Mold Illness and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

Though awareness about mold allergies has improved over the years, you may not be aware of another mold-related illness — chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS). It provokes a range of symptoms that can be easily misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or even multiple sclerosis.

One in four people have a genetic predisposition to being extra sensitive to mold, which makes them more likely to get sick when exposed.

Because of this, many of our mold patients are sick while the rest of their family is not, so no one thinks to check for environmental exposures.

What is CIRS?

Chronic inflammatory response syndrome is a biotoxin illness triggered by exposure to mold. Around 25% of the US population have the genes which put them at risk of developing CIRS if brought into contact with mold. However, you don’t necessarily have to have this genetic predisposition to develop CIRS. I see many patients in my office who have CIRS without this gene due to high level of exposure or repeated exposure.

Normally, when your body encounters biotoxins or organisms that produce biotoxins, they are removed through the normal function of your immune system. Your immune response breaks the invading elements down to be excreted out of your body. Biotoxins are also removed from your bloodstream by your liver.

If you have the genes making you prone to developing chronic inflammatory response syndrome, ingesting or inhaling mold biotoxins has a more complex effect on the body. The pattern recognition receptors on your immune system cells normally detect and identify a threat, stimulating production of cytokine proteins. These cytokines signal your immune cells to attack and neutralize that threat.

When you’re genetically susceptible to CIRS, the biotoxins stay bound to the pattern recognition receptors – and it’s like pushing down on an emergency stop button with no let-up. Your receptors keep telling your body there’s a threat over and over, with a continued production of cytokines, but your immune system is left weak and ineffectual because it is constantly being triggered. The repeated stimulation of your immune system leads to it attacking other tissues of the body, causing inflammation.

An overabundance of cytokines also results in a dropping off in the production of the melanocyte stimulating hormones, causing a hormone imbalance. Chronic inflammatory response syndrome is your body’s attempt to respond to the biotoxin threat, but it can make you far sicker than a simple allergy.

Symptoms of Mold Sickness

No two patients with CIRS have exactly the same symptoms, as there can be variations in the way the inflammatory response manifests. Also, your body compensates with hormone production in different ways.

Do you suffer from:

  • Headaches?
  • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating?
  • Memory problems?
  • Vertigo or feeling lightheaded?
  • Sensitivity to bright light or blurred vision?
  • Fatigue or weakness?
  • Burning or tearing eyes?
  • Nausea?
  • Diarrhea?
  • Stomach cramps?
  • Sinus congestion?
  • Recurring cough?
  • Asthma?
  • Shortness of breath?
  • Muscle aches or cramps?
  • Joint pain?
  • Sleep disturbance?
  • Trouble losing weight?
  • Sensitivity to gluten?

If you feel that part or all of this list describes your condition, then you could be struggling with chronic inflammatory response syndrome.

Finding a Functional Medicine Doctor Who Specializes in Mold Exposure

It’s time to visit a Mold Doctor familiar with CIRS as soon as you realize you could be struggling with chronic inflammatory response syndrome. Together we can:

  • Go through your history and figure out when you were first exposed
  • Run full diagnostic CIRS tests
  • Come up with strategies for limiting mold exposure
  • Correct the buildup of biotoxins in your body
  • Correct hormone imbalances
  • Monitor your condition

Contact Jellison Integrative MD

If you suspect you have CIRS or are looking for a physician knowledgeable in Mold Illness and the Shoemaker Protocol in the Kansas City area, call us at (913) 568-0608 or fill out our bookings form below.

