Episode 24 of The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast is available now!
The title is “A Physician with MCS.”
It features a conversation with Dr. Ann McCampbell.
Although she trained as a physician, Dr. McCampbell’s career in medicine was interrupted by severe MCS. However, she has devoted her life to raising awareness about the illness and helping people who have it.
In our conversation, you'll hear Dr. McCampbell explore:
· Whether tests could be developed to help people with MCS get a diagnosis.
· Who is most at risk of developing MCS?
· Her personal experiences as a physician and person with MCS.
· Some information about treatments, diet, and isolation that people with MCS often experience.
· How people with MCS can speak with friends and loved ones about the illness.
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More information about Dr. McCampbell can be found here.
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Aaron Goodman 00:05
Welcome to the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. It's a podcast that amplifies the voices of people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS, also known as Environmental Illness, chemical intolerance and toxicant induced loss of tolerance or TILT. Podcast also highlights emerging research about the illness. I'm Aaron Goodman, host and founder of the podcast. This is episode 24. And the title is "A Physician with MCS." It features a conversation with Dr. Ann McCampbell.
Dr. McCampbell was born and raised in California in the US and obtained a medical degree from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1978. She then trained in internal medicine and practiced in the field of women's health before developing severe MCS in 1989. The illness made it impossible for her to continue working as a physician, but since then, Dr. McCampbell has dedicated herself to raising awareness about MCS and helping others who have it like many others with MCS at times, Dr. McCampbell has had to live in a car, tent or yard since 1993.
Dr. McCampbell has lived in the US state of New Mexico, where she co founded the nonprofit Healthy Housing Coalition. And as chair of the state's MCS task force was great speaking with Dr. McCampbell. Because of her experience, and knowledge as a physician, advocate, and someone with MCsS you'll hear Dr. McCampbell explore whether a test may be developed to help people with MCS get a diagnosis who is most at risk of developing the illness. Her personal experiences as a physician and someone with MCS, some information about treatments, diet and isolation that people with MCS often experience and how people with MCS can speak with friends and loved ones about the condition.
I hope you enjoy the conversation and find it a benefit. We release new episodes twice a month. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Leave a review on Apple podcasts. It's a great way to help others learn about the podcast and find us on social media. Just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or podcasting MCS. Leave your comments about anything you hear on the podcast and please share the podcast with others. The podcast is available on YouTube where you can read closed captions in any language you like. You could support the podcast and help us continue creating greater awareness about MCS, please find a link in episode descriptions of chemicalsensitivitypodcast.org. And if there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast, or a topic you'd like us to explore, just let us know. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. And thanks for listening.
Aaron Goodman 03:06
Dr. McCampbell, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today been really looking forward to this conversation. And thank you for making time I wanted to invite you to perhaps talk a little bit as a physician who has long been working with people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, how do you understand the illness? And there are probably many ways you could explore that question. So I'll leave it to you however you want to respond whatever you feel like saying, but how do you understand what happens to someone in their body, someone who has MCS?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 03:37
Well that nobody knows exactly. But I mean, I think of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities or chemical sensitivities, you know, it's a medical condition where you become reactive to a lot of chemicals, many of which are found every day. It's things that you breathe in things that you touch, food and medicine, and usually people are reactive to because after all, they're just another form you know of a chemical. And I do think of it as primarily a neurological problem in the brainm the limbic kindling, where something gets set off and it's like a seizure in a way where something is triggered and then a kind of loops and loops and loops and so you know, we just react a lot more than you know anybody else and we react you know, differently. It's not like a typical toxic, you know, reaction.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 04:30
Now the immune system is involved. We know the brain and the immune system are talking back and forth all the time. Sometimes detractors say well, there's no consistent immune finding, meaning, you know, between different people, somebody might have more of an allergic type of picture. Somebody else may have really low killer cells and things like that, but they usually are abnormalities in in the immune system. So it could be high or low antibodies again, and killer cells that aren't working so well. Then you have the T cells, the cellular response, that kind of thing. And you know, the thing that's most been shown I call it the, Is it real, or is it Memorex? test has been the research showing that in the blood of chemically sensitive individuals, there's increased inflammatory markers is like substance P and, and other cytokines. These are not things that are on a typical lab tests that your doctor, you can't say, Yeah, order me up those tests. Let me see if I have that. But you know, this initially was done. But it you know, it was like studying in Denmark, in Italy, and in Japan all came up with the same result.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 05:43
