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Multiple Chemical Sensitivities & Diet:
What Works?

The most common recommendations I find for treating MCS are generally along the lines of avoiding exposure to any and all chemicals. While we do try to reduce the amount of chemicals in our home, it is really hard to control chemical usage at place like schools, day care and churches. Our kid's school used to regularly spray pesticides around the campus. They would put up warning signs, but what is a mom to with a sign? It isn't feasible to keep your kids out of school for a few weeks until the pesticide spray disperses.

In our case we found that building up our son's immune system through changing the diet was key to having him lead a normal life around perfumes, pressed wood furniture and car fumes. The better we made his diet, the better able he was to cope with the chemicals in his life. The specific diet treatment tips we found helpful for my son with MCS are listed below.

1. We kept a food diary to see which foods made him feel better or worse. Hot dogs, bacon, lunch meat, basically any food with sodium nitrites as a preservative, seemed to make him worse. I always buy nitrite free meats at home, but initially I didn't think the limited exposure to nitrites my son got from school lunches and occasional restaurant meals would be significant. Was I ever wrong on that front. Cutting out the cafeteria lunches and nitrite cured food at restaurants made a significant improvement in my son's health.

Birthday cake also made him ill. We think it was the dye in the frostings that caused his adverse reaction. The artificial preservatives and high amounts of sugar probably didn't help either. Doughnuts also made him worse.

boy looking at birthday cake
  My son used to get really sick from from cake or cupcake frosting. It was tough when he went to birthday parties and couldn't have any cake.

My son seemed to have the least problems with MCS when his pH was within a normal range.

I made most meals from scratch when possible. I bought a rotisserie to cook up organic meat ahead of time for him to take in his lunch to avoid the nitrites in processed lunch meat. I also bought a rice cooker to make up big batches of organic rice.

I started making my son's lunch each day, packing it with whole, preservative and dye free foods from home instead of letting him eat at school. It is ironic that school lunches often consists of high fat, high sugar, nutrient poor processed foods laden with preservatives, considering the number of links that have been established between poor diet and behavior problems at school. One of the frequent meals at my son's school was corn dogs, a food loaded with fat, salt and nitrites.

4. We made organic meat a larger part of his diet to help with his cysteine and zinc levels. We usually try to get our nutrients through foods rather than supplements, but in the end we did give my son very small amounts of ground zinc supplements. He doesn't like to eat a lot of meat, so it is hard to get him the RDA of zinc just from his regular diet.

5. I bought organic foods as much as possible.

6. We limited sugar and any foods with dyes or preservatives as much as possible. According to Sherry Rogers, a doctor who specializes in environmental illness, people who eat lots of junk foods and sweets invariably have lower levels of vitamins and minerals needed to activate the detoxification enzymes.

If you think about it, just a couple of cookies a day equals 300 calories of nonnutritive food. For a person or child on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, those two cookies alone would mean 15% of the diet is nothing but empty calories. For many people with chronic illnesses, perhaps a 15% boost in their nutrition levels would be enough to go from sick to healthy. If you add in a soda and some what bread, you get an even greater percent of a nutritional boost.

7. I found some glazed walnuts at the store that my son liked to snack on. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids , which are supposed to be good for people with MCS

8. We had always limited his soda intake to parties and other special events, but during his MCS recovery we eliminated it completely. Soda contains phosphates which can reduce magnesium levels.

9. I tried to have him avoid whole grain foods and brown rice. I know it goes against conventional health wisdom, but there are some studies that show the fiber and phytates in whole grains reduce mineral absorption. We seem to be okay with the fiber in beans and produce in my family. It's just seems to be whole grains, like oatmeal and whole wheat bread, that give us problems.

10. I suspect cooked and mashed foods are easier to absorb and get nutrients from. I noticed my son would feel better after eating mashed pinto beans. I've read that pinto beans have high amounts of magnesium. I think the mashing makes the beans easier to digest. I know a lot of people advocate raw food diets these days, but I don't think they are the best types of diet for everyone. With my son, soft cooked foods seems to be the most digestible. I tested out different diets with raw foods and cooked foods for my family and cooked foods come out to be the clear winner for us.

11. I tried to get my son to eat a lot of home cooked soups. I think the long simmering process in soups is good for killing toxins, such as bacteria and mold. I think the long simmering times also helps make the soups easy to digest. Plus the medley of ingredients provide a wide range of highly absorbable vitamins and minerals.


Sections in this series:

1. My son's experience and recovery from chemical sensitivity

2. Nutrition for MCS sufferers

3. Reducing chemical usage in your home

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