The Next Great Breakthrough for the Complex Patient : Mold
The breakthroughs just keep on coming. I am on a never-ending quest to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. While mowing the lawn recently, I listened to a podcast where the functional medicine practitioner Chris Kresser interviewed Ritchie Shoemaker, MD. My mind was sufficiently blown that I mowed over the same area three times.
I see many complex patients with the pseudo-diagnoses of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Many of those same people have recurrent intractable headaches. A number of them also have shortness of breath and frequent urination. Some will have a chronic inflammatory skin condition with burning and itching that no dermatologist can figure out. A high percentage will be unable to lose weight (because of leptin resistance) no matter what lifestyle or dietary change they pursue.
One would think it would be difficult to put these disparate issues together. Not so.
Dr. Shoemaker has doggedly pursued the field of mold and biotoxins. After 20 years of work, he has come up with a rigorous, evidence-based model that is already helping me sort out the sickest of the sick patients I see in the office. I have done a panel of lab tests on eighteen patients thus far and fifteen have lit up like a Christmas tree. His name for this disease state: Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
His research has clarified that 24 percent of Americans are genetically susceptible to mold and biotoxin illness. It is estimated that 50 percent of building in the US are water-damaged. The perfect storm for serious chronic health problems in many people is genetic susceptibility with ongoing mold exposure (at home or school or work) and some inciting event that sets off the immune system.
Often, the event that starts the inflammatory cascade is Lyme disease. Shoemaker’s work likely explains much of what Richard Horowitz asked in his book Why Can’t I Get Better? I now believe that some significant percentage of chronic Lyme patients eventually have mold and biotoxin as the primary cause for their persistent symptoms. I see people who have been on antibiotics for over five years, but are still ill. Could this be the most common reason? Yes.
Chronic Lyme is a nebulous situation difficult to diagnose and harder to cure, but the beauty of Shoemaker’s work is that he does not accept assumptions and guesses. He has clarified an incredibly complex series of events that takes place inside the susceptible individual and these processes are quantifiable.
There are a series of labs and other tests that can be ordered to say definitively who has mold and biotoxin-mediated illness. His books (most recently Surviving Mold) lay the foundation for those practitioners who see the light and take this on. He has specific protocols to follow making a challenging path as simple as possible. Not simple, but at least manageable.
If you think this could explain the chronic symptoms for you (or someone you know), I would do some research on surviving mold.com. I would do the online VCS visual contrast test to see if you fail. I would watch Chris Kresser’s podcast interview with Ritchie Shoemaker. I would then talk with your primary care provider to see if they will go down the path with you.
If you are lost in the medical world and no one is giving you answers to why you are so sick, this might be the most important issue you ever explore.
Andrew Lenhardt, MD