And compared to other people that have typical allergies, you know, ragweed, pollen, you know, allergies and things like that, that chemically sensitive people were distinguished from the people with allergies now is a little tricky, because people with chemical sensitivities often have allergies as well. But it can and certainly compared to, you know, quote, normal controls, there's a difference. And so I think that's it's kind of it's the strongest research evidence that something's going on. It's not psychological problem and things, you know, it doesn't really influence treatment so much. It's not I mean, it's good to know. But that's kind of not Oh, well, we'll do something about that. That's not quite how it works. But I think, you know, the confirmatory research that just came out last year, which was looking at genetic markers in people with chemical sensitivities. And there's been various studies looking for genetic markers, you know, the expectation was, oh, people with chemical sensitivities can't detoxify. And that's why they're chock full of chemicals. And that's why they're sensitive.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 06:51
But the one study that was out of Canada was just the reverse, actually show the people that chemical sensitivities metabolize toxins faster than average, which is interesting, because sometimes is the the metabolic product of a toxin, especially something like organic, fast, organophosphate pesticides, that actually is more toxic. But in any case, it has nothing has been really consistent with looking for genetic markers on that behalf. But somebody else looked at the genetic markers for being having a pro inflammatory state. And they did show that in fact, those that were chemically sensitive, were more more likely to have these markers. So that just you know, added more confirmation about this inflammatory thing that's going on that we find the the markers in the blood, and in fact, that might be part of the genetic tendency or vulnerability towards becoming the becoming chemically sensitive.
Aaron Goodman 07:48
Do you think we'll come to a point where folks with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity will be able to go to a doctor or a lab and get a blood test? And I'm not familiar with several of the things you mentioned, for example, the killer cells? But will those tests if they become available for us on a widespread basis? If will those show a greater level of inflammation in the body? Or what will they show? And again, do you think we can expect at some point to be able to go to a doctor and get tested to actually prove it is a physical illness not a psychological disorder?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 08:23
Well, those are two different questions. I don't think they'll ever be a test. You know, I always come back to like an HIV test. And this is unusual in medicine actually, that you know, it take a test if it's positive, you have it if it's negative, you don't I mean, just things like rheumatoid arthritis. There is no test for rheumatoid arthritis. Doctor has to see what kind of arthritis you have what your symptoms are, and you can test for rheumatoid factor. That's nice, but if it's positive, it doesn't mean it isn't necessarily rheumatoid arthritis, you know, if it's negative, it doesn't rule out rheumatoid arthritis, you know,. We have the show there's something you know, physiologic going on kind of testing and one of those is functional brain scans. And the problem with that is that it's kind of hard on somebody to have the test but when they've you know, done research on that they show that functional tests meaning showing how the brain is working is abnormal and can be consistent with a toxic encephalopathy, but that's not identical to MCS, but certainly shows something's going on.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 09:33
You know, there's the physical findings when people are exposed if they go into regular doctor's office where they're exposed to lots of chemicals and things and they might get a rash that they didn't have before they came in there, their blood pressure by go down, they might actually pass out things like that the heart rate could go a regular I can you can start beating very fast and things like that, you know, I guess in the best of all worlds. That could be the one test that you go in You get the test, and it tells you I think it's unlikely. And it's not really necessary for an individual. The the 1999 consensus definition I still think holds very well. And somebody satisfies that definition, which is that basically reactive chemicals, you know, usually multiple organ systems and multiple unrelated chemicals and that kind of thing. And when you get away from them, you feel better, or you know, the symptoms go away. I mean, the other thing that's turned out to be really helpful on a practical level when people are dealing with whoever their family, their employer, their neighbors, and things like that is the queasy inventory. And this is something Claudia Miller came up with it's but it's being used more and more in research to identify chemically sensitive subjects, but it's the it's the quick environmental exposure and sensitivity inventory.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 10:54
