Canaries in the Coal Mine: Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Myth Vs. Reality

Photo by Majd Mohabek via Flickr creative commons

Photo by Majd Mohabek via Flickr creative commons

When people find out that I am sensitive to the chemicals in everyday products, I almost invariably find that they believe one or more of the many myths surrounding MCS. First, what is MCS?  I’m constantly surprised by the fact that almost no one knows what I’m talking about when I use that acronym.  MCS stands for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.  The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation defines it this way:

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a medical condition characterized by a heightened sensitivity to chemicals. People who have MCS become ill when exposed to a variety of chemicals, many of which are commonly encountered in everyday life. Some people have only mild chemical sensitivities, while others have a more severe form of the illness called MCS.

Now that you know what it is, I imagine some of you are probably thinking, “Ooooh, I think I know somebody with that problem”.  With a lot of help from some of my fellow MCS sufferers, I have identified some of the more common myths associated with the disorder:

Myth #1:  People who say they have MCS really have chemophobia (fear of chemicals), anxiety, or depression and probably need psychiatric help (medication).

Most people who have MCS didn’t have any idea that everyday chemicals could be dangerous or cause life-long problems until they became ill.  Many didn’t find out what was making them ill for a long time, going from doctor to doctor looking for a solution.  Much of the time, it is not until a person begins to avoid chemicals that they begin to see the connection between their symptoms and the chemicals they had been exposed to.   It is possible that some people with MCS develop chemophobia, but it’s usually long after they have had many bouts with chemical-induced illness.

Some people with MCS do suffer from depression, but evidence suggests that the depression usually occurs after the onset of the illness, which would also suggest that it often results from the misery and social isolation of chemical sensitivity, and not the other way around.

Also, MCS causes physical illness.  It is known that physical illness is very often accompanied by mental illness.  The brain is a physical organ which, like any other organ, can be affected by toxins and disease processes.  Many of the toxicants which make us ill are known neurotoxins, which could also explain much of the anxiety and depression experienced by people with MCS.

Because of liver-function abnormalities often seen in people with MCS and a general hypersensitivity to many different chemicals, psychiatric medications are often not well-tolerated and are most definitely not a cure-all solution to this problem.

Myth #2:  People with MCS should just take antihistamines or allergy shots so they can live more normally and not have to avoid contact with common chemicals.

Standard allergy treatments often fail with MCS.  That is because the disease mechanism appears to be different from what happens in allergic illness.  In a true allergic reaction, the immune system begins to tag harmless substances as harmful invaders.  That sets off all the classic symptoms of allergies: sneezing, runny nose, coughing, hives, etc.  Many people do react in that way to chemicals, in which case allergy treatment may be beneficial.  But many others react in ways that are not typical of an allergic reaction.  Often, neurological symptoms such as pain, dizziness, brain fog, slurred speech, and tremors  are dominant.  These types of reactions will often not respond to common treatments for allergies.

Myth #3:  Common personal care and household products are mostly harmless and people with MCS are just hysterical.

Environmental Working Group would beg to differ.  They have created several databases including the Skin Deep Database which exposes not only the ingredients of common products, but also their potential toxicity to humans.  Many of the most commonly used household and personal care products listed received an F on a scale of A to F, F being a “fail”, or most dangerous. – Test your knowledge of cosmetics safety: 8 myths debunked

Myth #4:  People with chemical sensitivities just have a strong sense of smell and are bothered by odors. 

People with MCS can often react to odorless chemicals, so it’s not about the smell.

“… It should be clear … that chemicals in MCS are not acting on the classic olfactory receptors (15,16), but rather are acting as toxicants. This is opposite many published but undocumented claims that MCS is a response to odors. There is additional evidence arguing against the view that MCS is a reaction to odors. MCS sufferers who are acosmic, having no sense of smell, people who have intense nasal congestion and people whose nasal epithelia have been blocked off with nose clips can all be highly chemically sensitive (1,4). This does not necessarily mean that MCS never impacts the olfactory system. It simply means that MCS is not primarily an olfactory response.”

~ Martin L. Pall

Myth #5:  MCS is a rare disorder.

 Possibly up to 25% (depending on the study you read) of people in the US report symptoms of chemical sensitivity.  It’s likely that most of the statistics on MCS prevalence are shots in the dark, as many people who suffer with MCS go undiagnosed.  Many others who are sensitive to chemicals simply don’t know what it is that’s making them ill. – MCS statistics

Myth #6:  MCS is controversial. 

