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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and the Mold Connection: A Must-Know for Holistic Healthcare Providers

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on August 11, 2023

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a contentious and complex condition. Those who suffer from it experience symptoms from exposures to low levels of chemicals, often at levels that seem innocuous to most people. The symptoms can range from respiratory issues to cognitive problems to skin reactions. Due to its multifactorial nature, pinpointing a single cause can be challenging. However, emerging evidence suggests that mold illness, also known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) caused by water-damaged buildings, is a significant culprit. For holistic healthcare providers, understanding this connection is pivotal in offering comprehensive care.

The Mold Illness Connection

Biotoxin Build-Up

Mold produces mycotoxins, which are secondary metabolites that can be harmful to human health. Some individuals have a genetic predisposition that prevents their bodies from effectively eliminating these biotoxins. As a result, these individuals can develop a systemic inflammatory response, which might exacerbate or even initiate MCS symptoms. (1)

Inflammatory Response

Chronic inflammation, triggered by mold exposure, can increase sensitivity to other environmental toxins. This heightened sensitivity means that even low-level exposures to various chemicals can lead to symptoms in mold-affected individuals.

Research Evidence

Several studies have shown overlaps between MCS and mold illness. These conditions have been associated with mold exposures in other studies. (2, 3)

Importance for Holistic Healthcare Providers

For holistic healthcare providers, understanding the MCS-mold connection is crucial for several reasons:

Detailed Patient History

Many patients may not recognize mold exposure in their history, especially if the symptoms are insidious. By being aware of the link between MCS and mold illness, providers can probe deeper, potentially revealing a mold exposure history that might be the root of the problem.

Comprehensive Treatment

Simply avoiding chemical triggers isn’t enough for many MCS patients. If mold illness is underlying their MCS, treating the mold illness can be transformative. This might include interventions to reduce mold exposure, binders to help eliminate mycotoxins, and therapies to support the immune system.

Avoiding Misdiagnosis

Because the symptoms of mold illness and MCS can overlap, there's a risk of misdiagnosing a patient who primarily suffers from mold illness as solely having MCS. Recognizing the mold connection can help ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

In conclusion, while MCS is undoubtedly multifaceted and more research is necessary to fully understand its intricacies, the mold illness connection is too significant to overlook. Holistic healthcare providers must keep mold illness at the top of the differential when assessing and treating patients with MCS to ensure the most effective and comprehensive care.


  1. Nynäs P, Vilpas S, Kankare E, Karjalainen J, Lehtimäki L, Numminen J, Tikkakoski A, Kleemola L, Huhtala H, Uitti J. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in Patients Exposed to Moisture Damage at Work and in General Working-Age Population-The SAMDAW Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 23;18(23):12296. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182312296. PMID: 34886041; PMCID: PMC8657242.
  2. Hyvönen S, Lohi J, Tuuminen T. Moist and Mold Exposure is Associated With High Prevalence of Neurological Symptoms and MCS in a Finnish Hospital Workers Cohort. Saf Health Work. 2020 Jun;11(2):173-177. doi: 10.1016/j.shaw.2020.01.003. Epub 2020 Jan 29. PMID: 32596012; PMCID: PMC7303478.
  3. Zucco GM, Doty RL. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Brain Sci. 2021 Dec 29;12(1):46. doi: 10.3390/brainsci12010046. PMID: 35053790; PMCID: PMC8773480.

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