My recovery from severe fabric sensitivity

by Julie Genser
Julie in sweater, corduroys and blanketUsing Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), the Gupta Amygdala Retraining™ Program, the Dynamic Neural Retraining System™, deep creative visualization, and a drastic reduction of EMF exposure, I have managed to make serious headway on healing my severe fabric sensitivity that, at one time, left me naked in my apartment for a whole week with only a small shawl to wrap around me and required extensive clothes-boiling and washing procedures for every item of clothing which exhausted me day after day.

The Challenge
For the past 6 or so years, after becoming disabled by chemical sensitivity in 2004, I developed a sensitivity to most fabrics – naturals like organic cotton, pure wool, and organic silk included – so severe that I had to sit in my apartment naked for a week in 2008, drive across country from Florida to Arizona in a bathing suit, and sleep for years on a hard, cold tile floor with only a pillow. That’s right, no sheets, no blankets, no comforter to keep me warm. I relied on gallon glass containers filled with hot water and held between my legs as I slept, and later, Cadet and Fahrenheat heaters, to be my blankets. I had no socks, no underwear, no hats, no gloves to contain the heat in my body, only thin leggings and T-shirts. The few pieces of clothing I did tolerate, I could not wash or I chanced “contaminating” them and no longer being able to wear them. So I have essentially been wearing dirty rags for the past 4 years. Yes, I live in sunny Arizona, but in a northeastern mountain community where nighttime temperatures drop year-round, down to zero or below in winter. Because of my lack of proper clothing or bedding, I’ve had to use a heater in my bedroom at night year-round. Even though over the years my body has adjusted to being near naked in colder temps, my mind has not. I yearn for thick, colorful wool sweaters, stylish winter coats, and a firm mattress dressed in beautiful taupe sheets, comfy, plush blankets and piled high with fluffy pillows. I want to read in bed, lounge about all day in my silky organic bedding, snuggle with my beloved while we watch movies on a cold winter day with steaming hot chocolate and a bowl of split pea soup and garlic bread by our side.

My winter "pants" from three years ago Tattered old underwear

What I was forced to wear due to my severe intolerance of standard clothing materials. The shirt on the left was turned upside down and used as pants when I no longer tolerated any of my sweatpants or leggings two winters ago. I tied the arms up as they shredded from use, to create a “socks” effect. What you can’t see is that it is riddled with small holes and is quite thin. The underwear is ridiculous but I needed something to use during my menstrual cycle to hold my sanitary napkin in place. I’m not proud to display these, but I think it is important to raise awareness at how desperate the situation is for some of us.
First things first. I promised myself this summer that I would not be going through this winter without warmer clothes or blankets. I did so knowing I had some important new tools to help me manifest this vision; EFT, brain retraining, and creative visualization. I had been using the Gupta Amgdala Retraining™ Program and Annie Hopper’s Dynamic Neural Retraining System™ (DNRS™) – both based primarily on neurolinguistic programming (NLP) – for the past year or two. I never applied myself 100% to either program, only doing the exercises sporadically (a few weeks here, a few weeks there), and thus saw minimal symptom improvement – nothing lasting or clear-cut. So what made me think things could be any different this year?

Getting to the Root of the Matter

My bed for the past two years, before that I slept on the floorIt was an offhand comment by a Planet Thrive community member that started my path toward fabric sensitivity recovery. We were discussing chemical sensitivity in the PT forum, and he did not understand why I would react to organic cotton, wool, and silk. His idea about chemical sensitivity was that one would only react to toxic chemicals. He asked what happened to make me reactive to those natural materials. I got defensive, and pointed out how many others with environmental illness have a fabric sensitivity and also have trouble with organic cotton and wool. But he insisted that they were probably reacting to unlabeled synthetic chemicals used in processing. I got even more defensive. I brooded over his questions the next few days. What right did he have to question my version of chemical sensitivity? I didn’t choose my triggers; they chose me, after all.

I got to thinking about the circumstances surrounding the time period during which I sensitized to organic cotton, wool and silk. I was living in my NYC West Village studio. I didn’t know I was chemically sensitive yet, but I knew I was having major health issues. I wrote to Natural Home Magazine to see if their healthy home interiors expert would give me advice on how to clean up my home environment. Cheryl Terrace came and interviewed me and one of her suggestions was to get a wool bedding system. I ordered a comforter and loved it. I slept with it a month and then decided to splurge and get a wool mattress topper and wool pillows as well. But I never got to sleep in my new wool bedding system. The day I got it all, I sensitized to it. So much so, that I had to pack it all up tightly and put it in my closet. After that, I could no longer wear any of my wool clothing – not my beautiful navy merino ribbed turtleneck nor my favorite organic wool scarf that I had knit myself the year before. Being around wool now caused a weird fluttering in my thyroid area and respiratory distress. The same thing happened with silk. I bought a pair of expensive organic silk long johns and was never able to wear them. When I got near silk or wool, it felt like every cell in my body started quivering. If I tried to ignore it and push through the symptoms, the situation would just escalate to even more distressing and severe symptoms.
Mold Warriors by Ritchie Shoemaker, MDDiscovery of Toxic Mold

