What is Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT)?

toxicant-induced loss of tolerance

Do you suffer from unexplained headaches, nausea, muscle pain, fatigue, or brain fog? Do odors such as fragrances, cleaning products, or vehicle exhaust make you feel ill? Then you may be suffering from toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT). 

What is Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance?

Toxicant-induced loss of tolerance is a two-part disease process that is initiated either by a one-time major exposure (such as a chemical spill), or a series of low-level chemical exposures (which may include pesticides, cleaning agents, prescription drugs, and indoor air contaminants from construction or remodeling). Instead of recovering from the initial exposure(s), the neurological and immune systems remain damaged and the individual begins to experience symptoms triggered by everyday items that never bothered them before (foods, chemicals, drugs, etc.).

The term “toxicant” refers to a man-made poison, such as cleaning chemicals, while “toxin” is a naturally occurring poison produced by living cells or organisms, such as snake venom. When chemical intolerance was first researched in the 1980s it was referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and the term is still used interchangeably with TILT. These initial studies failed to turn up any definitive results because no one examined the actual processing of chemicals by the brain and studies on how the immune system detoxifies the body were limited.

But the latest research suggests that chemical exposure alters brain processing so that the neurological setpoint for sensitivity falls. Once sick, the individual becomes highly sensitive to chemical exposures and can become increasingly reactive over time. Furthermore, a July 2012 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine found that 22% of individuals with chronic health issues suffer from some degree of chemical intolerance. According to the research director, Dr. Claudia Miller, “TILT describes a genuinely new class of diseases unique to our toxic, modern times.”

Common Symptoms and Triggers of Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT)

TILT-related symptoms can involve any and every organ system and vary greatly, from asthma to cardiac abnormalities to sleep disorders. Neurological symptoms are the most common and can include memory problems, brain fog, and mood changes. Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Allergy-like symptoms
  • Fatigue and muscle pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Migraines and headaches

Once a patient has become chemically intolerant, they experience increased sensitivity to a wide variety of triggers. The triggering substances can vary according to the individual and can include previously tolerated substances, such as a particular shampoo or food. The three main categories of tiggers are:

  • Chemicals – Indoor air is the most common source of chemical exposure for the majority of people, exposing them to synthetic fragrances, cleaning products, beauty products, paint, carpet, new furnishings, and more.
  • Drugs – Various medications and medical devices can also initiate or trigger TILT, such as anesthetics, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and implants.
  • Foods – When the body is overwhelmed, even once-loved foods can become triggers. Foods such as corn, wheat, milk, eggs, and commercial foods can contain pesticides or artificial ingredients that flare up TILT symptoms.

What to Do If You are Experiencing TILT Symptoms


If you suspect you are suffering from toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, call Anchor Wellness Center today at (832) 246-8437 and schedule a consultation with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM. As a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra uses functional medicine principles to help you regain your health. Dr. Malhotra will help you navigate reducing your exposure to toxins, reducing inflammation and promoting healthy gut bacteria through diet, and whether you can benefit from supplements such as vitamin D and glutathione precursors (the body’s master antioxidant).

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