When talking about the problems associated with mold, it is important to note the fact that people are sickened by exposure to the mold found in water-damaged buildings. There have been a number of names associated with illness brought on by mold in the past including “mold illness” but this term is in fact a subcategory of biotoxin illness known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
We will be exploring what biotoxin illness is, how sickness is caused, and how CIRS affects those exposed. While we are not doctors and highly advise consulting with a licensed clinical professional if you suspect that you are being affected by biotoxin illness, we felt it important to share scientific research into this condition. Let’s get started!
The first thing that should be noted concerning CIRS is that this health condition isn’t a mold allergy. Rather, it is inflammation caused inside the body which is caused when the immune system is thrown out of sorts. This condition was both discovered and researched by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a family medicine doctor with over 20 years of experience as a medical practitioner.
According to Dr. Shoemaker, CIRS is defined as: “an acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building (WDB) with resident toxigenic organisms, including, but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and mycobacteria as well as inflammagens such as endotoxins, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases, mannans and possibly spirocyclic drimanes; as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).”
So how is biotoxin illness caused? Put simply, the illness occurs after exposure to the water-damaged interior of a building. While there are many ways that buildings can become home to toxic microbes, including bacteria and mycobacteria, the growth of mold is of particular concern when it comes to biotoxin illness. Mold growth can be caused by a number of factors including poor ventilation, collections of water in the foundation of the home, neglect to fix leaky pipes, ect. Each of these occurrences introduces the perfect conditions for mold to flourish in a home.
Dr. Shoemaker has treated a total of 7,000 patients for biotoxin illness caused by these types of conditions since 1998. In each of these patients, a syndrome was identified by blood testing. Dr. Shoemaker was also able to identify the cause of these results as the inhaling of dangerous inflammagens such as mycotoxins. Mycotoxins, as we have discussed before here on Mold Made Simple, are the toxins produced by forms of toxigenic mold. When introduced to the body, there are a number of harmful health effects that result. These harmful health effects extend from the chronic inflammatory response acquired from moldy conditions in homes. With an estimated 50 percent of homes possessing water damage according to some reports, it is clear that the risk of developing biotoxin illness should be a concern to society.
So how does biotoxin illness affect the body? Oftentimes, patients suffering from the effects of biotoxin illness may not be perceived to possess outwardly severe signs of illness. That being said, those struggling with the illness experienced a diminished quality of life. All too often, the symptoms presented by biotoxin illness are not easily identified and patients are completely unaware that they possess a genetic predisposition to develop biotoxin illness based on their immune response genes.
When exposed to interior moldy environments, patients experience a series of abnormalities in their immune response systems that will not eventually heal themselves. At the same time, the severity of these symptoms will not decrease over time. In fact, it is most often observed that the severity of symptoms increases as time progresses! Both blood and tissue-based inflammation produce symptoms that will only further affect the body over time as the illness progresses.
So why do some people become sick with biotoxin illness while others that are exposed to the same moldy environments never experience the condition? Put simply, the occurrence of biotoxin illness is based entirely on whether or not a person possesses a genetic predisposition to develop the illness when exposed to a moldy environment. It’s simply built into an individual’s DNA. The genetic makeup of each person’s immune system is uniquely genetically coded and the right genetic makeup has to be at play before biotoxin illness can occur.
In exploring how biotoxin illness affects a person’s body, the body is faced with a foreign substance (in this case, mycotoxins) and immediately begins to process the substance introduced. The body works this way to determine whether the substance introduced is good or bad in order to determine the appropriate antibody response. When a foreign substance is determined to be a threat, the body introduces antibodies to fight it, also known as antigens. Unfortunately, this process doesn’t occur in those susceptible to a genetic predisposition to mycotoxins, causing biotoxin illness. This results in a variety of symptoms including:
There are a series of steps to be implemented when a patient presents with symptoms that align with biotoxin illness. The first step to be completed in treating this condition is in identifying whether or not there could be a differential diagnosis responsible for the symptoms as they are presented. This involves answering questions such as, “what could be wrong?”.
Lab tests should be performed in order to observe inflammatory abnormalities in a patient. Next, EMRI testing should be performed to establish whether or not an affected building is presenting heightened levels of mold. EMRI testing is a standardized DNA testing method of testing that identifies and quantifies levels of mold exposure. If environments are identified to be hazardous based on EMRI testing, a patient should then be removed from that environment.
Next, toxic carriage of mycotoxins in a patient’s body should be addressed through a series of individualized treatment-based methods. This can be a long process but should eventually lead to stability off of meds intended to lower levels of toxicity in a patient’s immune system.
As always, DIY Mold Test highly recommends performing either at-home mold testing or contacting a specialized mold remediation specialist if you think you may have a mold problem in your home. Further, if you feel you may be suffering from the effects of biotoxin illness, it is highly recommended to consult with a reputable medical health professional.