And it's for scales, it's zero to 10. You know, like, if you're pumping your gas, how sick, would you get zero to 10? And, you know, a bunch of things like that. And then also, if there's symptom severity, if you got sick, you know, would you have stomach trouble zero to 10, would you have a headache, and when you combine the scores, it's very easy to to get the scale where it says it's just highly likely this person has chemical intolerances, which is the same thing as chemical sensitivity. And there's also a score of life impact. And sometimes that's useful to show people that, you know, it's changed working and taking care of yourself, you know, what you eat, because it, you know, affects so many things.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 11:39
So even though it's just the person filling out the form, so in effect, it's subjective, it's been useful. I've seen it really helped people, when they're applying for Social Security, they're in other types of lawsuits and stuff like that, you know, it's having something with numbers on it. And also this, the fact that the, the inventory even exists, I mean, the chemical sensitivities is so real, somebody's actually come up with an inventory. And it's also been validated, it's been there's two published articles that was able to show that people diagnosed and other ways with MCS, you know, showed you know that this inventory, sort of pick that up. So I think it's really useful for people to know about and to download it. It's kind of a complicated URL. It's on Claudia Miller is with the Hoffman Foundation Research in San Antonio, and also called TILT research, a toxic can induce loss of tolerance. But if somebody just Google's up QEESI,Q-E-E-S-I, I think you can find it, and usually download it and fill it out and give it to whoever thinks it would be good to see it.
Aaron Goodman 12:46
Yes, thank you for sharing that. And I will provide a link to the queasy in the show notes so people can easily find it there. Maybe I can ask a broader question. Who gets MCS?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 12:57
Well, pretty much anyone, you know, all races all socio economic divisions. And women, we know women get it twice as frequently as men. Also, there was prevalence studies in California and New Mexico that showed that Caucasian whites and Hispanics got it about the same amount. But actually Native Americans, those that identified as Native American had an increased prevalence of chemical sensitivities. But it's a pretty much an equal, you know, equal access illness. Now, people that are exposed in industrial, you know, they work in a factory, I mean, if they're really exposed a lot, they work in a dry cleaning place, or they have a lot of occupational exposures, especially to solvents or, you know, to pesticides, it certainly increases the risk, but just people that just have your garden variety, average exposures can succumb and that's what happened to me. I didn't have any thing really unusual going on and then slowly just broke down.
Aaron Goodman 14:03
Right. And it'd be interesting, I think, and helpful for folks to hear if you're willing to talk a little bit about your own experience as someone with MCS and you must be fairly unique in the sense of being a longtime practicing physician with the illness. I don't know many others. I think I maybe have heard of one or two others.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 14:22
Well, I need to clear that up because I have not been practicing clinical medicine since I became chemically sensitive. And I was pretty much on wipe out for 15 years, I'd say the last 10 years is when I've really been able to develop you know business of consulting over the phone, where I you know, in the safety of my my own home. Yeah, so that's that's what I do. But compared to where I started and where I thought I would be, I mean, this is quite I'm quite pleased that I have the capabilities that I do. I can just say I you know, I consider my myself a healthy person I'd ever had regular allergies, I ate anything. I was voted most athletic in high school, I did go to medical school, but I didn't even do much dissecting, you know, in the formaldehyde laden lab, and I didn't even do much postgraduate training. I mean, it was a year in a hospital that I now know, they spray ders ban every two weeks, you know, inside, but just gradually was starting to have a little more problem with food. And you know, still didn't think much of it. And oddly, you know, I guess I was tired enough, did some lab work. And my white blood count, which had always been normal was low for no reason, I just kind of shrugged it off.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 15:40
But I would say then, over a couple more years, I just had more trouble with food, I was, you know, working with a nutritionist, and just at one point, I got down to like fish and green vegetables. And at the same round, that time, I lifted a box and felt a pop in my back and I had a protruding midline protruding disc. And so then I developed bilateral sciatica that kind of knocked me down. And I was starting to kind of come back from that. And then I ate, what was supposed to be hypoallergenic protein powder, because I thought, well, maybe my back's not healing, because you know, I'm not getting enough protein. And let's, let's just see if, if that's what it is. And that just that just did me and I always say, I feel like I put my finger in the electric socket over a couple of days, and just was super jangly, I was just completely hyped up. And then I saw most of the foods that I had been eating, I couldn't eat anymore. And so and my back was still bad. And so I threw a mat outside the trailer I was living in in the Oakland Hills, and was lying there trying to contemplate what happened to me.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 16:52