Then in June, 2005, after I had been fully disabled by severe environmental illness, I got rid of my regular cotton futon and bought a new organic cotton futon in a further effort to clean up my lifestyle. I did okay the first few weeks, but then suddenly found myself reacting to the futon. Meanwhile, it started to get real humid and I had increasing respiratory symptoms in my apartment. An MCS friend helped me have one of my “lightbulb moments.” A survivor of toxic black mold, she had been encouraging me to read Ritchie Shoemaker’s Mold Warriors. Mold was not my problem but she didn’t give up. She kept raising the issue during our talks. Finally I put two and two together – I must have a toxic mold infestation in all of my musty closets; in 2003, there had been a flood in the apartment above me. My entire ceiling came down, along with 2 feet of water. My landlord rebuilt my ceiling and I was back in my apartment within two weeks. What I didn’t realize, is that they did nothing to replace the non-visible areas of the apartment; all the closet ceilings were left soaking wet and ripe for mold growth. In fact, there had been flooding in several apartment lines in my building and what I did not know is there was visible black mold in other tenants’ apartments. I had been living in a sick building for years.

What Fires Together, Wires Together

So what I was about to put together is that while I was being injured by toxic mold and my brain was in a highly sensitized state, I was also exposing myself to a lot of new materials (wool, organic cotton, silk) that I had never really used in large amounts before. Fabric = MoldIn addition, all of my clothes and bedding had become contaminated with mold – tests showed they were covered with a fungus. My layman’s theory is that my limbic and immune systems became so confused, that they cross-wired fabric with mold. So now my body thought any fabric that touched my body was toxic and mold-ridden, even if it was not.

Realizing this is what might have happened to me was a huge step forward in treating the problem. I realized that instead of spending my focus and energy on “preparing” my clothes – which entailed hours upon hours of boiling items one at a time in a pot outside and then washing them over and over again in my washing machine – that I should instead focus on rewiring my response to fabric. The external trigger was not my problem! The problem was inside my brain.

Adapting an OCD Exercise

This theory was in alignment with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) treatment shared in the Norman Doidge book The Brain that Changes Itself. I had heard about the book from Annie Hopper, who had recovered herself from severe MCS and EHS using brain plasticity exercises. In the book, Dr. Doidge shares that OCD involves three parts of the brain: the orbital frontal cortex, the cingulate gyrus, and the caudate nucleus. All of these are hyperactive in OCD brains, as shown by PET scans. Dr. Doidge says OCD is a type of “brain lock.” The exercise he shares unlocks the link between the orbital cortex and cingulate to normalize function of the caudate. This requires a manual shift by having the patient focus their attention on something besides worry; to use an enjoyable activity to interrupt the obsessive thoughts and behaviors, strengthening new circuits while weakening old pathological ones. Although chemical sensitivity is not OCD, the limbic system seems to be stuck in some sort of similar “brain lock,” so it felt like it could be beneficial to re-interpret this exercise for my situation.

The three steps in this exercise are to relabel, remind and refocus. If we apply this to chemical sensitivity it looks like this:

1. Relabel. The first step is to identify the problem as one of the brain, not of external triggers. The problem is not a “toxic” chemical or other offending trigger, but an impaired limbic system. In the case of my fabric sensitivity, I was able to see clearly that my brain and immune system had cross-wired fabrics and mold together.

2. Remind. You then must remind yourself that if the chemical sensitivity does not resolve, it’s because there is a “faulty circuit” and you should look at physical proof – test results like brain scans, for example – that show these faulty circuits and the increased electrical activity in these parts of the brain. I didn’t have any test results to act as proof, but I was able to remind myself that most people – both with chemical sensitivity and without – are able to wear clothing, and thus point out that I had some faulty wiring in my brain that was affecting sensory input interpretation.

3. Refocus. The third step is to divert your attention to a positive, enjoyable activity – something you can concentrate on wholly for 30 minutes, allowing the old circuit to be bypassed and rerouting your body’s unconscious response to outside stimuli. That means when you are reacting to a trigger, try doing something fairly simple and pleasurable, and easily achievable, like gardening, listening to music, knitting, drawing, kicking a football, playing an instrument.  When you focus on this new activity, you are actively constructing new brain circuitry. When you shift your attention like that regularly, it changes your brain wiring and overrides your symptoms. This can take a few weeks to a few months.

With all this in mind, here is how I approached my recovery from fabric sensitivity:

My approach
I started by doing twenty private Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) sessions with Lisa Snow, who has a strong grasp of using EFT for food allergies and chemical sensitivities. We worked on physical triggers like wool, cotton, and silk. But also on the anxiety and emotions my body associated with becoming sensitized to those things. The process of becoming severely disabled by chemical sensitivity can be highly traumatizing – who wouldn’t be upset when their entire world becomes hostile to their survival almost overnight, and all of their support systems dissolve away just as quickly?! Working on the trauma end of things is just as important as working on the physical triggers. I needed to grieve for the girl who slept with her head inches away from a toxic mold infestation, sleeping in clothes and bedding covered in fungus. I had to release my emotional reactions to all the losses – the budding copywriter career, my NYC friends and social network, my clothes, camera, art book collection, my ability to eat and enjoy food, my health, my security, my identity, my future. I had to calm my nervous system and cellular response to the mere thought of organic cotton and wool.

