How My House Made Me Sick
Mold illness or chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS, pronounced like ‘sirs’) is triggered when a genetically vulnerable person is exposed to toxins in a water-damaged building in high enough concentrations or for a long enough period of time, or both. This exposure causes the immune system to overreact and become dysregulated and results in systemic inflammation. We call it a multi-system, multi-symptom disease, which makes it difficult for most doctors to diagnose, because they simply haven’t yet learned what to look for. When someone is educated and trained in mold illness, it is relatively easy to diagnose with specific lab tests and physical findings.
Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D. was the first to recognize the link between toxins found in so many of our homes and buildings (estimated to be ~50%) and the vast amount of misdiagnosed ailments that physicians aren’t able to treat effectively. Dr. Shoemaker is a true scientist at heart and has produced years of reliable reproducible data and clinical experience that he has shared on his website www.survivingmold.com. That’s why Wiser Health has chosen to follow the science behind Dr. Shoemaker’s decades of research in treating mold illness/CIRS.
Is it mold illness or CIRS?
The terms mold illness and chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS, pronounced like sirs) are often used interchangeably. That’s because 80% of the time, the immune dysregulation experienced with CIRS is caused by exposure to a water-damaged building. Other causes of CIRS are a brown recluse spider bite, ciguatera toxin from eating tropical fish, the water borne toxins Pfiesteria and cyanobacteria, and from Borrelia burgdorferi which causes Lyme disease.
Regardless of what you call it, there’s a multisystem, multisymptom component of immune dysregulation that persists long after the person has gotten out of the environment that triggered CIRS unless it is effectively treated.
Why am I the only one in my house that’s sick?
It’s your genetics, or more specifically, your epigenetics, meaning you basically have a CIRS switch that was flipped ‘on’ from exposure to a water-damaged building. It’s estimated that 25% of the population has the genetic predisposition for CIRS. Even biologically related siblings can have different epigenetic haplotypes, which explains why in a family of four, only one person is debilitatingly sick. It’s not impossible for someone without the genetic haplotype to have CIRS, but it’s rare.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can vary from person to person, but Dr. Shoemaker’s research found these to be the ones that tend to occur.
Decreased assimilation of new knowledge
Unusual skin sensitivity
Stabbing pain (ice-pick)
Decreased word finding
Shortness of breath
Tearing of the eyes
Swings in appetite
Difficulty regulating body temperature
How is it diagnosed?
Great question! We begin with the patented CIRS screening questionnaire designed by Dr. Shoemaker where we look not only for symptoms, but clusters of those symptoms. This is accompanied by a visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) test. These two tools alone are highly reliable predictors of a CIRS diagnosis, however we want to know what systems in the body are being affected, so the next step is blood tests for biomarkers that likely have never been performed by your doctors in the past (e.g. VIP, MSH, TGF Beta-1, MMP-9, VEGF, ADH, osmolality, ACTH, HLA DR/DQ haplotypes).
Why is my urine mycotoxin test useless?
The majority of both healthy and unhealthy people test positive for mycotoxins in their urine — some research says up to 99%. This is because we have them in so many of our foods, but our bodies are designed to naturally eliminate toxins through urine, stool and sweat. I would be more concerned about mycotoxins NOT showing up in the urine of a person with known exposure to a water-damaged building.
In 2014, the CDC put out a statement that the use of urine mycotoxin tests is unvalidated for the clinical diagnosis of illness, and that still holds true today. There is no FDA-approved test for mycotoxins in human urine. The only FDA-related part of the test is the use of a standardized parts-per-billion (ppb) format for the results. Mycotoxin levels that predict disease have not been established.
How is mold illness / CIRS treated?
So far, there is only one treatment protocol that has been clinically proven to resolve CIRS — meaning symptoms go away and lab values return to normal ranges by effectively flipping the CIRS switch back ‘off’. That’s not to say that people can’t feel better with other treatments, or that Dr. Shoemaker’s protocol is the only one that will ever be effective. However, to date, Dr. Shoemaker’s 12-Step Treatment Pyramid is the one protocol clinically shown to work and can be supported by lab testing.
Treatment always begins with making certain you are no longer being exposed to the toxins. You can’t treat a burned finger if your hand is still in the fire. We can point you in the right direction for getting your home evaluated. There are differences in the validity of do-it-yourself tests. As a starting point, we suggest the HERTSMI-2 test or hiring a qualified mold inspector.
The treatment for mold illness designed by Dr. Shoemaker is simple and straightforward. We follow the data from your lab results, and the majority of the time, we’ve been successful without requiring prescription medication.
How long will it take for me to heal from mold illness?
As you can imagine, that varies from person to person. We typically see improvement in symptoms within a few weeks, if not days. The goal is to not just improve symptoms but resolve CIRS and restore you to health. We retest labs periodically to assess progress. Resolution of CIRS (resetting that epigenetic switch) may take a year or more. We find that patients may no longer experience any symptoms, which is why it is important to have specific labs to determine when treatment can be stopped. It’s like when your doctor tells you to finish a course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms have gone away, except this treatment will actually restore gut health rather than destroy it.
Why should I trust you over the other mold illness practitioners?
Excellent question! You’ve probably been dealing with your symptoms for months, years or even decades, and no one has been able to effectively diagnose or help you. Your skepticism is well-founded and we appreciate it.
We follow the science. Dr. Shoemaker was the first to connect the dots of mold illness as a chronic inflammatory response to a triggering event (exposure to a water-damaged building). Solid, peer-reviewed research led him to creating the diagnostic criteria used today. Like many pioneers who think “outside of the box”, Ritchie Shoemaker has met his fair share of criticism and doubt. He’s got the data to back him up (published research, diagnostic criteria, clinically proven treatment protocol), and we hope to earn your trust by following the science with a targeted approach.
For decades people mocked the notion that gluten could be causing issues for so many people, and gluten sensitivity was considered a money making fad. Finally, the science caught up and proved that you don’t have to have celiac disease for gluten to create significant health issues. We suspect mold illness (CIRS) will someday receive the same recognition. Until then, we want to inform as many people as possible, introduce more practitioners to Dr. Shoemaker’s work, and heal as many patients’ suffering as we can.
Clear the Confusion
There’s no shortage of practitioners, summits, courses and Facebook groups sharing both information and a great deal of misinformation. Conventional medicine will explore things like lupus, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and various autoimmune diseases just to end up generalizing it as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or psychiatric issues.
Let us earn your trust and help you heal. Choose Wiser. Schedule your appointment today.