How did TILT begin?

After World War II, people began using synthetic organic chemicals in their homes and work. From cleaning fluids and fragrances to construction materials and pesticides, many of these chemicals were “invented” within the past 70 years.

Over this time, our genes have not changed. Consequently, our bodies’ detoxification systems can’t always deal with all of these new substances.

Chemical exposures can harm mental and physical health in many ways. Cancer‐causing substances are one example. Surprisingly, “indoor air” is one of the most common sources of chemical exposures in many people’s lives.

Ninety percent of us spend 90 percent of our day inside tightly closed “boxes”— homes, cars, day cares, schools, office buildings — exposed to synthetic organic substances that did not exist before the 1940s.

When to Consider TILT

TILT isn’t an explanation for every illness. It’s an overlooked process that may occur at the same time as other health problems. Some health problems may be unrelated and require interventions like surgery or antibiotics.

Other health conditions may be improved when TILT is considered as a contributory or causal factor.

For people with high QEESI scores who suffer from various conditions, understanding the TILT process can identify low-risk ways to improve the quality of life for them and their families.

How Do Chemicals Cause TILT?

The most direct connection between the air we breathe and our brains is through our noses, via the nose‐to‐brain pathway. When chemicals or tiny particles such as smoke or traffic exhaust enter our noses, they are taken up by the olfactory nerves — tiny exposed nerve endings inside our noses that allow us to detect odors.

Here, there is no protective blood‐brain barrier. These nerve endings are bathed in the air around us. After entering these nerves, chemicals are carried to the part of the brain that extends forward above the nose, called the olfactory bulb.

The olfactory bulb provides much of the input to the limbic system, or “primitive smell brain.” The limbic system is vital for feeding, taking care of our young, temperature regulation, and many behaviors essential to our survival.

This region contains several vital structures:

  • The amygdala, also called “emotion central,” regulates our mood states, including anxiety, depression and irritability.
  • The hippocampus is essential for memory, attention and concentration. Any injury can temporarily or permanently alter our ability to concentrate and retain short‐term memories, such as recalling directions we’ve been told or something we just read.
  • The hypothalamus regulates eating, drinking and temperature. Exposures can lead to food cravings, overeating, obesity and other behaviors related to addiction.

Chemicals entering the limbic system via the brain-to-nose pathway can “sensitize” these structures so that subsequent exposure to very tiny amounts of the same, or even chemically-unrelated substances, trigger symptoms. For example, fragrances, pesticides, solvents, alcohol, caffeine and foods may trigger symptoms involving the respiratory, nervous, gastrointestinal or other systems.

The onset of these symptoms in a person who has been “TILTed” can be remarkably rapid, occurring within a breath or two. Our genes and our personal history of exposures determine who will develop TILT.