Toxic Mold Illness - 5 Important Things To Know | Chris Kresser
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5 Things You Should Know about Toxic Mold Illness

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The awareness of toxic mold’s effect on human health has increased dramatically over the past few years. But mold is only one of the many biotoxins found in water-damaged buildings, and the illness caused by exposure to these toxins is much more complex than most clinicians and patients assume.

mold illness
Mold illness is all too common and more serious than we realize. istock.com/enviromantic

Over the last several years, I’ve written extensively about the importance of nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, social connection, pleasure, and spending time outdoors. There’s no doubt that these factors are vital for all of us.

But it’s also true that there are other factors that are just as important to our health, yet far less often considered. One of these is toxic burden.

Toxic burden is determined by two factors: the levels of toxic chemicals and microorganisms that we’re exposed to, and the function of our innate detoxification system. If our exposure to toxins is high and our detoxification system is compromised—due to genetic predisposition, environmental factors, or both—then our toxic burden will be high.

The toxins that adversely affect our health include chemicals (e.g., BPA, phthalates, pesticides), heavy metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium), and biotoxins (toxins produced by living organisms like mold, bacteria, dinoflagellates, and blue-green algae).

Toxic mold illness has received a lot of attention recently, including a recent documentary created by Dave Asprey of Bulletproof.

While this is surely a positive development, there are a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings about mold illness that I’d like to address in this article. So let’s get to it!

#1: Mold Illness Is Not Just Caused by Mold

Yes, I know this doesn’t make sense. Of course mold illness is caused by mold. That’s why it’s called mold illness!

However, what we often refer to as “mold illness” is actually a much more comprehensive and multi-faceted syndrome now known as chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS.

CIRS was originally defined by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a former family physician in Maryland. (Dr. Shoemaker is now retired, but he is still actively involved in raising awareness and advancing the understanding of CIRS.

Is the air quality in your home or workplace making you sick?

In the late 1990s, Dr. Shoemaker discovered a connection between a mysterious illness that some of his patients were experiencing and a toxin produced by a fish-killing dinoflagellate called Pfiesteria. Since then, Dr. Shoemaker has linked a similar kind of illness to toxins from a wide variety of microorganisms and chemicals.

These agents—which are collectively referred to as “biotoxins” and are often (but not always) encountered in water-damaged buildings—include (1):

  • Fungi
  • Bacteria (possibly including Borrelia, Babesia, and other organisms transmitted by tick bites)
  • Actinomycetes (gram-positive bacteria from the order Actinomycetales)
  • Mycobacteria
  • Mold
  • Mold spores
  • Endotoxins (aka lipopolysaccharides, or LPS; cell wall components of gram-negative bacteria)
  • Inflammagens (irritants that cause inflammation and edema)
  • Beta-glucans (diverse group of polysaccharides)
  • Hemolysins (exotoxins produced by bacteria capable of destroying cells)
  • Microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs; organic compounds released by microorganisms when there is adequate food supply for such “secondary metabolite production”)

Nearly everyone will become ill when exposed to sufficient levels of these biotoxins, but most people recover once they are removed from exposure. Their detoxification system is able to recognize the biotoxins in their bodies as toxins and eliminate them via the normal mechanisms.

However, a minority of people have HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genes that prevent their bodies from being able to recognize and thus eliminate biotoxins. The biotoxins will remain in the body and trigger a chronic, systemic inflammatory response. These are the people that develop CIRS.

#2: CIRS Is Much More Common Than You Might Think

According to Dr. Shoemaker’s research, roughly 25 percent of the population is genetically prone to develop CIRS if two conditions are met:

  1. Sufficient exposure to biotoxins
  2. A “priming” inflammatory event (something that triggers and activates the immune system, such as a serious upper respiratory tract infection or a tick-borne illness like Lyme disease)

Dr. Shoemaker also estimates that 2 percent of the population has genes that render them highly susceptible to developing a multi-system, multi-symptom illness after prolonged or repeated exposure to biotoxins. (Side note: unfortunately, I am part of that 2 percent, which could explain a lot about my past history with chronic illness!)

This suggests that roughly 1 in 4 people have the potential of developing CIRS when exposed to biotoxins. But how common is exposure to biotoxins?

Unfortunately, the answer is: extremely common.

According to a report entitled Implementing Health-Protective Features and Practices in Buildings issued by the Federal Facilities Council, 43 percent of buildings they examined had current water damage and 85 percent had past water damage. When water damage occurs, mold can grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

As alarming as these numbers are, they don’t tell the whole story. Although water damage is probably the biggest concern, mold and other biotoxins can also develop in buildings that are not water-damaged but have indoor humidity levels above 50 to 60 percent. In fact, many experts recommend maintaining indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent for preventing the growth of mold and other biotoxins.

Here’s a list of steps that you can take to minimize biotoxins in your home and improve indoor air quality (2, 3):

  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry completely.
  • Discard absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, if they become moldy. Don’t paint or caulk moldy surfaces.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, a small, inexpensive ($10 to $50) instrument available at many hardware stores. Venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans when cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning can all help to reduce indoor humidity.
  • Do not install carpeting in areas where perpetual moisture problems may develop (i.e., in a bathroom).

Another helpful intervention is to use air filters and purifiers/sanitizers. I will write an article discussing them in more detail soon. For now, I will tell you what I use and recommend to my patients:

  1. A HEPA filter that is capable of removing ultrafine particles (<0.1 microns) like mold, dust, pet dander, VOCs, and even viruses from the air. These ultrafine particles represent 90 percent of all airborne pollution that you breathe.
  2. An air sanitizer that eliminates allergens, odors, mold, and germs.

