Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

woman suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)?

MCS is defined as “an acquired disorder characterized by recurrent symptoms, referable to multiple organ systems, occurring in response to demonstrable exposure to many chemically unrelated compounds at doses far below those established in the general population to cause harmful effects”.

What are the symptoms of MCS?

The symptoms may include headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, congestion, itching, sneezing, sore throat, chest pain, heart palpitations, breathing problems, muscle weakness, pain or stiffness, skin rash, diarrhea, bloating, gas, confusion, brain fog, memory problems, and mood changes.

What Causes MCS? How can a Naturopath Treat MCS?

That’s a good question and one for which there isn’t a clear cut answer since so many systems are involved. From a naturopathic perspective, here’s what I would consider:

An overwhelmed liver

Since the liver is responsible for clearing toxins and chemicals from our system, if chemicals aggravate the person, perhaps their liver isn’t doing an efficient job of removing them. There are many ingredients that the liver needs to have to do this effectively: B6, B12, magnesium, 5MTHF, N-acetyl cysteine, glutathione, vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, glutamine, glycine, taurine, indole-3-carbinol and calcium-d-glucarate. Some people have genetic mutations that will impair the function of the liver, like an MTHFR mutation.

Overworked adrenal glands

The adrenals are our stress glands, they help us cope with stress and perform a number of other functions. One of which is to produce your body’s internal anti-inflammatories that suppress the immune system. Corticosteroids produced by the adrenals are powerful immune suppressors, so if the immune system is out of hand and producing excessive inflammation in the respiratory tract, the nervous system or even the brain, supporting normal function of the adrenals can sometimes help. The adrenal glands and the network that connects them to the brain, require B5, B6, C, magnesium and zinc to function well.

Food sensitivities

Consuming food sensitivities creates mild to severe inflammation in the respiratory tract. If you are sensitive to the smell of fumes, chemicals or perfumes, it may be because the tissue of the respiratory tract is irritated and inflammed already and the additional irritation from these chemicals makes the issue worse. Blood testing or an elimination diet can help determine which foods you may be sensitive to.

Leaky gut

Since 70-80% of your immune system resides around your gut, if there is inflammation that is causing symptoms like headaches, brain fog, weakness, food sensitivities, etc, it may be that your gut isn’t healthy. Resolving a leaky gut entails removing irritants like food sensitivities, yeast or unhealthy bacteria, restoring beneficial bacteria and healing the wall of the digestive tract. Digestive aids like enzymes and cholegogue herbs like dandelion and artichoke may also help.

For help with MCS or any other health concern, book a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND


Araki S, Sakai T, Sato H, Kaneko T, Sakai R, Yokoyama K. Multiple chemical sensitivities: case definition, etiology and relations to allergy, poisoning, psychogenic illness etc. Nihon Koshu Eisei Zasshi. 1999 Sep;46(9):769-78.

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