Chemical sensitivities are common in M.E. and Multiple Sclerosis, and many other diseases. This is due to reduced cellular energy and liver function and other factors. Symptoms provoked by chemical sensitivities can range from mild to very severe. Modifying your environment and changing the types of products you buy is essential if you have M.E., or any other disease causing chemical sensitivities or poor liver function.
It also makes sense to minimise toxic exposures if you have any illness, whetrher you notice chemcial sensitivity problems or not, or wish to avoid becoming ill.
Chemical sensitivities may occur to indoor and outdoor chemical air contaminants. This can produce allergic reactions, although not all chemical sensitivities are IgE mediated. Airborne allergens and toxins can include: pollen, dust, animal dander, petrol/gasoline, paints and varnishes, mould, smoke, cigarette smoke, plastic and glue-out gassing, perfumes and other personal care products and cleaning products.
Avoid paraffin candles as these release toxic fumes as they burn. Alternatives are beeswax and soy candles and both are widely available (try eBay for candle making kits or packets of readymade candles). Avoid being around smokers, and if you smoke, quit.
Avoidance of the contaminants that make you ill is the first and most important step. Air filters may also be useful or necessary. Filter types include HEPA filters and charcoal filters. Filters are most often used in the home, but in-car portable models are also available.
Household or furniture contaminants
Personal care products
Every personal care product; every shampoo, deodorant, hair dye, moisturiser, cleanser and toothpaste we use is absorbed through the skin and so are all the products we use to clean our dishes and cutlery and to clean our clothes and sheets. Even if there is no immediate effect on you, these products are best avoided for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they are often carcinogenic.
It may feel very overwhelming at first having to change many different products that you commonly use, but you’ll probably soon find a few brands and products that you feel comfortable sticking to.
Deodorant: Products containing aluminium or perfumes or other toxic ingredients should be avoided. Deodorants are available which are made with plant-based ingredients and essential oils, or salts. These are a good choice, but some experts recommend that, if possible, a person undergoing any type of detoxification program should avoid deodorant entirely.
Anything applied to the skin has to be processed by the liver, and so reducing the work the liver has to do just makes sense when you are trying to heal. It also makes sense not to stop sweating, as this is a way that the body can get toxins out of the body.
Soap: Avoid products containing sodium laureth sulphate (SLS), or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), perfumes or parabens and other nasties. Many different products are available which are made with plant-based ingredients and come with or without essential oils. These are a better choice, but the best choice is probably unscented liquid castile soap.
Antibacterial hand washes often contain toxic ingredients and should be avoided.
Remember that there is no need to soap up your whole body each day. This strips the skin of its natural oils and can lead to skin problems including acne and rashes. Most days, using a small amount of soap and water on your face, underarms and groin is enough.
Shampoo: As above. Many different products are available which are made with plant-based ingredients and come with or without essential oils. The products which are unscented are the best choice here.
Toothpaste: Avoid all toothpastes containing fluoride, this is very important. It is important to avoid fluoride in water as well, but a day’s worth of toothpaste contains far more of this ingredient than a day’s worth of fluoridated water. For more information on healthy dentistry check out the page on nutrition and dental health listed on the site's homepage.
Moisturiser: Many different products are available which are made with plant-based ingredients and come with or without essential oils. The products which are unscented are the better choice here. The best choices are pure organic coconut or olive oil, or shea butter or similar.
It is probably more important to ‘get it right’ with products such as moisturisers and deodorants that are applied to the skin and not washed off right away, than with cleansers and other products which only touch the skin for a short period of time.
Most if not all hair dyes should be avoided. Avoid chemical hair-removal products, fake-nails, nailpolish, fake-tan products and all make-up which contains synthetic fragrances and other harmful ingredients. Avoid all products made using petroleum by-products, such as Vaseline.
If you have a few essential oil-based products that you really love, perhaps you might consider only using them very occasionally, or applying them to your clothing away from your nose so that others can smell them, but you cannot.
Women’s personal care products
Standard tampons are bleached and are usually recommended to be strictly avoided by those with chemical sensitivities. Tampons often contain dioxins, phthalates and pesticides. Non-toxic tampons are essential as the membranes of your reproductive tract are highly absorbent, much more so than your skin.
Pads that are strongly scented should also be avoided where possible. Reusable washable pads are also available and may be suitable for some patients.
