Have hope. Because if you eliminate enough of your triggers, you can still get back to an enjoyable life. All about adverse reactions to drugs

Uncover the truth about adverse reactions to drugs Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know

And start taking back control of your health

Have you ever had an adverse reaction to a drug, vaccine, chemical, food, or naturally occurring substance? Unfortunately, the chances are that you have. 

Perhaps a better question is would you recognise if you’d had adverse reactions to drugs or anything else? You might think it should be obvious when you’ve suffered an adverse reaction. But side effects can be subtle and are seldom evident immediately.

Back in 2016, my life was changed forever when I had a gadolinium-based contrast MRI. It only took a single injection. One afternoon slot in an MRI scanner. I was in and out again in less than an hour. But I’ll remember that afternoon for the rest of my life.

Because starting a few hours later, I had a horrible adverse reaction to that contrast dye. I’ve written more about what that experience was like here, here, here and in my book, “Contrasts: More than meets the MRI.” 

So now I have TILT. Do you have it, too?

Bet you’ve never heard of TILT before. At least not in this context. 

But when you discover what it is, you likely will resonate with it. 

Tilt stands for Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance. 

What is a toxicant?

Toxicants are poisonous substances. They can be man-made synthetic poisons, or they can be naturally occurring. 

Naturally occurring substances made by living organisms that have toxic effects are simply called toxins. 

Synthetic toxicants include pesticides, cleaning products, many (maybe most or even all?) medications, surgical implants, skincare products, chemicals found in plastics, dyes, Teflon, pollutants… the list could go on and on. But you get the picture. 

Heavy metals are also toxicants. 

We’re usually not exposed to heavy metals naturally in our foods, the air we breathe or through our skins to any great extent. 

Or at least we weren’t before modern farming methods, dentistry, manufacturing methods, mining, fracking, food production, pollution, and all sorts of other things started to change in the name of progress over the last few centuries. 

But the last century has seen heavy metal contamination accelerate. 

You have heavy metals in your body.

Now, we’re exposed to toxic metals through our dental fillings. 

We’re injected with gadolinium in MRI contrasts. 

Our least nutritious foods are “fortified” with calcium, but also lead and cadmium as a contaminant. For example, did you know that bread and rolls are the commonest dietary exposure to lead in Europe?

We used lead in petroleum and in our paints until only a couple of decades ago. Scratch that, leaded petrol is still sometimes used in developing countries and some aviation fuel still contains it. 

Lead was also used to make water pipes in old houses and as an ingredient in indoor and outdoor paint. And lead paint is still being produced and used to make children’s toys in developing countries. Some of which are imported to more westernised countries. 

Even makeup often contains heavy metals… eyeliner, mascara, shimmer, red lipstick… all potentially very toxic. 

Ever break an old-fashioned mercury thermometer? Same thing. 

Mould toxins (mycotoxins) are natural. But they can be every bit as nasty as the man-made ones. 

What is a toxic burden?

These toxic exposures can theoretically be single agents. But much more often, over your lifetime, you’ll be exposed to toxicants dozens, hundreds or thousands of times. 

Your body will attempt to eliminate as much as possible. But the efficacy of elimination depends on several factors. These include genetics, your nutritional status, stress, medications you take, the temperature of your ambient environment, your age, and your general health.

Over time, you’ll tend to store toxicants in different organs. In particular, bone, fat, the brain and nervous tissue, organs, and connective tissues can accumulate toxicants. We call the total amount of toxicants residing in your body your toxic burden.

How common is it for people to be exposed to toxicants?

Exposure starts in the womb before you’re even born. Women who’ve just given birth have had the levels and presence of hundreds of toxicants measured in their placentas. 

Then there’s the first stool of their babies (called meconium). Meconium has also been examined. Can you guess what it’s also full of? Yep… toxicants. 

Then for the rest of your life, you’ll be exposed to: 

  • pesticides and other contaminants like dioxins and heavy metals in food, 
  • pollution in the environment, 
  • chemicals in skincare, cleaning products, toothpaste, hair care, and more,
  • chemicals in common household and work products like flame retardants, phthalates, and PVC,
  • heavy metals, drug metabolites, pesticides, chlorine and fluoride in your water,
  • medications containing pharmaceutical drugs and contaminants, investigational dyes, vaccines, and even surgical implants,
  • mycotoxins from moulds,
  • poor quality indoor air,
  • naturally occurring toxins present from the microbial breakdown of food and toxins produced inside your body by microbes living there,
  • defensive compounds synthesised by plants, bacteria and fungi in natural foods like oxalates and salicylates,
  • food additives used to enhance the flavour, smell, palatability, texture, and shelflife of ultra-processed foods 

What's the first stage in developing TILT?

