Your Home, Mold, and Your Health
Mold. The worst four letter word in the dictionary. Toxic mold throws assaults at the immune system which eventually weakens the body by overloading it with mycotoxins causing a myriad un often perplexing and seemingly unconnected symptoms leaving those suffering from mold toxicity feeling alone and frustrated.
Consider why two individuals residing in the same house yet only one becomes ill while others seem unscathed? There's a genetic reason for this occurrence and it's not all in the sick patients head. This discovery from Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker is changing the medical community revealing the harmful, and sometimes deadly, effects of mold on the human body. Dr. Shoemaker discovered amongst many of his very sick patients that some carried an HLA-DR gene. Simply put, the HLA gene inhibits the body from tagging and removing mold from the body leaving individuals defenseless all the while accumulating harmful amounts of mold in the body. One in four individuals lacks the genetic make up to identify mold as a toxin and thus lacks to ability to detoxify it from the body. Given enough time and enough exposure, anyone is susceptible to becoming ill. With every inhale the toxic burden within becomes greater and more burdensome weaking the body and inflaming it more and more. This continues until each individuals toxic bucket becomes so full that it initiates negative chain reactions throughout the body.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more than a quarter of U. S. buildings are water-damaged. This number is low in my opinion. As our climate is changing and our housing material becomes cheaper we find ourselves living in homes that are in essence made of the very thing that mold loves to consume (organic surfaces where there tends to be elevated moisture such as drywall, HVAC units, carpets and baseboards, and windowsills). Not only should the home environment be considered but also work environments. Then there's basements, which can harbor musty odors caused from high humidity and a lack of temperature regulation.
Repeated or ongoing exposures to to biotoxins causes Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), a progressive, multi-system, multi-symptom illness. This inflammatory response is a full blown cytokine storm that includes a plethora of unpleasant and often debilitating symptoms that greatly affect and limit individual's quality of life. These symptoms that include:
Ice Pick Pain
Eye and skin irritation (rashes, hives)
Metallic Taste in Mouth
Abdominal Pain, Diarrhea
Shortness of Breath
Impaired Memory, Decreased Word Finding
Increased Urinary Frequency
Difficulty Regulating Body Temperature
Red, Irritated, or Blurry Eyesight
From the list it's easy to see how CIRS can easily be misdiagnosed leaving individuals going from physician to physician and spending thousands of dollars for answers. We dangerously underrate the toxicity and harm that mold causes and assume it's just a part of life. We see it, we clean it, we move on. What we fail to do is wonder why it is there in the first place and take appropriate measure remediate. This mentality causes us to overlook the underlying source and can cause a great deal of harm. Don't fall off your rocker if you see mold but have a greater appreciation for the destructive nature it can have on your health. The aforementioned symptoms shouldn't be taken lightly and can compound over time to produce some very negative and serious health consequences.
If chronic inflammatory response syndrome is suspected but you're unsure and you desire a concrete diagnosis you can do hire a mold literate physician and have them run labs and to test for the genes HLA-DR and HLA-DQ which are indicative of CIRS susceptibility.
The following labs should be included to properly diagnose CIRS:
Vasoactive intestinal peptide – VIP regulates the absorption of both water and electrolytes. It is also responsible for some heart and vascular functions. Low levels in the body can cause loose stools.
Transforming growth factor Beta 1 – TGF Beta 1 is a protein that has important regulatory effects on the immunes system, is responsible for cell division and death (apoptosis), regulates muscle development and wound healing . Elevated numbers can cause of shortness of breath.
Melanocyte stimulating hormone – MSH is a group of hormones produced by the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and skin cells that controls the pigment of your skin but it also regulates cytokines and pituitary function while also controlling protective areas of gastrointestinal tract and mucus membranes of the nose and lung.
C4A – C4A is a group of proteins working with your immune system and are responsible for activating your neutrophil cells increasing inflammation significantly. Elevated numbers often indicate CIRS.
Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) – ACTH is a hormone released from the pituitary gland that regulates your cortisol levels. Levels become elevated and then drop with ongoing long-term exposure.
Cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone is released in high quantities when you are stressed or your immune system needs additional help. Cortisol levels may be high initially but drop over time.
Anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA) IgA/IgE – These antibodies are produced in response to gliadin. Usually triggered in gluten sensitive individuals, but also also affected by mold biotoxins.
VEGF – Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor is a substance make by cells that stimulates blood vessel formulation. In CIRS this marker is low.
Leptin – Leptin regulates how quickly the body will store fat in the body. Elevated levels of leptin result in fast weight gain.
Anti-cardiolipin antibodies (ACLA) IgA/IgG/IgM – These antibodies are proteins in the blood produced to attack foreign invaders. Elevated numbers usually indicate high levels of inflammation signifying antibodies are attacking your healthy tissues instead of the biotoxins.
Antidiuretic hormone – ADH is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus that regulates the water in your body, your blood pressure, and concentration of urine in your kidneys. Reduced levels lead to dehydration, increased thirst, and frequent urination.
MMP-9 – MMP-9 is an enzyme responsible for many different processes such as wound healing, blood vessel formation, and embryonic formation. Increased levels are a sign of CIRS.
You physician should take a full history including the last time you felt well, environments you have inhabited and worked in, your diet and lifestyle and so on. It's important to get at the root cause by conducting a full health history otherwise inflammation will only continue to perpetuate physical symptoms. A good and knowledgeable doctor is worth the time, travel, and financial resources!
If you are confident you have CIRS/Mold Illness and don't desire to go the practitioner route you can hire a mold literate coach to help guide and navigate your road to recovery to teach you how to optimize your recovery with practical tools to implement, the most nutrient dense & anti-inflammatory foods and herbs to speed healing, how to safely lower you toxic burden, how to properly clean your environment, traveling with CIRS, communicating with loved ones and much more.
Healing from CIRS/Mold Illness is more than food, lowering your toxic burden, and remediating the home. All are necessary and need to be supported for total healing but so does the emotional and mental components of health. CIRS can often be very expensive result in great loss of possessions and quality of life. Sufferers often feel alone and misunderstood in their suffering, limitations and their healing journey. Physicians address the physical but don't have time to address you as a whole person.
With a personal history of healing from CIRS twice, my heart goes out to this community as I watch them drifting around trying to navigate healing in a medical community that doesn't understand the illness well. If this is you today, take heart and know that healing is possible and health is possible and within your reach! My personal experience with CIRS allows me to educate you, offering the best healing modalities for your protocol, teaching you how to optimize nutrition to speed recovery, what to let go of and what to incorporate to heal, and helping you restore your quality of life!
Do You Suspect You May Have CIRS?
If you suspect you may have mold illness you can do one or several of the following. Use these as tools below but keep in mind this is not a means to diagnose.
1) Take my CIRS Questionnaire
2) Take an online Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test
3) Check out my CIRS Resources page with a vast array of educational material to help you learn more, and my blog post "When You Suspect Mold In Your Environment"
4) Hire a Mold Literate Health Coach
Resources For Further Reading/Viewing
The Better Healt Guy search "mold"
Stefanie is a Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach & Holistic Nutritionist who specializes in Detoxification, Functional Nutrition, Lyme Disease & Mold Illness.
She is available for one-on-one health coaching sessions to support you and walk by your side. Please reach out for a complimentary consult to learn more about how partnering with me can help you along your healing journey. Together we thrive!