Sue's Blog

Brain retraining for fragrance sensitivity and MCS – three failsafers report


I had fragrance sensitivity for years that eventually – during a virus - turned into severe MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity).  Then I read what ABC science writer Clare Pain said about her daughter:

“… Jane no longer has MCS. She got better using a brain-retraining programme created by a Canadian woman called Annie Hopper, who had MCS herself. Using this program, Jane gradually trained her brain not to react to fragrances as threats. She still gets osmophobic when she has an occasional migraine, but most of the time smells no longer bother her …”

Three failsafers with fragrance and chemical sensitivity also reported success with brain retraining programs for MCS – and as well, the technique is meant to work for CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD and Lyme disease. So I decided to try a course for myself. You can see our reports below on 3 programs and we would be very interested to hear from others who have used this approach This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1. Gupta Program

2-day workshops or Interactive DVD Home Study Course & Webinar Coaching Series
Cost: currently the Gupta home-study program is US$249.

Failsafer Ian’s report

During 2008 my environmental sensitivities rapidly became more severe. The symptoms included brain fog and physical fatigue, but with the novel addition of muscle twitches over the lower face. If I donned a carbon mask the symptoms mostly disappeared in about 20 minutes. By December I was wearing a carbon mask for many hours of the day. However, I could not sleep wearing a carbon mask. Some triggers were air conditioned buildings and VOCs at low levels. Sometimes I could not discern any trigger.

In late December I began the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Program. Symptoms decreased a little in a couple of weeks, but on 21st January 2009 I had the worst reaction ever, with the muscle twitching extending down my chest. However, that was my last MCS reaction. I have had no MCS reactions in the past nine years.

I was astonished and delighted that I had eliminated my MCS completely in less than a month of practicing the Program. I continued the Program for the next eighteen months, in the hope that I might reduce my food intolerances, but there was no reduction.

Ashok Gupta has published a paper in a medical journal - Gupta A, Unconscious amygdalar fear conditioning in a subset of chronic fatigue syndrome patients. Med Hypotheses. 2002;59(6):727-35. full text available on his website under Research

2. The Lightning Process

3 day workshops offered worldwide including New Zealand and Australia. So far we have heard success stories from two New Zealanders
More info from Phil Parker’s website, creator of The Lightning Process
Cost: about $NZ1450 3-day workshop
Step one: Listen to "Part One of the Lightning Process" home study audio programme, for about $30

Failsafe nun’s report (from NZ)

First email in 2013: A dietitian put me on a simplified version of the RPAH diet 9 months ago. I'm fine on a very restricted diet, but am finding that fumes (strong flowers and incense) are immediately producing the same symptoms. As a nun, there are times when I can't avoid them  … I’m currently having to sit outside our part of our Chapel for Mass when the priest uses incense …Even so, I can still smell the fumes in the room almost 24 hours later, and it is affecting my health for the rest of the week ­ brain fog, fatigue and sometimes a migraine too … from story [1208]

Update in 2018: … somebody told me about a training programme called The Lightning Process which uses neuroplasticity to resolve some health issues including food intolerances and sensitivities.  As I was down to only 12 food items I thought I had nothing to lose. Since completing the 3 day programme I have been able to eat everything again, and have had no problems with smells either.  

3. Annie Hopper's DNRS (Dynamic Neural Retraining System)

3 day workshops or home study DVD set
Cost: $249 USD for Annie Hopper DVD package 1 course

Sue Dengate’s report

I started the Annie Hopper DVD course 6 months ago.  It took me a month to watch all the DVDs, but by the end of the  4th DVD (in the first week) my chemical and fragrance sensitivity was very much improved. The course requires follow-up practice – an hour a day every day for 6 months, so I’ve just finished. I enjoyed this practice - including during two months in Spain walking 1000 kms on the Camino and staying in hotels with perfume diffusers that previously would have been a massive problem. There are some smells that I used to hate, that I am no longer aware of, and some that I can still smell but they don't bother me. Last week I walked down the cleaning aisle of a supermarket (previously I would have needed my Wein Air Supply personal air filter) and was amazed to find I actually liked the smells! As Annie Hopper says, that doesn't mean I want to wear or use perfumed products myself, but it doesn't affect me if others use them. 

Does the course work for food intolerances? Like Ian (above) with the Gupta program, I have eventually found not for me. But compared to ultrasensitive failsafers, I already eat a fairly liberal diet that I am happy with - plenty of moderate salicylates and a few highs every day. I did the course to get rid of my fragrance/chemical sensitivities and it worked brilliantly. I am so glad I did it, and very grateful to Annie Hopper. I wonder whether I should have  concentrated more on the food intolerance aspect – or is it likely to work better for people who have developed food intolerances as a result of environmental exposures (e.g. to pesticides, medications) rather than being born with them? …

Pros and cons

I found the Annie Hopper DVD course was quite hard work. It took me a month to get through the DVD set. Others on the internet have reported the same for both Annie Hopper’s course and the Gupta course (“not a quick fix” said one blogger).  On the plus side, it worked! And I liked that Annie herself had experienced MCS/fragrance sensitivity so knew what she was talking about.

Is attending a course better? I suspect that in some ways it may be quicker, easier and more fun, though more expensive.

Does it work for people with ADHD?  Annie Hopper says that her course doesn't necessarily suit people with ADHD because they can't concentrate. I can understand that.  I have good concentration but I still found it long and hard.

I don’t have much time – is there a quicker way to do this? Not that I’m aware of. There are some options offered on Phil Parker’s website that may be helpful – such as helping with anxiety, insomnia or depression. My severe MCS started improving when I bought my Wein Air Supply possibly because it made me more confident, so I was halfway there when I began the Annie Hopper course. I will still use my Wein to avoid infections during travel and in coughing crowds.

Howard's view: I was initially sceptical but supportive because the MCS was so crippling. The results were astonishingly effective and quick. My view is that the brain's fight or flight limbic system wrongly gets a panic message from smells and that this can be re-wired using the marvellous plasticity of the brain. I think that the same approach may work for some people with extreme food sensitivities but that, for the majority of people with pharmacological reactions to food, eating within tested limits will probably be required.

More information

ABC Radio National: The trouble with fragrance - Ockham’s Razor - Five years ago in science writer Clare Pain’s household, scented products became not a pleasure, but a threat.

Videos: see what brain retraining is about by watching the following two videos:

18 year old Tyffanee talks about her recovery from MCS on the Annie Hopper course: "flowers smell pretty  ... she gave me my life back" (5 minutes, very heartwarming)

The Science: Dr Norman Doidge talks about neuroplasticity in The brain that changes itself (51 minutes)

Living Grace Internet review of DNRS brain retraining for Lyme disease

"My first response was honestly, an eye roll. “‘Retrain the brain’? Do they think this is all in my head? This sounds like another load of positivity B.S. ...  I entered the DNRS program with a lot of skepticism ... I’ve been on the program for just 4 weeks now and the changes in that short period of time have been quite amazing. "

Dan Ross Internet review of DNRS

“About two and a half months into DNRS my MCS was completely gone.”

See also

Chemical sensitivity increasing - study blog

Fumes and perfumes factsheet