Dr. Ann McCampbell, in her article Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Under Siege, had this to say about it:

“Like the tobacco industry, the chemical industry often uses non-profit front groups with pleasant sounding names, neutral-appearing third party spokespeople, and science-for-hire studies to try to convince others of the safety of their products. This helps promote the appearance of scientific objectivity, hide the biased and bottom-line driven agenda of the chemical industry, and create the illusion of scientific “controversy” regarding MCS. But whether anti-MCS statements are made by doctors, researchers, reporters, pest control operators, private organizations, or government officials, make no mistake about it – the anti-MCS movement is driven by chemical manufacturers. This is the real story of MCS.”

The controversy surrounding MCS is not real.  It is manufactured by chemical industry leaders with a profit-driven agenda.

Myth #6:  “If I can’t smell it, it’s not there.”

If you put it on, ever, it’s there.  Often we cannot smell our own odor because of something called olfactory fatigue .

Myth #7:  The dose makes the poison.

Many people assume that “just a little won’t hurt”.  But check out what Philip and Alice Shabecoff had to say about it in their book, Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins are Making Our Children Chronically Ill:

“Chemicals capable of disrupting endocrine hormones… are now understood to be a different kind of toxin.  None of them follow “the dose makes the poison” dictum.  Even at tiny doses they can alter the way the immune and endocrine systems operate, leaving the body vulnerable to sickness or developmental damage.  Pthalates, bisphenal-A, dioxins, flame retardants, and some pesticides as well as long-banned chemicals persisting in the environment, such as DDT, are major hormone disruptors.”

Incidentally, pthalates are found in many fragrances, which also means that it’s found in many if not most fragranced products.

Myth #8:  MCS is just an excuse to “opt out of life”.

I have spoken to and read about many people who have MCS, and not one has ever seemed happy about their isolation.  In fact, what I hear most is despair approaching desperation.  Nobody wants to be shut out of life.

Myth #9:  People with MCS behave in contradictory ways.  Sometimes they say they react and sometimes they seem fine.  This must mean they are not telling the truth about their symptoms.

Symptoms of chemical sensitivity can wax and wane depending what level of health the sufferer is experiencing at the time.  When a person with MCS is feeling particularly strong, perhaps because of their efforts to heal their body, they may not have such obvious reaction to chemicals.  On the other hand, if the person is feeling run-down, it’s possible that their reactions will be more severe and long-lasting.  Things that affect sensitivity levels include stress, sleep, nutrition, and whether or not they have been able to breathe clean air in recent days.

Or…maybe they don’t want to tell you every time they start feeling ill because they are tired of be told that it’s all in their head?

Myth #10:  People with MCS just need to stop thinking about chemicals and symptoms and they will be fine.

It’s true that thoughts can be very powerful.  But as I mentioned before, most people with MCS didn’t even know that they were being made ill by chemicals at first.  Obviously, thinking about chemicals could not have played a role in the etiology of their illness if they didn’t even know to think about them in the first place.

Myth # 11:  “Normal” people shouldn’t have to worry about the products they use if there are “safe” areas set aside for those with sensitivities. 

It might seem like a good idea to provide an area set aside for people with chemical sensitivities at social events such as religious services, conferences, conventions, and concerts, but there are a couple of problems with it.  We all would like to participate fully on social occasions.  Segregation does not feel good.  It’s frustrating and disheartening.  Also segregating people with MCS away from others in a group tends to give people a false sense of having done the right thing.  They often feel that because those with sensitivities have their “safe” area, that it won’t matter how much fragrance they use or what the building is cleaned with.   It is very difficult to keep a small area of a building completely free of scent when the rest of the building is full of it. This is often due to common ventilation systems and the opening and closing of doors. It’s similar to the absurdity of setting aside non-smoking sections in restaurants.  The non-smoking section may be slightly less noxious (or not), but it will never be completely free of the presence of smoke or tobacco residues.

Myth # 12:  If my scents were making people ill, they would tell me.

People with MCS have often encountered so much skepticism and ridicule from family and friends about their symptoms that they may give up trying to talk about it.  We sometimes find ourselves having to choose between educating the public about the reality of MCS and keeping our friends.  Some of us suffer in silence. Others choose to try to quietly escape a toxic situation without making a scene.

