Is your practitioner following the necessary steps to help you overcome mold exposure?
Or, is he ensuring you continue to purchase supplements from his clinic for the foreseeable future?
Properly treating mold exposure and/or CIRS is no simple task. The internet is not a reliable source for mold treatment options. All too often, treatment protocols found on the internet are both expensive and ineffective.
They’re expensive because many treatment plans involve the purchase of someone’s proprietary supplement line. I empathize and understand the allure of purchasing a line of supplements to overcome mold illness. Unfortunately, these supplements rarely have evidence supporting their claims. In the end, they do a better job of decreasing your income than they do your mold illness.
They’re ineffective because the evidence supporting their use is often anecdotal. Meaning that one practitioner had success with a patient or two and now recommends this treatment to everyone. Let me be very clear that a sample size of one, two, or even ten is not enough data to prove that a particular supplement or treatment works.
What I’ll describe below has been shown to be effective through thousands of trials and hundreds of practitioners. It’s based on evidence.
Below, you’ll see the treatment hierarchy that has been designed and developed by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker – arguably the world’s leading expert on mold illness and chronic inflammatory response syndrome. I’ll go through the first few steps in more detail below.
How to properly treat mold illness and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome
The image above shows you the step-by-step methodology behind Dr. Shoemaker’s treatment protocol. You begin at the base of the pyramid and work your way up until you no longer have symptoms. This sounds easy enough in theory but the practical application is a challenging endeavor. If you suspect you have mold illness and/or CIRS, please don’t try to tackle treatment on your own. Find a mold-literate physician to help guide you through the Shoemaker protocol.
Below, I give you an introduction of the first three steps of the Shoemaker protocol. I would argue that these initial steps are the most important. If any of them is done incorrectly, you will not see an improvement in your symptoms. If you’re being treated for mold but aren’t seeing any improvements in your symptoms, talk with your practitioner about these three steps.
To properly treat CIRS and mold illness, make sure you follow these three steps
Step 1: Differential diagnosis
This step is not listed in the above diagram. Though it is one of – if not the – most important step in treatment. Exposure to a water-damaged building combined with a symptom cluster that is unique to mold illness is the initial screening tool. Genetic tests will determine whether or not you have specific types of something called the HLA (human leukocyte antigen). 23- 25% of the population has specific HLA genes known to trigger mold illness. (1)
It is not uncommon to have mold illness combined with another illness. Before jumping on the diagnosis of CIRS/mold illness, be sure your practitioner has also done basic blood tests to rule in/out other conditions.
Other conditions that share similar symptoms with mold illness and CIRS include:
- Thyroid issues
- Fatigue is one of the more common symptoms found in mold illness. Unfortunately, fatigue is a non-specific symptom. Meaning there are many possible causes of fatigue – fatigue doesn’t point to any particular illness.
- One of the main symptoms of an under-functioning thyroid is fatigue. It is important to do proper thyroid testing to accurately rule in/out thyroid illness.
- The symptoms of early-onset autoimmunity are very similar to that of mold illness. Including fatigue, generalized aches/pains, and morning fatigue.
- Ensure basic inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) are run.
- Note that 20% of asthma is thought to be caused by mold (2)
- Proper differential diagnosis can help determine if you actually have asthma or if your respiratory issues are a consequence of mold exposure.
- Abnormal kidney function
- Mold can affect hormones that control the amount of water your body removes from its blood. In particular, this hormone is known as the antidiuretic hormone or vasopressin.
- This can result in symptoms like dehydration, frequent urination, excessive thirst, and weight gain. These symptoms are common in kidney disease as well as mold illness.
- It is important your practitioner run a kidney lab test (BUN test) to differentiate kidney illness from mold illness.
- Cortisol abnormalities
- Hypercortisolism or hypocortisolism (adrenal fatigue) can occur because of mold illness or be a stand-alone condition.
- The symptoms of cortisol abnormalities often mimic that of mold illness.
- This is common in the percentage of the population with the HLA haplotype commonly found in chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS).
- Remember, mold illness/allergies are very different than Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
- You’ll want to differentiate mold illness from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome.
- Von Willebrand disease
- In mold illness, it is not uncommon to experience a condition known as acquired Von Willebrand Disease (AvWD).
- It is important to rule out the hereditary form of Von Willebrand Disease as it has a dramatic impact on the way in which your blood clots. This will affect the way your practitioner manages your case.
This list should help you and your practitioner clarify the diagnostic criteria for your case. Before moving on to any of the following steps, please ensure you have done a comprehensive differential diagnosis.
Step 2: Removal from exposure
Before doing any sort of actual treatment(s), you need to determine if your current environment is a source of mold. The two options for testing your home for mold include the ERMI test and the HERTSMI 2 test.
If your home/office/school etc. is moldy, you need to remove yourself from the site of exposure. Sometimes, this step alone is enough to completely improve symptoms (though, that’s rarely the case in CIRS). There is absolutely no point in you pursuing the next steps of the Shoemaker protocol until you’ve removed yourself from the moldy environment.
Step 3: Treat with Cholestyramine and/or Welchol
Without properly implementing the first two steps your chance of overcoming mold illness and/or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome is very low. Even though neither of those steps is romantic. Nor do they feel like you’re making progress, the first two steps are absolutely essential.
Once you’ve completed steps one and two, it’s time to rid your body of mold. Those of you with the HLA genotype found in mold illness will be unable to expel mold on your own. This is why no matter what you seem to try, your symptoms persist.