I was lucky, though, that I actually had some friends that were chemically sensitive, but were much much more mildly affected. When I got it, it was like she was them. This is like the universal reactor. You know, it was just really wiped out. But I also knew, and I was in an area where there was a doctor that treated people with chemical sensitivities, and I had to wait six weeks to see her know if I'd survive that long. And actually, she wasn't helpful, except she had discovered that my thyroid function had gone down to nothing. The trick there was trying to get on a thyroid supplement, because I reacted to the first couple. And I was going to be in big trouble if I couldn't get a supplement. But eventually, I actually saw an endocrinologist who got me going. And so you know, I was a little better. But I was lying down for about five years and getting up for 15 minutes here and there. Because my back even though most people you know, if they have a protruding disc, you know, it's bad for a month and I do exercises, you know, six months later, they're they're good to go.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 17:55
But I did have the sense I did have the physical sense of inflammation, my back just felt like jello, like, it just wouldn't heal, it wouldn't, you know, go to the next step. But after five years or so, and it was a lot of it, I did move from California to New Mexico and the air was clearer and things like that, or it was just time then things started to get better. A lot of it. I mean, I had to do IV nutrients and intramuscular nutrients because I couldn't take much by now. And that kept me going. But it was actually the infrared sauna that kind of turned things around. When I started doing that I did it almost daily for a year or two or every other day for six months and daily for a year then every other day for six months. Everything got better. I went from eating you know, being able to eat six foods to 50 foods and my back was better and I could start walking a little bit and I couldn't go off steps at first but eventually I can do that and I just didn't feel so bad all the time and and my tolerance for a little with a perfume here or there you know got better. So that was kind of a a turnaround and turnaround time for me.
Aaron Goodman 19:01
Okay, great. Very helpful. You mentioned some of the steps you took to improve your condition to improve your level of sensitivity to chemicals. Are these things you would recommend to others, can MCS be effectively treated or in your view is avoidance the best option for people?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 19:21
Avoidance is important and so I do encourage people to see environmental doctors who usually will do a thorough analysis and check your immune system check to see if you have body burns of toxins. A lot of people feel like well I feel bad so there must be something bad in me and I need to get it out. And so then the focus goes on detoxification but for many chemically sensitive people there is no body burn. It's a hit and run chemical injury.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 19:50
Chemicals long gone but the damage has been done but also looking at the nutrients because usually most of us are depleted. Most of us or help by magnesium, some B vitamins, and then you have to figure out a way to, you know, to take them to tolerate. Like I said, for me, I can never take a B vitamin by mouth, but I, you know, I take it, you know, by shot. So it's kind of getting the body kind of up more tip top shape is kind of how I feel I feel about it kind of like filling, you know, filling the well with with nutrients, you know, other things like vitamin D, or and glutathione can be really helpful.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 20:30
But the thing is, it's not one size fits all. That's why I think a thorough evaluation is helpful to see what an individual needs, some people really are helped by vitamin C, other people doesn't do a darn thing, and it makes them sick. Glutathione is kind of the same way, for some people, and I'm one of them glutathione I really need that for other people that, you know, they don't need it. So I think it needs to be in the best treatment is really tailored to each individual. You know, there's some general overall principles, but it's, and it also, you know, treat depending on how your MCS kind of manifests like for some people, if they get, say, like asthma, then you can do nebulize glutathione, to kind of knock down inflammation. But you know, somebody else may not have loan trouble, maybe they have gut problems. So maybe cromolyn, you know, is something that will help knock down some inflammation and mast cell activation.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 21:30
But you know, if you go to environmental doctor that can hopefully find ways to treat what's going on. That's not using, you know, big medicine that people don't tolerate, or purple pills and things that you know, that people don't tolerate. And then if it does show that somebody has a body burn and chemicals might be heavy metals, or it might be solvents, those are kind of the two different things. And the person is hearty enough or becomes hearty enough, doing some specific detoxification can be helpful. You know, some people have their mercury amalgams removed, because the mercury is leaching into the system. And then that, you know, it's kind of like the whole body burn, everything kind of adds up, you know, the nutrients are down, you know, you've got, you know, mercury in your system like that. And then kind of again, tailoring the treatment.
