Living with Mold in Tampa: Part 2—Treatment
In the first part of this two-part series, “Living with Mold in Tampa: Part 1 — Recognizing the Warning Signs,” we highlighted the symptoms of mold illness and the signs that your home may be contaminated with toxic mold. We also described the four mold toxins that are the biggest concerns: Ochratoxins, Aflatoxins, Trichothecenes, and Gliotoxin.
As we mentioned in that post, much of today’s awareness and understanding of mold illness is thanks to the work of Dr. Richie Shoemaker. Until Dr. Shoemaker began publishing on the topic of mold illness, many people suffering as a result of toxic mold remained undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and were provided no effective or lasting treatment. Through Dr. Shoemaker’s work, thousands of people have found answers and relief (but many continue to suffer because the majority of doctors are still ill-informed).
In Part 2 of this series, we present the three-step diagnostic and treatment procedure that we recommend at BioDesign Wellness Center in Tampa, Florida. Our approach follows many of the steps set-forth by Dr. Shoemaker.
Step 1: Treating the Source — Mold Remediation
If you have reason to suspect the presence of mold in your home, workplace, or anywhere else you spend considerable time, we encourage you to have the building inspected by professionals who have a thorough understanding of mold and its potential impact on human health. Dr. Shoemaker hosts an annual conference that mold inspectors and physicians attend together, so they can collaborate and share information on proper methods for detecting mold toxins in the home and in people. The inspectors who attend these conferences are the kinds of inspectors we here at BioDesign Wellness want coming to our patients’ homes. These inspectors give us the confidence that a full inspection has been conducted with the proper laboratory studies.
Most mold inspection companies do not go so far as to check the species of mold and the actual mold toxins being produced by the mold in the home. We have had patients who have spent money to have their homes checked and later found out that the inspection was not thorough enough, and mold was overlooked. We usually make this discovery after we find that the patient is not responding to treatment. Our work would have been much more effective and cost effective had the home been properly inspected and tested, so this is a key first step.
We cannot stress enough the importance of the mold inspection process. Just as doctors who don’t fully understand mold illness often miss it in their patients, so to do mold inspectors who lack the proper training and education, overlook it in homes. It’s simply because they did not know enough at the time to run the right tests, or they completely disregard relevant environmental factors. We don’t want a traditional mold inspector coming into your home who is not educated on the right testing methods and does not regularly discuss mold illness with his or her clients. A good mold inspector can actually start to identify why you are getting sick and will be looking through the home to find any hidden mold and it’s water or moisture source. They understand the importance of getting this first step right in order to put you and your family on the road to recovery.
In the Tampa Bay, FL area, we recommend Certified Mold Assessments and Indoor Environmental Solutions, as they have both gone through the appropriate training to thoroughly and accurately assess your home.
Busting the Myth That Mold Must Make Everyone in the Home Sick
Many people believe that if their home were contaminated with mold, everyone in the home would be sick. When one or more family members isn’t sick, they draw the mistaken conclusion that mold must not be the problem. However, as discussed in Part 1 of this series, mold illness results from a combination of genetic susceptibility and other factors plus mold exposure. If a person isn’t genetically susceptible to mold illness, he or she may be exposed to mold and not become ill from it. Their bodies may be equipped to isolate and safely eliminate the mold and its toxins. In short, one person in a mold-contaminated home may be sick, while everyone else feels fine.
This can be tricky for those who are in the house complaining and want an inspection, but the spouse or other housemates are reluctant because they assume everyone in the home would be sick as well, given the fact that everyone has been exposed to it. Genetics, host resistance, stress and many other factors come into play that would allow one person to feel well, while another whose defenses are weakened is overcome by the mold toxin and feels terrible.
That said, as we take a patient’s history, we do ask questions about the spouse and children as it is often the case that we see multiple people suffering in the home. The symptoms of each person can be completely different, even though the source of exposure is the same. So, one person can be suffering with ice pick migraine pain, while another is fatigued and diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and a third has chronic sinusitis and allergies. Symptoms can range from mild to quite severe, even resulting in psychosis or death. (For more information on this, read the PDF file “Family of Six, their Health and the Death of a 16 Month Old Male from Pulmonary Hemorrhage: Identification of Mycotoxins and Mold in the Home and Lungs, Liver and Brain of Deceased Infant,” by Thrasher, J.D., Hooper, D.H. and J. Taber in Global Journal of Medical Research, 2014, 14(5), pages 1-11.)