Chemical free pads and 100% organic cotton non-bleached cotton tampons are a much safer choice. If you can afford only chemical free pads or tampons, choose tampons.
A newish product called a ‘mooncup’ is also a less toxic alternative, although it does require a bit of extra work and effort to manage which may not be possible for all patients.
The standard types of toxic cleaning products should be avoided. Instead buy some of the safer, plant-based non-toxic alternatives which are now widely available, reasonably priced and just as effective as more traditional toxic products. They are often far better quality products, much nicer to use, and smell better too.
Avoid anything that makes you feel ill when you smell it and remember that you’ll be eating small amounts of whatever product you choose to clean your dishes with! You’ll also absorb the products used to clean your shower and bath, through your skin.
For this reason you may choose to make some of your own cleaning products using vinegar and bi-carb soda and so on. There are many books and webpages which will tell you how. Textured cleaning gloves designed to be used just with water may also be a good choice.
Clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton or silk is recommended. New clothes should be washed in vinegar or bi-carb soda (or washed normally) before being worn for the first time.
Art, craft and hobby supplies
Oil paints are made by combining crushed rocks or bone etc. with pure seed oils, and so are not toxic to smell. The problem arises when traditional varnishes or turpentine is used. Use plain mediums such as linseed oil and use odourless turps as a solvent, making sure to only use it at the end of a painting session to briefly clean your brushes.
Acrylic paints can give off toxic fumes. If a safer type of paint can’t be found, a different medium may be a good idea.
Avoid toxic glues and paints involved with all hobbies. Wear gloves and a mask when handling mulches and manure while gardening, and try to find safer alternatives to some of the more toxic garden supplies such as pesticides.
Pesticides and herbicides etc.
Pesticides should never be used in the home. Do not use fly spray. If there are problems with ants or other insects outside of the home, various safer alternatives are available. This information is available online.
Do not wear insect repellents containing chemicals such as DEET, or similar. Avoid going outside when insects are rampant, or use alternatives made with various essential oils.
Always sit on a rug or towel on the grass, to avoid contact with pesticides used on the grass. If you regularly spend time on the grass somewhere you may want to enquire about when pesticides were used so that you can avoid being near the grass around those times.
Avoid carbamates, organophosphates, organochloride and dioxins. Pyrethroids are not a safe form of pesticide.
Some patients say they are very sensitive to EMF radiation, while others don’t seem to notice any problems.
There is some evidence (although it is not yet conclusive) that high levels of this type of radiation can contribute to neurodegeneration in some diseases and also potentially increase cancer risk. You can read more about EMF in this article on stopping neurodegeneration.
If you feel EMF radiation may be a significant problem for you, you might want to purchase a machine that measures EMF (or ELF) radiation, so that you can be aware of and limit your exposure. You may also want to do some reading about “earthing; or ‘grounding’ yourself as a way to minimise the harm of EMF radiation.
As a general rule; keep at least an arms length away from major electrical appliances such as ovens and televisions and half an arms length away from smaller appliances such as alarm clocks and lights – for as much of the day as is possible. The good news is that it is fairly easy to greatly reduce your exposure with just a few changes to how you arrange and interact with your appliances.
Drugs and medications
It is important to take only those drugs which are strictly necessary. As Dr Ray Strand explains, 'All medications cause increased oxidative stress. They are a foreign substance the body has to work harder to metabolise and eliminate. This puts increased demand on many of the metabolic pathways in the liver and the body as a whole'
It is very important to discuss all changes to medications with the doctor that prescribed them for you. Do NOT just sudden stop taking any medication, as this may be dangerous for you.
Many drugs can be replaced with herbs or nutrients which have a similar action, but which do not place as much stress on the body. The artificial colourings, fillers and tablet coatings used on many prescriptions drugs can also cause problems.
Vaccines may contain contaminants such as mercury. Bromide and fluoride are often used in many drugs.
Food and drink
The usual questions asked are:
Answering these questions may give some clues about which chemicals you need to avoid, but may be useless for M.E. patients that are made sicker by going outside or travelling whether chemical exposures occur or not. The picture is also complicated in M.E. as opposed to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder, as patients with M.E. are made ill by many other things than chemicals and the severity of the disease changes from one hour, day or week to the next.
If possible, you may benefit from having your house analysed by experts in this field. Doris Rapp recommends living on the outskirts of a city, in a house at least 15 – 20 years old.
