toxic chemicals. But when that’s not enough and the body can’t properly detox, it can initiate multiple chemical sensitivity.
Genetically, there are certain genes that have been associated with the metabolism of these chemicals, and they can indicate whether or not a person will be susceptible to developing multiple chemical sensitivity.
Symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
When the NO/ONOO (nitric oxide and peroxynitrite) cycle is thrown off due to the elevated NMDA activity, it can cause:
- Energy metabolism dysfunction
- Blood-brain barrier breakdown
- Increased chemical sensitivity
- Increased TRVP1 activity
- Increased NMDA activity
- Oxidative stress
- Increased nitric oxide
- Increased peroxynitrite
- Increase inflammatory cytokines
- Increased levels of intracellular calcium
- Neurogenic inflammation
- Airway sensitivity
These can cause a wide variety of symptoms in individuals and may include:
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle pain
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Mood changes
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Breathing problems
What Types of Chemicals Trigger Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Because we are surrounded by tens of thousands of chemicals each day, it’s difficult to identify exactly where the chemicals that trigger multiple chemical sensitivity come from. The sheer number of chemicals combined with everybody’s unique body chemistry create an infinite number of combinations and potential reactions.
For a long time, researchers even argued that the diversity of chemicals made it unlikely that there would be a common response. So, defining multiple chemical sensitivity has been challenging.
That being said there are number of chemicals and toxins that have been identified in multiple chemical sensitivity, including:
- Organic solvents
- Organophosphorus pesticide (like glyphosate)
- Carbamate pesticides
- Organochlorine pesticides
- Pyrethroid Pesticides
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Carbon monoxide
You might look at this list and think, “what the heck are these?”
Unfortunately, most of these are pesticides and herbicides that end up in our food and water. These chemicals produce common toxic responses in the body and cause an elevation of NMDA activity, which result in perplexing symptoms.
Finally, there are lawsuits being waged against Monsanto for it’s misleading claims about glyphosate, hopefully something will come of it. I recently wrote about this and glyphosate, you can read that here: We Can No Longer Ignore Glyphosate.
Diagnosing and Treating Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Similar to other chronic diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity causes widespread systemic responses that vary from person to person – therefore it’s not an obvious diagnosis.
There are 5 principles of multiple chemical sensitivity that set it apart from other chronic toxin related illnesses.
- Short-term stressors trigger multi-system responses by raising nitric oxide and other cycles.
- This trigger is converted into a chronic illness through long-term elevation of peroxynitrite and other cycle elements.
- Symptoms and signs of these illnesses include other mechanisms. Such as elevated levels of peroxynitrite, inflammatory cytokines, oxidative stress, elevated NMDA, TRPV1 receptor activity, ATP depletion, and BH4 depletion.
- The influence of these mechanisms occur on a local level via individual cells and biological tissues.
- Therapy should focus on down-regulating NO/ONOO (nitric oxide and peroxynitrite) cycle biochemistry.
When MCS is Mistaken for CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia
Multiple chemical sensitivity differs from chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia because it’s specifically triggered by the chemicals listed above. Though multiple chemical sensitivity might be mistaken for these conditions. Especially since they are also associated with increased nitric acid level oxide levels. The important distinction here is the mechanism that causes increased nitric acid level oxide levels in multiple chemical sensitivity is the increased NMDA activity.
So, if you’ve ever received a chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis or fibromyalgia diagnosis, it’s important that you make sure your doctor is aware of the growing research on multiple chemical sensitivity. These conditions are often mistaken for one another.
Work to Reduce Your Toxic Burden
I realize this is one of my more technical articles, but I wanted to include as much information as possible since there is a general lack of quality articles on multiple chemical sensitivity available online.
If you suspect you have multiple chemical sensitivity, remember you are your best advocate. It is possible that your doctor is not aware of this condition because it is a very complex illness involving multiple systems in the body. Researchers are still working to define its parameters and diagnostic procedures.
Just like so many other chronic illnesses, when it comes to multiple chemical sensitivity the name of the game is to reduce your overall toxic burden.