The number and range of devices on the market in both of these categories is mind-boggling, and I’ve spent countless hours figuring out the best options for our home. My research is ongoing, but currently this is what we are using:

  • An IQAir HealthProPlus. IQAir makes HEPA filters that employ a four-stage filtration process (which includes activated carbon) to filter particles all the way down to 0.003 microns—the smallest particles that exist—with a guaranteed efficacy of more than 99.5 percent. We have one of these in the main living area of our home and one in the basement. Important note: Amazon.com is not an authorized reseller of IQAir, so if you purchase from there the warranty won’t be valid. I recommend purchasing directly from IQAir or from one of their authorized resellers.
  • Blueair Sense filters. Blueair filters use “HEPASilent Technology,” which combines electrostatic and mechanical filtration to capture 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.1 microns in size. We use these in bedrooms and my home office because they are smaller, quieter, and more energy efficient than the IQAir HealthProPlus units.
  • AirOasis air sanitizers. These units work differently than HEPA filters. They use a technology developed by NASA called advanced hydration photocatalytic oxidation (AHPCO) to destroy mold, bacteria, and other microorganisms with ultraviolet light and a catalyst. We have a few of the Air Angel units in smaller rooms, as well as an AO3000 in the main living area. Important note: I currently recommend running the AO units only when you are not in the rooms, and turning them off when you enter. This is due to the small amounts of ozone that they release. Though these levels are well below the recommended limit according to AO’s website, I prefer to be cautious. I also recommend using a HEPA/charcoal filter along with the AO devices, rather than using them on their own.

These devices are not cheap, but given what I’ve come to understand about the importance of indoor air quality to health, and given that my wife, my daughter, and I are all genetically susceptible to CIRS, I think they’re worth the expense. As an added benefit, the air in your home will smell like it does outside! It’s an incredible difference.

#3: CIRS Is Frequently Missed or Misdiagnosed

As I mentioned in #2, up to 25 percent of the population is susceptible to CIRS and perhaps a majority of buildings are either water-damaged or have conditions that make mold growth possible. Combine these factors with the increase in inflammatory diseases (which can serve as priming events) that has occurred over the past few decades and you have an environment that is ripe for CIRS.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients with this condition have not been properly diagnosed or treated because conventional doctors—and even many functional and integrative medicine specialists—simply aren’t looking for it. The fact that CIRS patients also typically meet the criteria for other syndromes and diseases like fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, post-treatment Lyme syndrome (PTLS), and multiple sclerosis (MS) compounds the problem.

CIRS patients present with a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Post-exertional malaise
  • Memory problems, difficulties with concentration and executive function
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo, lightheadedness
  • Muscle aches, cramping, joint pains without inflammatory arthritis
  • Hypersensitivity to bright light, blurred vision, burning or red eyes, tearing
  • Cough, asthma-like illness, shortness of breath, chronic sinus congestion
  • Air hunger or unusual shortness of breath at rest
  • Chronic abdominal problems including nausea, cramping, secretory diarrhea
  • A propensity to experience static shocks

As you can see, these symptoms are “non-specific,” which means that they don’t conclusively identify CIRS (or any other disease) by their mere presence.

Dr. Keith Berndston, a physician in Park Ridge, Illinois, has written a thorough summary of CIRS that I highly recommend reading. In it, he highlights the following criteria that a patient must meet to be diagnosed with CIRS (4):

  1. History, signs, and symptoms consistent with biotoxin exposure. In cases of mold toxicity, history should include exposure to toxin-producing molds as documented by the EPA-approved ERMI test (more on this in point #4 below). In other cases (microcystin, ciguatera, etc.), history should include likely exposure or laboratory evidence of exposure.
  2. A genetic predisposition to biotoxin-related illness based on identification of an HLA-susceptible haplotype.
  3. Abnormalities documented by visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) testing. VCS testing measures your ability to see details at low contrast levels. Dr. Shoemaker and Dr. Ken Hudnell—a principal investigator for the U.S. EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab and an expert on how neurotoxins affect the physiology of vision—discovered that the biotoxins affect the optical nerve and decrease the ability to detect visual contrast.
  4. Biomarkers consistent with the neuroimmune, vascular, and endocrine abnormalities that characterize CIRS. If you have a history consistent with biotoxin exposure, a susceptible genotype, and an abnormal VCS test, you are very likely to show the laboratory abnormalities seen in CIRS. Major and minor criteria are a work in progress.

The VCS test is best performed in the office of a CIRS-aware clinician. However, there are two online versions that can be used as a starting place.

The first VCS test is available at Dr. Shoemaker’s website, Surviving Mold, at a cost of $15. This is a Functional Visual Acuity Test (FACT) that uses a scoring algorithm developed by Drs. Shoemaker and Hudnell to determine the likelihood that a patient is being adversely affected by biotoxin exposure.

The second VCS test is available at VCSTest.com. The raw (unconverted) scores and the contrast sensitivity curve are provided for free, and a $10 donation is requested (but not required) for the upgraded results with detailed analysis and interpretation and a PDF that can be downloaded and shared. VCSTest.com now offers what they call an Online Contrast Sensitivity Test, which addresses one of the primary shortcomings of online VCS testing: the variability in how different computer monitors and displays handle visual contrast. The OCST features full display calibration, which adapts the test images to each user by taking into account both their display size and individual display characteristics/properties, like their video card, video drivers, operating system and display settings, including contrast, brightness, gamma, etc. As far as I know, this is the only FACT-based online VCS test that controls for display calibration.

