Note: This article was originally published on ProHealth.com on October 16, 2016: http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=29503
Mold illness, or biotoxin illness, as it is sometimes called—is a common Lyme co-condition that can debilitate and weaken the body as much as Lyme, but up until recently, it hasn’t been widely recognized by the medical community. When Ritchie Shoemaker, MDs renowned book on mold toxicity, Mold Warriors was first released in 2005, I believe that it got some people with Lyme disease thinking that mold might be a component of their overall symptom picture, but it seems as though it has only been in the past few years that doctors and patients have started to take the issue of mold seriously.
I don’t know why so many people with Lyme also suffer from mold illness; it may be that having Lyme compromises the body in such a way that makes the body more susceptible to Lyme. At the same time, becoming sick from mold may create a scenario whereby people are more susceptible to becoming sick from Lyme infections. In the end, both conditions weaken the immune system, which then predisposes the body to other problems.
If you look on the Internet, you’ll find a thousand and one solutions for remediating mold. Not all of these work—I surmise, in fact, that many of them don’t. Healing from mold toxicity is a complex, multifaceted process that requires more than just taking a binder or two for mold toxins, ozonating your environment, or diffusing some essential oils into the air.
First, if you suspect that you have mold toxicity, I recommend doing a urine mycotoxin test from RealTime Labs. Neil Nathan, MD, one of the doctors featured in my just-released book New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment recommends taking 500 mg glutathione daily for a week before doing the test, and then doing a sauna 30 minute before the test, for best results. It’s also a good idea to see a doctor who specializes in both Lyme disease and mold.
Next, if you find out that you are mold toxic, it’s important to discover whether you are being currently exposed to mold, or whether you are sick from a prior exposure. You can test your home for mycotoxins (mold toxins) through Real Time Labs, or do an ERMI test. Alternatively, Raj Patel, MD, who is also featured in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, shares a strategy for testing for mold in your home via C4a testing. Mold is produced mostly via water leaks, which are not always obvious, which is why testing is so important. The absence of a musty smell or an obvious water leak does not preclude the possibility of mold being an issue in your home.
If you find that your home has mold via testing, in most cases, you will need to move. If you are certain that the mold is confined to a specific area, you may be able to have the area remediated. If you remediate, make sure to find a reputable company recommended by a mold-literate doctor or practitioner as improper remediation can make matters worse. Sadly, up to half of all homes in the United States have mold. Not everyone will be affected by it, but if you know that you are susceptible to mold, you may want to play it safe and live in newer construction in a drier state such as Arizona, Colorado or Nevada.
Several of the doctors that are featured in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment describe their comprehensive approach to mold treatment. For instance, Dr. Nathan contends that it’s necessary to not only bind mold toxins according to the type of toxin that’s in the body (whether ochratoxin, aflatoxin, tricothene, gliotoxin, and so on), but to also take medications and/or remedies to kill the mold in the body, particularly the sinuses and gut.
This is because when you get sick from mold, you need to kill off the “live” mold, as well as bind the toxins that they produce. According to Dr. Nathan, mold colonizes in the gut and sinuses because these areas provide a favorable, moist environment in which it can grow. Removing it from these places requires taking medications or strong herbal remedies to remove it from the gut, as well as sinus sprays to remove it from the sinuses.
Effective mold binders range from activated charcoal, to chlorella, bentonite clay and the medication cholestyramine. You can find more information about Dr. Nathan’s and Dr. Raj Patel’s mold treatment protocols in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment.
Treating mold toxicity is important, and most of the doctors that I’ve interviewed tell me that you can’t get better from Lyme disease until you treat mold. Mold, in fact, must be treated first in many cases—and Lyme disease, only after that. Symptoms of mold illness mimic those of Bartonella, a common Lyme co-infection, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor that understands both conditions. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, brain fog, respiratory problems, rashes and neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, neuropathy, dizziness and gait problems—are just a few symptoms of mold. For more information on mold and mold symptoms, I highly recommend reading Ritchie Shoemaker, MDs page, SurvivingMold.com, and his books that are featured there.
Fortunately, I’m finding that more and more Lyme-literate doctors are becoming educated about mold, which is good news if you’re having trouble finding a doctor who understands both conditions. When seeking out a Lyme-literate doctor, it’s a good idea to ask about their experience in this area, as mold toxicity is complicated and must be treated by those who truly understand it. If your doctor wants to throw some cholestyramine at you, while neglecting to address the other aspects of treatment—run! A comprehensive approach is important, and must include treatment for mold and mycotoxins, as well as perhaps for inflammation and mast cell activation (more on mast cell activation in my next article), a condition whereby the body continually releases histamine, which causes inflammation, as a result of mold toxicity and other factors.
If you have treated yourself for Lyme for years and haven’t gotten better, consider that mold may be one reason why. The good news is, if you discover that you have it, you can get treatment for it, and as you do, you may just find yourself removing a major roadblock to healing and feeling better than you ever have before.