Healthy Beginnings

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Its Role in Chronic Pain: Part 2

In Part I of this two-part series we discussed chemical sensitivity (or, loss of chemical tolerance), what causes it, the two stages of development, and some of the symptoms and conditions that it can cause (and it can cause seemingly almost any symptom or condition you can think of). Now, let’s talk about testing and treatment. Oh, yes, and controversy.

Controversy #1: Heavy Metals

More people than ever before are developing problems triggered by environmental compounds. So, what do most of their alternative practitioners do? They test for heavy metals and environmental toxins, which always come back positive. These physicians then chelate the patient using chemicals such as DMSA, DMPS, or EDTA to “remove” the modules.

Or they put the patient on an intensive liver detoxification program. If the patient experiences adverse reaction, these are simply dismissed as detox reactions. But the truth is that chelating someone with neurological auto immunities and loss of chemical intolerance can be devastating and permanently destroy brain and neuro tissue. Why is that?

Research has clearly found that chelation pulls heavy metals out of body tissues and redistributes them to make their way into the brain, promoting further toxicity, inflammation, neurodegeneration and sometimes more serious side effects. In these cases, chelation promotes immune activation from chemical intolerance – it’s like giving a person with celiac gluten. Studies since 1991 have repeatedly shown that chelation pushes toxins into the brain, yet it continues as a popular practice.

Does this mean I’m anti-chelation? No. “I’m anti-chelation” is for people who already display a loss of chemical tolerance and who have already displayed an exaggerated immune response to chemicals. Chelation is appropriate in cases of acute exposure to toxins or heavy toxicity. A serum heavy metals test, which most chelation enthusiasts disdain, can help determine toxicity levels in the case of acute exposure.

Chelation must also be considered in some cases when a neurodegeneration case is severe and progressed, it is assumed these toxic metals have already reached the brain, and removing them might be advantageous. But chelation under any circumstances must not be undertaken until the person demonstrates immune barrier integrity of the brain, lungs and gut, and restored glutathione status (see Part I).

Controversy #2: Testing

How do you know if you suffer from loss of chemical tolerance? We can test for loss of chemical tolerance by testing for antibodies. Positive antibodies indicate over-zealous immune reactions to environmental chemicals and thus a loss of chemical intolerance.

Do not confuse testing for antibodies with tests that we see in patients’ files every day that measure quantities of chemicals and heavy metals as shown in urine, hair, stool or with a DMPS challenge. When it comes to loss of chemical tolerance, the immune systems tolerance to these compounds is the key factor, NOT the quantities of compounds in the body (see Part I again).

This is apparently a very controversial statement: Which tests you’re given usually depends on your health care provider’s bias and training. The reproducibility and accuracy of hair testing, urine testing, stool testing and challenges with chelating agents remain self-admittedly controversial by their own advocates. But even if they were all accurate, they all measure for quantity of an isolated heavy metal or environmental toxin. As stated already, this is a limited diagnostic marker. Evaluating an individual’s immune intolerance to environmental chemicals is not. If you wish to screen yourself for the elevated antibodies that do indicate an active sensitivity to heavy metals and environmental compounds, we suggest the Chemical Immune Reactivity Screen from Cyrex Laboratories (with whom we have no fiduciary relationship). Elevated antibodies on this test indicate an exaggerated immune response to the chemicals, which can then trigger neuro- logical auto immunity or degeneration of the brain as a consequence of systemic inflammation. Another good test which gives you data more relevant to treating the problem is the Organix Acids Test from Genova. We have used both of these tests together with great success.

So how do I get well from chemo sensitivities?

That is a complex topic that merits an article in and of itself. Generally, we can improve chemical intolerance and protect the brain by supporting the immune barriers (gut, brain and lung), immune regulation and inflammation. Briefly, the various systems we want to support include:

  1. Glutathione levels – glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant and is integral to a healthy defense. Many things deplete it but chronic stress is the biggest offender. When you have enough glutathione, environmental toxin created free radicals cannot create an immune response.
  2. Immune barrier health – the now well-accepted leaky gut – which also means you probably have leaky blood brain barrier and possibly leaky lung barrier. Essentially fix the leaky gut and dampen gut inflammation (numerous diets and herbs on internet available) and the brain and lung barrier improve.
  3. Immune balancing through regulatory T-cell support. This is where vitamin D joins glutathione and nitric oxide as these immune (regulating) nutrients come into play.
  4. Inflammation in body and brain – same approach as number 3 above with the addition of anti-inflammatories such as resveratrol and curcumin, anti-inflammatory diet, stress control, etc.

Liver detoxification alone is the wrong initial target. But once the above elements are under control, it still plays a role in brain health and chemical tolerance. If liver function becomes compromised, it can increase your toxic and your chemical intolerance. Nutrients that support healthy liver detoxification should address the following: Phase I and Phase II support, Phase II methylation, bile support, detoxification and again, glutathione support.

This is the general path to success for MCS. As you can see, the solution can be complex. Do your research and good luck.

By Martin Rutherford, D.C., C.C.S.T., C.F.M.P. and Randall Gates, D.C., D.A.C.N.B.


  1. Anderson D., Chemical and Biological Considerations in Treatment of Metal Intoxications by Chelating Agents. Mini Rev. Med. Chem. 2004 Jan 4 (1): 11- 21 Ewan KB, Pamphlett R., Increased Inorganic Mercury in Spinal Motor Neurons Following Chelating Agents. Neurotoxicology. 1996 Summer, 17 (2): 343-9
  2. Kharazzian, Datis, DHSC, DC, MS, Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, Elephant Press. 2013 pp 415-443