In practice, I think both of these tests can be used successfully as screening tools, but the OCST offered by VCSTest.com has the advantage of full display calibration, which allows for accurate results across any device (helpful in re-testing and tracking progress if the patient is re-taking the test on an iPad, for example, if the original test was done on a laptop computer).

The VCS test is so accurate that, if it is positive, there is a 92 percent chance that the patient has CIRS. That said, it’s important to note that a positive VCS test cannot be used to rule CIRS in or out on its own, and I have definitely had patients that passed the VCS test who went on to be positive for CIRS, and vice versa.

A list of the biomarkers that constitute a CIRS diagnosis can be found on Dr. Shoemaker’s site. However, if you fail the VCS test, and/or suspect you may have CIRS, I strongly recommend finding a CIRS-aware clinician in your area. You can start with the list of clinicians that have been certified by Dr. Shoemaker on his website. There are other clinicians, like those of us at California Center for Functional Medicine, that are familiar with CIRS and are actively diagnosing and treating patients for it, but are not yet certified.

Diagnosing and treating CIRS is not a “DIY proposition,” as it involves a lot of nuance and complexity that isn’t always apparent to clinicians and patients that are new to the condition. For example, C4a has to be run through Quest Diagnostics and then sent out to a specialized lab called National Jewish Laboratories in order to get an accurate result. I can’t tell you how many times patients have come to me with a C4a result run through Labcorp or another lab. It’s painful to have to tell them that we need to run these (sometimes expensive) labs again because they weren’t done properly in the first place.

For much more on CIRS diagnosis and pathology, check out my recent interview of Dr. Shoemaker on my podcast, Revolution Health Radio.

#4: Removal from Exposure Is the First Step in Successful Treatment …

Dr. Shoemaker has developed a multi-step protocol for treating CIRS (it ranges from 11 to 14 steps, depending on how you count or combine the steps).

The first step in the protocol is removing the patient from exposure to the biotoxins. This involves testing all environments (home, workplace, recreational) that the patient spends significant amounts of time in throughout the course of his or her daily life. If mold or other biotoxins are identified, those environments must be successfully remediated (followed by taking adequate measures to prevent recurrence), or the patient must relocate to another home or workplace.

As both a clinician and someone dealing with CIRS myself, I have found step one to be by far the most difficult step in the protocol. Here’s why.

Many mold inspectors are not using comprehensive, accurate testing methods. If you call up a local mold inspector and ask him to come assess your property, chances are he will do a visual inspection and take some air samples. Both of these methods can yield useful information, but on their own, they are not enough.

Air sampling does not allow identification of particular species of Penicillium, Aspergillus, Wallemia, etc., which is important because different species have different health effects. In addition, air sampling devices only collect a small sample of air from directly around the device. This matters because mold spores have different molecular weights, and some do not remain airborne for long.

A better method of initially screening a building for mold is the ERMI test. ERMI stands for Environmental Relative Moldiness Index. It utilizes quantitative polymerase chain reaction (MSQPCR) technology to identify mold in dust that has settled in buildings.

The ERMI test was developed by the EPA as a means of determining the relative “moldiness” of a home compared to a group of reference homes that do not have mold. Thirty-six species were divided into 26 species/clusters of molds associated with water-damaged buildings (Group 1) and 10 common species not associated with water-damaged buildings (Group 2). The mold index is the sum of logs of Group 1 minus the sum of the logs of Group 2 in a building. The ERMI has been validated in several peer-reviewed studies (5, 6, 7, 8).

Dr. Shoemaker further refined the relevance of ERMI testing to CIRS patients by creating the HERTSMI-2 scoring system. This is a weighted score that takes the relative levels and danger of particular mold species into account.

The advantage to the ERMI is that it can identify the exact species of various molds present, and it will identify spores that are not airborne. However, it is crucial to understand that not all labs that perform the ERMI test are using the correct methodology.

In order to ensure reliable and accurate results, labs that perform ERMI testing must follow the EPA patent and laboratory procedures exactly. Otherwise, whatever results the test returns will not be validated.

As Dr. Shoemaker explained in a recent article, one of the most prominent labs performing ERMI testing, ESML (also the lab behind MyERMI), is not following these procedures and is currently under investigation by the EPA. Several CIRS-aware physicians had noticed that levels of Wallemia, a particularly problematic species of mold, tended to be under-reported on the ESML test. These false negatives could lead to someone erroneously assuming their home or workplace is safe, when in fact it is not.

EMSL has apparently promised a refund to everyone who has had an ERMI test run through its lab in the past three months. If you fall into this group, I suggest you contact the company.

The lab that I recommend for ERMI testing is Mycometrics. It follows the procedures established in the EPA patent by the letter, and it has excellent quality-control procedures in place.

It’s worth noting that no single test—including ERMI—is reliable as a means of assessing whether biotoxins are present in a building. There is no substitute for an experienced mold inspector that is using evidence-based methodology. (I just wish they were easier to find!)

#5: … but Removal from Exposure Isn’t Enough for Most CIRS Patients

While removal from exposure is an important first step, as I mentioned above, there are at least 10 other steps in the protocol.

People with CIRS have genetic mutations that make them unable to remove the biotoxins that have accumulated in their bodies. This means that getting away from the biotoxins may stop them from building up further, but it will not remove them.

Removal of biotoxins in patients with CIRS usually begins with binders like cholestyramine or Welchol. Other steps include eradicating biofilm-forming staph colonizations that tend to develop in the nasal passages of CIRS patients and correcting high/low MMP9, ADH/osmolality, C4a, TGF-b1, VEGF, and VIP.