Step 2: Diagnosing the Patient
When a patient comes to BioDesign Wellness Center for evaluation, we look at specific lab markers introduced and confirmed in the medical literature through the work of Dr. Shoemaker. Diagnosis begins with a series of blood and urine tests that are readily available by commercial labs such as LabCorp and Quest. The results of these tests guide the treatment. These include laboratory evaluations of the following:
- Brain hormones (lower levels are a sign of chronic inflammation)
- Genetics (to show susceptibility to mold exposure)
- Immune system markers (complement proteins that are elevated in both mold and Lyme disease)
- Levels of mold toxins in the urine (to confirm the type and extent of mold exposure)
- Nasal or throat cultures (to identify mold growth in the sinus cavity or throat and to expose antibiotic resistant bacteria that weaken the immune system)
Another test used is called a Visual Contrast Sensitivity test. This test shows the impact of mold or nutrient deficiency on the nervous system. Visit VCSTest.com for information about the test and to take the test online (there is a fee).
After labs are complete, treatment can be directed accordingly. We begin a variety of treatments, as discussed next, to start eliminating the mold toxins immediately.
Step 3: Treating a Patient Who Has Mold Illness
Treatment involves assisting the body in moving mycotoxins out of the body. This is accomplished through a variety of medications and supplements. One important aspect of treatment is to establish healthy levels of glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant produced by all cells and concentrated in the liver. Its purpose is to protect DNA and reduce the impacts of metabolic waste and environmental toxins. Glutathione is often deficient in patients with mold illness. This can be partially related to the exposure and also due to genetic factors.
Some people have reduced enzyme activity when it comes to making glutathione. Mold can also overwhelm the body’s capacity to produce or recycle glutathione. (For more info on this, read “Deficient Glutathione in the Pathophysiology of Mycotoxin-Related Illness Guilford,” by F.T. and J. Hope in Toxins, 2014, 6, pages 608-623.)
We also may prescribe cholestyramine, taken orally in liquid form, to sequester toxins from the bile.
There are a dozen important steps to remediate mold and associated toxins from one’s body, each of which is dictated by your labs and responses to treatment. While there are some similarities in treatment, it is important to approach each person with mold illness individually.
Part of the treatment for patients who experience recurring nasal infections includes performing a nasal swab and looking for what are called biofilms. Biofilms cover and protect bacteria or mold, causing a low grade chronic inflammatory response. Once found, biofilms and the infections are treated using nasal sprays from a compounding pharmacy. Nasal infections are often caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria and fungi. Taking an oral antibiotic may not cure the infection and can cause imbalances in gut microbes that further impair the body’s immune system. The nasal sprays we use dissolves the biofilm that protects the bacteria and fungi, and the sprays deliver anti-microbial medication directly to the infected areas. (For more information on this approach, read “Chronic Illness Associated with Mold and Mycotoxins: Is Naso-Sinus Fungal Biofilm the Culprit?” by Brewer, J.H., Thrasher, J.D., and D. Hooper in Toxins, 2014, Jan; 6(1), pages 66-80.)
Further steps include using a variety of supplements and dietary approaches to reduce the inflammation that the mold has caused. Additional steps may apply that are not outlined in this post.
Our patients often begin to feel some relief soon after treatment begins, but full recovery may take several months. It takes time to kill tenacious bacteria and fungi, especially when they’ve compromised your immune system and covered themselves in a protective coating of biofilm. It takes additional time to restore immune function and glutathione and for the body to eliminate toxins. There is no quick fix. After successful treatment, we continue to provide approaches to further strengthen the immune system to improve its capacity for eliminating mold and toxins in the event of future mold exposure.
If you or a family member is experiencing any of the symptoms described in Part 1 of this two-part series, we strongly encourage you to consult a doctor with experience in diagnosing and treating mold illness. Even if your home isn’t contaminated, your workplace may be, or you may have become infected working outside in your yard or garden or through something you ate. Until you’re tested, you’ll never really know.