MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY (MCS)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT'S CAUSING IT? WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Are you prone to a problem with 'Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)'?
IntroductionDo people think of you as being hypersensitive and reactive - to food, chemicals, emotions, or situations that don't go your way? Food and chemical sensitivity can impact your life satisfaction in many difficult ways. Being sensitive to foods can lead to awkwardness in social situations, when you have to ask the host or waiter, "Is there dairy/gluten/sesame/etc. in this?." Pangs of regret and "I wish I hadn't said that," might be familiar thoughts to sensitive, irritable individuals with reactions beyond their control. A spray of perfume or cleaning chemical at a table nearby can ruin an evening out for the chemically sensitive. And an allergy to your host's cat can be difficult to conceal if your eyes are puffy, your nose red, and you are pulling out a hanky every few minutes. Being sensitive and reactive can make even simple life situations hard to negotiate.
Having an adverse reaction to certain chemicals, particularly in high doses, is normal. Being emotionally sensitive can be a good thing - raising awareness of others around you. However, some people have heightened sensitivities to many things - food, chemicals, materials, and situations that make life a roller coaster ride physically and emotionally. We've had clients call before visiting our clinic to ensure that none of us wear perfume in the office (we don't). In severe cases, heightened sensitivities is a condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). These seemingly endless sensitivities can provoke anxiety and withdrawal from normal life activities. Or, cause others to get frustrated and angry with you for seeming "difficult" or hard to accommodate, not understanding the struggle of being sensitive..
If you have MCS, avoiding all of the substances that provoke a reaction can seem nearly impossible. Trying to hide your reactions doesn't help because symptoms are often visible, causing a break out in hives. It may provoke a headache, dizziness, or make you irritable. Strong smells and perfumes can make you feel nauseous. Being highly reactive can make simple tasks, such as grocery shopping, a difficult feat. Just walking down the cleaning aisle of the grocery store may irritate your nostrils and cause you to feel woozy.
Between individuals with normal sensitivities and those who have MCS is a broad spectrum. We all know sturdy individuals that can swill down a few beers without hardly a buzz, while for others with delicate constitutions a few sips of wine leads to a headache and hangover the next morning. These individuals also tend to be extra allergic to poison ivy, have food allergies, autoimmune conditions, and experience motion sickness in boats or cars. They may have strong or perfectionist personalities.
If "being sensitive" describes you, emotionally or physically, this article will help you understand some of the physical reasons why. It will walk you through the challenges of being oversensitive, but most importantly, it will show you remedies that can minimize hyper-reactivity to improve your quality of life. In Ayurveda, all sensitivity, whether emotional or physical, comes down to a weak and fiery liver.
The Challenges of Being Highly Sensitive
Being highly sensitive can have repercussions in all areas of your life. It can affect your relationships, work performance, and enthusiasm to go out and socialize with friends. Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is perhaps one of the most difficult conditions to live with, but fortunately it can be managed with Ayurveda.
The wide range of symptoms in MCS makes it hard to classify from a western standpoint. Some medical professionals do not consider it to be a "real" illness as there is no consensus on its diagnosis yet. It has also been rejected as a disease by multiple organizations including the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, and the American Medical Association.
As a result, you are left confused with few concrete answers, struggling to manage your symptoms as best as possible. It can also be incredibly challenging, and even embarrassing, to explain to friends and family what is happening. Sometimes it can just be easier to avoid a situation instead of trying to explain the details of why you are feeling unwell or leaving early.
Medically, there are no reliable tests that give definitive evidence of multiple chemical sensitivity. While the exact pathogenesis and means of treatment of MCS remains unknown to western medicine, in Ayurveda this condition simply comes down to supporting the liver. While it may not be possible to completely overcome your sensitivities, through Ayurveda, it is possible to reduce the severity of your reactions, allowing you to enjoy daily life unencumbered.
Sensitivity Comes From a Weak Liver
In Ayurveda, MCS is associated with the liver. You might even notice liver pain under the right rib cage, a sign your liver is inflamed or enlarged. Simply put, Ayurveda believes that weakness in the liver aggravates Pitta dosha. When Pitta is aggravated, inflammatory and immune system responses are heightened which makes your body very sensitive to irritation. Being sensitive s associated with fire element.