During this time, I also continued to do both the Gupta and Hopper brain retraining exercises. But I didn’t start to see real improvements until after I drastically curtailed my computer time online, after which there was a significant increase in my brain’s ability to be rewired using the brain retraining exercises. I was then able to use the DNRS™ exercise and visualization practice to work on individual clothing items. I did this while walking up and down my dirt road outside, each time wearing a piece of new clothing that I did not yet tolerate. There was something about walking while doing the exercises that helped my brain to be able to engage in a deep visualization exercise that was previously quite difficult for me.

So I now have underwear, socks, bras, t-shirts, mini-skirts, summer dresses, organic cotton corduroys, organic hemp denim jeans, and 3 wool sweaters I can use, that I didn’t have before the summer. I am beyond ecstatic.

Here is what my process looked like, shared in a way to help you apply it to your own situation:

In my Solumbra hat, hemp denim jeans and polyester fleece hoody.1. Determine what neurotoxic injury occurred around the time of your fabric sensitization (e.g. mold exposure, lyme disease, chemical injury, emotional trauma);

2. Relabel, remind, refocus. Keep reminding yourself that your reactions are due to faulty wiring in your brain; not to any one trigger. Your washing machine is not “contaminated.” Your organic cotton towel is not “toxic.” Be sure to adjust your language to reflect this new paradigm.

3. Use EFT or a similar modality to work on calming the nervous system response to both the fabric triggers and the original neurotoxic injury, including any emotional trauma connected with either of them;

4. Reduce any major toxic load you are experiencing as much as possible; whether that is a high EMF load, consistent exposure to toxic chemicals, an underlying bacterial infection, a stressful relationship, etc.

5. Commit to a daily brain retraining practice using either the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Program or the Dynamic Neural Retraining System, or both.

6. Make use of creative visualization and other distracting activities during exposures to help create new neural responses to triggers.

7. Celebrate your successes and let them fuel your confidence to expand your horizons even further!

Reducing EMF Load Critical to My Success

I must also emphasize that I attribute a significant portion of my healing to the fact that I had to drastically curtail my use of the computer during this time, because it was hurting my EMF-sensitive boyfriend. I use my computer for many things: for research, online shopping, socializing, entertainment, and my blogs. About two months ago when we first realized the problem, I had to immediately stay offline all day except for a few hours at night, to avoid hurting my boyfriend. I developed a two week migraine after going cold-turkey into this new computer schedule; a form of withdrawal, or detox, from being exposed to all that EMF every day. Once the migraine passed, I started seeing an overall ease at applying the brain retraining exercises to clothing and other objects that were triggering me. I still needed to do the brain retraining, but saw improvements much more easily and quickly than in the past. It really felt miraculous!

In Summary
I wanted to share my progress and ideas about why I am seeing success lately, in case it might help others with severe fabric sensitivity to figure out how to tackle their own challenging intolerances. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have several pairs of socks and underwear, to have some warmer clothes for the winter, to be able to wash my clothes between wearings (yes!), and to, most of all, have HOPE for total recovery from MCS and a well future.

Yes, I still have a ways to go. I am still reacting to organic cotton blankets. But I feel extremely confident that I will eventually be able to sleep on a real bed with a mattress and bedding, wear whatever clothes I want to with minimal preparation, and all this will be a distant surreal memory. I have the tools I need to conquer this, as well as the persistence and commitment to keep at it. And an unwillingness to settle for anything less than health, wellness and freedom in my life.

In a colorful new dress this past summer

© 2011 Julie Laffin

I just want to encourage anyone challenged with fabric sensitivity to look back in their history to see what might’ve been happening at the time they sensitized to fabrics. Becoming conscious of a mold connection or other type of neurotoxic injury, or even just an emotional stressor, can be the first step to unraveling your puzzle. Reducing any major toxic loads in your life is another important step in reducing neural inflammation and helping the brain become more available to the improvements that brain retraining can bring. Good neuro-nutrition – supplying the brain with essential fatty acids and neurotransmitter precursors – is also vital.

The tools are out there to conquer this, with a bit of ingenuity and persistence, and I am sure that you can find yourself wearing clothing again in time. I’m doing it – you can do it, too!

Note: One thing I’d like to mention, is that I have lived chemical free for at least five years now. That means no products with chemicals for cleaning or personal care. It also means chemical free foods – only organic, wild, grass-fed, free-range, antibiotic-free, etc. I have also lived a low-EMF lifestyle. No cell phone, no cell towers, no WiFi, no cordless phones, no Blackberry, no iPhone, no Smart Phone, no Smart Meter, etc. No doubt this strong lifestyle foundation is what enabled all the other practices and improvements to take place.

Disclaimer: The above process is what worked for me personally. The ideas and layman’s theories expressed are just my opinion based on my own personal experience; this is not a scientifically proven approach to recovery from fabric sensitivity. Each person’s situation is unique. Please keep all this in mind if you decide to attempt a similar program for your own situation. There is no guarantee what worked for me will work for you. Please review any change to your health care treatment plan with your physician before proceeding. If you choose to take exposure risks similar to those I mention above, please take small risks and never purposefully expose yourself to severe triggers during any retraining program. Until your neural networks are fully rewired to healthy pathways, you will continue to experience the severe reactions. Use common sense and care.

