- Series: Consumer Health Library
- Hardcover: 212 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1 edition (April 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1573921955
- ISBN-13: 978-1573921954
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,307,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chemical Sensitivity: The Truth About Environmental Illness (Consumer Health Library) Hardcover – April 1, 1998
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So, why am I so confident that the amygdala is to blame? Because a doctor put me on an ultra-high dose of Neurontin and I got dramatically better. Neurontin is an anti-convulsive that has a dampening effect on the amygdala. I had tried all the nonsense that the Environmental Illness community touts and found it all to be utter garbage. The top doctors in the field don't have a clue what they are talking about. First and foremost, the idea that the chemicals are to blame is stupid. Tiny doses of even toxic chemicals are not likely to hurt you. But my brain reacted violently to insanely small doses of harmless chemicals like laser toner. I literally couldn't be in the same room as a piece of paper that was printed on a LaserJet. Insane! Obviously, this illness has nothing to do with toxicity beyond the original incident or incidents that precipitated the damage. Yes, building materials can be toxic in large quantities, so getting MCS from a "sick building" is totally reasonable. But the real problem is not the chemicals, but an hyper-vigilant dysfunctional amygdala, which was damaged by some trauma, usually a chemical overexposure like what happened with me. Essentially, one should think of MCS as being similar to PTSD. PTSD is real, but the victim/patient is not in danger. So is it all in his head? Of course it is, but he's not a nutcase. He's brain damaged. Same with MCS patients.
So about the book: I didn't read it because I don't need to. I know MCS is real because I've had it for 35 years. The author may be well meaning but he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. Just because medical "science" can't identify a cause for MCS isn't a reason to dismiss it. How many decades did medical science misdiagnose the cause of ulcers? A doctor found that they weren't caused by stress, but by the H Pylori bacteria. Decades of settled medical science was invalidated in an instant. Doctors are generally not a bright lot. And they can be quite disingenuous. If they don't know how to cure you, they'll blame your illness on you by saying it's all in your head. Or it's caused by stress. Or you're depressed. Well, guess what? Every single time a doctor says one of those three things he's lying to you. Doctors are too arrogant to simply say "I don't know." And this includes all the doctors that "treat" MCS. They are quacks just like the author of this book. Their treatments don't work because they don't have a clue what causes MCS. I spent two weeks in an Environmental Control Unit after I got sick in 1978, and it was a complete waste of money. Same goes for all the other BS that passes for MCS "cures" and "treatments." They are all crap because MCS patients have brain damage. Their amygdala has gone rogue and is sabotaging their bodies.
When an acquaintance asks me if I'd talk to a friend of a friend who has developed MCS, I say that I will, but only if they are willing to listen to the truth. If I end up speaking to the MCS sufferer, the first thing I tell them is to not waste their money on all the quackery that constitutes "medicine" in the EI field. Save your money because you are going to need it. Don't blow it on trying to get better and find yourself broke and homeless. Of course, few people take my advise and end up desperate. Money should be spent on controlling your environment, not on quackery. My second bit of advise is to find a doctor that will give them doses of Neurontin that exceed the max recommended dose, and therefore, exceed what your insurance company will pay for (I took 5200mg per day). If you can't take the side effects, then get off it, but at least give a shot. One final thing a person could try is one of the amygdala retraining courses (google it). I haven't taken a course because my neural pathways have been rutted over 35 years. But a person who has only had MCS for a few years may benefit. In fact a friend of mine had both MCS and electro-hypersensitivity and took one of those courses, and now claims to be 90% better. So maybe they work for some people.
Another thing I will tell people is that they should NOT move out into the country unless they can live in a house with a slab foundation. Houses with pier and beam foundations are often moldy. If you live in a moldy house you will almost certainly deteriorate. My EI doctor told me to move out of the city to get away from car exhaust and other chemicals. That advice almost killed me. Virtually all MCS patients are sensitive to mold, and mold is death. Stay away from it at all costs or you will not get better.
The author should know better than to say an illness doesn't exist that millions of people claim to have. That is just stupid and cynical beyond belief. I wonder if he thinks all those wimpy soldiers that fought in Falluja and now claim to have PTSD should be ridiculed and told it's all in their head. What a moron. But you know who else is a moron. All the clueless "doctors" that claim to be treating a disease that they don't understand, taking people's money, giving them temporary hope, but ultimately just scamming them. Other morons include all the MCS sufferers who blame their illness on industry. If you are reacting to chemicals in trace amounts, it's not the fault of the chemical company and it's not a conspiracy. Get a life. The problem is that you have brain (amygdala) damage. Deal with it and quit blaming the world. Don't alienate your friends and family by preaching to them about organic foods and other such nonsense. IMHO, wasting your money on organic foods is one of the stupidest things you can do. Conserve your cash! If regular store vegetables don't give you symptoms, then eat them.
So the author is an idiot, but he's mainly criticizing quacks (typical EI doctors) and morons (typical MCS sufferers). Everybody is wrong. I don't think MCS is curable for most people, but you can get better. Spend your time and money on controlling your environment, not "detoxing" or doing acupuncture, taking handfuls of vitamins, or any of the other 100 things you could do that don't work. And google "MCS + amygdala".
For example, Barrett and Gots, either by way of deliberation, ignorance, or foolishness, make no mention of a single epidemiological study that has shown a possible physical origin for chemical sensitivity. Their main weapon of defense for their limp theory that chemical sensitivity is attributable, more or less, to general wackiness, are anecdotes. At one point, Barrett refers to a STORY HE HEARD FROM ANOTHER DOCTOR about that doctor's impression of HIS MCS patient's personality. Wow, that's really, scientific. At another point, Barrett points out the always popular perception--that any idiot would make--that MCS sufferers are often depressed. This is, in fact, one of the few points in the book where he backs his statements up with data, but, and this is critical, HE NEVER ONCE MENTIONS THAT THE POSITIVE CORRELATION BETWEEN DEPRESSION AND MCS MIGHT BE DUE TO THE DISEASE CAUSING THE DEPRESSION, rather than the depression being a lazy, generic, catch-all explanation for a complex disease. The fact that he doesn't even mention that as a possibility (as the WHO, the AMA, and every other responsible body does) demonstrates his bias and reluctance to fully apply the scientific method. He then goes on to share another anecdote with us about a 53 year old man who took some anti-depressants and saw improvement. Wow, I'm convinced.
To be fair, Barrett does accurately enumerate many of the problems that EI and its ilk have run into when subjected to scientific study. There are problems, no doubt; there is no demonstrable, reproducible theory that explains it from a physiological perspective. However, there are just as many problems with the psychogenic theory as well, and Barrett's outright dismissal of these problems illustrates a professional bias that disgraces the tenets of sound science he so fervently claims to cherish.