You may also have to find out when and where chemical sprays are used in your workplace or at your school or university.
Some patients choose to make only a minor effort to clean up their environment, some patients are extremely dedicated about toxin avoidance, and many sit somewhere between these two extremes.
Stopping making changes just at the point that you no longer experience symptoms on exposure to the products you use is the first step. But going beyond this level is recommended too, because doing so:
The liver is the second-largest organ in the body and one of the most important. It has been likened to the body’s equivalent of the engine in a car. The liver plays a vital role in regulating fat and balancing hormones, digestion and circulation. The main job of the liver is to get rid of foreign substances. Dr Sherry Rogers explains that when it comes to avoiding toxic chemicals in order to reduce the load on the liver and promote deep healing, every little bit helps. Chemicals act synergistically with each other. This means that 1 plus 1 doesn’t equal 2 but sometimes 10 or more.
Nutrients such as vitamin C can greatly reduce symptoms provoked by chemical exposures (at a dose of 10 - 30 grams daily or more), but avoidance of these toxic chemicals is of primary importance. Prevention is always better than cure.
Remember that not every toxic item is listed in this paper, and that if you can smell a noxious chemical then it is in your bloodstream.
Remember too that it takes time to work through all the items on this list. Research has to be done, products have to be found and tested and so on. Nobody is expected to read this paper and be doing everything perfectly within a few weeks or months. (Although I’ve made huge changes to many of the products I use over the last 15 years, I’d give myself a ‘could do better’ rating for many of the categories listed here. Just writing this paper has made me aware of several things I need to change that I was not aware of before.)
Having the information on this topic is empowering and helps you make the best choices you can, and do the best you can with toxin avoidance. A 'perfection or nothing' attitude isn't helpful.
There are a lot of products out there that are the same old harmful chemical containing products but which have merely added ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ or ‘nature’ or ‘pure’ or 'organic' to their names, or added a small amount of bicarb soda or synthetic or natural essential oils to the original product.
You need to learn how to tell these types of fake products from the real thing. You might start by looking at quality brands such as Weleda, Aubrey Organics, Now Foods, Avalon Organics and others. In Australia brands such as Sukin, Natural Instinct, Tinderbox, Biologika, Miessence, A’kin and Alchemy are recommended. In the Netherlands you might look for brands such as Simple, No Perfume, Flussig, Mineral Deo from MM Cosmetic and others.
If all this is seeming depressing or overwhelming, the great news is that you can greatly reduce your toxic load at home through the use of an FIR sauna, and by taking supportive supplements such as vitamin C and liposomal glutathione - and there are also many other things you can do. Check out the other page links for more information.
Avoid or minimise microwave cooking
Recent research shows that microwave oven-cooked food suffers severe molecular damage. When eaten, it causes abnormal changes in human blood and immune systems.
The January 1996 edition of the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients explained,
Cooking in a microwave oven is not safe. Atoms, molecules and cells are hit by the hard electromagnetic irradiation of microwaving reverse polarity over one billion times a second. Even in the low energy range of milli-watts, no atom, molecule or cell of any organic system can withstand such destructive power.
Molecules are forcefully deformed, their quality impaired. The electrical potentials between the outer and inner side of the cell membranes – the very life of the cells – are neutralised. Natural repair mechanisms are suppressed; and cells, forced to adapt to a state of emergency, switch from normal aerobic to anaerobic (without oxygen) respiration. Instead of water and carbon dioxide, this fermentation produces hydrogen peroxide and carbon monoxide. The newly formed radiolytic compounds are unknown to man and nature; the impaired cells become easy prey for viruses, fungi, and other micro-organisms.
Microwaving destroys some nutrients and turns some amino acids into carcinogens. Established science and government claim all this doesn’t hurt people eating irradiated food; but neither scientists not governments ever tested their claims.
Dr Hans Hertel of Germany did the first and only, small but well controlled study of the effects of micro-waved nutrients on the blood and physiology of humans. The blood of those who consume micro-waved food for two months showed pathological changes compared to matched controls eating food cooked with heat. The changes included a decrease in all haemoglobin values and deterioration in cholesterol, especially the HDL and LDL (high and low density cholesterol) values and ratio. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) showed a more distinct short term decrease after the intake of micro-waved food than after normally cooked foods.