The liver is a detox organ. It detoxifies the blood and the end products of your digestion. It can become inflamed or "overwhelmed" due overexposure to toxins, such as in chronic gas and bloating, leaky gut, and following chemotherapy.. Also, exposure to allergens, fatty liver disease, and other inflammatory conditions can all weaken the liver.
Once the liver becomes too weak to effectively clear toxins (like alcohol) from the bloodstream, even a small sip of wine causes high levels of blood toxicity. A weakened liver is unable to protect the body from the harmful effect of chemicals. When the liver is weak and it can't process toxins, it leads to hypersensitivity including symptoms such as nausea, allergies, irritability and sensitivity to smells. This causes a vicious cycle because the more sensitive you are, the more inflamed and weaker the liver becomes.
Pitta types tend to have the most sensitive livers and struggle to process an influx of toxins, say from a very strong perfume or paint fumes. If your diet is deficient in healthy fats and oils, you may also notice your liver is too weak to process toxins. This is more common in underweight Vata individuals.
Why is My Immune System Overstimulated?
When there is an over abundance of toxins and chemicals (ama) in the bloodstream, due to a weakened or "overwhelmed" liver, the immune system takes over to cleanup the mess, and can become highly reactive. It sees every substances as a foreign invader and tries to purge the harmful pathogen from the body either through production of antibodies, consumption by white blood cells, diarrhea, vomiting or sweating.
Alternatively, the immune system is overstimulated by existing immune conditions. These can include a lingering viral infection from the distant past such as mono, frequent exposure to an allergen, or an autoimmune condition. Anything that over stimulates the immune system also weakens the liver, cascading chemical and emotional sensitivity.
Reducing Sensitivities Naturally
If you suspect MCS, or just feel you are more sensitive than most, an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle can strengthen the liver and calm a reactive immune system. By supporting these systems, both physical and emotional sensitivities will start to dissipate.
LifestyleThe first step to overcome multiple sensitivities is to avoid triggers as much as possible, or at least the ones you are most sensitive to. Ultimately, the goal is that your immune system and liver will be able to cope when you interact with these triggers. Meanwhile, it is important to give your body a chance to rest and recover. Here are a few ways to minimize your daily interaction with chemicals:
If you haven't already, swap all chemical based products in your home for natural alternatives. Remove chemical based cleaners and use a dilute of apple cider vinegar in warm water as a multipurpose cleaner. Lemon juice and baking soda will remove difficult to budge dirt in both the bathroom and kitchen. Chose non-toxic and unscented dish soap and make sure to vacate the house for the day if it is being painted or if the garden is being sprayed.
Favor pleasant, mild scents from lavender, rose petals and cardamon in your home, avoiding air fresheners completely. For some people, even fresh flowers can be aggravating. Cleaning your home with natural products, especially lemons, will give it a fresh, natural scent too.
Perfumes and aerosol deodorants are also common triggers. Many people with MCS have reactions to essential oils too, so going fragrance free is often the best option. Instead of drugstore skin products, introduce herbal soaps like aloe and neem and natural moisturizers like coconut oil. Get fresh air daily, preferably in a park or green area away from heavy traffic and car fumes.
As well as removing toxic chemicals from your daily life, it is essential to minimize intense emotions, anxiety, and stress too. Intense emotions aggravate and weaken the liver. Implement a daily routine to reduce unnecessary stress and restore order to your day, ensuring you take adequate time to rest. Consider your current coping mechanisms for stress. Do you have the faith you need to face obstacles with grace? Make sure to go to bed by 10-10.30pm each night as staying up later than this strains the liver.
Practice belly breathing and a few minutes of meditation or repetitive prayer each day to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, or "rest and digest" mode. This helps calm feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety and supports a sense of ease. Medical trials are currently being developed to test the efficacy of mindfulness cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT) for the treatment of multiple chemical sensitivities.
DietUndergoing an elimination diet can help determine if you have food allergies which may be aggravating the immune system. If you suspect food allergies, it is always a good idea to get tested for medical confirmation too. Eating foods you have a reaction to means the immune system is consistently on high alert. A reactive immune system will be affected more acutely by chemical sensitivities.
