Healthy Beginnings

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Its Role in Chronic Pain: Part 1


We are exposed to unprecedented levels of environmental toxins, industrial chemical pollutants
and heavy metals. There are over 80,000 untested compounds in our environment. Today, children are born with increasingly higher levels of toxic burdens (an
average of 300 compounds per child).

Pharmaceutical chemical intake is as shocking with half of the U.S. population taking multiple medications. In addition to sugar, the standard American diet
is comprised of industrially processed foods, chemical additives, GMOs and hydrolyzed food. All are in inflammatory. Hundreds of studies have explored the effects of these compounds on our life. But human physiology is complex and it
is difficult to identify specific compounds that affect the average person. Unless there is an acute exposure, toxins do their work quietly and slowly over time.

Why do some people remain healthy
in the face of all these exposures while others fall victim to toxin-induced illness? If you were to randomly test people in
the U.S., chances are that all of them will show contamination from heavy metals and environmental compounds. Being completely free of these substances today is impossible. In fact, anthropological studies show that even mummies were uniformly contaminated by heavy metals.

What we’re seeing regarding as to whom is affected or not affected is that some people have immune reactions to these environmental compounds – and others don’t. One person can test for high levels of toxicity and be symptom free while another tests for low levels of contamination yet reacts seriously. How can this be? It appears that the issue is not whether you have toxins or how many toxins are in your system, but whether or not your immune system reacts to them. Poor immunity is the mechanism behind chemical intolerance, multiple chemical sensitivities and the toxin-induced brain degeneration mechanisms that are becoming so common today.

This loss of chemical tolerance due to immune dysfunction often results in a dizzying array of symptoms when that person is exposed to gas fumes, scented body products, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, new carpet smells, new car smells, etc. Some of the symptoms that are commonly associated with even trivial exposures for people with loss of chemical tolerances are asthma, migraines, bromyalgia, fatigue, Gulf War Syndrome, brain fog, memory loss, incontinence, general neurological dysfunction, rashes and so on.

  1. Depletion of glutathione levels: Every day, levels of environmental compounds do not become immune triggers unless glutathione levels are depleted.
  2. Breakdown in immune barriers: Leaky gut, leaky brain barriers and leaky lungs. (Diet and lifestyle factors can break these down increasing the risk for both loss of chemical tolerance and autoimmunity.)
  3. Poor regulatory T-cell function: “T” stands for thymus. These white blood cells regulate the immune system and prevent autoimmunity and lack of chemical tolerance. Glutathione depletion causes regulatory T-cell dysfunction as to Vitamin D deficiency (below 30) and fatty acid deficiency (think fish oils).
  4. Chronic inflammation: It’s common today. Stress, diets, etc. contribute to the loss of glutathione, loss of barrier integrity and loss of T-regulatory cells, and is a major predisposing factor in the loss of chemical tolerance.

So how do loss of chemical tolerance and multiple chemo-sensitivities occur? They appear to occur in
two stages. The first stage
 is the breakdown of the body’s natural tolerance to chemicals and heavy metals (numbers 1 through 4). This is the person who experiences mild chemical sensitivities to chemicals, and that’s it. Maybe they have a mild allergic type of reaction, or even a mild skin rash to jewelry. No big deal. In the second stage, the same ordinary exposure to
an environmental compound triggers an immune response whether it’s due to traffic exhaust, fragrances, a drug or other chemicals. An example would be the same person walking into an apartment heavily scented with chemical laundry products suddenly experiencing dizziness, vertigo, fatigue or exacerbations of an already present case of multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or some other pre- existing problem. The latter 
is an example of an immune response leading to profound breakdowns of immune function. In fact, many of these people go on to develop multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), severe allergies, multiple food sensitivities and auto immunity, if they don’t already have it. Managing these cases can be difficult, as many of the very herbs and supplements used in these types of chronic cases trigger reactions.

Prior to the exposures mentioned above, these folks likely already suffered from glutathione depletion, leaky immune barriers and other health intolerances that predisposed them to developing loss of chemical tolerance and autoimmunity. It wasn’t the amount of toxins in their system that triggered them. Again, it was their loss of immune tolerance to chemicals.

When suffering from a leaky gut, chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, chronic stress and so on, we are just one major stress event away from falling apart. An IRS audit, a divorce, a lawsuit, a car accident, a surgery. Then what?

In Part 2, we will talk about “then what.” We will discuss the controversies of heavy metal testing and chelation therapies and when it may
or may not be the answer. We will then share with you the testing procedures for chemo-sensitivity testing and what treatment protocols have proven to be consistently successful in our clinical experience.

For more information, call Dr. Rutherford or Dr. Gates at 775-329-4402 or visit at


  1. Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, Stein, T. Rohrer B, Valenti, M. 2008. Greater Boston Physicians for Greater Responsibility and Science and Environmental Health Network
  2. Powell JJ, Van de Water J, Gershwin M.E. Evidence for the Role for Environmental Agents in the Initiation and Progression of Autoimmune Conditions. Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Oct; 107 Suppl 5:667 – 72
  3. Kharrazian, Datis, Why Isn’t my Brain Working. Elephant Press 2013. pp 410-414