Aaron Goodman 22:23
Do you think people with MCS can ever recover fully?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 22:27
Well, my joke is a guy that told me he had recovered completely from MCS twice. So he thought he was recovered, went back to a toxic lifestyle. Got it again. You know, I think there's, you know, there's rare cases kind of like cancer, there's, there's some, you know, for no reason somebody with cancer gets better. And I think that does happen sometimes with chemically sensitive people, but more likely, you know, I consider it a chronic illness that you learn to manage. So, yeah, I can't say nobody ever did, but again, until they're dead, we don't know if they get it again.
Aaron Goodman 23:03
What role do you think diet can play in helping people find some relief from MCS?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 23:09
Well, you know, I hear from people it's like, well, what can I eat to make myself better? I think nothing, it's not what you eat will make you better, but there's plenty of things you can eat the making worse. So I think what you really have to figure out is what foods that you tolerate, you know, rotating foods every four days has been kind of a classic thing, because you know, then one, there's less burden on you and you're less likely to get sensitized to it and lose as they say, lose the food, but in most people can figure it out, maybe it comes down to 10 foods that feel like it's their safe foods. And when you do that, then you're not gonna you know, hopefully you're not gonna stomach ache and whatever.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 23:52
So you're not getting like inflammation in the gut, because when you get inflammation in the gut, that's when you get the leaky gut then you get molecules going into the system into your bloodstream and then that's aggravating things, you know, elsewhere so and then there's often the cheap foods you can have them once a month or something, you know, something like that, you know, the unprocessed organic, unprocessed foods rotated that kind of thing I think is an you know effective diet and you know, I'm usually people are like off gluten off cow dairy for starters, you know, off of course, any preservatives, artificial sweeteners, dyes, and all that kind of stuff, that diet that I just described. It doesn't fix you, but it can make you feel better.
Aaron Goodman 24:37
Understood. A lot of people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity end up being quite isolated, and having to withdraw in many ways from society, if not completely and using zoom and the computers and internet is helpful, but we also still end up feeling quite isolated. A lot of the time. I'd like to invite you to speak to that a little bit. Is this a kind of life, that life that is sustainable? I'm sure because you're in touch with a lot of people with MCS. How do you see this in terms of the number of challenges that we face? Is this? Is this a significant challenge the level of isolation that people face?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 25:19
Yeah, the isolation is horrible, you know, and the farther away you get from society, civilization, to knock down the chemical load and EMF load and things like that, yeah, you feel better from that. But the isolation is, is awful. I think kind of back in the day, 20 years ago, that's why, you know, MCS support groups were formed. And actually people met in, in, in person in Northern California, you know, I know they did that. But even just staying connected on the phone with other chemically sensitive people so that you don't feel so alone, your families usually telling you, you're nuts, your doctors telling you there's something, you know, a psychiatric wrong and things like that. So I mean, that's both not being so alone and isolated, but also getting support, you know, around the illness. Of course, some people are way out in the middle of nowhere, they don't have internet, they don't, you know, their cell phones don't even work, you know, and things like that, although, you know, the other flip side is if you're sick enough with MCS, and you have to have a caregiver, and you have at least one person that's around, you know, a lot of the time, so you're not completely in solitary confinement, but I'm sure you know, it, it has a negative impact. But sometimes, you know, we have to do what we have to do. And sometimes when people just have to take the extreme isolation, they do get better. And they are able to sort of reintegrate or be around more people or see their family outside with masks on and you know, things like that, you know, Pam Gibson has written at the doctor of psychology and Madison University, he's written a lot and a lot on the impact on people with chemical sensitivities. And I'm sure she's written about this as well.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 25:56