Some cases of MCS are so severe that a reaction goes far beyond what might be considered typical.  It is possible for a reaction to cause so much brain fog that the sufferer finds it difficult to articulate thoughts and may not be able to tell you that you are making them sick.  Some reactions can include hearing loss, temporary blindness, and may even progress to the point where the sufferer actually physically collapses.  This is extremely frightening for the sufferer and for those standing by.  How would it feel to find out that it may have been your Chanel #5 that caused this to happen to someone?

Myths and Facts About Chemical Sensitivity

Myth # 13:  Everyone should not have to change just to help a small minority.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine had this to say in their Position Paper on Chemical Sensitivity:

It is believed that these chemically vulnerable modern-day “canaries in a coal mine” have an important lesson to teach us, if we would but listen – namely, that the hyperreactivity manifested by those with chemical sensitivity is an early warning sign of the alarming potential for eventual poisoning of our entire population by the numerous man-made chemical pollutants to which we are being continuously exposed. In other words, the fact that chemically sensitive individuals demonstrate exquisite vulnerability to toxic injury should serve to alert us to the disturbing reality that our modern industrial society, despite its many advantages, may ultimately compromise the health of us all.

As noted earlier, MCS is not rare.  And many of the people who are suffering from it are unaware of what it is that is making them ill, so the actual number of sufferers is likely to be much higher than the numbers that are published.  Also, many of the chemicals to which people are reacting are known human toxicants, many of them carcinogens.  We would all do well to avoid them.

It can be much easier to change our cleaning, washing, and beauty routines than many people assume.  Check out EWG Consumer Guides for help in finding non-toxic products.

Myth # 14:  People with MCS seem to get sick from every little thing.  They are over-reacting and need to loosen up.

Toxic chemicals truly are ubiquitous in the modern world.  They are nearly impossible to escape.  People with MCS are not getting sick from “every little thing”, they are getting sick from human toxicants. Often, symptoms are so severe that they cannot simply “lighten up”.  They have to protect themselves from the consequences of toxic exposure. It sometimes happens that people with MCS will go on a trip to the ocean or mountains, breath fresh, clean air, and begin to feel almost 100% better.  What does that indicate about the nature of this disorder?  What does it indicate about our society that we should have to travel many miles away from population centers in order to experience normal health?

Conclusion

The truth is that MCS is a scary, cruel, and relentless thief of health, relationships, careers, and even lives.  Yes, people really have died from it.  It should be taken as seriously as any other chronic, possibly fatal illness.  But it’s not.  And most of that seems to have to do with the greed and political meddling of powerful corporations.  It’s the story of Big Tobacco all over again.  But this time it’s worse.  Imagine what it would have been like if tobacco companies had found a way to weasel their cancer causing ingredients into so many commonly used products that it was nearly impossible to avoid them without educating yourself.  That is what we have now with artificial fragrances and other toxic chemical ingredients.

Some people with MCS have been able to get better.  But many others, in spite of persistent efforts and lots of money spent on healthcare, still suffer and must strictly avoid chemicals.  But whether they are able to recover their health or not, most of them will never be the same.  It’s like going through the looking glass into a bizarre world where nothing is as it should be.  They will never forget what they have experienced, or the people in this world who are still suffering.  To those people, I dedicate this post.  And I pray for their recovery and for the world to awaken to this disaster.

Additional Reading:

 Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, A Mysterious Malady, Awake magazine

When Chemicals Make You Sick

Helping Those With MCS

Extreme Chemical Sensitivity Makes Sufferers Allergic to Life, Discover Magazine

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Toxicological and Sensitivity Mechanisms

Related Posts

Behind the Mask

Use Safer Products

The Myth of the Immaculate Gut

I’m so tired of cockamamie health advice that seems to start with the premise that we are nothing but a long, hollow tube beginning at the mouth and ending where the sun don’t shine.  Some presume, it seems, that keeping the tube squeaky clean at all times is the cure for every woe.  Juice fasts, enemas, and liver cleanses galore are prescribed for everything from acne to asthma.  Some of these treatments may have merit in certain situations, but I believe that total health depends upon more than an immaculate gut.

Something many people overlook in their quest for health is the fact that we are complex, finely tuned organisms, exquisitely sensitive to changes in our emotional and physical environment.  We have certain needs which are irreducible.  Physically, we need clean air, clean water, and adequate nutrition.  To be healthy mentally and emotionally, we need love, connection, and a feeling of safety.  These things are not negotiable, and any health advice that ignores these facts is likely to be harmful.

