Could Mold be Making You Tired?

If you struggle with fatigue, unexplained weight gain, unusual rashes, or brain fog and no one can tell you why, you might just have a biotoxin illness. If you notice a musty smell anywhere in your house, it’s quite possibly from mold, one of the most common biotoxins. 

When I first started my functional medicine journey, I had never heard of biotoxin illness. Several years into my training, I heard it mentioned in a few medical conferences, but I shied away from learning it or treating it. Too complicated. Too controversial. However, as a physician, it is in my nature to want to help my patients feel better, and specifically as a functional medicine physician, to get to the root cause of their issues. I have had several very sick, lovely clients present with glaring symptoms and nowhere else to go. So I decided to take the plunge into learning how to guide people in their recovery from biotoxin illness through functional medicine mold treatment. 

I’m so glad I did because it has made a HUGE difference to so many of my clients. They get their life back! 

The Science Behind Biotoxin Illness

A biotoxin is a toxin secreted by a living organism. This could be from mold, yeast, certain bacteria, or parasites. Research also suggests that volatile organic compounds can mimic bio-toxins. About 25% of the population is particularly susceptible due to the way their immune system works. For them, biotoxin exposure causes an overwhelming inflammatory response that just won’t go away. 

Common symptoms include: 

  • Cognitive issues
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain 

Some funky symptoms that are particularly concerning for mold toxicity are a feeling of internal buzzing or vibration, word-finding difficulty, and “ice-pick” headaches.

How can so many symptoms be involved?  It is due to a disruption in the regulation of inflammation that is triggered by the biotoxin. It creates a domino effect of inflammation that involves the WHOLE body.

A healthy immune system functions in two phases:

  1. The innate system recognizes the invader and mounts an inflammatory reaction to slow things down. This inflammation slows down the invader but also affects the host (you) with pain, swelling, and inflammation. Sort of like carpet bombing by the military that causes collateral damage.
  2. Meanwhile, the adaptive immune system starts working on forming antibodies that specifically target the invader while leaving the surrounding area (you) unharmed, like smart bombs by the military. Once the smart bombs come in, the invader is neutralized, and the inflammation resolves as the war is over.

However, in some people, the immune system/military is unable to create the antibodies/smart bombs that kill the invader with precision. They stay stuck in the massive inflammation phase of carpet bombing, and there is A LOT of collateral damage.  

As if that is not enough, these toxins stick around for a long time because the body can’t get rid of them. It tries by secreting them with bile to be excreted through the intestines, but they get recirculated over and over (and over) because they are reabsorbed. So symptoms persist LONG after the exposure. 

The condition is appropriately called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, or CIRS (pronounced “sirs”) due to the lack of inflammation regulation. It was first described by Ritchie Shoemake, MD, in 1997 when he treated multiple people who became very ill after exposure to fish infected with Pfiesteria. Since then, he has done rigorous research and documentation of case studies on how to treat the condition.

Hold On – Hasn’t Mold Been Around Since the Dawn Of the Ages?

Of course it has! So why do we all of a sudden think it can cause health problems? Our grandparents didn’t freak out about a little mold in the basement or on our food (cut it off and eat the rest). However, the mold we face today is NOT the same as what our grandparents faced. 

There’s been a perfect storm…

  1. Modern construction has so many water barriers that if moisture gets in, there’s no way for it to get out again, so it sits there. Mold only needs moisture and food (cellulose from drywall or dust) to grow. This makes window sills, air ducts, and inner walls a petri dish!
  2. As a living organism, mold is irritated by electromagnetic fields (EMF). The amount of EMFs we are exposed to has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. In the presence of EMF, mold releases significantly MORE mycotoxins than without EMF. Yikes, that’s a little scary when you realize that 5G is hundreds of times stronger than its predecessors!
  3. Our systems are weaker, making us more susceptible. Our nutrition is poorer, in general, and the amount of toxins we are exposed to is higher than in prior decades. Chemicals in food, construction materials, personal care products, pesticides, herbicides, combustion engines… these add up to weaken our resiliency. 

