If you have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity like me, your body (among other differences) probably has trouble with toxins building up. Safe detoxification is part of MCS self care. However, it will be unique to each individual. When you are exposed to a trigger, you have different physiological reactions. Different systems are affected, usually the neurological, endocrine, digestive, and immune. Everyone with MCS has different triggers and reactions. That’s why there is nothing one-size-fits-all about MCS. There’s no treatment that works for everyone. It’s a big problem when people with MCS try to live together or organize in person. What’s safe for me isn’t necessarily safe for you. Please keep this in mind when learning anything about MCS, including detoxification. Always listen to your body and good medical care provider.
Although I’m going to share common MCS detoxification treatments and information that I have learned from Naturopathic Doctors and others living with MCS, I want to start with something very crucial: the health journal. To keep track of what triggers what reactions and how your body responds to things that you hope will help, it’s important to keep a record. I joke I am a scientist and the subject of my experiments, but every good medical professional will tell you that they do not have your body. Only you can figure out what helps and what harms.
As I, like many people with MCS, am ink intolerant, this was a huge problem until someone told me about metal mechanical pencils. New plastic often offgasses chemicals, so metal really rescued our family. There’s only one kind of lined paper we can tolerate, ecojot. A small Canadian company that uses 100% recycled materials and vegetable ink, ecojot will custom make all their journals and art pads with plain covers if asked. (They know about MCS.) We have them sent wrapped in plastic as a vapour barrier during transport. Then we open them and let the pages air out a few days before using.
Your health journal should start with a list of every medication and supplement you take each day. This way, those things will not need to be recorded every day. Each day I write the date, day of my menstrual cycle, the general tempature, and leave space for anything unusual. A rarely taken supplement, big exposure to a trigger, or new symptom goes here at the end of the day. Many triggers cause hypoglycemia and hypoglycemia is a MCAS* trigger, so I make sure to write the time and what I ate. Exposures can knock me unconscious and generally cause “brain fog”, so I have timers set for when to eat and take all supplements and medications. How much I sleep, any exercise, symptoms, triggers, detoxification treatment, stress, etc are all recorded.
This allows me to discover patterns. Some triggers have reactions that are delayed. If you are looking for food sensitivities and allergies, the journal is very important. If, like me, you have Lyme disease (a known MCS/MCAS* trigger) and/or another chronic illness (the tick also gave me babesiosis – kinda like malaria on steroids), the journal is vitally important so you can tell which medications at certain doses cause what. With the cognitive impairment that often comes with MCS and MCAS during and after exposure to triggers, it can be very hard to remember things accurately. Because many people develop new triggers over time, the journal stays important.
Now you are ready for trying new things and recording how they work for you.
When toxins enter the body, you feel sick. When they leave, you often feel much worse. That’s why when people have a massage they are told to rest and drink water to help flush out the toxins. The toxins stored in fat cells make people feel achy and fuzzy headed when they leave.
Many people with MCS seem to have trouble with liver detoxification. The liver has many roles including detoxification. As my doctor says, “Love your liver or die.” With MCS, the liver is usually slow and sluggish when trying to remove toxins from the body. Most of us cannot easily get the toxic substances out of our cells and our “toxic load” keeps growing with every exposure, which is why avoidance is so important. The toxins settle in our fat cells, which includes the brain. That’s where our “brain fog” comes from.
As if that wasn’t enough, we usually feel worse when our bodies try to detoxify through the liver later. Toxins “going in” are normally easier to handle than toxins “going out”! This is why a two minute exposure to synthetic fragrance can cause two days of being sick. When certain toxins leave the fat cells, they become free radicals, which oxidize the body. Sometimes people call it “premature ageing” or “rusting”, and we need antioxidants to destroy the free radicals. One of the most important antioxidant is glutathione, which will be discussed more later.
Meanwhile, other toxins are trying to get out of the liver. They keep circling the liver, hanging out in its fat cells waiting for their turn. But because many people with MCS have slow livers, it’s like a big traffic jam. The toxins are bottlenecked. Some give up and return to fat cells, like the brain, causing “brain fog” yet again.
If you want to learn more, MCS researcher Mark Donohue explains the liver and MCS in Part 9 on this website.