These toxic exposures are called initiating events because they can be the catalyst to your health rapidly going downhill. But these exposures can be sneaky and difficult to identify. 

Worse than that, even when your adverse event is a life-threatening reaction and occurs soon after you’ve been exposed to an obvious toxin, your doctor and family still might not believe you. Your doctors and healthcare professionals may check a few baseline blood tests like a full blood picture, renal function and liver function tests. These are likely to come back normal. And so is the MRI of your brain with gadolinium contrast. Then your doctor will probably dismiss your reactions as psychosomatic and label you with a functional neurological disorder. 

Only now, you’re feeling far worse physically and emotionally. Because you’ve also got gadolinium toxicity and you feel betrayed by the system. 

Then your doctor tells you that you pee all the gadolinium out through your urine within 48 hours. So any deterioration in your health can’t be due to the gadolinium contrast agent. Even though the FDA acknowledges that everyone retains gadolinium contrast for years, decades, or possibly the rest of your life. 

And when you bring this up with your doctor, they respond with, “but the FDA says it’s safe, and there’s no evidence showing that this causes problems.”

That’s not true. There’s no evidence that it’s safe because even yet, no studies have been done to look at safety, except for the studies on renal patients who develop Gadolinium-Induced Petrification Syndrome (GIPSy). You probably call this NSF or gadolinium-associated systemic fibrosis. 

So if you’re a renal patient and you retain gadolinium, your doctor might take you seriously. Or they might not because some doctors claim that there have been no new cases of “NSF” in the last several years since the FDA issued a black box warning in 2007. This is false. A 2018 analysis of “NSF” cases reported to the pharmaceutical company Bayer from 2006 to 2016 confirms more recent cases of GIPSy were being recorded. And there are still new cases being diagnosed, such as this recent case of gadolinium-associated systemic fibrosis (GASF) in Korea published in 2020, where Dotarem (a macrocyclic agent) was used

This is what has happened to many of my clients. Most of them are very intuitive and realised themselves that something was badly wrong after their first, second or third contrast injection.

It’s rare for a doctor to flag up gadolinium contrast as the cause of patients’ new or worsening symptoms. Instead, your doctor is more likely to arrange further contrast scans and other investigations to try to identify a cause. These tests are futile and can make things worse by exposing you to more toxicity. But what happens after these tests return normal is even worse. Because typically you’re labelled with a functional neurological disorder with health anxiety.

Once you get labelled with health anxiety, few doctors will take your symptoms seriously. Antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs are likely to be the only treatment you’re offered after this. And psychotropic medications are some of the most addictive and toxic drugs you can be prescribed.

So we need to increase awareness of the myriad side effects caused by gadolinium so that patients, their families, doctors and other healthcare professionals can recognise them. You can discover the commonest symptoms of gadolinium toxicity in this post.

What are adverse reactions?

An adverse reaction is an unwanted or dangerous reaction to something. Although the official definition suggests that adverse reactions to drugs are unexpected, I seldom find this is the case. 

It turns out that adverse events are more predictable when you return to basic principles

When you begin to understand how the body works, you can start to predict what sorts of adverse effects you can expect from medicinal products, environmental chemicals, vaccines, foods, and other toxicants. And there are growing numbers of studies both looking at the mechanisms drugs used to injure our metabolic health and listing adverse drug reactions that you can refer to if you’re in doubt. You can search for adverse drug reaction reports for most common medications online and look for them in clinical trials.

Are adverse reactions to drugs the same as side effects?

Officially, they’re different. Side effects are common and predictable. 

Adverse drug effects are supposed to be rare and unpredictable. So you may find them described as idiosyncratic reactions. Although, in real life, it’s often the case that adverse events are under-recognised, largely undiagnosed, and patients are instead gaslit and labelled with a “functional neurological disorder.” This implies that if they change their thought patterns and behaviours, they’ll recover to normal. Moreover, it shifts the focus from looking for poisons, malnutrition, chronic stealth infections, inflammation, or anything else contributing to symptoms.

Anyway, I struggle to see how adverse drug events to commonly used medications can come as a surprise. On the contrary, you can anticipate them if you’ve been paying attention to physiology, biochemistry, healthcare, environmental factors, and nutrition science.

Side effects are adverse events that occur so commonly in people that your doctor isn’t surprised when you complain of them. 

What causes adverse reactions to drugs and other toxicants?

Toxicants can impair normal biological processes in lots of ways. So let’s consider for a moment how your body works.