In an ideal world, we’d have CIRS-aware physicians in every city and town. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are currently only a few Shoemaker-certified practitioners, and perhaps several others that are not certified but are actively treating CIRS. Please share this article with those you think may be interested so we can help to spread awareness of this debilitating yet under-recognized condition.

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  1. What is the best way for regular maintenance cleaning of my shower? I have CIRS and chemical sensitivities. Can I use a scrub brush and my essential oils to scrub the floor and walls of my shower? I can see that some mold is starting to form so I’m not sure if it’s safe for me to clean it. If someone else cleans it for me, can they use bleach or strong cleansers to kill the mold/mildew? The leftover odor will likely bother me, but the mold might bother me more. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.

  2. I felt like I was going crazy. People are patronizing me. I’ve been living in this house for 2 years now. My roommate actually has Lyme disease so she’s probably affected as well. She was ill too but “got better” I have Sarcoidosis. We did the Petri dish thing last year where you test for mold in different parts of the home and they all came back positive but we already knew there was water damage. There are leaks everywhere. Water stains in the ceilings etc. There was no follow up or repair after the testing. I don’t own the home so I couldn’t do anything about it. I’m on SSI so it’s difficult to find a place an affordable place to move to. What prompted the testing was me smelling this horrible mildew smell and becoming increasingly sensitive to every smell and my body reacting to the presence of it. I was finally able to attribute my hyperosma to the methotrexate and phentermine I was taking but, those meds only enabled me to smell the mildew that is present not imagine that it was there! I can feel tingling sensations on my skin, my eyes, my tongue even. Now certain things I touch burn my skin. It’s like I can feel these invisible allergens present on surfaces and clothing, burning my skin, causing itching inside my ears, shortness of breath. People keep saying I’m crazy because they can’t see, smell or feel them. I CAN and I’m not crazy! I think I have CIRS. I have increasing joint pain with no inflammation. My eyes are growing ridiculously sensitive to light and they feel dry and burn all the time. I get dehydrated. My potassium is all over the place. My brain feels weird. I can’t sleep or focus. I can’t eat or I’m TOO hungry that it just hurts so bad! My stomach just one way or another hurts. It produces way too much acid or mucus or both. I’m just bleh. I’m so tired. I’m afraid they’re going to be right and I am going crazy. I need someone to help me!

    • Please don’t lose hope. The best thing you can do right now is to leave even if for a week or 2 the place with the problem and see if you begin things feel better. If you do then you know is the mold and you will do anything including sleeping in your car or a tent to allow your body some reprieve so it can begin to heal until you can find a place with minimal or no mold at all. I pray God gives you the strength, the means attend wisdom to begin a journey of healing and rest. May the Lord bless you in Jesus’ name.

      • From my experience some of your symptoms can improve when you remove yourself from the toxic environment but other symptoms like fatigue can get worst because your body in a detoxification process which will take a long time. Chim and fluox could be the best for this.

    • Agelika you do have CIRS it sounds like. THose are all CIRS symptoms. You need a safe environement and a doctor from survivingmold.com website

    • I have the same symptoms as you. The burning gets worse when follow the protocol for removing the toxins. I was diagnosed first with Fibromyalgia, then my thyroid went hypo. I got sick so quickly. In hind site…everything got bad when I was under stress. At times I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs. My lips would swell for no apparent reason. The allergist couldn’t find anything wrong.
      After years of these symptoms, I ended up in the hospital for five days due to a bad lung infection where my throat closed. I couldn’t breathe due to the extreme swelling of the glands in my throat. Lymph glands. I was put on three different antibiotics and steroids, plus breathing treatments. I was released after five days with no know cause.
      I had five days of lying in a hospital bed, connecting the dots of my progressive illness. When it started, what I was doing when my lips would swell. I figured it out! I was a waitress and bartender at Henry Ford’s Dearborn Country Club. It was a very old building with a shale roof. The roof leaked real bad in certain areas. Water would drip from the ceiling in the kitchen. Water was running down the wall. When I tended bar, I was standing in front of a wet floor due to the ice been. On top of working in a moldy environment, I worked in my garden all day before work. I had a beautiful yard on 3/4 of an acre with cedar mulched beds. I had a twelve foot compost bin that I put leaves and grass clippings in. I was always digging in mulch and exposed to mold! The mulch surrounded my home. It was under all my windows. When I ended up in the hospital, I had been spreading mulch for weeks. Bagged mulch that sat over the winter because I got so sick the previous summer before completing the task.
      I went to see a doctor that specialized in the Shoemaker protocol. I do have the HLA gene defect. I didn’t pass the VCS test.
      I am very sensitive to the detox protocol. My body couldn’t handle the Welchol, which was expensive. After five days I had extreme burning, anxiety and mental confusion. I now take Medi-Clay capsules, a probiotic called Accustomed Boulardii and charcoal capsules. They pull the toxins out. I have to space everything out, due to the “burning” sensations.
      Some days I don’t take anything because I cant stand the burning that happens.
      I wish you good luck with this. I pray a lot and I truly believe God brought me to this specialist. The sad part is that many general practitioners and internists don’t know anything about this and don’t care. They just want to put you on pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-depressants.
      I wish you well. God bless.

      • Not Accustomed Boulardii…Saccharomyces-Boulardii.
        I also drink smoothies I make from fresh celery, red apple with the skin and mango juice from Costco. It clears out toxins.

  3. I was diagnosed with fybromyalgia about 15 years ago. I know on several occasions I was exposed to black mold. I’ve a lot so been reading some on the fact that some have been misdiagnosed with fybro, when it was black mold desease. I have asked my family Dr group 4 times to be tested, reading that the symptoms are extremely similar. They insist that as long as I am no longer exposed, there is no need to test. True?