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  1. so proud of you and thrilled with your success!!!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to recount your experience and your recovery. Best wishes for your continued recovery!

  3. congratulations Julie! You put so much work into this and I’m so glad that you are having these great results. I am envisioning you wearing everything you want and sleeping in a bed with pillows and blankets you love :)
    This article is a gift to the community. Thank you.

  4. well done sweetheart! I’m proud of you. Can you tell me though, if you remain in the mold what chance recovery? jeanie x. i still can’t get out of it.

  5. what incredible compassion you have for all of us that you take the time to chronicle this…with your newfound energy, that you channel it our way for our own healing and benefit.
    thank you!

  6. it does my heart, mind, brain, spirit wonders to read this. it helps me to further understand this process, gives me hope, clarity and most of all allows me to bask in your joy. love the dress too.

  7. Julie! This is wonderful. I used to be so sensitive to fabric that I could not wear but one very soft type of organic cotton…if it was washed properly for me. The other day one of my MCS friends commented on the different types of clothes I have. I am grateful. Still I shy away from plastics (polyesters), treated fabrics and clothes that have been stored too long in moldy places. With all I have learned on the MCS journey it just makes good sense to use products that are healthy.
    It is good to be able to share this information with others, who may not have to go through the difficulties (horrors) you, me and others have had to endure. (((HUGS))) and continued healing. Thank you for the love you have for our community to share this with us.

  8. I’m so happy for you Julie. You are an inspiration to us all. :) And thank you for taking the time to chronicle this for us. You look wonderful!

  9. Thank so much for taking the time to write and post this. You are a real inspiration.
    It’s do important to hear success stories!!! Xo

  10. I l

  11. Oops. I also want to say I am do happy for you to have such success.
    I appreciate how much commitment and determination you have to come so far!

  12. Julie, we are coming up on the season of gratitude, and I couldn’t be more grateful for you and what you offer to this community, by sharing with all of us this hard journey you’ve been on…you’ve done it again, with amazing grace and elegance, as usual.
    Love you!

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I’ve had MCS for about 28 years and have gotten more severe in the last 5 or 6 years. I learned about Annie Hopper and DNR 2 years ago and tried unsuccessfully to get enough support for a workshop in my area. However, now I am finally going to be able to attend a workshop next week in Dallas. I’m hopeful that this will go a long way toward me getting a life back. It’s so encouraging to hear success stories. Wish you well on your continued journey of healing.

  14. Thank you so much for all the love and support! I couldn’t do any of this without you all. I would have imploded long ago if it weren’t for all the friends I have made online to keep me company through this ordeal.

    Barbara, so excited for you. I hope you see gains early on like many others have, but even if it takes longer, keep the faith! We have a DNRS support group on Planet Thrive that has become active now that the DVD program is out. Would love to see you there. Annie also is providing a forum for support. Whichever one you choose, I highly recommend joining one (or both) because having the support of others and being inspired by their success is so helpful when we go through challenging times and feel depressed and start to lose faith in the process.

    Happy healing, everyone!!

  15. “… now caused a weird fluttering in my thyroid area and respiratory distress.”

    Yes! Others get flutters beyond just in their heart, too!

    I believe now I am going to get better, and a lot of that hope I have created from being on Planet Thrive, and the links I have followed. Thank you, sincerely.

    Here’s a virtual hug, and and an armful of wildflowers.

  16. Julie, so thankful you shared your recovery process that has enabled you to enjoy one of the basic comforts of existence, clothing and a place to rest. Hope is always a gift. I’m sorry you have had to suffer. I have walked in your shoes but not as far and for so long. I hope you will continue to heal all of your sensitivities and can enjoy life to the fullest, fully clothed, warm, and as fluffy as your heart desires.

  17. I love how you duded up this story with the photos and graphics. Belated thanks, by the way, for your answers to my questions about the mold testing. I fell into a depression for a few days? weeks?–and forgot to thank you.

  18. julie thankyou for caring enough too share hope for others i too am having problems with fabric sensitivities, its a real tough hurdle.
    I hope your progress continues.

    From Karl

  19. Sweet Adele, thank you for the wildflowers! Nice to hear someone else knows what the fluttering is, but sorry you have to experience that distressing symptom. It is mostly gone from my life now after dietary improvements and a chem-free lifestyle, so there is much hope for you and others who also experience it! xx

  20. Thank you Karen, Hillary and Karl! Appreciate the good wishes and glad you enjoyed my post. xx

  21. I’ve been feeling depressed, angry, and also having trouble breathing, after sleeping in 2 blankets for the past 3 nights. I am feeling frustrated that it’s not getting better, seems to only be getting worse. Then I just had a lightbulb moment, realizing that I have increased my computer time the last week, working on the re|shelter auction. So maybe my brain has become inflamed – or whatever process is happening – to where it is not as receptive to the brain retraining like before. I now feel a bit more hopeful, and am reminded to be diligent in not going online too often. Also, I am in process of getting my computer set up on a 12 volt DC battery powered by a solar panel. That should help things considerably, fingers crossed.