For example, the current juice fasting fad seems to be taking the world by storm.  Ask any confirmed health nut, including me unfortunately, if they’ve tried a juice fast and you’re likely to get a yes.  “If you’re clean inside, you’re green inside”, right? But the juice fast, or indeed any type of fast, ignores one basic truth: we need food.  I can already hear all the yes-buts. “Yes but, we are capable of going without food for a time, and fasting can be helpful, it’s even saved lives!”  I’m not an expert on fasting. Maybe there really are people who have turned their health around because of a fast.  What I have to go on is my own limited knowledge and experience, which tells me that fasting hurts.

Three years ago, I decided to try a juice fast.  Many of my friends were doing it.  I’d seen Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  I thought it might be the answer to some of my nagging health problems.  My goal was to sustain the fast for at least five days, knowing that, with my blood sugar issues, I probably wouldn’t be able to go much longer than that.  By day three I was miserable.  I felt scary-bad.  My blood sugar was a mess and my adrenals were shot.  I gave up and decided to eat, hoping that I would be able to regain some equilibrium within a few days, but that was not how it went down.  The fast was the beginning of a long downward slide.  It set off severe chemical and food sensitivities which I now believe were a result of the adrenal fatigue.

Because proteins DRIVE the detoxification process, cleanses based on juices, fruits or vegetables do not make a lot of sense.  – 17 Signs of Impaired Liver Detox

The “liver flush”  or “liver cleanse” is another very popular treatment intended to purge the body of toxins.  Again, I’m sure many people have benefitted from these treatments, but it should be recognized that a treatment this powerful can also be potentially harmful.  The liver cleanse requires at least a partial fast.  No protein or fat is to be taken for more than 24 hours.  After 2:00 PM the day of the cleanse, no food is to be eaten.  This type of fast is not extreme and seems reasonably safe for most people.  But for those with blood sugar issues or adrenal fatigue, it can be quite difficult, even harmful.  Some treatment protocols, including Hulda Clark’s, specify that an overdose of magnesium in the form of Epsom salts must be taken.  This, apparently has resulted in cases of hypermagnesemia.  The end result of the treatment is diarrhea, and for some, vomiting, which stresses the system and creates electrolyte imbalance.

My experience with the liver flush was extremely unpleasant, even traumatic.  I think I would have been fine with the diarrhea and vomiting, that passed pretty quickly.  But I did experience hypermagnesemia, which was really scary.  As there are very good alternatives to the liver flush, I would not ever do this to myself again.

I’ve noticed that, in addition to seeming rather extreme, many popular natural treatments seem to completely overlook the mind/body connection.  There is mounting evidence that our thoughts have a direct bearing on our physical and emotional health.  That may mean, among other things, that it’s not just the carotenoids in the carrot that affect our health, but also our thoughts and feelings about carrots.  Sound far-fetched?  Take a look at this .

But the mind/body connection goes far beyond digestion. If your thoughts can affect your gut, you can bet that they affect every other part of you as well.  Epigenetics Shatters the “Central Dogma”

So maybe it’s time to rethink this puritanical urge of ours to purge our bodies of impurities.  Maybe it’s not what we can squeeze out of our bodies that matters as much as what we put into them.  Maybe if we nourish ourselves, body and soul, the trash will take itself out.

Miracle

Photo by Kaipullai(கைப்புள்ள)

Photo by Kaipullai(கைப்புள்ள)

I need a miracle.

I will have to jump into the deep ocean

of uncertainty.

Will you be there to catch me?

Will you?

I will have to fall back, arms spread wide.

Will you be there to catch me?

Will you?

Soon I will jump, I will fall.

Please catch me.

Will you?

 

The Promise of Limbic Retraining

Photo by Majd Mohabek via Flickr creative commons

Photo by Majd Mohabek via Flickr creative commons

I knew it would be difficult for me to stay committed to using the Gupta Programme.  I focus intently on things and then drop them after a few weeks.  That’s just how I roll.  But it won’t do in this case.  Commitment is key, especially since this program shows promise of letting me out of my Canary cage.  (My MCS story: My Story and Behind the Mask )

The Gupta Programme was originally designed to help people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis(ME) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) to heal.  It was later adapted for use by people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).  Ashok Gupta, the creator of the program, based his exercises on the emerging science of neuroplasticity.  His hypothesis about the pathogenesis of MCS, ME and CFS, as I understand it, can be summed up this way:

The brain sometimes becomes hyper-aroused due to injury, stress, toxicants, or pathogens.  Instead of returning to a normal state of equilibrium after the initial stressor is gone,  the amygdala (the part of the brain that alerts us to danger) remains hyper-aroused and perpetuates a constant state of fight or flight.  This can cause a whole cascade of debilitating symptoms, as the body does not function well in that state.  During fight or flight, all the body’s resources are channeled into supplying the muscles with the energy to run away or fight.  The blood sugar goes up, heart rate goes up, the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are released in abundance, and the immune system is temporarily suppressed.  We weren’t meant to remain in this state for more than a few minutes.  But for some people, it can last for years.  Imagine the wear and tear that would cause.  This can result in the development of chronic illnesses such as ME/CFS, MCS, Fibromyalgia, and other poorly understood degenerative diseases.

Gupta has demonstrated that these disorders can be healed or at least ameliorated significantly by using brain retraining exercises to pull the body out of the fight or flight state.   For some, the results have been nothing short of spectacular.

Success stories using the Gupta Programme:

Julie Genser:

Leaving MCSville Using Real Life to Retrain my Brain

Linda Worthington:

You Are Never Too Old

There are other brain retraining techniques that are being used to heal degenerative illnesses.  Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing technique (EMDR) are a few of the methods often used.

More success stories using brain retraining techniques:

T-Can: My MCS Recovery

Kath:

Getting my Life Back Using EFT

Libby:

Celebrating MCS Improvements

I’m already seeing improvement from my use of the Gupta Programme.  A few weeks ago, I attended my first party in two years.  I began to react, but I was able to stop it before it got out of control and I spent a very pleasant afternoon in absolute awe at my ability to tolerate the chemical smells of a large crowd.  I was also recently able to attend a large religious conference, an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Again, I was almost in tears at my newfound ability to walk nearly unscathed amidst a crowd of very fragrant people.  The feeling of freedom was intoxicating.  So intoxicating that I’ve pushed my boundaries a bit too far now.

I’ve had setbacks.  This, I believe, is because I’ve become a little lazy about practicing my retraining exercises.  It’s also because although I’ve only been using the program for a few weeks, I’m expecting instant results.  I get discouraged and upset at signs that I’m not completely well.  That’s ridiculous, I know.  It takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time.  So here I am writing about it on my very public blog so that maybe I’ll feel motivated to stay in the saddle and keep working.

 

 

 

Healing Tools

 

By Joel Montez de Oca via Flickr Creative Commons

By Joel Montez de Oca via Flickr Creative Commons

When you’re sick, it feels like you’ll never be well again, and when you’re well, it feels like you’ll never be sick again.  When I started writing this piece, I was well.  So unfamiliarly well that it felt like I was living someone else’s life.  But I’ve learned that these windows of normalcy usually end.  That’s what’s so maddening about healing – the up and down nature of it.  The hopeful thing is this: the general trajectory is up.  Setbacks are fewer and farther between.  They are also less severe.  But when I do have one, I dip into my healing toolkit, which I would like to share with you now.

Please remember that although I’ve found these practices helpful, they may not be for everyone.  We are individuals with individual needs.  Also, this does not in any way constitute medical advice.  If you are worried about symptoms, please see your doctor.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is difficult to explain.  Every time I try, I feel that I fail.  But there is one thing I know: it works.  It’s probably the most powerful healing modality I’ve ever used, and I’ve experienced many.

Although no one knows precisely how homeopathic medicines initiate the healing process, we have more than 200 years of evidence from hundreds of thousands of clinicians and tens of millions of patients that these medicines have powerful effects. One cannot help but anticipate the veritable treasure trove of knowledge that further research in homeopathy and nanopharmacology will bring.  – Dana Ullman How Homeopathic Medicines Work: Nanopharmacology at its Best, Huffington Post

There are many philosophies of homeopathic practice.  Some practitioners advocate the use of combinations of low potency remedies.  Most people won’t seem to come to any harm from this practice, but it’s not very effective and in some cases can bring on new symptoms. I believe that the deepest healing to be had from homeopathy can only be achieved by practicing it according classical principles.  For most people, that would require a visit to a classical homeopath to get a prescription for a high potency constitutional remedy.  But since I’ve been using and learning about homeopathy since I was a teen, I’ve been able to treat myself with my own constitutional remedy, Phosphorus.  I want to emphasize, however, that most people must see an experienced homeopath, as classical homeopathy is a very, very difficult discipline to learn and although it’s use can result in profound healing, misuse can cause serious harm.