When toxicants interfere with enzymes

An incredible number of biochemical reactions occur throughout all your cells. Many of these are driven by enzymes. Enzymes are the machinery inside your cells that facilitate turning one chemical into another using energy.

One of the ways that toxicants can cause problems is by altering the way your enzymes work. Usually, toxicants block enzymes. This either stops the reaction from happening at all or slows it right down. 

As a result, you might not be able to produce enough energy inside your cells to perform basic tasks. Or you might not be able to create the proteins needed to build tissues, functional enzymes, or digestive enzymes. Perhaps you’ll be unable to make enough antioxidants to prevent excessive free radical damage inside your cells. That could be like having a raging fire burning out of control without enough firefighters.

Now and again, the opposite will happen: a toxicant will take the brakes off an enzyme and speed up chemical reactions that should be happening in a much slower and more controlled manner. Enzyme stimulation is usually considered a benefit. But on occasion, you can end up with too much of a good thing. Like when too much dietary histamine stimulates your stomach to pump out more acid than you need if you suffer from mast cell activation syndrome.

What are channels, and why are they important?

Your cells have lots of little gateways in their membranes controlling what enters and leaves the cell. There are different sorts of gateways built for various substances. Some of these gateways are passive, and when they open, water and other substances simply flow across them. Others use energy to pump chemicals in or out of your cells.

Very little can get in or out of your cells without passing through one of these gateways or channels. And they open and close when necessary to allow precise amounts of substances to cross at exactly the right time.

When toxicants cause adverse reactions by acting as channel blockers

Toxicants can block these channels, preventing substances from moving in or out of cells. If the cell in question is a heart cell, it might stop beating or beat irregularly. On the other hand, if it’s a brain cell, you might feel: 

  • drowsy, 
  • groggy, 
  • confused, 
  • lose consciousness, 
  • have a seizure, 
  • or experience an abnormal sensation or other strange neurological symptoms. 

Toxic metals like gadolinium and lead block calcium and other channels. So you would expect a myriad of related symptoms, including neuropsychiatric problems, muscle twitches and heart palpitations. But since all of your cells use calcium channels to perform some function, the mischief doesn’t stop there. 

When toxicants cause adverse reactions by opening channels

Sometimes toxicants can stop channels from closing correctly when they’re meant to. This will cause them to leak. And you’ll experience a host of slightly different symptoms from this. 

The importance of cell signalling

Channels are a crucial component in your body’s chemical messaging systems. Your cells talk to each other using small signalling molecules. When these signalling molecules travel throughout your body, they’re called hormones. Signalling molecules that travel very short distances between nerve cells are called neurotransmitters. And those that are used by your immune system and travel intermediate distances within tissues or longer distances in the blood are called cytokines. These are the same cytokines you’ve heard of that cause cytokine storms.

Of course, signalling molecules need to leave one cell and enter another to propagate a signal. To do this, they move through channels. 

And toxicants can disrupt cell signalling by interfering with channels or even reducing the amounts of chemical signals your cells produce.

How endocrine-disrupting chemicals cause side effects

The official name for your hormonal system is the endocrine system. So toxicants that interfere with those signals are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Phthalates are common toxicants you’ll find in your home and workplace that are EDCs.

Through their effects on channels, EDCs and other toxicants can contribute to numerous common symptoms like: 

  • fatigue, 
  • weight gain, 
  • menstrual disturbances, 
  • changes in hair growth, 
  • mood changes, 
  • weakness, 
  • disturbed sleep, 
  • depression, 
  • anxiety, 
  • rashes, 
  • pain, 
  • tingling, 
  • numbness and altered sensation. 

And that’s just for starters. Even tissue growth and repair is regulated by cytokines and hormones, so the following are also affected: 

  • wound healing, 
  • lean muscle mass, 
  • gut health, 
  • and joint integrity.

Toxicants can also interfere with other processes, including switching your genes on and off at the right (or wrong) times. They can even interfere with your body’s ability to detoxify or eliminate both the natural toxins you produce as waste and synthetic toxicants that have found their way into your body. Meaning that toxicants can indirectly increase your toxic burden even further.

Toxicants can impact your microbiome.

Rather than being a single human organism, it turns out that we’re an ecosystem of human and microbial life. More like a coral reef full of remarkable lifeforms cooperating and living in harmony. 

Or that’s how you hope things are running. The term for this complex organism made from a nexus of multiple living creatures is a holobiont

The microbial parts of your holobiont help you by supplying you with nutrients and health-promoting substances. They aid in

  • eliminating toxicants and metabolites, 
  • protecting you from attacks by invading pathogens, 
  • reducing inflammation, 
  • supporting your metabolism,
  • supporting your organs in their day-to-day functions, including your brain and heart,
  • and regulating lots of your bodily processes.