    • No this is not true. If you are among the 25% of the population that is susceptible to mold, your body has a hard time getting the toxins out of the system. Unless you are in an extremely pristine environment, you are not likely get better. Binders such as Cholestyramine are needed, in addition to being in a mold free environment. I would suggest going to a different doctor, e.g. one of the Shoemaker certified one (complete list on http://www.survivingmold.com.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your hard work and dedication. I have mold/mycotoxin toxicity, and C677T genetic mutation.

      Air disintegration machines only disintegrate mold spores that can be disintegrated up to 400°. In order to disintegrate tricothecene you need a disintegrator that can disintegrate that particular mycotoxin with a machine that disintegrates molds/mycotoxins above 500°. Do you know of any disintegrator that kills spores above 500°?

      All of my molds and mycotoxins are classes 2 and 3, confirmed by Real-time labs, in both urine and blood.

      The meds I need are not affordable such as daily caspofungin injections or pozacanazole tabs and daily injections of gamma globulin. Each combination plus weekly irrigation costs between $100,000 to $118,000 per year. I cannot afford them and I have no health insurance. I need a miracle. My health just keeps declining and I have been bedridden for almost 2 years.

      I cannot take Cholestyramine because it severely constipates me.

      All I can afford are Rx’s and supplements to keep my symptoms at bay.

      Thank you in advance for your help.

      Best wishes,

      Jenny

      • I want to encourage you to do a healthy vegan diet. That way you’ll get the fiber and nutrients your digestive system needs so that you can tolerate Cholestyromine. All my Drs. except one said I would be bedridden if I wasn’t on a vegan diet. And none of my Drs. are vegan. And I was able to do Cholestyromine no problem.

      • Jenny,
        Try taking 10 capsules of a good activated charcoal. It worked for me within hours my ice pick like leg pain was gone. And it does not constipate me. I also use a good bentonite clay but I take that with the charcoal I do get constipated but it too is worth you trying it as it too should help you.

        • Hi Chris,
          Thank you for your suggestions of Chim and Fluox, however I am severly lactose intolerant.
          Take care and best wishes,
          Jenny

    • Not true!! The average doctors are not aware that micro toxins can form from black mold events attacking your immune system for years! Many disorders like copd , chronic fatigue , neuropathy, random pain can be caused by the neurotoxins from black mold.
      Many MD’s r not even aware of what the tests are….I have had two neurologist who thought heavy metal poisoning was a scam.. don’t trust your doctors lack of knowledge ..insist on testing …they will not suffer years of pain….you will !!

    • margaret that is absolutely not true. The mold toxins can build up in your body and your body cant remove them without medical support. go to survivingmold.com. CIRS is very commonly misdiagnosed as Fibro

  4. I too am sick from mold in my previous rental home. I didn’t know the mold was there until I moved our storage out of a big walk in closet. I don’t know what kind of mold it was because the landlord went in and bleached the wall as soon as I got our things out and someone else moved right in. I have been sick for 7 months and can’t find any doctors in WY or Montana that have a clue how to even test me for it. I am trying a starvation diet that I found online. I just am at wits end trying to find help and also going broke.

    • One of the most important things about remediation is that you should never EVER use bleach for removing mold, as it would make the problem worse. While diet is important in any case, it will not cure you of CIRS, if that is your problem. Look up a Shoemaker certified doctor on http://www.survivingmold.com. Many of them do phone consultations.

    • SUSAN!! OMG just go to survivingmold.com. You have one of the best docs in the country there treating mold. Dr. Kellyn Milani at Trillium Integrative Medicine. C’mon people do your due diligence and read the information at surviving mold. This is what Chris Kresser did. He actually read the material on the website. All the resources are there. Many labs are covered by insurance. Most of these doctors can follow up by phone or Skype after initial consult. Some is even covered by Medicare!!!!

    • I have a doctor out of Michigan who I’ve been working with for several years… I’ve been diagnosed with Fybro for many years but recently took a big decline. She immediately tested me for Lyme (the gold standard test level) and Mold. Sure enough I tested positive for two types of mold and are now in the process of taking two over the counter items (for 6 months) to rid my system.

      RealTime Labs out of Texas did the tests. check website – http://www.realtimelab.com. Phone is 972-492-0419.

  5. I live in a housing complex and we have mold I clean the walls in the shower with Bleach. My Husband was a maintenance worker here and he did alot of repairs in the job Tearing down walls etc, He now has memory problems confusion nervousness etc. they say it is stages of Alzheimer’s. I am always tired and we at home seem very irritable can our symptoms be related to the mold? also can we get an air purifier? will that help? what can we use at home to help with the air quality? I always have our ac’s on on fan cycle.

    • Yes these are exactly the symptoms of mold. I am having short term memory problems and also can’t focus. Fatigued and sleepy all day long. Headaches come and go. I know this might sound hard to do, but you either get professional mold removers or move out of the house.

      • If you can afford to built your own home, build with hemp crete or jet board. It does not get mold, or pests and takes much longer to burn if a fire breaks out. Magnacrete, another board, does not burn at all. It costs about $7 more a board than the formaldehyde toxic board but why make a home 10 times more toxic than the air outside by using such poisonous wood to make your home with? Also check with what the dry wall is made with. Some is made from the toxic waste of fertilizer production waste! Scary.

    • Never EVER use bleach for cleaning mold – it will make the problem worse. Mold remediation should be done by professionals. Your symptoms does sound like mold illness aka CIRS. Best way forward is to get the bloodwork done to see if you have CIRS (see list on http://www.survivingmold.com). To evaluate the house you could consider doing an ERMI test which you can buy from http://www.mycometrics.com.