Diagnosing Biotoxin Illness  

Diagnosis is made by a history of exposure and the presence of multiple symptoms incorporating multiple organ systems. Testing to support the diagnosis includes a visual test that detects neuro-inflammation (brain inflammation), a urine test for mycotoxins, and blood markers of inflammation.  However, it must be noted that the markers of inflammation are obscure to traditional medicine. Many of the common markers of inflammation (like C-Reactive Protein, CRP) are often normal, which means these people are told by their physician, “nothing is wrong with you”. 

Functional Medicine Mold Treatment

There is hope. Treatment and healing are possible in stages. First, get away from the exposure. This is life-changing if it is mold, as continued exposure to fresh biotoxins from mold will definitely thwart recovery!  Second, a binder is used to prevent the biotoxin from being reabsorbed into the intestines. The binder magnetically holds on to the toxins in the gut, allowing them to be escorted out of the body through intestinal elimination. In my RENEW Method™ we hit these first two steps in the second “E,” which stands for: eradicate toxins, infections, and barriers to healing.  

A very important step is to nurture the healing process (this is what “N” stands for in my method). Unfortunately, I have met clients that worked with other providers who ignored this crucial step. The body CAN recover, but it needs raw materials and energy to do the repair! It really is a rebuilding process.  

You see, the issue really is cell membrane and mitochondrial damage from the toxins. These beautiful structures are mostly made of fat, and these fats get oxidized by inflammation. It’s like someone is taking a flame thrower and burning the fats in the membranes. Picture melted plastic, and you’ll get a pretty good idea!  

So the functional medicine mold treatment process involves:

  1. Get rid of exposure and eliminate the toxins that have accumulated.
  2. Remove damaged fats. Everyone knows that demolition is the first step of remodeling.
  3. Provide raw materials to rebuild healthy structures.

What NOT to Do

Whatever you do, please DON’T spray bleach on mold!  Bleach is caustic to mold and will kill it; however, it does so by causing it to explode. During the explosion, ALL the mycotoxins stored in the mold are released at once (like a skunk spraying in desperation). Poof – right in your face! If you see mold in your home, get professional help.

Knowledge Is Increasing About Mold and Biotoxin Illness

In my journey as a functional medicine physician, I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful clients who have shared their struggles with me, allowed me to participate in their care, and taught me much about the delicacies of treating the very sensitive biotoxin-affected person. I’ve also had some great mentors. I’ve immersed myself in worldwide provider groups who are sharing their knowledge on this complex issue, all with the altruistic goal of helping to ease suffering.

Currently, the concept of biotoxin illness does not have much traction in the traditional medicine world. I’m hopeful this will change over time. My group of colleagues is gathering tons of data on what works best in the treatment. While it’s true that much of what we are learning is called “anecdotal data” (meaning learned during the care of patients rather than in randomized clinical trials), the volume of data about its existence and successful treatment cannot be discounted. We are hopeful that by pooling our knowledge and resources, this topic will soon be “un-ignorable.”

Final Thoughts on Mold Toxicity and Functional Medicine

Since I’ve become aware of the condition, I see it with increasing frequency.  I suspect it in my clients who are not responding to the usual therapies—those who are following the diet and lifestyle recommendations but have significant persistent symptoms. Or in people who present with overwhelming multiple symptoms that cross the borders into multiple systems. Traditional medicine labels these people’s conditions as “chronic fatigue syndrome” or “fibromyalgia.” The problem with these diagnoses is that there’s really no hope for healing. It’s just a diagnosis that describes a collection of symptoms. In functional medicine, we are concerned about the CAUSE of the symptoms because THAT gives us a pathway toward healing, and healing is why I became a physician. 

To learn more about how functional medicine mold treatment can help you reclaim your life, book a discovery call at Vitality Renewal today!