All of your external surfaces have their own distinct microbiota. Even the surfaces of your eyes. And you have internal microbiota in your gut, respiratory system, and genitourinary system as well. Meanwhile, a microbial cloud follows you around in the air in your vicinity everywhere you go that is unique enough to you to act like an invisible fingerprint.

Conversely, if your microbiome becomes damaged by toxicants, pathogenic organisms can take over, which can cause a great deal of harm. For example, they can add to your toxic burden by producing toxicants like alcohol, aldehydes, and endotoxin or lipopolysaccharide. Or they can become very aggressive and attack your cells directly. In addition, pathogenic microbes can increase inflammation by stimulating your immune system.

I hope you’re starting to get a picture of the mechanisms that toxicants use to cause chaos inside your body. It should be clear how toxicants can directly cause both adverse reactions and side effects.

What sort of symptoms can you expect to see from toxin and toxicants exposure (if you survive)? 

Pretty much anything and everything. Because these toxins can reach and corrupt every single cell in your body. 


There can be a causal relationship between toxicant exposures and symptoms such as:

  • pain, 
  • brain fog, 
  • memory loss, 
  • weakness, 
  • seizures, 
  • incoordination, 
  • muscle loss, 
  • tingling, 
  • pins and needles, 
  • numbness, 
  • reduced fertility, 
  • ringing in your ears, 
  • poor digestion, 
  • abdominal pain,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhoea or constipation,
  • autoimmune disease, 
  • skin rashes, 
  • dry skin, 
  • a weakened immune system with increased risk of infection (including herpes and shingles reactivations but also colds and flu or more severe infections) while simultaneously suffering from chronic inflammation, 
  • liver failure and dysfunction, 
  • kidney failure and dysfunction, 
  • thyroid disease, 
  • anxiety, 
  • depression, 
  • drowsiness, 
  • weight loss, 
  • weight gain, 
  • metabolic syndrome, 
  • high blood pressure, 
  • cancer, 
  • dementia, 
  • Parkinson’s, 
  • ALS, 
  • insomnia, 
  • fatigue, 
  • increased sleeping…

What's the second stage in TILT?

You should now also have a feel for how toxicants can interfere with normal bodily functions. And see how this can make you much more susceptible to experiencing problems when exposed to substances that you used to cope with. By interfering with essential functions, including digestion, hormone regulation, your ability to produce energy, elimination pathways, gene expression, and your microbiome, initiating toxicants can leave your body in a very weakened state.

And when your digestion and gut health is impaired, your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients you need to function is reduced further. This increases your risk of frank malnutrition, which is already very high if you’ve been trying to follow national dietary guidelines in the UK and most other countries. If you’d like to learn more about how commonplace malnutrition is in the UK, I’ve written about it here.

And what can be even more insidious is that you can lose tolerance to lots of things in your life:

  • Specific foods,
  • Foods that aren’t fresh (histamine and tyramine intolerances),
  • Perfumes,
  • Chemicals,
  • Medications,
  • Sunlight (photosensitivity and increased risk of burning in the sun),
  • Moderate to strong electromagnetic fields, and
  • Exercise.

Consequently, all of these common exposures can trigger flares. So naturally, they’re called triggers. 

Are adverse reactions to drugs the same thing as allergic reactions?

No. An allergic reaction is mediated by your immune system. Your immune system identifies a drug, food, chemical, or other substance as foreign and a threat to your health. And it creates an antibody-mediated immune response to eliminate the perceived threat. So the symptoms of an allergic reaction are caused by your immune response rather than a direct toxic response.

How long do adverse reactions from triggers take to manifest?

It would be helpful if you immediately experienced severe symptoms when you’re exposed to these substances. But that would be too easy. 

Instead, flares can occur within seconds, minutes, or even days of your exposure. When it comes to the cumulative effects over the long haul, we’re talking months, years, or decades in the case of cancer, heart attacks, and dementia. 

So good luck first identifying them and then getting your doctor to believe you. They might acknowledge your trigger if you present to a hospital with an anaphylactic reaction. But they may gaslight you if you tell them you didn’t have these issues before your latest vaccine or gadolinium contrast agent or dental work. Because these things “go through many tests for safety and effectiveness and are then monitored closely.” 

After this, your family may also accuse you of making it all up. Because your doctor said, “it’s all in your head.” And pressure you into taking an antidepressant for your “functional neurological disorder.” 

FYI, antidepressants and other psychotropic medications also have toxic effects, often adding insult to injury. 