      • I forgot to mention – if you really are sick and the home has a mold problem, air purifiers might help a bit but it will not solve the problem.

  6. The trichothecene mycotoxins produced by toxic black mold are neurotoxic. This means they can kill neurons in the brain and impair a person’s mental ability. They also cause nervous disorders such as tremors and can cause personality changes such as mood swings and irritability.

    Symptoms:
    (1) Confusion
    (2) Brain fog
    (3) Shortened attention span
    (4) Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
    (5) Slowed reflexes
    (6) Disorientation
    (7) Dizziness
    (8) Memory loss and memory problems
    (9) Impaired learning ability
    (10) Hallucinations
    (11) Shock
    (12) Anxiety
    (13) Depression
    (14) Aggression and other personality changes
    (15) Tingling
    (16) Trembling
    (17) Shaking
    (18) Seizure
    (19) Numbness

    [Source] http://www.floodaz.com/toxic-black-mold-symptoms/

  7. I had Air samples taken in my apt…I’ve been sick & in a hotel since Sept. High counts of Asper/Pen…been sick of & on for the 20 months there but health went down hill middle of Aug.
    Landlord did not disclose mold problems & they have to in VA.
    Had exrays, small white spots in lungs, Asthma & many other symptoms. I just found a place to move. I saw a Pulmonary Special last Fri & he sent out Blood (RASP) changed inhaler & started Singulair tabs. I go back on Mon for lab results. He mentioned maybe Itraconozole. He thinks condition might be Aspergiliosis. I gave my 30 day notice on Mon. My cat is still there but can’t move her until 21 or 22 Nov. I will do the ERMI
    test. Any mold Dr’s in VA? Any one here using attorneys? Do I have to lose everything? I’m disabled…my service dog has shown symptoms off & on…she does not go in with me when I tend to the cat 2 times a week & I wear a mask but I’m still effected when I go in apt.

    • Also Chaetonium was found The Asper/Pen was 27 times higher in livingroom where I sit than outdoor sample & bedroom was 14 (?) times higher…HERTSMI Mold Test will this stand up in court? Thank you for all your helpful info Chris!

  8. I was a housepainter for 28 years and usually worked in several nasty houses each year that had previous water damage. None of their occupants nor I ever became ill from being exposed to the various molds, fungi, etc. That changed in 2007 when I did four in a row and wound up with a nasty case of Mycotoxicosis. My doctor said there wasn’t anything available to fight it except time for my immune system to develop a resistance to the cruds. Said it could take several months or several years. Took me two years and wound up getting it again but worse two years later. This time it took 40 months for my body to get rid of it. Didn’t get it from living at home since my mother remained healthy and she was in her late 90’s. The only places I went that could’ve been infested were my 1995 car and 1988 work van since their doors’ weather stripping were allowing rain to enter during downpours. They had been that way for years so once damp inside I just left all the windows until they dried out. I guess some of those nasty micro-organisms’ spores eventually found a way in and began to proliferate.

  9. I live in an apartment which is section 8. I have informed my office of all of my issues here in my apartment . I know without a doubt I’m a hundred percent sure that my home is full of toxic mold. Over all the years I’ve lived here my health has completely went downhill and I truly believe I am slowly dying . I have done so much research on this but no one wants to believe me and no one wants to help me . I am disabled and I have nowhere else to live . I have every single symptom you had mentioned and my home which I have thoroughly photographed is completely falling to pieces and there is mold everywhere . What can I do I have nowhere to go and no way to turn ? Can anyone help me ?

    • Hi Amy,

      I would have the landlord contact a professional company to conduct an air test to see what kind of mold spores are in the apartment. That would be the best way to prove it has Toxic Mold. I lived in an apartment with Toxic Mold and my health went downhill. If the test comes back positive, I would move right away.

  10. The antibody test for the 3 year exposure to Stachybotrus came back negative. Is that normal? I do not know which particular antibody test she did. Does this mean it is accurate? and all my symptoms are probably MS?

  11. We had a huge leak into our house several years ago as we live on the east coast and we’re hit by a few storms in a row leaving lb after lb of ice on the roof which finally gave in. The water damage affected the entire upstairs which is our whole living space. We had people come in and rip everything out from most walls, all of the bathroom down to just the like the tub and toilet, the kitchen cabinets and ceramic tile floor, I mean we had to start all over with a 24k insurance check. It didn’t affect the bedroom to their knowledge but when they put those HUGE humidifiers in 4 of the rooms except the bedroom I came down with a respiratory illness and had complete laryngitis for 4-5 months. That’s a long time to go with out speaking. And I was in the house almost the whole time this was going on with my pets and self closed off in the bedroom with an air purifier. But I think being in the house was the worse idea possible but I was on bedrest from an injury and out on FMLA. I’m wondering if they didn’t do a proper job with getting the water out or may have opened a can of worms bc I my health has declined ever since, making me at home 90% of the time and I’ve been through so many tests and they can’t find out what’s wrong. After reading this article I am seriously going to make an appointment with my dr and if it’s out of his leaguests he needs to point me in the best direction!! I mean can your primary order the specific tests needed or do I need a specialist, or if he orders the proper tests and thing come back abnormal is that when he would sent me to a specialist? And just wondering for those who have had their house tested around how much could that approximately cost? And say the previous owner knee about this would they have needed to disclose this when I bought the house, or would I have had to specifically had to ask? Thank you