  22. Julie, I am so blessed and so rejoice in your accomplishments and realize what precious gifts and miracles they are to you and I just am so very very happy for you and really makes my heart cry with thankfulness seeing where you have come from and where you are. Keep going forward friend. I pray you will have a complete and utter recovery for yourself. You are inspiring us and give us hope. It is so hard when our vehicles go down into the ditch of life when we are clipping along and a good speed. I hope yours can right itself and get back up on the road and that you will travel with even more zest and purpose!!!

  23. There’s another aspect that is very important in fabric sensitivity and is the reason I view the issues a bit differently from you and people responding here. For example Connie above says “I shy away from plastics (polyesters), treated fabrics and clothes that have been stored too long in moldy places…”.

    The problem is ‘treated fabrics’. What most people don’t realise is that just about every fabric, including organic is treated with at least one or two chemicals. Yes these are supposed to be innocuous but as we know by experience we can become sensitised to just about anything to which we are exposed regularly. My view of the whole business is that I am sensitive to the treatment in my organic and other fabrics and /or the detergent that is used in processing to clean them.

    I have asked one organic fabric supplier and the answer was that ‘we use two allowable treatments and I won’t tell you what they are’. Not good enough. There is one brand that claims that they use absolutely nothing including no detergent – cottonique – but I haven’t tried anything from them yet and they have a small range.

    I suggest you might try a sample from these guys and see how it works for you because it is always possible that you too have been suffering from treatments or remnant detergent. I find it very hard to remove detergent sufficiently though I’ve never been brave enough to boil things. I have washed things twenty times in my detergent-free machine and still had problems, but of course not sure if it is due to detergent or a fabric treatment.

    Thanks for publishing such a detailed story Julie, it is very useful and insightful. I hope things continue to improve.

  24. Hi Julian,
    My approach is not to concern myself with what the trigger is, but to focus on my reaction to it. The whole point is to rewire the “sensitivity” reaction. As an aside, I will say that I plan to primarily buy organic untreated items made of cotton, wool, silk, hemp, etc. because I care about what I put on my body 24/7. But the whole point of my essay is to share how I am overcoming the “reaction” to the treatments they put on clothing, so a discussion of fabric materials and toxicity really has no place here. If you are confused by that, I would recommend reading more about the brain retraining programs to get a better understanding. Best, Julie

  25. Julie,
    great job….glad you are getting success. this is huge…way to go girl…i’m proud of you.
    Thanks for sharing your tips…that helps me as i am doing retraining too.
    What do you say to someone retraining who is still in a toxic environment?

  26. Congratulations on your improvements.

    This article does not make clear the fact that toxic mold makes mycotoxins — toxic chemical substances.

    The reason that the mold does this is to coat all the surfaces of the environment, to kill off competitive species of molds and bacterias. Although the mold does not make these toxic chemicals to harm people, they act to harm us regardless. Compared to most common household chemicals, the ones made by toxic molds are far more potent and more dangerous, and have been shown in peer-reviewed literature to have a wide variety of negative health effects.

    Mold does not have to be growing on a surface for things to be contaminated with these toxic chemicals. Dormant spores containing the chemicals are sent out from the colony into the environment. They then break down into fragments (which just seem like dust) and blow the poison all over the dwelling.

    This poison is very sticky and cannot be effectively washed off of clothing or other household surfaces. In some cases it may eventually die down, but that may take many years.

    While it is possible to test for mold that is growing in the environment, or to do a DNA test to ascertain the species of mold present, there is no available way to test whether items have been contaminated by the chemicals made by toxic mold. Contaminated items my look fine and smell fine, and have been washed 70 times in boiling water, and _still_ be intolerable by people with MCS — because of the actual chemicals still present.

    Certainly, we should not put aside the idea that people might be reacting to their organic clothing for reasons that are related to the brain misidentifying something benign as something harmful.

    However, we also should consider whether when people react to organic items, they might be responding to mycotoxins — toxic chemicals — that have become attached to those items, rather than to the items themselves.

    Unless the brain retraining really can alleviate hypersensitivities to toxic substances actually present in the environment (rather than — as you describe in the article — just “conditioned” sensitivities to benign items), distinguishing between the two different types of reactions seems very important.


    Lisa Petrison, Ph.D.

    lisapetrison at yahoo

  27. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for your informative post. I purposefully do not focus on toxins in my article, as it is counter to brain retraining. But you bring up an important distinction. You say there is a difference between sensitizing to a toxin versus a benign substance. With brain retraining, it doesn’t matter what the trigger is. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a mycotoxin or a toxic substance like formaldehyde or a seemingly inert natural substance like organic cotton or carbon. We are talking about the “sensitivity” reaction to something itself; that part of the brain that decides to react to much lower levels of a substance than the average population, or than what the person previously did before becoming injured. Damage from mycotoxins and formaldehyde, etc. is a separate issue. Brain retraining will not protect you from organ damage or cancer from dangerous chemicals. Brain retraining, in the way it’s being applied here, only works on the impaired limbic reaction to substances previously tolerated. I hope that is clear to you.

