If you suspect that you have been exposed to mold, you might consider getting some testing done. Unfortunately, conventional blood work will not provide you with many answers when it comes to diagnosing CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome)/biotoxin illness.
Functional medicine doctors may perform the following tests to check for mold toxicity:
Urine Mycotoxin Testing:
This urinalysis detects elevated levels of mycotoxins in urine, which is a sign of mold illness. Unfortunately, this test is not always accurate since fat cells and organs holds onto these toxins and levels of mold in urine may be falsely low, as a result.
Some individuals have found that infrared sauna sessions prior to urine mycotoxin testing helps draw mycotoxins from deep in the system to be better excreted in urine.
Inflammatory Marker Blood Tests:
Specific tests checking for inflammatory and immune system biomarkers may be performed. Elevated levels don’t necessarily prove that you have mold illness, but they are indicators of inflammatory and/or immune dysregulation activity common with mold-related illness. Examples are C4a, TGF Beta-1, and MMP-9.
Since biotoxins and their accompanied inflammation affects your ability to detect visual patterns, the VCS is a quick, non-invasive test that measures if you have been exposed to mold and possesses a high level of accuracy (92%).
According to Dr. Shoemaker’s research, biotoxins specifically impair the visual signaling information from the optic nerve to the brain as a result of a decrease in the velocity of blood, specifically red blood cells, reaching the eye.
The Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test is available online and is simple and easy to take. It helps individuals begin the early detection process of understanding the root cause of their illness.
Functional medicine physicians will also ask you specific questions regarding your suspected mold exposure and symptoms.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as well as prepare to answer prior to seeing a specialist:
History of mold exposure:
Have you spent time in a water-damaged building? Did you see the mold or is suspected? When did the symptoms begin to occur? Did symptoms begin after moving to a particular home or starting a job at a new workplace?
Infections and Immune System:
Do you have recurrent infections, such as sinusitis, tonsillitis or frequent urinary tract infections, bronchitis and yeast infections?
Do you feel worse/have symptoms when you enter certain buildings, such as your home, office, or school? Do you feel better when you spend a few days away from these buildings? Do you feel better outdoors?
What symptoms, if any, do you experience when exposed to various chemicals, such as perfumes, detergents, cleaning products, cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, etc.?
Have experienced a hypersensitivity to smells, particularly mold? Can you immediately smell mold when entering certain buildings?
Healing from Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome caused by mold is not easy. It takes time and various steps to peel back the layers and address multiple issues and systems affected by the inflammation.
Remove Yourself from Exposure to Mold:
The first step is to get yourself away from mold as soon as possible. You can check your environment for mold toxicity via ERMI testing. ERMI stands for Environmental Relative Moldiness Index. What’s great about this testing method is that its objective and measurable, allowing you to identify and quantify various strains of molds.
This might mean moving and throwing away much of your belongings. Bleaching walls will not kill mold. Even one mold spore on a pillow can proliferate quickly to mold infestation in a new environment. There truly is no other way.
If you have a medical device, such as breast implants, that you suspect are contaminated with mold, the only way to heal is to explant, or surgically remove them in a procedure known as en bloc explantation. Unfortunately, there are no scans, x-rays or tests to measure if your breast implants are indeed the root cause of your mold toxicity. You will only know once you remove them and have the implants tested.
Once you have identified the root cause and removed yourself from the mold, it’s important to begin the detoxification process. This may take years, depending on the length of your exposure and resulting co-infections.
Mold can inhibit your immune system, contributing to co-infections, such as viruses, heavy metal toxicity, bacteria and parasites. Binders, such as cholestyramine, charcoal and clay are utilized to help remove mold, toxins and co-infections from your system.
Liver support during the detoxification process is crucial. You may feel worse before you feel better due to the “die off” process of mold, candida, bacteria, viruses and parasites. This all part of the healing process. Liver support includes various herbs such as milk thistle and artichoke leaf to protect your liver from damage during the detoxification process. These herbs also help to improve blood flow from the liver and strengthen your immune system as well as alleviate some of the common detox symptoms.
S acetyl glutathione may also be taken to help detoxify the system. Glutathione is known as the master antioxidant. S-acetyl Glutathione is the most bioavailable form of oral glutathione, nearly as equivalent as IV glutathione. The issue with other forms of glutathione is that enzymes in your stomach break it down before it can ever reach the bloodstream and become useful. Most liposomal glutathione uses the reduced form which isn’t the best-- it’s much cheaper which is why supplement companies use it. They add more mg per serving, which customers assume is better.
The main differentiator with forms of glutathione is the S-acetyl group attached to the sulfur atom of cysteine in the glutathione molecule. It’s ideal for oral ingestion, because this acetyl group protects glutathione from breaking down in the gastrointestinal tract. The acetylated form of glutathione, therefore, provides optimum absorption and bioavailability.
S-Acetyl-Glutathione not only has been shown to remain stable in the gastrointestinal tract, but it also has a longer plasma half-life with improved ability to enter cells and raise intracellular glutathione levels more efficiently. It also is evidenced to cross the blood-brain barrier and is nearest in efficacy to IV glutathione than any other oral form.