Moreover, warming breast milk in a microwave oven destroys 98% of its immunoglobulin – A antibodies and 96% of its liposome activity, reducing the milks resistance to infectious E.coli.
As of yet, it is true that no official government research has shown microwaved food to be harmful but as M.E. patients will already be aware, studies can VERY easily be constructed in such a way as to ensure that problems will not be found particularly where there is a vested financial interest in doing so and absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. So what this comes down to is personal choice about whether or not to use a microwave (or to even own a microwave) after reading some of the evidence detailing the problems they can cause and how much risk to your health is acceptable. Do some reading and make up your own mind.
Alternatives to microwaving food include steaming meat and vegetables in a bamboo steamer, immersing vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes to cook them, letting frozen meat and other foods defrost naturally, and of course, eating leftovers cold.
If you do use the microwave, even occasionally, make sure you always only microwave using microwave safe glass or ceramic dishes and never heat food in plastic containers or while it is covered in plastic wrap.
If you feel you have no choice but to microwave food due to illness, some experts argue that just keeping it for quickly reheating already cooked meats and vegetables, rather than cooking them from raw for long period of time will avoid some of the worst problems with microwave cooking, at least.
Choose the right cookware
Choose your cookware with care, if you can. Use only glass, stone, stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Make sure to season cast iron cookware with coconut oil before using them. Cast iron cookware coated with heavy duty enamel is also a good choice (try Ikea).
Avoid pans with non-stick or Teflon coatings as these can cause you to ingest some of those chemicals through gases released during cooking. Avoid aluminium cookware as it can neutralise digestive juices and cause you to ingest too much aluminium which can be problematic. For the same reasons, cooking in aluminium foil should also be avoided.
Avoid storing food in plastic containers or aluminium foil, and replace these with glass containers and wax paper. (Or a layer of wax paper touching the food, and then a layer of foil on top of that.)
Avoid using plastic or aluminium cooking utensils such as spoons and spatulas.
For information on some alternatives to stainless steel pots and pans, see the article Cookware, Non–Stainless Steel Alternatives.
It is important that very ill patients stay well hydrated and also that they avoid the ‘nasties’ such as heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals that are present in standard tap water.
A good water filter is essential!
Ill people should particularly be careful to avoid the chlorine and fluoride in water. Drinking chlorinated water kills the good bacteria in the gut and may also increase your cancer risk. Fluoride added to drinking water is also very detrimental to health.
Water filter options
Water filtration options include:
Which type of filter is best?
Opinions vary widely about which type is best so you need to do your own reading and make up your own mind. Working out which is best is very difficult and experts all seem to disagree and offer different and conflicting reasons for their particular preference.
Reverse osmosis filters and water distillers are generally regarded as the two choices for when you want a very pure water. High quality models usually come with a carbon filter as well.
Some claim that these types of water filter are dangerous and not suitable to be used for more than 6 months, if at all, because they ‘are so low in minerals that they leach minerals out of the body.’ However, these are just myths. The vast majority of our mineral intake comes from our diet, not from water. (For example, drinking two litres of slightly to very hard water a day will provide your body with about 14 - 200 mg of calcium. That translates to a maximum of about 1.2% to 17% of the daily recommended 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium.)
Making sure your dietary and supplemental regime contains the appropriate amount of each mineral is essential to good health, but this applies whether very pure water is used or not. That being said, raising your calcium and magnesium intake slightly (10% or so) to make up for the slight difference and using a liquid mineral product in your water such as 'Concentrace' probably couldn’t hurt and it is important to monitor your own body’s reaction to any change including drinking distilled or reverse osmosis water.
If serious problems are seen due to a sudden lack of intake of the very small amount of minerals in water, then the individual is likely to have been severely malnourished to begin with. Very cautious patients may be best advised not to use these types of water filters until they have started making sure they aren’t deficient in the major minerals.
There seems to be no convincing proof whatsoever that low-mineral water is unhealthy and there is at least some evidence that high-mineral water is unhealthy. As one book on the Gerson therapy explains, ‘The minerals in water are generally inorganic and are therefore poorly absorbed or downright harmful.’
Alkaline water machines by High Tech Health are recommended by Dr Sherry Rogers.
Carbon filters alone still leave lots of contaminants in the water but are absolutely better than nothing.
The filters must be changed as often as needed for any water purifier using filters to be effective.