We cannot risk having too many toxins leave our cells at once. Detoxification for people with MCS must be slow and gentle. Traditional saunas, for example, usually cause damage to people with MCS. They are too intense. (Infrared saunas seem to help some people but I have never seen one that looks nontoxic enough for me.) I have really severe MCS/MCAS* and am a “Universal Reactor”. To put it in context, I cannot leave my apartment or have guests. My mother has milder MCS/MCAS* and takes care of me because there are no fragrance free people to hire for cleaning and cooking. I am confined to bed because of the Lyme and babesiosis. I miss eye contact, trees, and laughing with friends. Even more, I miss living without so much fear, as so many things can hurt me and society is filled with what the American with Disabilities Act calls “barriers of access”. Those are often illegal, but that’s a topic for another post about getting your needs met.
Still, as sick as I am, just because my body can handle something does not mean yours can. There’s neither pride nor shame for being more sensitive to something in the MCS world. Some people make fun of people with MCS by mocking us as “special snowflakes”. That makes no sense, because every snowflake is unique, special, and different. As each human being is different from every other human being, we are all average special snowflakes. Listen to your body. MCS actually makes it impossible to ignore your body’s needs, which can be a bonus in a mind-focused culture. The flesh again becomes as holy as the spirit, not something to overcome. Your body is incredibly smart and your best guide. Do not let dogma and other mind tricks block you from your body’s truth.
One reason I track my menstrual cycle is because hormones can have trouble leaving my sluggish liver. This can make PMS really difficult, especially because Lyme bacteria takes advantage of hormonal changes. Dead bacteria or babesiosis parasites can also bottleneck, making antibiotics and antimalarial treatment problematic. Plus the remains of my red blood cells (after they’ve exploded from the parasites) clog my detoxification pathways.
That’s why many of these MCS detoxification treatments are the same for people with Lyme disease and other tick-bourne illnesses. I have had these diseases for a decade. The Western blot Lyme test that insurance covers is not very accurate. There is a movement to have the FDA ban the test due to the high rate of false negatives. Mine came back negative several times. The most accurate test for Lyme disease and its common, severe co-infections is by iGenex, which only takes Medicare. Last I heard it cost $800.
The key to MCS detoxification is to take things slow and steady. Unless you have someone you trust with your life supervising everything, fasting is not safe. In exposures, people generally find that they need a carb for the plummeting blood sugar and a protein to keep the sugar levels regular. As most people with MCS have different food sensitivities, we all have our own exposure food combos. (The digestive issues are probably related to MCAS.*)
To nourish our livers many of us drink dandelion root infusion. I add burdock root to support my kidneys. (People with mold sensitivity may have trouble with root vegetables because fungi are so active in soil. Your health journal can help you spot these types of issues.) A very popular liver support supplement is milk thistle seed (also known by its active ingredient silimarin).
My genetic testing showed a lot of trouble with my methylation pathways, which I was already treating with a popular MCS prescription, B12 Methylcobalamin injections. I take another injection when I have an exposure and it helps brings back cognitive functioning and lessens the limbic system “fight, flight or freeze” freak out. Although too much may cause irritability and “speediness”, it often helps me sleep if an exposure slammed me. Some people rub the B12 Methylcobalamin on their skin. (It is bright red and stains the skin.) These B12 injections are becoming more common with vegans and vegetarians because its very hard to get B12 without red meat. As B12 is also necessary for mitochondrial functioning, it is very important.
I also have a lot of genetic trouble regarding glutathione, a major antioxidant that helps clean up toxins, especially when they’ve become free radicals. This seems to be somewhat common with MCS. Some people with MCS take Pure Encapsulation liposomal glutathione or its precursor NAC. NAC helps the body make glutathione and is less expensive, but also removes intestinal and lung bateria biofilm. If you have Lyme or SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), prepare to be hit with hidden bacteria if you choose NAC. Unless a trusted medical professional says otherwise, do not take both glutathione and NAC.
Of course, some people with MCS have trouble with detoxing too fast using any or all of these supplements. Sometimes supplements are MCAS* triggers. I learned my safe doses from years of taking them. For me one glutathione is good; two is terrible. Yet my friend cannot tolerate any glutathione or NAC, while someone else I know takes 2 capsules. The amount of B12 Methylcobalamin is usually based on your weight, but with other supplements there doesn’t seem to be a correlation.