  28. Thank you Brenda! You asked “What do you say to someone retraining who is still in a toxic environment?” Well, there are a few things I would say. Firstly, if you are in a toxic environment, you are most likely in a constant sensitized state and more likely to sensitize to things in your environment. So you could apply the brain retraining, but it may require a lot more effort than if you were in a safe environment. I don’t know for sure, of course, but I would say that some brain retraining is better than no brain retraining. But relocating to a safe-for-you environment would be most ideal. It’s difficult to do the brain retraining if you are constantly in reaction or troubleshooting/stressed out by your environment. Many don’t have a choice though, so I would still recommend trying it. An analogy…when I lived in my mold infested apartment, I took cholestyramine (CSM) for 6 weeks. It pulls mold toxins out of the body, and is recommended by mold specialist Dr. Shoemaker for those with genetic mutations that make it difficult for the body to remove them on its own. The CSM helped my MCS enough to make life bearable. But I certainly still made relocating out of the infested apartment my priority. And I left all my belongings behind as well. It would have been better to take the CSM once I was in a safe, mold free environment. However, it was still helpful in the toxic environment. I hope that is a logical analogy to make…in any case, please let me know how it goes for you! Wishing you all my best. xx

  29. Hi Julie,

    I’m wondering here whether we know enough to be sure that these hyperreactive brain reactions are always a bad thing.

    If a substance is benign and we’re reacting to it, then that indeed would seem a bad thing. But if the substance actually is causing us harm, maybe our reacting to it is a good thing — because in that case, we would be prompted to get away from it and thus avoid being harmed.

    I don’t think it’s inconceivable that some of these toxins can be causing us actual physiological harm in infinitesimal quantities, totally separate from whatever our own limbic system is doing. Insofar as our defense mechanisms (such as intact blood-brain barrier, anti-inflammatory cytokines or methylation cycle) have been destroyed, we may reasonably be affected by toxins that other people’s systems efficiently process or protect themselves from.

    If that’s the case, then maybe the hyperreactivity is a GOOD thing, in that it protects us from these toxins by forcing us to get away from them in order not to feel acutely bad.

    My own reactivities have gone down dramatically over the past four years, to the point where I’m getting quite close to leading a normal life. But I didn’t do it by trying to make the hyperreactivity component go away. Rather, I used the hyperreactivity to pursue really scrupulous avoidance (mostly of biotoxins but of other triggers too), and then leveraged being clear into more effectively detoxifying my system and killing pathogens. (For short-term improvements, I used things like Vitamin C IV’s, to reverse a chunk of the oxidative stress from the exposures.)

    It certainly is true that I felt like my system was in a state of hyperdrive for a very long time, and that level of stress has its own negative effects. Maybe brain retraining would have allowed me to relax and heal more effectively. Insofar as it allowed me to tolerate mold exposures more though — I just don’t know that that would have been a good idea.

    Rather, not being able to tolerate them was the best thing that possibly could have happened to me, I think.

    At least, that’s my own conception of the disease at this point.

    Best, Lisa

  30. Hi Lisa,
    You wrote “I don’t think it’s inconceivable that some of these toxins can be causing us actual physiological harm in infinitesimal quantities, totally separate from whatever our own limbic system is doing.” Well, I agree with that 100% and have written that in numerous places on this site and on Planet Thrive. The toxigenic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, etc. properties of a trigger is a separate issue from the hyper-reactivity to that trigger.

    You also wrote: “If a substance is benign and we’re reacting to it, then that indeed would seem a bad thing. But if the substance actually is causing us harm, maybe our reacting to it is a good thing — because in that case, we would be prompted to get away from it and thus avoid being harmed.” That might be true. And it is certainly an individual choice whether one wants to remain living with the symptoms they get from all their triggers. It’s pretty difficult to pick and choose which triggers your body reacts to. I’ve been focusing my brain retraining on organic cotton, wool, and silk but in the process, have become able to tolerate some synthetic perfumes and natural essential oils. That’s just what happens as you calm your impaired limbic system. Not sure what your particular history is, but for many of us, mold exposure is not part of our history, or if it is, it is just one of many toxic exposures and is not our worst trigger. Some of us live with extremely debilitating symptoms such as seizures, extreme migraines, cognitive dysfunction, paralysis, blindness, etc., in reaction to certain triggers. These severe symptoms can occur in reaction to a wide range of triggers, mold included, but also seemingly innocuous substances like raw organic vegetables. The problem is the reaction, not the trigger.

    Many of us have lived for years in isolation, living a very low chemical/EMF lifestyle and have had very little improvements. The piece that seems to be missing is the brain healing. Where I am at now, I believe that time and avoidance will not heal most people with severe MCS. You need to address the original brain injury. That’s just my opinion though.

    There are many paths to healing and brain retraining programs are not the only way. It’s wonderful you have been able to heal your body systems through extreme avoidance. You wrote “I used the hyperreactivity to pursue really scrupulous avoidance (mostly of biotoxins but of other triggers too), and then leveraged being clear into more effectively detoxifying my system and killing pathogens.” This is what is behind the brain retraining theory – once you calm the impaired limbic system, your detox, immune, and other systems will function more optimally. Many people are seeing this happen firsthand. They are detoxing heavy metals and eradicating long-term infections just through doing the brain retraining alone.

