Multiple chemical sensitivity is a condition that Dr Tawnya Ward, ND, focuses on treating. It is important to look for what may be triggering the immune system to be in such a heightened state.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Treatment Options
Many naturopathic practices are filled with patients with chronic diseases, in which allergies and senstivities play a large role. Often there are patients who have been suffering for years without relief, or even a diagnosis that explains their suffering. In many cases, the conventional assessment has been chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, if there is persistent fatigue and/or muscle pain.
Less commonly there are naturopathic patients who's allergies are not strictly limited to the common environmental and seasonal allergies that plague Vancouver and Richmond patients. There is a subgroup of allergic patients who seem to have severe, persistent, and debilitating allergies to multiple chemicals, usually synthetic. These naturopathic patients can react to things like detergents, perfumes, dyes, VOC (volatile organic compounds), foods, inhalants, even electromagnetic fields. The diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity usually applies when the patient is sensitive to low doses of these compounds which non-chemically sensitive patients would have no problem with.
Multiple chemical sensitivity is best approached by a naturopathic doctor with additional training in environmental medicine. It is important to be able to diagnose both the underlying triggers (so that temporary avoidance or allergen specific desensitization can be done) and the underlying cause of the multiple chemical sensitivity. If an underlying cause can be found, then naturopathic treatments can help the patient eradicate the multiple chemical sensitivity, and thus tolerate low doses of the triggers that are present naturally in the environment.
Specialized naturopathic testing for multiple chemical sensitivity (some examples that are used in our naturopathic patients)
1. Serial endpoint titration and provocation neutralization testing:
• a variation of skin testing, which can be more specific for individualized allergens and more specific for individualized doses that patients are sensitive to. This is important for the multiple chemical sensitivity patient to avoid adverse reactions to the testing and treatment.
• Can also be done sublingually or under the tongue
• leads to a specific vaccine to desensitize the patient to their triggers
2. Blood tests for antibodies against triggers
• specific IgG and IgE antibodies directed against foods, chemicals and inhalants may be useful in some cases
3. Heavy metal toxicity / sensitivity
• heavy metals are part of the “total load” of toxins in the body, and may reduce the ability of the multiple chemical sensitivity patient to cope with other low dose toxins
• higher levels are more prevalent in our patients from the East, such as the Philippines and China, though many of our long term Vancouver and Richmond naturopathic patients have higher levels as well, particularly of mercury
• testing may consist of blood levels of heavy metals (conventional test), provoked chelation urine toxic metals test, and occasionally hair or urine porphyrin testing
4. Liver function and detoxification ability
• the liver is the organ responsible for detoxification of chemicals
• in multiple chemical sensitivity patients, often the liver's ability to detoxify simple compounds such as caffeine, aspirin, and tylenol are impaired
• testing is done by administering low doses of these agents and then checking the urine for metabolites of these medicines
• low grade infections, including sensitivities to candida, or chronic lyme, can be an underlying cause of multiple chemical sensitivity
Naturopathic multiple chemical sensitivity treatment
A naturopath trained in various multiple chemical sensitivity treatments will use specific techniques (such as sublingual allergen specific desensitization) in addition to traditional naturopathic therapies. Dr Ward is trained in this environmental medicine approach.
Identification of the allergen and chemicals is important, again for temporary avoidance or reduction in exposure. However, specific identification allows a sublingual or oral “vaccine” to be made, in order to reduce sensitivity. The term vaccine is used loosely, as they are more like allergy shots that can be given either orally or as an injection. This type of desensitization has not only been effective for multiple chemical sensitivity patients, but also for reducing seasonal allergies in our local Vancouver and Richmond patients.
Sauna detoxification is an extremely useful method of reducing the total body burden of toxins. There is some excretion of the chemicals through sweat, but most research indicates that the liver is still responsible for the processing of the majority of toxins liberated from storage in the body. Sauna drives heat and blood flow to the fat tissue, where organic, fat-soluble toxins are typically stored. As these toxins are mobilized to the blood, the liver processes these toxins for excretion in the urine and in the stool.