    • Tracy, so sorry to hear about your illness. I was just diagnosed with mycotoxin illness, CIRS (chronic inflammatory response syndrome), hypothyroid, Hashimoto’s thyroid it’s in Feb of this yr, 2016 due to a minor water problem July 25,2012 that the supposed remidiators didn’t handle properly…and mold grew within 2 days. After 3mths of arguing and pleading with insurance and the ass holes that were yelling at me saying there is no problem cuz they are the professionals, I got permission from insurance to call an air quality specialist to come find the mold…that insurance KNEW was here cuz they were here many times and smelled it. They found mold right away and recommended a full remediation of the finished basement where the pipe had burst. The only prob is that NO ONE told me to shut off the HVAC and so the mold and mycotoxins were being pulled throughout the whole house and have contamminated EVERYTHING I own…everything! I have to move out and never come back and start over. I started with asthma within 2 days, then urinary pain, frequency and horrible pressure within a mth and was seeing a urologist who did surgery on me that I didn’t need and over active bladder meds which did nothing…I’ve never been in so much pain in my life and it never stopped. I switched to another dr…a urogynocologist who jerked me around and lots of meds and a bladder repair that she said would help with the pain and freq did nothing to help…and I’m left with a $2,300 bill AND no relief. Then I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer…after losing 2 cats to cancer before this and after the mold..so I started to get suspicious that there might be a correlation. I went through chemo…and now I have found out there are many ways to cure cancer without surgery, chemo or radiation and my legs are ruined from nerve damage. My eyes got blurry and I was running to the eye dr asking him over and over and over to change my lenses cuz I still couldn’t see. I had a very serious bout of depression in March of 2013…7-8mths after my exposure…and I like you were house bound 24-7 with my cats cuz I had a seizure disorder at the time and couldn’t drive. Also I just read many times over that if mold is suspected and especially during remediation…NO BLOWERS of any kind should be used cuz they also blow the mold spores I tot he air and they get into everything..theses “professionals” that were here had blowers to “dry out the walls and carpet” which I found out you can’t do and they should have cut out the walls and taken up the carpet within 24-48hrs and then none of this would have happened! I started having terrible muscle pain and joint pain…especially my hips and fingers. Freq migraine headaches…and no sleep at all especially cuz I had to pee every 30mins around the clock. Then they think your a complainer so they suggest you “see someone” like a psychiatrist for meds which has happened to almost all of use effected by this illness. Oh, and the ANGERY issues I have…they call it mold rage…so don’t piss me off! I started yelling and cursing at people on the phone and in person and was blaming it on the seizure meds or menopause and crying cuz I’d feel so bad when I directed it toward my son who was away at college…he still dosent believe me that it’s the illness. I’m so dehydrated all the time and my skin actually burns if I don’t keep drinking cuz all I do is pee. There are so many other problems I have that it would take days for m to tell…but you get the idea. I just watched a short movie by Dave Aspry called “the movie MOLD” or MOLDY about his effects and he was one of the geniuses who discovered “the cloud” for the Internet..so you know he’s credible. I saw a lot of Drs and my long time interest after I brought him the lab results confirming I have all the above things wrong with me after he was blowing me off for yrs said ther is nothing wrong with me, mold doesn’t make anyone sick and they are lying to me to make money and the people that write these books just want fame and I don’t have pain and the peeing has nothing to do with mold and I don’t have hypothyroid and don’t worry about a little Hashi etc and then walked out of the room and b=never came back. Then I just on Friday saw a endocrinologist to get more thyroid and I’d never seen her and she was listed as a top dr in Nj….insulted me, made faces and fun of me cuz I went organic and I believe in mold illness and I don’t have hypo and there is nothing to do for Hashi I just have to live with it and she’s a professional who goes to all the meetngs and none of us believe in mold making anyone sick…and then I told her she’s narrow minded and ignorant and MAYBE she should listen and hear from someone like me who’s life has been turned upside down from this BEFORE she shuts the door on the possibility that this DOESNT exist CUZ I KNOW IT DOES AND THE LABS AND MY SYMPTOMS PROVE IT! She was not happy with me and I just walked out. I’m a nurse who always respected rd..but I don’t now and not just because of this illness but because I’d been mis managed for 5 yrs before reguarding something else. They don’t know nearly as much as we give them credit for so listen to YOUR gut and if you think your onto something DONT give up until you find someone who believes you. I’m not sure where you live on the east coast, but I live in Nj and happened to land in a Drs office down the shore in Springlake,NJ about something else and he had just finished his certification with Dr Shoemaker on mold and he FINALLY asked all the right questions about my water prob and mold and sent me to my lab with a mile long slip and 2weeks later I finally had the answers to my suffering for 4 very long yrs. mycotoxin illness/CIRS, Hashimoto’s disease/hypothyroid/ low iodine/low iron. I really would suggest cuz your quite sick si to maybe if you don’t live hrs away from the early part of the jersey shore, is to call DR Rothman and talk to his nurse Brenda and see what she thinks. It may save you lot of money and time to go to someone who believes in mold illness, knows the symptoms and most importantly the correct tests to run and either it will give you your answers or not and if it is something else he’ll be the one to figure it out. He gives you an 1 1/2 for the 1st appointment and you have to pay out of pocket but lab Corp runs the tests and my insurance covered that. I would at least call…you have nothing to lose at this point! His # is 732-268-7663. Good luck!

  12. I just had one of my cats urine tested for mycotoxins from real time labs and it came back as Gliotoxin and it’s a very nasty one. When I looked it up it said that these toxins can’t ever be pulled out of tissue and will remain imbedded because they have especially sharp hooks. They cause DNA/RNA damage as well. I want to cry. I probably have them too. Now I’m crying. This sucks.