    You are lucky you were able to detox and kill pathogens after avoiding mold scrupulously. For many of us, it’s just not possible due to severe food and chemical sensitivities. For many of us, there is no money left, there is no access to health care, and there is no tolerance for supplements and pills. The brain retraining provides us with an affordable, accessible means to gain desperately needed improvements in our quality of life.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have any definitive answers of how this all truly works. Each person needs to weigh the potential risks versus the potential gains. I would hope that most people are practicing a non-toxic lifestyle as part of their healing regimen. But a non-toxic lifestyle alone won’t heal most of our brain injuries, as far as I can see from being in conversation with thousands of people with this illness over the past 7 years.

  31. My Theory:
    I don’t know if this has been covered or not, but here is what I found out by my studies and experiments…

    Most of clothing, beddings, computers, televisions, Phones etc. Have flame retardants made from a form of BROMINE. When a TV, phone, computer monitor etc is made – they spray down the electronics with Bromiated Flame Retardants – That is why some electronics offgas more than others – depends on how much BFR is sprayed on them…

    If that is not enough exposure: Most breads, pastries and other bread products contain BROMINE; read your labels, If the label says enriched flour, you can be pretty sure the product contains BROMINE.

    We are exposed to BROMINE continuously every day.

    Since I quit eating BROMINE containing bread I don’t have much trouble with being in front of a dual pc monitor 8 hours per day.

    Ways to counteract BROMINE is with Cloride from salt and Iodine per DR. Brownstein.

    Hope this helps!

  32. Excerpt from a Dr Brownstein article:

    Bromine Toxicity
    An article on MSNBC ( on 3.21.07 reported on the toxic fumes found in new cars. Bromine and chlorine were the most common toxic elements reportedly found in automobiles. These elements are found in the seats, armrests, door trim and shift knobs and other areas of the car. Think about it, you spend perhaps two hours a day in your car, with the windows rolled up and little air circulating. It is no wonder that I have seen many patients who feel that they can become ill from exposure to the air in a new car. These are the canaries of our population. Many of these patients have to undergo detoxification for the buildup of dangerous chemicals in their body.

    Bromine and chlorine are members of the halide family which is a group of elements that includes iodine. If we are exposed to too much of one halide, it will cause our body to release other halides. My research has clearly shown that we are exposed to too much bromine and chlorine. These elements are found in many plastic products including computers. In addition, bromine is a fire retardant found in carpet, clothing, mattresses and many other consumer items. The consequence of this overexposure to toxic halides has been a depletion of iodine in our bodies. Clinically, the result of too much bromine and chlorine and not enough iodine are the high rates of thyroid disorders as well as cancer of the breast, ovary and prostate. I describe this in more detail in my book, Iodine Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, 4th Edition.

    One patient, Ann, complained that her health began going downhill when she purchased a new car. I diagnosed Ann with Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune disorder) of the thyroid gland. The car dealer would not believe that a new car could cause her health concerns. Testing found Ann severely deficient in iodine (nearly zero) and toxic with elevated bromine levels. Ann was detoxified from bromine with a combination of Vitamin C, unrefined salt and magnesium. I also had her do salt baths and she was treated with iodine. As Ann’s bromine levels fell and her iodine levels elevated, she began to feel better. About 1.5 years after starting therapy, Ann felt that she had regained her health. In fact, her thyroid blood tests now returned to normal, without the use of thyroid hormone. Ann said, “All of my symptoms have improved. I can’t believe how much better I feel. I never knew anything about bromine,” she said.

    One statement I would make to those who are ill with chemical sensitivity: Don’t give up. You can overcome your illness by detoxifying and supporting the body’s normal physiologic function.

  33. How interesting, I just ordered that book “Iodine Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It” and the Lugol’s myself! I’ll be interested to read the book, but even more so after reading your post. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Dave.

  34. You are awesome. I’m glad you were able to figure out how to ever-come your fabric sensitivity.

  35. Thank you Maggie. Unfortunately, I have not completely overcome the fabric sensitivity. Very frustrating. Definitely have had some improvements but still struggling with clothes and bedding…

  36. You mentioned that your brain retraining worked better when you reduced your emf load and you had some relapse when your emf load increased. Is it possible that you would have recovered if you only reduced the emf load and not done brain retraining? Have you ever had a time when your emf load was very low but you let the brain exercises slip somewhat? If so What was the result? I only have mild overt emf symptoms but I am wondering what influence emf’s may have on my overall chemical sensitivities. I have also experienced a sudden and seemingly spiritual recovery at one stage after several years in a low toxic environment but relapsed after a few years of more ‘standard’ accomadation/districts, so I find the whole question of brain retraining vs detoxing rather facinating.

  37. I’m not sensitive to fabrics at this time per se (way less so than in the past) but thanks a million for posting this, as I’m applying the info to my own extremely lifelong life-restricting MCS issues… and this article lead me to another I absolutely needed (MCS as PTSD by T-Can). Thanks also for sharing photos of the garments you wore, I’ve had similar “pitiful” things I’ve had to use and do in many ways, that felt very healing for me to see… I feel amazingly like I am not alone now. Many blessings.