Cholestyramine is a bile acid sequestrant. Bile acid sequestrants are binders. They stick to bile acid (bind) preventing it from being reabsorbed. One of the main constituents of bile acid is cholesterol. By binding to cholesterol and preventing it from being reabsorbed, cholestyramine lowers cholesterol levels.
The magic of cholestyramine is that the same binding process used for cholesterol also works with molds! Cholestyramine binds to molds and allows the mold to be excreted through your feces. For those with the specific HLA genes found in CIRS, this is the only way to remove mold from your body.
These three steps should be how your practitioner organizes his/her treatment plan. These steps are based on clinical trials involving thousands of patients. Meaning that the evidence supporting their efficacy is very high. Below, I’ll outline some of the common – though ineffective – treatments for mold illness/exposure.
Common (though ineffective) ways to treat & diagnose mold illness/exposure
The treatment pathway outlined by Dr. Shoemaker is complicated. And to become a certified Shoemaker practitioner is not an easy endeavor. Thus, the internet is full of many different diagnostic and treatment options for mold. Most of which are both ineffective and expensive.
I’ll give you a list of some of the more common means of testing and treating mold below. I’ll share my thoughts and what the evidence suggests for each methodology as well.
EAV (electrodermal screening)
EAV stands for electroacupuncture by Voll. But you may know it as electrodermal screening (EDS), bio-resonance therapy (BRT), or computerized electrodermal screening (CEDS).
The way in which these devices work is by emitting a tiny direct electric current that flows through a wire from the device to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which you (the patient) hold in one hand. A second wire is connected from the device to a probe, which the operator touches to acupuncture points on your other hand or foot. This completes a low-voltage circuit and the device registers the flow of current. The information is then relayed to a gauge or computer screen that provides a numerical readout on a scale of 0 to 100.
If your reading is is >50, your practitioner will view this result as positive. In the context of mold illness, your practitioner may place a glass vial containing specific mold species in the device and measure how your body reacts to it. If you score high, the practitioner will diagnose you with mold illness/allergy.
This is not an effective means of diagnosis. One double-blind study done in the UK put patients with confirmed allergies through EAV testing. It was found that the EAV device was no better than random guessing and did not correlate with the previous allergy diagnosis done via blood tests. (3)
A second study in Italy measured the differences in skin conductivity between multiple allergens in vials. Researchers found no relation between skin conductivity changes and the type of substance contained in the vial. There were also wide variations in the same individual between the first and second tests of most study participants. (4)
Please do not rely on EAV testing in the context of mold illness and/or chronic inflammatory response syndrome. Follow the Shoemaker protocol. Obtain proper blood tests from a mold-literate practitioner.
When it comes to improving your health, there’s nothing more important than proper nutrition. Plenty of conditions are solved just by removing offending foods. But that’s not the case with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome and mold illness.
There is no diet that will cure you of mold. That’s not to say diet is unimportant. Eating real foods and avoiding processed and packaged foods are the best health practices you can follow – whether you’re dealing with mold or not.
But please don’t think that the one thing keeping you from getting better is your diet.
Instead of obsessing over your foods, those of you with mold illness and/or CIRS should follow these three simple dietary rules:
- If a food doesn’t rot, don’t eat it.
- Go gluten-free.
- Avoid foods known to contain high levels of molds and/or mycotoxins.
That’s it. Rest easy knowing that you don’t have to follow any other radical diet plans.
Foods known to contain high levels of mold include:
- Dried fruits
- Foods made with yeast
- Beer and wine
Once you’ve made these dietary changes, stop obsessing about your food. The next step in treating mold exposure and/or CIRS is to start using binders like Cholestyramine and Welchol.
What supplements help with mold?
You cannot supplement yourself out of mold illness. Nor can you supplement yourself out of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. That’s not to say supplements are useless. Supplements have their place in treating mold. But they should be used to support your body. Supplements alone will not solve mold illness.
I don’t think you need to spend thousands of dollars on supplements to effectively treat mold. Just like with your diet, focus on the basics.
I recommend the following supplements for mold illness:
- Liposomal glutathione
Glutathione will assist your body with detoxing. be sure you opt for a liposomal form. Other forms of glutathione are poorly absorbed and thus not nearly as effective.
Mycotoxins are so small that they can move through your cells outer wall and into the inside of the cell – this is a not a place you want to have mold or mycotoxins! Phosphatidylcholine helps build the outer membrane of your body’s cells. By building up this membrane, you prevent mycotoxins from moving across that cell wall and into the inside of your body’s cells.
These two supplements are the most important ones for mold and CIRS. Any other supplement recommendations should be based on specific nutritional needs that are unique to your situation.
Do these 5 things to improve mold illness
There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on supplements or follow radical dietary alterations. Stick with the basics I’ve outlined in this post.
The basic steps you need to follow are:
- Ensure mold is the cause of your symptoms
- To do this, ensure your practitioner has done a thorough differential diagnosis.
- Test your home and office for mold
- To overcome mold illness, you need to remove yourself from the site of exposure.
- Eat real food (no processed or packaged foods) & go gluten-free
- Take the two basic supplements I recommended
- Liposomal glutathione
- Find a mold-literate practitioner and start a protocol to remove the mold toxins.
Follow these simple steps and you’re 80% of the way there!
Now, I want to hear from you!
What steps have helped you improve your mold symptoms?
Leave your answers in the comments section below!
Also published on Medium.