    • This looks to be Candida related as I search it. What is the remedy, or what can be used/taken for relief?

    • Sorry to butt in here. . But does testing animal urine really work? If so who tests it? I rented a house in 2010 and my grandmother lived with me as I took care of her and worked everyday. She was 71 when we got here. . First it was vertigo. . Then vision problems. . . Memory loss . . Respitory arrest. . . And finally long term permenant care at a facility. I associated it to old age. . Meanwhile my dog loses all of the back half of his hair on his butt yearly to regrow it and lose it again. . .moving on to me. . . I started having sever problems with respitory issues in2012 which lead to a heart attack in 2014. When I was at the hospital I felt 25 again but I got home and kept getting sick. . I began to develops all of the same symptoms as my granny did prior. . . I’ve had pneumonia 4 times since 2014 . . Frequent urination constant thirst blurry vision mood swings light sensitivity vertigo and so on. 6 1/2 yrs ago when I moved in here I was 33 and in prime physical condition. . . Now some days I can’t get out of bed. . 5 days ago I moved a shelf in my bedroom corner and the baseboard split open where they meet at the wall and there is a spidering rash of mold running in both directions on the baseboards and creeping up the wall. . Since my grandmother’s departure to the facility her health has improved. My now fiance moved in 2 yrs ago and is 9 months pregnant. . Her 3 small kids all under age 10 live here and they are always sick too. . . The dog has been here all along but the vet said we can’t test his blood for mold. . . My doctor says I’m crazy. . . But it all makes sense. . I need to find a way to prove I’m right. .

      • Steve, you are not crazy..its all real what’s happening to all of you. I had a minor area of damage July 25, 2012 and became sick with asthma in 2days then within 2 wks it was crushing, burning pressure in my bladder with frequent urination and extreme thirst. Then anxiety and then 8mths later in March i overnight became severely depressed out of the blue. Then mood swings and rage issues and all the other problems continued. Then anorexia which i still have every so often where i cant eat for a wk at a time bc i feel so bloated and full…it passes and comes back again. Then blurry vision and the eye dr said i should be seeing ok but i couldnt and still cant. My cats started losing their hair a bit and 2 of them became asthmatic and they all (11) started throwing up thier food at every meal all around the house and still do. I had surgeries on my bladder that I didn’t need bc it has turned out to be IC which is interstitial cystitis which is what was and does if i eat the wrong thing what causes my bladder pain WHICH I HEALED MY SELF bc the drs are uninformed and were urging me crazy with over active bladder meds which did not work at all…none of them. Then they all were saying i needed anti depressants bc if they cant find the cause then of course it must be in your head…right? No! Thats not it at all. I was finally diagnosed this past Feb when i ended up in a recently rained dr in the Shoemaker protocol as in Dr Shoemaker and his website is called “surviving mold.com” and it has a lot of info which is very helpful. Many Drs and others do not believe that we are sick with this life changing illness but we all are and you need to know its a up hill battle you and all of us have to fight to get well and to be believed. There ar some very good books that i found very helpful to explain all of this. I was told in Feb by my dr to move out ASAP and to leave everything behind. If i take anything ill just contaminate the new place so ive been trying to get the money together to do that….but its very hard while you’re suffering and fighting the none believers and have no energy to do it..or anything some days. I had i one of my cats urine tested for the mycotoxins and it came back for gliotoxins which are shed by yeast. I lost 3 cats to cancer since the pipe burst and the company sent out allowed the mold to grow trying to cut corners and now im losing everything and no one will take responsibility for it which is maddening and completely wrong but its the way it is. I hope you get some answers but please do not give up..there is hope and there are people to help guide and give advice but it takes time. YOU ARE NOT IMAGINING IT, IT IS REAL!

  13. Hi’ my son is very sick’ the doctors after two and half months told us he has mold sickness ‘ my English is not good ‘ plz help me

  14. Hi’ my son is very sick’ after two months and half they saying he has mold toxin ‘ l need help’ my English not good enough ‘ I can’t explain how is painfull is for me see him like that ‘ plz help

  15. I had a spinal fusion 2 years ago and developed aspergillus in my spine. I was treated with antifungals and had the hard ware removed but I still feel sick all the time. Any suggestions to tell the infectious disease doctor?

  16. Can it cause severe itching, burning and prickly feeling on the skin if you touched it while cleaning and vacuuming the rug where it was? Bc now I’m not sure if it’s mold or a parasite or both. How do you rule that out? Thank you.

  17. Chris, I’d like your thoughts on this.
    I did a Bio Trek mycotoxin panel which is collected through urine. All parameters came back positive. Aflatoxin, Ochratoxin A and Trichothecene. I do have the multisuseptible gene and another mold gene. If I’m out of a moldy environment would you say I just haven’t detoxed these molds? What are your views on this panel?

    • Brenda
      I have a tingling sensation sometimes feels like prick or bite all over body. No rash or sores though. Its particularly bothersome at night. Muscle and joint pain too. 47 years old. I was in a dwelling that had mold several times to show remediators around and then it started about the second or third exposure. Seems too like my short memory has suffered some since, as well as more freq urination. IH tests showed spore levels to be 10 times higher than outside. I think i have toxicosis but have not neen tested….were you happy with your test experience? Did they respond to your question about detox and duration? my exposure totaled maybe 10 hours over the course of three weeks beginning about six weeks ago. I am experimenting with coconut shell charcoal and detox teas……hoping symptoms go away. Hopefully will be seeing a dermatologist soon too. How do you feel now…symptoms still? Thanks in advance.