You noted the skepticism that often families of people with MCS have about the illness. Do you have any suggestions about how people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity can talk with their people in their lives, their family members, their friends, their children, their parents, their partners who may be disbelieving?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 27:25
Well, you know, that's tough. You know, occasionally, family members are a little bit open, you know, to stuff. Some are just walled off, but I think, you know, providing information written material, my booklet Susan Abbott's films is helpful. And also even things like the Job Accommodation Network, which is under the US Department of Labor has a page on Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, they have another one on fragrance sensitivity and talk about, you know, talk about the illness as you know, physiologic illness and make recommendations for how to accommodate a chemically sensitive employee. So that's the validating, these are the validating things, even if the issue isn't a workplace issue. It just goes to show I mean, here's somebody in the government that believes this, we have the you know, access boards in indoor environmental quality report, and that's on the Access Board website. And that was something that several of us that represented MCS advocacy groups worked on with building professionals in the mid 2000s, and came up with recommendations for how to build and maintain commercial buildings to be more accessible for those with chemical sensitivities and EMF sensitive people.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 28:45
They, the Access Board, which is a independent federal agency that helps with architectural guidelines for people with disabilities. I mean, they recognize, they recognize us. There's also on the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation website, there's an excerpted bibliography of peer reviewed, published scientific and medical articles that support this as a physiological illness. So, unfortunately, it's kind of knocks off about 2018. But there's quite a lot there. I mean, just to show you know, somebody a batch of scientific articles to show that, you know, it's real. And last but not least, there is the CDC, environmental policy, indoor environmental policy that ban fragrances from all its offices saying that fragrance had no place in a professional office, and that was to protect their employees with asthma, chemical sensitivities, migraines, things like that, and they have a long list of fragrant things that you shouldn't use. So, so those are kind of the, again, the legitimizing phase.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 29:51
The other paper I wanted to mention, though, and this was just published a year ago is the Italian expert consensus on Clinical and Therapeutic Management of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. And they actually talk about how people are often dismissed and how this is wrong. And they go over this not so much the treatment, actually, it's more of like accommodations in a hospital situation. But I find this, you know, quite substantial as far as again, showing this is real. It's real, physical, real physiologic, you know, I suppose though, you have to mention that it can be confusing, because people that are chemically sensitive or have MCS can have psychological problems. And so, you know, sometimes well yeah, people are anxious and depressed, because they just lost their whole life. They've lost everything, and they're in a chemical war zone, and you walk around the corner and the neighbors spraying Roundup, and you go down. So yeah, we're a little hyper vigilant and edgy. And so that, you know, so that's kind of like a psychological response to having a catastrophic illness. And the other thing when you're exposed, it can alter brain chemistry. And people can burst out in tears, people can get angry, people can actually have Frank psychosis and be paranoid and end up in a psych hospital, you know, things like that. So, and then sometimes it's independent, sometimes somebody was depressed, and they got chemical sensitivities, and it isn't even related, but those two things, but I think that confuses that can sometimes confuse other people to sort of understand our whole our whole picture.