  38. And thanks to you all here for such infinitely valuable and needed comments!

  39. Julie, btw I speculate that the two-week migraine you experienced after curtailing your computer use may have been something other than detox reaction: the emotional/metaphysical state that triggers headache is related to feeling like one has “done something wrong” (see Louise Hay or other such lists for metaphysical reasons for dis-ease). It resonates with me that you may have felt some inner sense of having harmed/wronged your boyfriend, and at the same time all that other stuff was coming up in your hypervigilant overwhelmed system.

    I share this in case it helps anyone.

  40. Oh, and btw, having been a lifelong migraine/headache sufferer, when I feel the beginning symptoms coming on I use this to help myself. I now notice headache usually begins immediately or soon-ly following my feeling chastised, accused, guilty, embarrassed or otherwise over some wrongdoing I’ve done, whether real or imagined (on my part or someone else’s). So I tell myself over and over in a deep, gentle, intense central way, “I have done nothing wrong. I have done everything right and well. I have done everything alright. No wrong has occurred here.”

    Even if I did do something I regret, I say this. And it usually always works! (Then I can go and deal with the issue of my actions with no pain/sickness.)

    Apologies for so many posts today. I am excited, and still have some brain fog, lol.

  41. Hi Julie !
    I do have an explanation to what you think was a fabric sensitivity. It is much more serious.
    You are totally normal. You just have a talent: your defense system have unique capability to give you a semiconscious awareness while other people don’t have this gift. Trust me i know what i am trying to write. You could be in a very serious danger, because you was trying to suppress you ability.
    We have a doctors in our team and most important unique person who can read the informational fields coming form fabrics and creating the mistakes in intro cellular communication. The cancer could be a result . Organic cottons and silk are even more dangerous then some sintetics. we have a solution and we use this unique knowledge for us and our children.
    Please contact to me
    thank you

  42. Hi Julie, I read this post about your fabric sensitivity for a friend and was surprised to learn that you had lived in a studio in the west Village. I was living in a studio on Perry Street when I got sick, another friend was living on W. 10th, and a couple of others just a few blocks away. We didn’t know each other then and all wound up in Tucson. Coincidence?
    Anyway, I have long admired your incredible website. I’m working on a far less ambitious one for HEAL of Southern Arizona and it’s driving me nuts.

  43. Great. My thanks for taking the time. I will come here to see what’s new and inform my people about your posting.

  44. Julie, I realize it is over three years since you wrote this article. I’m just now discovering it and feeling grateful that you took the time to share your experience so skillfully.

    Those of us who are learning brain retraining can benefit greatly from articles such as this, especially when they are not being published for commercial reasons.

    May joy infuse your every moment ~

  45. This was inspiring to read!

  46. I can’t believe it will soon be 3 years since I wrote this article! Most of my dreams have since come true. I wrote that “I yearn for thick, colorful wool sweaters, stylish winter coats, and a firm mattress dressed in beautiful taupe sheets, comfy, plush blankets and piled high with fluffy pillows. I want to read in bed, lounge about all day in my silky organic bedding, snuggle with my beloved while we watch movies on a cold winter day with steaming hot chocolate and a bowl of split pea soup and garlic bread by our side.” Well, over the past year I was able to get an organic cotton futon, wool mattress topper, organic cotton sheets and blankets, down comforter, and lots of new clothes (all organic cotton/hemp/wool)!! I spent last winter totally WARM and COMFY!! I was able to lay in bed all winter, reading books, and I was able to tolerate the propane heating system in my home. The first winter I have not gone through fighting daily for my survival due to cold temperatures in about 10 years!!! I am no longer with my former beloved, and have not quite gotten to eat split pea soup with garlic bread… but a big yes to hot chocolate!! For the first time, I am looking forward to winter and being warm in my clothes and bed!!!

  47. I was just re-reading my past again… and it’s even hard to believe I once wrote this: “I feel extremely confident that I will eventually be able to sleep on a real bed with a mattress and bedding, wear whatever clothes I want to with minimal preparation, and all this will be a distant surreal memory” … because, yes, this is now just a distant memory! I don’t really even think much about it now. Just a little bit… I buy organic clothing and wash it 1-2x before wearing and rarely have an issue. My wardrobe is much expanded – and much more colorful and stylish – than before. I can wear real shoes – boots and sneakers! I sleep in a warm bed every night. My bedding and clothing issues are no longer much of an issue at all! The one caveat is that everything needs to be organic/fragrance + chemical free…

  48. Hi EL,
    Just realizing I never responded to your comment. It’s several years later but I still want to address it since it may help someone else reading. You wrote: “Is it possible that you would have recovered if you only reduced the emf load and not done brain retraining?” No. Reducing my EMF load did not affect my MCS. I had to work VERY hard over a few weeks to get those gains. Hours of brain retraining and tapping every day. It was not easy. I surmise that reducing the EMF must have lowered my brain inflammation and made my brain more “plastic”, or able to receive the brain retraining. Hope that is clear.



  1. Brain retraining success stories | Limbic Retraining - [...] Thrive founder Julie Genser shared how she used DNRS™, the Gupta program, and EFT to make huge strides in healing …

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