For almost a year, I have taken one dose of Phosphorus in the LM potencies once a month.  Each time I take a dose, it feels as if I’ve just been turned right-side-up.  I go from feeling tired and negative and overly emotional to feeling happy and balanced.  My sleep improves dramatically, my pain is reduced, and my chemical and food sensitivities are much less bothersome.  I believe that Phosphorus may be the reason I was able to taper off of my sleeping medication without going through long periods of insomnia or succumbing to severe anxiety and depression.

Paleo Diet, Or Close to It

I didn’t find the Paleo diet, it found me.  I certainly didn’t read any book on why we should eat like cavemen.  I simply discovered by trial and error that the only foods that my body could handle were meats, fruits and vegetables, and some nuts.  When I eat this way, I have no indigestion, less depression, less anxiety and more energy.

As well as not harming your gut, a Paleo diet also provides the micronutrients that a healthy, digestive system can absorb and use to support proper brain function. One of the most important of these is cholesterol. Cholesterol is a vitally important nutrient for humans because of the way our brains work. Humans only have a limited number of brain cells. We’re born with a finite number, and they begin to die immediately. Unlike muscle cells, we can’t make more of them. We can, however, maintain our cognitive abilities by making connections between the remaining brain cells. Cholesterol is the key to this process.  – Your Brain on Paleo

Magnesium

I take very few supplements. Two actually.  Magnesium is one of them.   Magnesium is rapidly depleted from the body during periods of high stress, which means that medication withdrawal can cause magnesium deficiency.  The beneficial effects of magnesium became very obvious to me during the illness caused by my cold turkey withdrawal from Xanax in 2008.  I remember how a big dose of magnesium would take me from feeling like I was about to die to feeling like I had a bit of energy.

In her article Magnificent Magnesium Katherine Czapp said,

Every single cell in the human body demands adequate magnesium to function, or it will perish. Strong bones and teeth, balanced hormones, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, well-functioning detoxification pathways and much more depend upon cellular magnesium sufficiency. Soft tissue containing the highest concentrations of magnesium in the body include the brain and the heart—two organs that produce a large amount of electrical activity, and which can be especially vulnerable to magnesium insufficiency.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another nutrient that is rapidly depleted during periods of stress.   It is necessary for proper immune system function and acts as an anti-inflammatory.  It would be difficult to near impossible to get enough vitamin C to replace what is lost from the stress of medication withdrawal, and for that reason and because I suffer from arthritis, it is the only other vitamin supplement that I take daily.

In Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient (Twentieth Anniversary Edition) , Norman Cousins explained how laughter and intravenous vitamin C therapy reversed a horrific arthritic disease.  I will never forget his story and I will always make sure I get my vitamin C and plenty of belly laughs.

Bentonite Clay

I began experimenting with Bentonite clay a couple of years ago when I was dealing with severe and painful tooth decay.  I knew I would need dental work, but in the interval of time between my discovery of the decay and my dental appointment, I began to use the clay on my teeth to help with the pain and hopefully prevent the infection from burrowing any deeper.  Since then, I have found clay to be an almost miraculous remedy for many health problems including indigestion, anxiety, exhaustion, and pain.

Every night I drink between four and six ounces of hydrated clay.  This promotes deep relaxation so that I sleep better.  I also use clay packs externally to deal with the pain of arthritis and TMJ.  It’s better than any anti-inflammatory pill.

The author of The Body Mind blog has this to say about the mental health benefits of clay:

 Now when I start experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic, I mix up a big glass of bentonite clay and I drink it.  And it works to relieve my symptoms, fairly quickly.

The author’s explanation for this effect was that the overgrowth of the wrong kinds of micro-organisms in the gut can lead to anxiety and depression:

The co-occurance of IBS, CFS and mental health conditions like anxiety, may all be linked to a common foe; bacterial overgrowth and damage to the gut lining.  One way in which overgrown bacteria like streptococcus deliver their effects is through fermentation.  Our gut is quite literally an extension of our central nervous system (brain), and we refer to this as the enteric nervous system.

The enteric nervous system communicates with (and in the same way as) the rest of the nervous system; through the action of chemical messengers.  In the gut, bacteria both produce chemical messengers and act as messengers through the process of fermentation.  Bacteria like streptococcus ferment sugars and produce byproducts like D-lactic acid and Hydrogen sulphide (H2S), substances which are responsible for producing some of the bodily symptoms seen in panic disorders and CFS.

