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.
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.