Usually people with MCS do not need genetic testing, although some doctors will suggest it if a patient is not getting better with avoidance of triggers and detoxification treatment. When a chronic illness is complicated, like how to treat Lyme with severe MCS, genetic testing is often done. Genetic issues that normally were not very problematic can worsen when sick. By helping weak areas in the genetic makeup, it can be easier to heal chronic illness. Most naturopathic doctors are supposed to learn genetics now, but greatly vary in their ability. The best I have seen – by Skype – is Dr. Karen Threlkel. Something a doctor told me to do was use a fake name of a different ethnic heritage with 23andme, the company used for the DNA test. The US started the eugenics movement, which the Nazis quickly embraced. We can’t be sure what will be done with our information in 15 years, so a fake name that makes you sound like you are from a different ethnic group could provide some security for everyone.
Taking the stress off your liver is important. There are other ways to gently detox that lightens your “toxic load” and gives your liver a break. Oil pulling is one. You take a tablespoon of organic coconut oil and swish it around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. Then spit it out, scrape your tongue with a spoon, and rinse with warm salt water. Holistic dentists often suggest this, especially after getting fillings or root canals. I brush before oil pulling and floss after. To save time some people oil pull while showering or dry brushing.
Your skin is your largest organ. Dry brushing is a popular detoxification process for lots of people. As I have trouble with synthetic bristles, I use boar bristles and make sure there is no plastic on the brush handle. I once read instructions from Japan about dry brushing with a dry rough washcloth once, but do not remember where. Like most massage, you move from feet, hands, face to the heart. Make little circles and strokes. The brush and your skin must be dry. This helps circulation and lymph. Unlike blood, there is no organ pumping lymph. Lymph requires exercise to move. If you are not physically active (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME is very common with MCS, and exertion is often a MCAS* trigger), dry brushing becomes more important. Someone I know who works with people confined to their beds dry brushes the patients in a state facility.
Bentonite clay packs on the liver, underarms and groin (lymph nodes) is a common way to pull toxins through the skin. Remember to mix the dry clay with purified water. Depending on how sensitive your skin, the amount of time before rinsing the clay off will vary. I have very sensitive skin and wait 5 minutes. The clay does not need to dry.
Other people rub castor oil on their livers and rinse it off 20 minutes later. (Your liver is under your right ribs. I spread clay from the lower edge of my breast to a couple inches below my ribs.) I developed a trigger to inhaling the powerful chemicals in castor oil, but others I know use it daily, including a ND with MCS.
Next is the shower. Dry brushing also exfoliates (and can help with cellulite) so you need to rinse your skin. Clay and castor oil also need to be rinsed off. Soap is usually castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s unscented hemp baby liquid soap. Usually unscented means a company covered the fragrance chemicals in their product with more chemicals, so always look for “fragrance free” – except with Dr. Bronner’s. (Of course, if they were to be bought out, the quality would probably change. Tom’s of Maine and Burt’s Bees became much more toxic when quietly bought by major corporations.) Dilute the soap (it is highly concentrated). If you have dry skin, maybe add a bit of organic olive oil for softness.
Castile soap is the highest quality soap available. Detergent is a chemical product used for shampoo, dishes, liquid “soap” and makes lots of bubbles. Bubbles are a sign that it is toxic. Castile soap can build up, being made from vegetable oil, but rinsing hair with organic lemon juice or apple cider vinegar brings back hair’s natural acidity.
I am triggered by soap now so all my cleaning from teeth to clothing is baking soda. A bit of baking soda mixed with purified water works for gently massaging oils from my scalp once a month. I rinse really well and, having healthy straight hair I do not want to weigh down, I might put a bit of jojobo oil on the damp ends. My mother has wavy, dry hair that can become frizzy. Rubbing coconut oil into her damp hair makes effortless ringlets. (Jojobo is actually a very light wax, not an oil, so it is popular with people who have nornal to oily skin.)
Washing the scalp with water and a little baking soda, rinsing well, and then rinsing with apple cider vinegar is a popular “no ‘poo” option. No ‘poo means no shampoo. Shampoo didn’t even exist 100 years ago and people still had beautiful hair. We are triggered by the smell of vinegar but it worked when I was a child. A burdock infusion rinse can help damaged, dry hair.
