Why do I have ME and multiple chemical sensitivity? What can I do about it?

Margaret Moss has some explanations – and suggestions.

Imagine a vast industrial estate, with many factories, each making a wide variety of chemicals from an assortment of raw materials, each with its own power station.

Raw materials are brought into the estate and transported around it. Messages arrive via telephone, email and the post. Refuse is piped out and collected by lorry. Some has to be processed on site, to make it fit for transportation. The factories need constant maintenance, to keep them working efficiently. Without raw materials, power, transport, maintenance and refuse disposal the estate will fall apart. All these raw materials need to be stored. The equipment needs to be well designed. Security staff and equipment are also needed.

The human ‘estate’
Think about the human body. It has a large number of cells that manufacture chemicals from a variety of inputs. These cells contain mitochondria, which generate power. Hormones are chemical messengers, and there is also an electromagnetic messaging system. The liver processes chemical waste before it is removed in urine. Sleep is the most important time for body maintenance. The blood and lymph provide transport.

It is not enough to provide calories. The body needs enough but not too much of all the vitamins, essential mineral and non-mineral elements, essential fatty acids, and protein. If only one of these nutrients is lacking, various processes go wrong. We need vitamins A, C, D, and K. Then there are the B vitamins: Bs 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 12, folic acid and biotin. There are eight sorts of vitamin E.

The minerals we need are calcium, carbon, chlorine, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulphur, and zinc.
There are two sorts of essential fatty acids, omega three from fish and flax and omega six from nuts and seeds. We need both, and we need them in a healthy ratio. Too much omega six leads to inflammation. Hydrogenated fats are harmful.

We need to have enough protein to break them down into constituent chemicals, called amino acids, to build into other proteins that we need for muscles, enzymes and hormones.

The immune system
The immune system provides protection against bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites and cancer. It needs energy to fight them.
Grief, bad relationships, operations, accidents, overwork and overexercise use up nutrients. Sweating leads to loss of minerals. The liver needs nutrients for processing toxins from food, food additives, pesticides, moulds, industrial pollution, water, preservatives in vaccines, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, illegal and legal recreational drugs, cosmetics, occupational exposures, household chemicals, gas and traffic fumes, and even herbs.

Mothers offload mercury into their babies, and more is absorbed from amalgam fillings, tuna and vaccines. The body has to cope with soaring chemical production and exposure to radiation from X rays, nuclear accidents and weapon tests. Cathode ray tubes in televisions, fluorescent lights and computers; microwave ovens; mobile phone transmitters; police communication equipment; transmitters used with deaf children; transmitters implanted in deaf people’s ears; radio conference microphones; overhead power lines; wireless internet access; cordless and mobile phones bombard us with harmful non-ionising radiation. Some people react badly to geopathic stress. They sleep in harmful places, and moving to another corner of the bedroom can often help.

Genetic inheritance
Genes act as blueprints for making proteins. Those born with genes that are useless die young. However, many people have defective genes that produce proteins that work inefficiently. This leads to chronic illness. Some of us are more susceptible to allergies because of our genes, or because we were not introduced to traces of foods via breast milk, so we could to learn to tolerate them.

Nutritional balance
The quantities of nutrients and the ratios between them need to be healthy. For example, too much sodium and too little potassium leads to high blood pressure. Too much calcium and too little magnesium leads to osteoporosis and deposits of calcium in arteries and heart valves. Too much phosphorus, from cola drinks, leads to osteoporosis. Too much vitamin A leads to liver damage, and chemical sensitivity. Those who convert beta-carotene too avidly to vitamin A may also have a problem. Selenium is essential, but toxic in excess.

ME and overload
ME, which involves profound fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine, depression, extreme sensitivity to foods, chemicals and electromagnetic pollution, is one of the diseases that can occur when demands on the body outweigh the intake of nutrients. It can be set off by infection, pollution, grief, accidents, operations, inadequate diet, overwork, or too much exercise; the question is what to do about it.

The first thing is to reduce the load on the body. Throw away the additive-laden food. Change to a fixed telephone. Use old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs. Use safe household chemicals, like sodium bicarbonate and washing soda. Ventilate the house from the back, to avoid traffic fumes. Sleep enough. Drink filtered water and eat organic food. Avoid sugar, which provides calories without nutrients, and feeds undesirable gut microbes. Vegetables are healthier than fruits, as they are usually less sweet. ‘Far’ infra red saunas can help remove toxins from the body.

Mitochondria need many substances to convert food to energy. These include the B vitamin biotin, calcium, coenzyme Q10, copper, glutathione, iron, the amino acid L-lysine, the antioxidant lipoic acid, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, oxygen, sulphur and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and C.

It is difficult for healthy people to obtain enough of each of these nutrients from food. Once we are ill we need more, and cannot expect food to provide it. Don’t believe that all you need is activated vitamin B3 (NADH), or coenzyme Q10. Nutrition is a team process. Just as a sports team cannot rely on one player, we cannot rely on one nutrient alone.

One of the most important body processes is the addition of sulphate to chemicals. This detoxifies harmful chemicals including many drugs and prevents the gut wall becoming leaky. We need sulphate to make digestive enzymes and remove chemical messengers in the nervous system, once they have delivered their messages.

Birmingham University carried out laboratory work on some of my patients. Cysteine is converted to sulphate. If the cysteine level is too high and the sulphate level is too low, we are not converting enough, and we have a high ratio of cysteine to sulphate. The average ratio for normal people is about 100. In those with migraine, depression,
irritable bowel syndrome, ME, arthritis and fibromyalgia, and food and chemical sensitivity it was between 1000 and 2000. That is grossly abnormal. If we do not make enough sulphate, we can obtain it through the skin by putting a cupful of Epsom salts in the bath. Omega three fats from fish and flax, vitamins B2 and B5, and the mineral molybdenum increase our production of sulphate.

Boron increases excretion of vitamin B2. Too much boron, in tomatoes, peppers, chilli, peanuts, hazelnuts, soya, apples and peaches reduces our vitamin B2 levels, reducing our ability to make energy, sulphate and an important antioxidant called glutathione peroxidase.
Spinach, radish and orange reduce our ability to use sulphate. Red meats, mackerel, herring, sardines and pilchards make extra demands on molybdenum, and are better minimised; poultry, rabbit and pork are easier to tolerate. Tuna, shark, swordfish and marlin are best avoided as they are the most likely fish to be contaminated. Eat wild or organic salmon, trout and white fish or take a clean fish oil supplement, not from the liver of the fish, for omega three fats. Alcohol gives the liver extra work to do – not advisable for anyone with ME.

Lectins are chemicals concentrated in the bran layer of seeds. They bind to their specific chosen sugar, wherever they find it in the body. This can cause diarrhoea and fibromyalgia. Although refined grains and red lentils have less fibre, they are easier to tolerate than whole grains and pulses.

Some people say that we ought not to need nutritional supplements. This was probably so in the Garden of Eden, but we now live in a highly polluted country, and our bodies have to deal with conditions for which they were not designed. Moreover, many people with a poor genetic inheritance, who might not have survived past infancy in the past, now make it to adulthood.

Choosing nutritional supplements is complicated, as the choice needs to be right for the particular individual, and it is important to avoid harmful additives like carrageenan, sunset yellow and boron. Recovering from ME requires avoidance of harmful chemicals and radiation, feeding the body with all the nutrients that are deficient, determination, and support from health professionals, friends and family.

Margaret Moss – Nutrition and Allergy Clinic – 0161 432 0964


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First Published in 2008

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