Aaron Goodman 31:33
Right. And there is a theory that MCS is a stress response or response to trauma or an over activated amygdala and that if we just relax and meditate more and be more grounded, take it easy, we can get better. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that. Is that Is there any truth to that, that we we can get better by just relaxing and retraining our brains?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 32:01
Well, I don't know if you're referring to the DNR the Dynamic Neural Retraining program, which I think is a useful adjunct it you know, after you reduce your exposures, you get your nutrients going and maybe have specific treatments, because as full life, but you know, does is that what the illness is? No, that's a super stressful life, I mean, you can lose your leg, and you're gonna feel pretty bad too. So it's more, we're stressed out like other people with chronic, you know, chronic illnesses. And reducing stress is always good. And it can well it can go one way or the other, when we're really relaxed, our our sensitivities may go down. But actually, when we're really wound up and fight or flight, we could kind of do firewalking, we, you know, sometimes people like go through surgeries, because they're, like, so amped up, and you know, and they're getting all these exposures that you wouldn't think they'd be able to handle, but you know, what they can, the surgery thing is kind of complicated. As far as what leads to it. I mean, trauma. I mean, I think all of it adds up. It's like, you know, childhood trauma, physical trauma, auto accidents, head injuries, various types of psychological stress, work, stress, you know, war, you know, being in war zone, and things like that all contributes to the total burden. But that's, again, the psych psychological overlay, and it doesn't mean it's not a real illness underneath that. So yes, some prior traumas might predispose somebody to get in chemical sensitivities. Yes, reducing stress might reduce those sensitivities a bit, but in no way does that make it a psychological problem.
Aaron Goodman 33:46
The way someone explained it to me is that the way it was explained to me by someone else was that among the population of people with MCS, more of us don't have higher levels of trauma than the regular population, right. So we're not just like a group of abnormally traumatized people. Our level of stress is reflective of that in the wider population. And maybe some of us do have stress in our lives and trauma, but we can't take out chemicals from the equation. In other words, you need the stress, maybe the stress may play a part of it, but without chemicals in our everyday environmen,. we wouldn't have MCS.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 34:28
Yeah, I, I believe that's true. And I think any trauma, I think, does predispose one to becoming ill. But you could get again, rheumatoid arthritis, you could have heart disease, you could have cancer. So yeah, or you could develop chemical sensitivities. So I don't think as a group, we're more traumatized than anybody else. We become traumatized once we get this and nobody believes us and their lives fall apart. But but you know, for an individual saying this, right, but yeah, I don't think as a group, we're more traumatized. But oh, for an individual having a history of trauma could have set the table a bit to get sick with something. And yeah, and then throw in chemicals and a pro inflammatory genetic nature. And maybe that's how you get chemical sensitivities.
Aaron Goodman 35:19
We wonder, as we perhaps move towards wrapping up our chat, if there if you could perhaps talk about what's on your radar, do you think for example, long COVID, which a lot of people are experiencing is perhaps creating reason for folks with MCS to be to have hope that clinicians and society will recognize and acknowledge our illness? Is that is that on your mind these days at all?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 35:46
Well, I think it's interesting, long COVID being you know, a post viral syndrome that people are now more interested in, but that really is more relates to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or, and I think chemical sensitivities would still be the elephant, everybody walks over, you know, ignores in the living room, I don't know if it really will help with chemical sensitivities. But I think it could help with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which a lot of people have both understood. Well, I think, you know, the big concern is the increase in the electromagnetic EMF pollution, you know, chemicals have stayed kind of the same, they're bad, but they haven't changed a lot. But the electric pollution and the rolling out of 5G and the smart meters and all that kind of stuff is is jacking up. And, and so more and more people are becoming EMF sensitive, some people with chemical sensitivities are now you know, EMF sensitive, people that don't have chemical sensitivities are now EMF sensitive.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 36:47
And you know, when, you know, 25-30 years ago, when you had chemical sensitivities, and you know, people like Oh, I'm gonna buy, you know, my 20 acres of property in Arizona, and build my house and I'm in control of my world, and I'm gonna get away from this is no longer true. And so, you know, putting roots down anywhere sometimes is not a good thing, I really encourage people to really think about a mobile lifestyle, because you can be somewhere that's out in the middle of nowhere, but here comes a 5G tower or something coming down from the satellites. And, you know, if you have a tiny house or a trailer, you know, a trailer or something, then you can, you can move and adjust, especially for people that are EMF sensitive, that is really tough. And I don't know where it's going to end because they, you know, they just, they want to get Wi Fi and rural communities, you know, and think they're doing the right thing and all kinds of stuff. So that that's just getting more and more difficult.