I would like to add my own insight as to why clay helps anxiety.  Not only does it absorb toxins when ingested, but it also has an alkalizing effect on the body as a whole, which seems to produce relaxation.

Oil Pulling

One of the icky things about medication withdrawal is that it suppresses the immune system, which can give rise to all sorts of nasty infections.  The mouth seems to be one of the most vulnerable areas of the body to bacterial and fungal overgrowth.  During the early part of my medication taper, I noticed that I had developed a bad case of oral thrush.  For months I tried treating it with a diluted hydrogen peroxide mouthwash and very low sugar diet.  It helped.  But when I found out about the benefits of oil pulling, I decided to give that a shot instead of the peroxide, which was very irritating to my sensitive mouth.

Oil pulling is the practice of using vegetable oil, usually sesame or coconut, as a mouthwash.  The oil is held in the mouth and swished around for about 20 minutes.  It sounds ridiculously simple, and I guess it is in a way.  But I’ve noticed profound benefits from doing it.

In the first days after I began oil pulling, I noticed some detox effects such as nausea and increased inflammation.  But as I continued, I began to feel better.  My mouth felt cleaner and healthier, the swelling and pain in the region of my liver seemed to calm down, and I felt brighter and more alert mentally.  I now notice that if I skip a day of oil pulling, pain in my jaw and teeth will flare up.

Oil Pulling – The Habit That Can Transform Your Health

Affirmations

Thoughts create emotions.  They have great power to either heal us or destroy us.  If you don’t believe it, do a little experiment.  The next time you fall into a really foul mood, try to remember what you had been thinking about.  Was it happy and positive?  Or was it pessimistic, angry, or fearful?  I know what the answer will be.

I know that medication withdrawal, toxic exposures, and food intolerances can cause low mood as well, but why add to our distress with negative thinking?

I began to feel much better during my taper after I began using healing affirmations.  Baylissa Johns’ book Recovery & Renewal: Your Essential Guide to Overcoming Dependency and Withdrawal from Sleeping Pills, Other ‘Benzo’ Tranquillisers and Ant was the source for the two main affirmations that I used.  Every night, I would say this: “Every day and in every way, I am getting better and better.”  When I felt really bad, I would keep reminding myself that “this too shall pass.”  When I felt fearful about my health problems, I would say “I am safe and I am healing.”  That last one is an affirmation of my own creation, and it seemed very powerful to me.

I said these affirmations over and over.  Sometimes I would use them as a way to drown out all the crazy negative thoughts that seemed to assault me as soon as I would lay my head on the pillow.

Sometimes, listening to Bliss’ voice reassuring me that I could heal and hearing her say her calming affirmations was the only thing that would help me.  I would look for her videos on YouTube and play them over and over to soothe my frayed nerves.  Here is one that I used:

Neuro-linguistic Reprogramming

The most recent addition to my healing tool chest are the neuro-linguistic reprogramming exercises  taught by Ashok Gupta.  The exercises were originally devised to help people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  They were later adapted to help people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.  I’ve found them to be very powerful.  I was isolated for a very long time due to my chemical sensitivities.  I have recently been able to attend parties, visit friends, and attend a conference, and I believe it’s because of the exercises that I’ve been using.

The Gupta Programme (I am not an affiliate, just a satisfied user of the program)

Deep Breathing

When we are anxious and tense, our breathing pattern becomes rapid and shallow.  Learning to consciously slow and deepen the breath is a powerful way to calm the mind and body.  Alternate nostril breathing is one method that I have found to be particularly helpful.

Stretching

I have a stretching routine that I do every single night.  I noticed the relaxing and sleep promoting benefits of doing this as soon as I began.  I also noticed that when I became complacent and stopped doing it, I began to suffer more sleep problems.  Once I realized how much it had been helping me, I never stopped again.

Walking in Nature

I could have just titled this section exercise, but I thought better of it.  All types of exercise are, indeed, beneficial for recovery from chronic illness.  But walking in nature provides benefits that cannot be found in the gym.  In addition to getting the much-needed exercise that tones and strengthens the body, and optimizes the synthesis of beneficial brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, walking in nature provides all the proven benefits of time spent in a natural setting.  The warm and healthful rays of the sun, the fresh breezes, the kaleidoscope of color and sound and smell all contribute to creating a very calming and rejuvenating experience.