To care for the liver, avoid alcohol and coffee. Favor mildly sweet, oily, sour, and cooling foods, such as cooked apples, coconut oil, blueberries, and foods rich in beta carotene, like carrots and sweet potatoes. Chicken or cow liver is an excellent way to strengthen the liver, as are cooling foods such as pomegranate and ghee. Include a daily dose of mildly bitter leafy greens which will cleanse the liver gently. Avoid any rough or intense cleansing techniques which could weaken the liver further.
Bone broth and ghee both help reduce sensitivities by restoring the lining of the gut wall if leaky gut or chemo have caused damage. Avoid irritating foods like coffee, alcohol, cayenne pepper, and jalapenos which can irritate the delicate lining of the intestines, particularly if it is already inflamed. For long-term management, follow a pitta pacifying diet of easy to digest foods.
HerbsLiver Nourish & Support is a specially formulated herbal tea for sensitive and reactive people. Instead of cleansing a sensitive & reactive liver, it rebuilds it.
Guduchi, in particular, is among the top herbs for reducing sensitivities and strengthening the liver. It is well known for its cleansing effect on the liver while also having adaptogenic and immune tonifying properties, helping calm a reactive immune system. Licorice root is soothing and cooling to the liver. It can be used to tonify and restore liver strength.
For mild liver cleansing, try amalaki. Cilantro is known for it immune calming properties.
Dealing with heightened sensitivities, either physical or emotional, can be both draining and worrisome. You may wonder why everyone else can go about daily life with minimal reactions while you are left feeling fatigued, sick, and upset. Will the list of triggering substances continue to grow? How will you cope if your sensitivities worsen? Overcoming multiple sensitivities can feel like an endless burden, particularly when others don't seem to understand what you are dealing with.
If you're highly sensitive and can't find a solution to your symptoms, Ayurveda can help you get to the root of the problem by supporting the liver and the immune system. While your sensitivities may never disappear completely, you can reduce the severity of reactions to through diet and lifestyle. By removing offending substances, nourishing the liver and calming a reactive immune system, you will be able to go about your daily life free from the constraints of your sensitivities.
ARE YOU NEW TO AYURVEDA?Are you wondering what Ayurveda is and how to use it?
WHAT HAS HELPED YOU HEAL?
DIET REMEDIES FOR 'MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY (MCS)'
PRODUCT REMEDIES FOR 'MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY (MCS)'
FIND MORE LIVER AND GALL BLADDER RELATED PRODUCTSSee our herbs & products in these categories. Or, click here for general Blood and Circulation Tips.
DISCLAIMER: The pathogenesis of each person's condition is unique, and so the diet must be fit to the individual and the unique root causes of the condition in your body.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA HEAL 'MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY (MCS)'?
AVOID DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS THAT AGGRAVATE THESE EFFECTS
With Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), one or more of the following
and qualities may be aggravated.
If you have an imbalance of one of these doshas or qualities, Ayurveda recommends avoiding foods and lifestyle habits that aggravate that quality and/or dosha.
These imbalanced doshas and qualities may need to be brought back into balance before this condition can be healed.
Click on the quality to learn what foods and
lifestyle habits should be avoided.
Symptoms Tell A StoryThe first step to healing is learning patterns from your symptoms. Symptoms are clues that reveal underlying imbalances, showing you where your body is weak. Specifically, they reveal the doshas & qualities that may have become aggravated. If you notice a quality or dosha appears next to many of your symptoms, it helps you establish a pattern that may be systemic.
V = VATA, P = PITTA, K = KAPHA
To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.
FAVOR DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS WITH THESE MEDICINAL EFFECTSEverything you eat has an effect on your body, which Ayurveda categorizes in a simple and easy way, using gunas. Gunas are qualities (like cold and hot) that describe the effect a food or herb has on your body. Cooling foods like cucumber, decrease metabolism. Heating foods like chili pepper, stimulate your body and increase metabolism. For 'Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)', you should select foods with the following qualities (gunas). Individual results will vary, based on your body type and the root cause of your imbalance.
To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.
Cleanse and Detox:
DETOXICANTAn herb that eliminates or metabolizes toxins from the body.