Epson salts, so inexpensive, are very popular in the MCS comnunity. Many bathe in an Epson salt bath, sometimes adding a cup of baking soda. (I do not know why they add baking soda.) Epson salts work as a gentle skin detox but they are salt. Baking soda is also sodium. Your skin will dry out, so rinse afterwards and/or use oils on your damp skin to seal in moisture. Epson salts have magnesium and help relax tense, aching muscles. We do not have a bathtub, so I mix a cup of Epson salts with warm water in a metal pan in the shower. With the water off, I use a soaking wet washcloth to help get the Epson salt water all over my body, except my face. Again, this is salt so do not get on cuts or broken skin.
I air dry and use a mix of coconut oil, olive oil jojoba oil and a drop of vitamin E on damp (salty) skin. Oil alone does not moisturize. Oil holds in moisture, so apply oils to damp skin for maximum benefit.
If the bathroom is toxic, maybe from a neighbor cleaning their apartment or road construction outside, and I need to stay in my room on oxygen, I have a couple ways to detox. First, my oxygen mask is porcelain with special tygon tubing, ordered from the famous MCS specialist, Dr. William Rea, and his American Environmental Health Foundation (AEHF). Plastic would make the oxygen toxic. Wearing the mask, I can still oil pull, dry brush and sponge bathe. I also do lymph massage, based on this series. Just doing sinus lymph massage helps when I’m congested.
Another way people eliminate toxins is through urinating, so drink a lot of purified water. We use a Berkey with the additional fluoride filters. If there’s a disaster and there’s no running water, the Berkey can purify other water. It’s used a lot in Haiti. Our shower filter is Berkey, too. Another important part of detoxification is having daily bowel movements.
Exposures can cause constipation. Fleet suppositories are available at most drug stores and made from glycerin. They also help soften stool.
A Naturopathic Doctor should test your blood for heavy metals. Leaded gasoline is believed to be partly responsible for the rise in inner city gang violence. The body can mistake copper for estrogen. Zinc helps keep copper in balance. Vegans and vegetarians sometimes have high copper and low zinc, which can cause erectile dysfunction, a weakened immune system, and other problems. A good ND should know safe ways for getting metals to safe levels.
Honestly, my entire detoxification routine takes about an hour, and with Lyme and babesiosis, it wipes me out. Exposures to chemicals also can wipe me out, even cause partial seizures and fainting. Of course that’s when I need to detox the most, but I will not risk falling in the shower. I eat, cry incoherently, inject B12, and sleep it off, sometimes with oxygen. (As most triggers cause hypoglycemia, eating something with protein and carbs is often very helpful. MCAS* can be triggered by hypoglycemia, making it a vicious cycle.)
MCS means a lot of being inTOXICated. I treat it like coming out of anesthesia. Do nothing remotely dangerous. Unplug your phone or turn off its ringer. Email no one. Buy nothing. You are like a glue huffer. As I explain to people, the world is my Rufie. I didn’t choose to be incoherent, crying, nauseated, weak, fainting, or in pain, having seizures. Other people’s toxic choices decided it for me. They don’t know better and they haven’t been given easy, inexpensive options. The best way to educate them is by finding the common ground – and many people have MCS and don’t know it.
* MCAS stands for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, which I hope to explain in another post. MCAS is believed to be behind MCS by some modern Western medical doctors, especially if triggered by Lyme. It seems to be part of MCS, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, Celiac disease, migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sensitive skin, nonallergic/vasomotor rhinusitis, allergies and more. As these tend to overlap, MCAS is viewed as the systemic cause for such a variety of overlapping ailments. You can learn some basics about it here and here.
MCAS gives persons living with MCS or chronic Lyme disease a respected ICD-10 code. The US finally has joined the rest of world and uses the ICD-10 guide for diagnosistic codes. However, even though MCS has an ICD-10 code from Germany (T78.4) that American doctors are supposed to respect, very few do. Medical professionals should be more cooperative (or at least afraid of killing you) if you say “mast cell disorder”. For me that’s a big win because now I could go to a decent Emergency Department if I had a broken arm or needed stitches, and have my needs taken more seriously.