Multiple chemical sensitivity patients taking this form of treatment need to be more cautious that the general population. The liver function should be optimized first, and if necessary, tested to quantify any detoxification deficits, as per above. Furthermore, as the chemicals often trigger respiratory symptoms in our naturopathic patients, the sauna should be done under supervision and followed by more direct detoxification methods and sensitivity reduction. Our multiple chemical sensitivity patients follow their in-office sauna with intravenous vitamin C and occasionally sodium bicarbonate alkalinization (for more severe reactions).
Sauna therapy in multiple chemical sensitivity patients is usually done 5 times a week, followed by the IV vitamin C, as part of a 2-3 week detoxification protocol.
Intravenous vitamin C
Vitamin C in small amounts acts of course as an antioxidant. Taken as an oral supplement, it can be useful in reducing some of the reactivity while desensitization and detoxification is taking place. When used intravenously in higher concentrations, usually between 15 – 50 grams, it achieves blood levels that can saturate tissues at far higher concentrations than oral dosing. The advantage of the vitamin C done after the sauna for multiple chemical sensitivity treatment is direct neutralization of the toxins, through oxidation. High intravenous doses of vitamin C act paradoxically as an oxidant, by generating hydrogen peroxide. The oxidation neutralizes toxins directly. This is particularly vital in multiple chemical sensitivity patients as part of their treatment, as sauna detoxification can often aggravate and worsen the sensitivity if the already burdened body is relied upon to detoxify the liberated chemicals.
Simple inhaled oxygen at a high flow rate can often abort an acute reaction. As a multiple chemical sensitivity treatment, high-flow oxygen corrects a problem in the capillaries common to these patients. The capillaries are the network responsible for delivery of nutrients to the tissues, and removal of toxins from the tissues into the blood. Often in multiple chemical sensitivity patients the capillaries are not exchanging nutrients and toxins with the tissues at their optimal rate – a simplistic picture is to imaging sludging of blood through the capillary network instead of smooth flow.
Oxygen therapy improves this sludging and can help to reverse it. It is not a treatment that needs to be done permanently, but rather a treatment that serves to both reduce symptoms and to speed the detoxification and desensitization process. Oxygen therapy is often given during ozone or intravenous vitamin C therapy.
Oxidation therapy is related to both intravenous vitamin C, and oxygen therapy, in that it shares some of the similar mechanisms. However, the oxidation therapies of ozone,ultraviolet blood irradiation, and intravenous hydrogen peroxide have additional specific effects on the immune system. This is particularly important in multiple chemical sensitivity treatment as an imbalance or over-reactivity of the immune system is a fundamental mechanism which leads to the patient's symptoms.
Oxidation therapy is given as a multiple chemical sensitivity treatment if the patient has an accompanying history of asthma, hayfever, eczema, and other allergic diseases. It is usually done twice a week as part of the 2-3 week protocol.
In select cases, if heavy metals are found to be part of the total body burden of toxins, then chelation therapy can help to remove them. In multiple chemical sensitivity patients however, it needs to be part of a comprehensive program as opposed to a stand-alone therapy. DMPS is a specific chelator for mercury, and is used in conjunction with DMSA. EDTA is used for a variety of heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, and arsenic.
Naturopathic assessment and treatment of multiple chemical sensitivity is a comprehensive and effective way of both reducing the symptoms experienced by the patient, and getting rid of the sensitivity itself. The assessment and treatment are both individualized, but usually most patients do extremely well with an initial intensive 2-3 week treatment program, involving the above multiple chemical sensitivity treatments. This treatment course is usually done during assessment of allergens and triggers, and as the oral desensitization “vaccine” is being individualized. Typically, our naturopathic patients experience relief during this initial 2-3 week period, though there may be a brief period of aggravation as detoxification is under way.