Heart & Circulation:
ALTERATIVELiterally, an herb that restores the proper function of the body. In practice, alteratives are usually blood cleansers and blood chemistry balancers. They were traditionally used to revitalize and detoxify after a long winter.
ANTIHISTAMINEHerbs that interrupt an allergic reaction or calm the immune system.
Liver & Gall Bladder:
LIVOTONICAn herb that strengthens the liver. It is helpful for people with a history of substance abuse, chronic liver issues from hepatitis and hemolytic anemias.
HEPATOPROTECTIVEAn herb that is capable of preventing liver damage.
ADDRESS ISSUES IN STAGE OF DISEASE 2MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY (MCS) IS IN STAGE OF DISEASE 2 - AFFECTING BLOOD & EMOTIONS
Affecting Blood: Initially, imbalances are localized, often in the digestive tract. As an imbalance grows, it starts to affect your body systemically, via the blood. If you have symptoms in this category it means that your imbalances are starting to spread, have entered the bloodstream, and are now systemic. Pay particular attention to the gunas, tastes, and doshas out of balance systemically, so you know how to strengthen your body as a whole, and reduce physical stress on your organs. At this stage of imbalance you will begin to experience generalized discomfort, imbalanced emotions, and may develop sensitivities to temperature. It may take several weeks of strict adherence to a specific remedial diet to clear blood level imbalances. Blood cleansing herbs may reduce symptoms. A several day cleanse may shorten the recovery time.
REDUCE THESE RELATED SYMPTOMS & HABITSThe following symptoms & habits may be related to 'Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)'. See your quiz results for a computerized assessment of your body type. Please click on the symptoms below to learn more about them.
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HOW AYURVEDA WORKSARE YOU WONDERING HOW AYURVEDA CAN HELP YOU?
WHY IS AYURVEDA THE RIGHT SOLUTION?Ayurveda strengthens the body, in addition to addressing the disorder. It take a holistic, systemic approach, instead of myopically focusing on the disorder in question. Ayurveda shows a person how to interpret signs and symptoms of imbalance, and how to address them using materials from home, so they can optimize their health on a continual basis. You can't take the doctor home with you, but you can take Ayurveda home with you. Ayurveda is the most advanced and easy to use home system for self healing with an exceptional focus on digestion.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA WORK?Ayurveda starts by identifying your body type, which identifies certain tendencies in your body to get sick (as well as identifying your strengths). It uses body type to determine the likely root causes of your disorders. Next, Ayurveda analyzes the nature of your disorder. It fits all your signs and symptoms into a pattern, expressed as a combination of gunas / qualities. For example, you may have a heat disorder, a cold disorder, or an oily disorder, etc. This simple categorical approach shows you how to correct systemic imbalances and strengthen your body as a whole.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food so you can easily match food to your imbalances (gunas). By eating an optimal diet that balances your gunas, your whole body is strengthened and the conditions that created the disorder are removed. Once the root causes of the disease are removed, the disease lessens in strength or disappears altogether. Additional remedies - such as herbs and lifestyle practices - focused on the specific disorder, can greatly enhance your healing.
Want to learn more about Ayurveda and its step-by-step approach to healing? Click below.LEARN MORE
GET STARTEDTo get started on your Ayurvedic journey, we first recommend that your find your body type by taking our free quiz. In Ayurveda, every solution is based on your unique body type, so by taking this quiz, you’ll get the best results.
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About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
Comments & Personal ExperiencesHow does 'multiple chemical sensitivity (mcs)' affect your quality of life? What aggravates it? What has helped you? Is there something you'd like to know about 'multiple chemical sensitivity (mcs)'?
(4.00 out of 5 stars) 1 review, 28 likes
Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the article regarding MCS- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I have lived with the condition for many years and even though there is tremendous focus on living a balanced lifestyle it has changed life overall in so many ways. I have a pitta-kapha dosha. Much of what you said is certainly in resonance with what is experienced personally. I do however have various diagnosed environmental allergies to things such as formaldehyde, fragrance, materials associated with ink-paper as well as others so it goes beyond MCS. I will implement the recommendations you have shared as part of my personal protocol.