Mold Illness & CIRS

Testing for CIRS

If chronic inflammatory response syndrome is suspected, we would conduct a blood test to check for the genes HLA-DR and HLA-DQ which indicate CIRS susceptibility. We also test for high amounts of cytokine in your blood and marked differences in levels of the following hormones and antibodies:

  • Vasoactive intestinal peptide – Responsible for regulating the absorption of water and electrolytes in your gut. Also responsible for some heart and vascular functions. Low levels can cause watery diarrhea and indicate CIRS.
  • Transforming growth factor Beta 1 – A specific type of cytokine, responsible for cell division and death. Large numbers indicate CIRS, and may be linked to your symptom of shortness of breath.
  • Melanocyte stimulating hormone – Otherwise known as MSH, this hormone controls the pigment of your skin but it also regulates how much cytokine your body makes. Low levels indicate CIRS, as your body is unable to shut down production of cytokine.
  • C4A – Part of the complement group, these are a group of proteins that work with your immune system. They are responsible for activating your neutrophil cells, which can worsen inflammation. Large numbers can indicate CIRS.
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) – This hormone normally regulates your cortisol levels. Your ACTH levels may initially be high and then can drop when symptoms are more prevalent.
  • Cortisol – This hormone has many different functions in the body but is released in great quantities when you are stressed or your immune system requires back-up. Cortisol levels may be high initially but then drop over time.
  • Anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA) IgA/IgE – These antibodies are produced in response to gliadin. Often triggered if you have a gluten sensitivity, but they are also affected by mold biotoxins.
  • VEGF – Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor stimulates blood vessel formulation. CIRS patients usually show a deficiency in VEGF.
  • Leptin – This hormone helps regulate fat storage in the body. High levels of leptin result in quick, easy weight gain, another signifier of chronic inflammatory response syndrome.
  • Anti-cardiolipin antibodies (ACLA) IgA/IgG/IgM – These antibodies are often seen in patients with autoimmune disorders. Heightened numbers usually indicate that your body is dealing with high levels of inflammation. In fact, your antibodies are often attacking your healthy tissues instead of the biotoxins.
  • Antidiuretic hormone – This hormone is responsible for the regulation and balance of water in your body, your blood pressure, and concentration of urine being made in your kidneys. Reduced levels of ADH for a CIRS patient means that you suffer from dehydration, increased thirst, and frequent urination.
  • MMP-9 – This enzyme is responsible for many different bodily processes from memory and wound healing, to blood vessel formation. Increased levels are a sign of chronic inflammatory response syndrome.

We also take a full history – not only of your health, but also of your environment. We need to establish if the mold exposure is ongoing, due to an infestation in your living or working environment, or whether your symptoms were triggered in the past. Only by establishing these facts can we then treat you effectively.

How Much Mold Exposure is Harmful?

It’s best to err on the side of caution, as mold exposure is an accumulative trigger of chronic inflammatory response syndrome. While one in four of us have the potential gene to incite an inflammatory response if exposed for long enough, 25% of the population are highly sensitive to mold biotoxins, and all contact with mold spores is bad. So you don’t necessarily have to have a genetic predisposition to be ill from mold.

If you already have lyme disease, or any form of autoimmune disease, you may be more likely to have a sensitivity to mold which could lead to CIRS. CIRS and lyme disease are linked by a similar inflammation response of the body.

Not all mold is visible. When you think of mold, you more than likely picture black mold, which is a dense pattern of black, gray or green that grows in dank wet places indoors, or in compost outside. Often mold is growing in wall cavities, under floorboards, anywhere it can. And mold spores are generally invisible to the naked eye. We believe that everyone should be more wary of mold, as it can trigger an allergic reaction in many individuals who don’t have CIRS.

If you suspect mold in your home or office, and that it may be causing CIRS, we recommend the following course of action:

  1. Use your nose – Mold that cannot be seen can may be smelled. It’s easy to go ‘noseblind’ day-in day-out, but the next time you step into your office or return home, use the opportunity to have a good sniff and identify any problem areas in your house.
  2. Purchase a dehumidifier for your home – Mold loves humidity. If you can reduce the humidity levels to below 50% it can really make a difference.
  3. Contact a mold expert – A mold expert can conduct tests in your home or workplace and help you decide on a course of action for controlling or eradicating it.
  4. Find a Knowledgeable Doctor familiar with CIRS – It’s important your doctor is a specialist in identifying and treating chronic inflammatory response syndrome.

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Dr. Jessica Jellison, MD and Amanda Pierce APRN, FNP-C welcome Medicare patients, however, they are opted-out of Medicare. Unfortunately, Dr. Reicherter, MD is unable to see Medicare patients

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