Chemical Sensitivity Often Overlooked

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Chemical sensitivity or chemical intolerance is the hallmark of multiple chemical sensitivity, a condition which elicits a range of symptoms that affect many different body systems (including cognitive, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and cardiovascular systems). Chemical sensitivity has recently been the subject of a study published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine. “Between 13 and 33 percent of people in various populations report considering themselves to be “unusually” sensitive to certain common environmental chemicals, such as cleaning products, tobacco smoke, perfumes, pesticides, new carpet, and car exhaust,” according to previous studies.

Patients who are chemically sensitive have been found to use health care services more than those without chemical sensitivity (with an average of 23.3 visits to a medical professional each year), and 54 percent of chemically sensitive people have at least one other medical condition. Yet only 24 percent of those who meet criteria for chemical sensitivity receive a diagnosis, likely due to the non-acceptance by many medical providers of multiple chemical sensitivity as a valid condition.

The authors of the study call for increased awareness of this condition in the primary care setting. The study helps to validate a chemical sensitivity, a condition often misdiagnosed as somatoform spectrum disorder (when the doctor essentially says, “It’s all in your head,” and writes a prescription for Prozac, recommends a psychiatrist or psychologist, and sends you on your way—there are a number of conditions for which doctors do this. I find it maddening). Not that there isn’t a psychological component to multiple chemical sensitivity, but doctors miss the whole picture when they write off biologically-based conditions as simply, “all in your head.”

If you think you have chemical sensitivity, you may be right. Talk with your doctor about it. You may have to find a knowledgeable doctor—hopefully this latest study is a sign that conventional docs are starting to wise up. Most importantly, you will need to avoid, as much as possible, the chemicals to which you are sensitive. It will also be important to support your seven channels of elimination—colon, liver, lungs, lymph, kidneys, skin, and blood so that you can eliminate toxins more efficiently.