What can you do? 

First, report your adverse drug reaction to your health care provider and make sure either they or you report it through your country’s adverse event reporting system. This is through the Yellow Card System run by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK. If you live in the USA, you can report an adverse drug event to the FDA using MedWatch or if it’s a vaccine reaction, make a VAERS report through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Other countries have their own medicine regulators. But it should be straight forward finding them.

Ideally, you’d get all of the initiating toxic agents safely out of your body. While that’s a great goal, it can take time and can be complicated and even risky.

In fact, it’s not always possible. But that shouldn’t stop you from either using gentle ways to support your elimination pathways or from using other methods to start feeling better now.

So the next best thing is to identify all your triggers. Or at least as many of them as you can. Then you can start to work on getting your life back on track. Because it’s primarily been on hold while you’ve been too sick to enjoy it and too unwell to both hold down a job AND have a fulfilling life outside of work. 

Plus, you’ve been trying to find your own answers since medical professionals have diagnosed your issues as depression and anxiety, explaining how an antidepressant will take away all your problems. But it doesn’t help.

Why doesn't everyone have the same reactions?

These complications are criminally underdiagnosed. Some experts believe as many as 10-20% of people suffer from them. But they’re being diagnosed with migraines, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and other common conditions instead. 

Each individual has their own toxic exposures: 

  • different chemicals, 
  • different doses, 
  • at different points in their lives, 
  • with different protective measures in place. 

It could be the difference between someone being exposed when they’re well-nourished to someone else being exposed when they’re suffering from malnutrition. 

Or a person who’s stressed, burnt out from work and caring for sick relatives, and sleep-deprived versus another with excellent family support and a dream job who starts the day with meditation and exercise and never takes their work home. 

Genetics also play a role. 

I reckon most of my clients suffer from TILT. And most of my clients just happen to be hypermobile. Coincidence? Hardly. 

We hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome types are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to toxic exposures. 

We’ll collapse with dizziness, depression, gut problems, pain and fatigue and know something is wrong with us. But others might just gain some weight and think they’re fine until their cancer diagnosis hits them out of the blue. 

Of course, many genes are involved in elimination pathways, including the xenobiotic metabolising enzymes. Xenobiotic means foreign to the body. Xenobiotic-metabolising enzymes help to break down foreign toxicants. You possess a suite of them. 

If you’re lucky, almost all of your xenobiotic-metabolising enzymes work proficiently, helping you glide through life. But if you’re unfortunate, you might have a bunch of inefficient detox enzymes. This can leave a backlog of toxicants building up, wreaking havoc. Or worse, a block in phase 2 detoxification may convert some toxicants into something even more toxic but fail to complete the next step necessary to neutralise them. 

Seasons and environmental temperatures can alter your response to toxicity.

Even the seasons can affect how well you tolerate exposures. For example, many people feel better in the summer when they’ve been outside, and their vitamin D levels have been topped up. 

Others feel sick when the temperature outdoors goes above 20°C and can’t stand the sun. 

Why doesn't Big Pharma want you to know all of this?

It’s common for doctors and patients to underestimate the role toxicants can play in causing severe and life-threatening illnesses. When they learn the extent of the problem, many people choose a different path from medicines and surgeries. Instead, they opt for lifestyle and dietary changes. As I’ve grown older and realised that adverse drug reactions are more common, disabling, and chronic than I believed, my perspective on the role of medications as first-line treatments has changed. It’s put me off taking drugs. Many of my clients have come to the same realisation.

If you suffer from a problematic adverse medical event or side effect from a toxicant, your doctor may prescribe a counter medication to suppress unpleasant symptoms. And even more drugs to suppress the symptoms caused by TILT triggers. On the other hand, if people avoid their triggers and minimise or eliminate their exposures to the initiating toxicants, their need for medications can plummet. This often results in people weaning down or even stopping many drugs completely.


So that’s TILT. 

Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance. 

Initiated by exposure to one or more toxic chemicals. You may never work out what the initiating exposures were. Or, if you do, you might never have a doctor validate them. 

TILT is then driven by exposure to things that you would expect to be innocuous and that you used to get away with. 

But now they’re making you ill. 

And they’re insidious. The triggers may take months, years, or decades to identify in the case of delayed reactions. Or you might never determine them and despair that life as you knew it is over for good. Especially if you try to identify them yourself without any help. 

If you’re lucky, you might be able to safely remove enough of the toxins from your body to get back to normal. But only a chosen few will accomplish this. 

Have hope. Because if you eliminate enough of your triggers, you can still get back to an enjoyable life. Like I and many of my clients have. 

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