Because mold toxicity impairs methylation, it’s important to also supplement with cofactors, such as molybdenum, selenium and riboflavin, that help with glutathione’s upregulation. This is also the case if you possess the HLA-DR gene or MTHFR genetic mutation. These cofactors will help ensure your body utilizes glutathione properly and will ease detox symptoms.
Address Gut Issues:
Most people with mold toxicity have leaky gut syndrome as well as other digestive issues. In leaky gut syndrome, junctures in the gut malfunction and allow substances to leak into the bloodstream. Although mainstream medicine does not recognize leaky gut syndrome as a diagnosis, research indicates that it may contribute to health issues, such as autoimmune diseases, autism and cancer. Along with dietary and lifestyle changes, various herbs and supplements may be utilized to help reduce inflammation and promote healing. These herbs include aloe to support the gut’s mucosal lining and licorice root to target parasites and bacteria.
Mold impairs the gut’s microbiome. Mycotoxin exposure reduces diversity of good bacteria that help promote a healthy immune system. At the same time, they also promote the growth of pathogenic strains, causing further gut inflammation that may present as diarrhea, frequent urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, skin issues and bloodstream infections. Probiotics can help reestablish a healthy intestinal flora and destroy bad bacteria and fungi.
Since 25% of the world’s crops of grains, nuts, spices, coffee, legumes, potatoes, nuts and wine are contaminated by mycotoxins, it would be wise to eliminate these foods from your diet in order to heal. Dr. Shoemaker recommends a No Amylose Diet, which excludes the following foods:
Grains: Wheat, Rice, Rye, Oat, Barley and Millet
Gluten, Alcohol, Coffee
Sugars: Glucose, Dextrose, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup
All Foods Grown Underground: Beet, Carrot, Parsnip, Radish, Potato, Sweet Potato, Yam, Peanuts (Exception: Garlic and Onions are allowed.)
Processed Foods: Fast Food, Soft Drinks, Commercial Fruit Juice
Due to malabsorption issues, mold creates body deficiencies that will need to be addressed.
Zinc: Zinc is crucial to proper immune function, and mold steals it from your system for its own survival. A 2012 study titled, “Zinc Exploitation by Pathogenic Fungi,” found that fungi assimilate zinc from their host environment (you) for their own growth and proliferation.
Vitamin D: Be sure to get adequate amounts of sunlight by spending time outdoors every day. Take a high-quality vitamin D supplement. Your vitamin D levels should range between 50-70. Adequate vitamin D levels are needed to help heal the gut and immune system.
Magnesium: Responsible for over 300 bodily functions, magnesium plays an important role in supporting your entire body. Fibromyalgia is a common diagnosis that accompanies mold toxicity. Magnesium glycinate and malate are two bioavailable forms that have been researched to help both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. According to the RDA, women require approximately 250-300 mg of magnesium a day; men need more, about 400 mg daily. Magnesium also helps with managing migraines and nerve pain caused by mold-related illness.
Methylated B Vitamins: Those exposed to mold usually present with B deficiencies, particularly vitamin B12, which may be part of reasoning behind neurological damage caused by biotoxins. It’s important to stay away from cyanocobalamin and opt for natural, more bioavailable forms of B12 that require no conversion by the liver. These include methylcobalamin, adenesocobalamin and hydroxocobalamin.
Methylation is a process that happens millions of times in the body, promoting energy and cell generation as well as detoxification. Those with CIRS/biotoxin illness likely possess the HLA gene or MTHFR, which affects this process. Methylated forms of B vitamins help your body with methylation and support optimal homocysteine levels.
CoEnzyme Q10: Mycotoxins target the mitochondria, which affects energy levels and creates cellular damage. Supplementing with CoQ10 can provide cellular protection and strengthen mitochondria.
Move the Lymphatic System:
To further rid the body of mold toxins, exercise is recommended. Sweat! You can promote this in a far-infrared sauna or with regular physical activity. Epsom salt baths will also help promote the detoxification process
The lymphatic system is responsible for removing toxic wastes from the bloodstream. Because it doesn’t have its own pump, lymph may become stagnant in the body, holding toxins in tissues and organs. You may notice swollen lymph nodes, edema or pain and swelling under your arms, in your neck or in your groin area.
To help with lymphatic draining, try a lymph/dry brush and brush your body (dry brush from down to up toward the heart) at least once daily. After a shower or bath is a great time to do this since the body is heated, promoting lymph and blood flow. Combining dry brushing with any of the citrus essential oils will help stimulate lymphatic flow and work to remove the toxins via your kidneys and urinary system.
You may also want to try rebounding—jumping on a trampoline or even jump roping. The movement of jumping up and down helps drain the lymphatic system.
Incorporating blood and lymph cleaning herbs such as burdock, aloe and marshmallow root will additionally help to move and clear the lymphatic system. Regular lymphatic massages also help move toxins out of your system.
Keep in mind that healing from biotoxin illness may take years. It may involve lifestyle changes, even moving cross country to a drier climate (less humidity and mold) to get better. Be patient with your progress. For support, look for a Shoemaker protocol-trained healthcare professional in your area.
Want more information on Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome and mold-related illness? Read Part One of this blog segment.