Aaron Goodman 37:45
I wanted to perhaps ask you, you mentioned the level of chemicals in our everyday environment. In my own experience, I find that the levels are increasing, and that the potency of chemicals seems to be increasing too. For example, it used to be possible to ask people to refrain from wearing scented products, perfume, body sprays, etc. But now it seems that the scents are ubiquitous almost in the laundry products that people use, which sort of renders those which makes it possible to create effective scent free policies, I find what's your sense? Do you feel like we're living in a increasingly toxic soup of chemicals that's harder to get away from? Or do you feel that it's not that what's your sense of that?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 38:36
Well, you know, two things are happening I agree some of the potency of the perfumes and laundry products you know, like it used to smell bad for a month but now we've changed it and it could smell terrible you know for three months and things like that. But on the other hand, you have like Cheer Free and All Free that actually there is more support for fragrance free, dye free detergent, so use that for an example so you know there is a shift that way so I don't know in that imbalance I think you know, it's hasn't changed all that much. You know, fragrance free policies are never you know, never perfect, you know, but you can you know, hopefully knock it knock it down some.
Aaron Goodman 39:19
Well, Dr. McCampbell thank you so much for everything you've shared and for taking time it's been really interesting to hear you would you like to share anything else before we wrap up our call?
Dr. Ann McCampbell 39:29
Well, you know, talking about the fragrances you know, that's why having a good mask is really important. You know, never leave home without it. I don't wear a respirator mask which I think is the best and it's been worked for COVID as well because there's a filters that I use our P 100 which are similar to N 95. So I protect myself from COVID as well and also you know as the carbon filter so it knocks down the fragrant stuff a whole lot but for a COVID compliance were for places were supposed to wear a mask and I put some cotton on the exhale valve. So then I'm not, you know, breathing on to other people, I think, as it's always been in kind of going back to the isolation and other people not believing as my friends and I have a saying, you know, if we didn't help each other, we get no help at all. And I think that our networking, whatever it is, you know, support groups, or it's phone calls, or podcasts or something like that is so important to that we, you know, we stay in connection, and we do help each other because we're the only ones that really understand it. Our other expression is you don't get it till you get it. And that was true of me. I had friends that were chemically sensitive, I had no idea what it was really like, you know, until you know, until I got it. So I just want to thank you for for doing this project and having the podcasts and just having yet another vehicle and way for us to share. Unfortunately, one of the the newsletter that kind of kept us together, which was our toxic times through the chemical injury chemical injury information, what is the N - CIN. Anyway, they have now folded and so we do need to find other ways to stay in touch and share information and support each other.
Aaron Goodman 41:19
Absolutely. And that's a big part of why we're doing this podcast to help connect people create awareness about the illness, challenge stigma, and the response has been really positive so far. So that's really encouraging. And we're just gonna keep going with a podcast and try to reach more and more people. And we really see it as a community effort. And I'm really grateful again to you Dr. McCampbell, for taking time to speak and sharing all of your knowledge and insights with us. Thank you.
Dr. Ann McCampbell 41:48
Thanks for having me.
Aaron Goodman 41:49
That brings us to the end of this episode of the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. Thank you very much to Dr. Ann McCampbell for speaking. The podcast is produced by me Aaron Goodman and Raynee Novak. We release new episodes twice a month. Subscribe for free where ever get your podcasts, leave a review on Apple podcasts. It's a great way to help others find the podcast and follow us on social media. Just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or podcasting MCS. Leave your comments about anything you hear and please share the podcast with others. podcast is also available on YouTube. And you can read captions in any language you like you can support the podcast and help us continue creating greater awareness about MCS. Please find the link in episode descriptions at ChemicalSensitivityPodcast.org. If there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast or a topic you'd like us to explore, just let us know. Email email@example.com and thanks so much for listening.