If at all possible you want to make sure the chlorine, fluoride, VOCs, infective agents and any sediment and heavy metals are filtered out of your water. The addition of fluoride to water is based on terrible science. If you are unsure about the quality of your drinking water you may like to buy a water testing kit.
Water filters can be installed in the kitchen or can be set up to filter all of the water used in the house including that used for bathing. Where water for bathing is not filtered, products such as the Rainshower Dechlorination Crystal Bath Ball filter can be useful for reducing the chlorine in your bathwater, and models suitable for shower use are also available.
Again, saying which type of filter is best is very difficult and the advice from experts is very fuzzy and variable. At the moment what works for me is using a water distiller and adding unrefined sea salt and a few drops of 'Concentrace' liquid minerals to each glass, although I may look into good quality plastic-free spring water in the future. But you really do need to do your own reading and make up your own mind on this topic. At the very least a basic carbon filter is essential.
How should I store filtered water?
Store water in glass, ceramic or stainless steel bottles and use cups made out of these materials as well as much as possible. Avoid plastic cups and water bottles as these leach harmful chemicals into your water.
A short article on the main issues and facts on avoiding plastic contamination in food and drink is available here: Avoiding Plastic Toxins.
How much water should I drink each day?
Drinking around 2 - 3 litres of water daily is important.
Taking high dose vitamin C and many other supplements that aid in detoxification may raise your daily water requirements. When taking supplements 2 litres of filtered water a day is essential!
You CAN drink too much water, and this can be dangerous or even fatal; it is up to you to carefully work out how much water you need to function optimally. As a general rule, if your urine is deep yellow, orange or brown you need significantly more water. Urine should be straw coloured/pale yellow, some say even colourless. If your lips are dry and painful, this can also be a sign that you need more water.
Some doctors recommend that for optimum digestion of food, water (and cold water especially) should not be consumed for 10 minutes before, and 2 hours after meals. Following this recommendation would mean taking tablets that need to be taken with food 10 – 15 minutes before meals. (Taking tablets with food means taking them during a meal, or 15 minutes before or after a meal.)
There is disagreement over whether or not avoiding water consumption during and after meals makes any difference to digestion. If digestion problems are significant, this idea may be worth a try however. It can be very helpful.
Detoxify or Die by Sherry Rogers MD. (Click here to read a PDF extract from the book focusing on FIR saunas, in PDF format).
Pain Free in Six Weeks by Dr Sherry Rogers
Detoxification Through the Skin by Mark Sircus Ac., OMD
Sauna Therapy for Detoxification and Healing by Dr Laurence Wilson (book)
Whole Body Detoxification: Far-Infrared Sauna Use by Mary Laredo
Deep Healing Versus Symptom Removal and The Emergency Health Paradigm Versus Nutritional Balancing by Dr Lawrence Wilson.
Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call by Doris J. Rapp
Good Health in the 21st Century by Carole Hungerford
Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life by Cherie Calbom
MCS: A Survival Guide by Pamela Reed Gibson.
The Pollution Within from National Geographic
Is Your Family Toxic? by James Ferguson (Extracted from The Vitamin Murders: Who Killed Healthy Eating in Britain)
Everyday Exposures website
The Choice is Clear by Allen E. Banik
Water by Dr L. Wilson. (Note that Dr Wilson recommends spring water primarily and does not recommend the use of distilled water for more than 6 months. He also advises avoiding alkaline water machines and RO machines entirely.)
The Dangers of Dehydration by Natural News
Detoxify or Die by Sherry Rogers MD
Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call by Doris J. Rapp
The Fluoride Deception by Christopher Bryson, a review
Collection of articles on fluoride at Shirleys Wellness Cafe.com
Note that the aim of this site is to provide a starting point for health and healing research for ill people; especially very overwhelmed and disabled ill people. This site provides recommendations, summaries and reviews of books but is not meant to be a replacement for actually reading some of these wonderful health books if the reader is at all well enough to do so. (Plus getting individualised advice from a doctor that is also an orthomolecular medicine expert if possible). There is no substitute for reading as many of these books as you can. The HHH site can only really hint at their full brilliance. The amount of insight, scientific references, logic, intelligence, compassion and experience in the recommended books will most likely amaze you. HHH aims to encourage people to do their own reading and learning, and to always make up their own minds. All content copyright Jodi Bassett 2006 - 2014.