The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age

Grounding

We need regular physical contact with the bare earth.  I’ve known for a long time that I feel better after a lounge in the grass.  It seems there is now some science to back up what I’ve known all along.  I’m very excited about this now, as I’ve just discovered some of the research being done in this area.

Dr. Joseph Mercola on grounding:

There is an emerging science documenting how conductive contact with the Earth, which is also known as Earthing or grounding, is highly beneficial to your health and completely safe. Earthing appears to minimize the consequences of exposure to potentially disruptive fields like “electromagnetic pollution” or “dirty electricity.”

- The Ultimate Antioxidant: Fight Premature Aging For Free

It’s now possible to buy a mat or sheet that is specially wired to provide the benefits of grounding.  People who use these products are reporting that they experience much deeper sleep, less pain, and much more.  Science has a long way to go to catch up to what people are discovering for themselves, but I’m not willing to wait for it.  I hope to very soon have my own grounding sheet or mat.

Journaling

Over the last two years, I have filled almost 6 journals with my scribbles, two of them very thick notebooks.  Writing is life.  I need it.  It’s my way of making sense of all the swirling thoughts and emotions that bombard my hyperactive brain.  I find that after I write a page or five about what’s on my mind, I calm down.  I begin to think more rationally.  I feel more positive.

I believe that journaling has been so beneficial to me because I’ve disciplined myself to write about the things I’m grateful for.  Don’t get me wrong, I write all the trash too.  I boo hoo or rage for a while into my notebook.  Then I look at it differently.  I ask myself if it’s really so bad.  I remember all the things I enjoyed during the day, all the necessities and all the niceties, all the loving words and little kindnesses.  I write about them, and I feel grateful.  Writing in this way can often turn a foul mood right on its head.

Counting Your Blessings: How Gratitude Improves Your Health

How Writing Heals Wounds of Both the Mind and Body

Spirituality and Prayer

Often I’m simply overwhelmed.  Even though I’ve made great progress and I’ve found wonderful ways to promote healing, there are days when I’m just done.  I don’t feel that I can take anymore.  Those are the days when communion with my Creator is especially necessary.  Prayer is the single most powerful thing that I do, and I’m very grateful for it.  Reading scripture is vital as well, as it makes me feel that when I speak to God, he speaks back.  Power of Prayer

 

This is not an exhaustive list.  I know there are many things that I’m leaving out.  I’m also sure that I will learn of other ways to feel better in the future.  Those will be for a future post.  But for now, my hope is that some may find this helpful in their own healing journeys.

 

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  This post contains affiliate links to products that I’ve found to be helpful to me.

 

 

 

 

 

I Can See Clearly Now

003

I see now that this place is beautiful.  After 18 years, I see.

I was so homesick when I moved here as a young bride.  I wanted my mom.  I wanted pine trees and yellow bells and buttercups.  I wanted lakes to swim in and hills to sled down.  I just wanted to go home.

The more trapped I felt, the uglier this place became.  Ugly and mean.  Smelly and dirty.  Poisonous.  My ruin.  My hatred magnified every crime, bad smell, or dusty wind a thousand-fold.  I loathed this place.  How many times did I say it?

This place was not my ruin.  My hatred for it was. Those dark ugly feelings about my home. The ground I walk on. The earth that feeds me.  I hated that which nourished my body and could have nourished my soul.  I hated it so much that my wish to leave became a desperation, a frenzy.  And when there were no jobs and the sale of our house fell through, when staying became the only option, I disintegrated.  I fell completely apart at the seams.  My grief for my old dream of that other home was profound.  Eighteen years of striving towards my jail break had come to nothing.

That’s what it took to bust the tough outer coating of my heart-seed so that it could put tender root tendrils down into this soil.  I knew only love could save me.  The hatred finally melted and a veil was lifted.  Finally, I could see:

The lilacs and apple blossoms are heavenly.  The water on the canal sparkles, jewel-like in the sun.  The mallards and the rabbits, the robins and the meadowlarks are enchanting. The smell of sage on a rainy day, how the light and shadows play on the distant hills, the smell of river trees in the summer, and the distant snowy peaks make this place beautiful.

None of God’s creation deserves to be hated.  I may hate what man does to it, but I cannot hate the ground, the grass, the birds, the water.  All nature is capable of healing, and there is beauty everywhere for those with eyes to see and a heart to understand.