Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Monday, December 23, 2013

MCS and My Camino

I haven't posted much about MCS lately.

Although part of my healing process is NOT focusing on the MCS,
I don't want to lose track of the reason I do these trips on the Camino.

Life for many people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) can be nothing short of Hell until they find a safe place to live and become very aware of which substances trigger their reactions.

Once they know that their "brain fog," "emotional distress," "fibromyalgia," "rheumatism," or "mysterious migraines" are all symptoms of MCS, there is little that can be done to make life normal apart of staying away from the trigger substances (which you learn to identify over time), and chemical chelation or long-distance walking to chelate those substances.

After being diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, I was given two choices.
I could undergo chemical chelation, where they give you an intravenous chemical 
which causes your muscles, bones, and tissues to dump the toxins all at once.
Or I could do it more naturally, by long distance walking.

I chose long distance walking 
because research showed that chemical chelation 
led to damaged liver and kidneys 
more often than it helped.

* * * * *

What is MCS and how does it affect a person?

Well, pretend you're walking along a wooded hiking trail.
It's a beautiful day and you're looking at the trees and enjoying the sunshine.
You come around a sharp bend and suddenly, 
right in the middle of the trail,


This is what happens next:

1. Sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into the bloodstream.

2. These patterns of nerve cell firing and chemical release cause your body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes:  

3. Respiratory rate increases

4. Your blood is shunted away from the digestive tract and directed into muscles and limbs

5. Your pupils dilate

6. Your awareness intensifies.  Sight sharpens. Smells are much more discernible. Light becomes almost unbearable, as do loud noises.

7. Your impulses quicken.

8.  Your immune system mobilizes with increased activation.

9.  You become prepared - physically and psychologically - to either fight or escape.

10.  You begin to nervously scan and search the environment, looking for "the enemy."  

11. You  tend to perceive everything in your environment as a possible threat to our survival.  This fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind and moves us into "attack" mode. 

12.  Your fear is exaggerated.  Your thinking is distorted as you see everything through the filter of possible danger.





There is a cumulative buildup of stress hormones in your body. 
If not properly metabolized, 
this stress leads to disorders of your autonomic nervous system 
(causing headache, irritable bowel, high blood pressure) 
and immune system
 (creating susceptibility to infection, chronic fatigue, depression, 
and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and allergies.)

* * * * 

What Comes Next...

For my body, the next four days are miserable. 
It's like a bomb went off next to me. 
My muscles ache, my head aches,
 I'm super sensitive to sound, smell, and light. 
Depending on the severity and cause of the exposure, 
I may be in bed for several days with these flu-like symptoms.

Long term affects include a life of total reclusiveness,
 out of fear of a reaction. 
You are afraid to go to the market. 
You cannot go to the movie theater. 
No more dinner dates. 
No family parties. 
Church is no longer possible, 
nor are dances.  

Because the 'snakes' which cause the reaction 
(which we all agree is an amygdala response) 
are common everyday substances such as perfumes, 
colognes, scented detergents and fabric softeners, 
FEBREZE, scented lotions, scented candles, 
scented make-up, 
and the horror of horror, 
scented house sprays and plug-in fresheners.

And frankly,
it's impossible to avoid those
in public buildings.

When my specialist suggest long-distance walking 
to chelate the chemicals that are so bothersome to me, 
I looked far and wide for an appropriate trail. 
There was nothing in the United States 
that was safe enough for a woman walking alone. 
There was nothing in the United States
 that was well-enough supported for a sick woman walking alone.  

So, I continued to search, 
and eventually found the Camino Santiago.

After my first Camino, 
I felt better than I had felt in years.

This was great, 
but I couldn't afford to go back each year.
So I began trying to figure out how I could do it.

I was offered the opportunity to walk with a group of pilgrims, 
helping them along their way.
In exchange, 
the cost of my trip was covered.
This worked great, 
and I've continued to do it since.

I make it clear, 
this is not a tour.
I simply facilitate.
For the most part, 
you're on your own.
You are free to walk alone,
or with our group.

You have a clean bed booked in a private shared double room 
each night when you finish walking
so there's no need to rush for a bed.
You can walk some of the best sections of the route.

And I get to do my prescriptive walking.

So how about it?
Want to come along?
You'll feel so much better if you walk those toxins
out of your system!

This year's trips are full.
But you could join us in 2015
for a mixed group 
or a Crone's Camino.
More information on my website 

Until then . . . 

Buen Camino!



  1. Hi Annie, I'm pleased I discovered this blog (via the Camino forum). I'm looking forward to my Camino and one of my motivations is to take a sabbatical from work and work-related stress.

  2. Hi Gideon! I love the freedom of the Camino. It can be as stress-free or as stressFULL as you make it! Don't get caught up in the race for a bed and you'll have a wonderful time! Buen Camino!

  3. Hi Annie,

    I am a 39 year old woman with severe MCS and would like to walk the Camino late Sept/Oct. I am concerned about staying in the hostels with the chemical cleaners and fellow pilgrims spraying random aerosols for bed bugs, deodorant, etc. I have thought of bringing a tent, but that many posts advise against this for one reason or another. I know the long-distance walk would do wonders for me and it is a lifelong dream to walk the Camino, but I don't know if it is worth it given the reactions I have to things like perfumes, laundry chemicals, fabric softners, etc. I also follow a pretty strict diet that keeps me feeling semi-normal that includes all organic, non-gmo, corn, casein, soy and gluten-free, as well as mostly dairy-free. As long as I can cook for myself or eat high quality eggs, fish, chicken, rice, fruit, veggies and other simple foods along the way, I think I will do fine with that topic. It is mostly the random chemical episodes that I am trying to figure out how to avoid. An annual Camino or other long-distance walking trip sounds like a wonderful way to rejuvenate my spirit as well as chelate chemicals (along with low EMF infrared sauna throughout the year, which has proven very helpful). Your thoughts are very much appreciated!

    1. Hey Jill, if you will contact me through my other website at and give me your email address, we can chat about this and I'll tell you my experiences. We could also Skype if you want. Annie


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