Fatigue is the second most common presenting complaint for patients presenting to their primary care doctors. (Cough is number one). The cause of the fatigue is identified in less than half of these cases. You may be told you have chronic fatigue syndrome.
Many of these patients also complain of musculoskeletal aches and pains. They may then be told they have fibromyalgia.
You may then be prescribed medications to treat these symptoms. These may or may not help. Many of the medications have a terrible side effect profile.
Or, you have lots of lab work performed, which is all normal. You are then told that “there is nothing wrong”, “it is all in your head”, “you are just getting old”, or that you are “just stressed or depressed”.
In functional medicine, we are always looking for the root cause of your symptoms. Medications to mask your symptoms, typically only cause more symptoms, and do not get rid of what is causing the problem. If you are sitting on a tack, and it hurts, do you want pain medicine? Or do you want to take the tack out?
When we see patients with fatigue and muscle/joint pain with otherwise normal lab tests, one of the more common “tacks” that we find is mold toxicity. This is most commonly a result of being in a water damaged building. Typically, the mold is not visible to the occupants of the building. The exposure may have been years ago, yet the toxin can persist in your body.
25% of the population has a certain genetic profile that make them highly susceptible to mold exposure. That is, their immune system “hyper-reacts” to the exposure. This is why not everyone in the household gets sick when in a home or building with mold.
In these people (with the right genes), exposure to mold activates their innate immune system. The innate immune system is our first line of defense against foreign invaders. This response is difficult to measure, and, it is difficult to determine what is causing it. Therefore, it is something not commonly checked by most physicians.
Symptoms that go along with mold toxicity:
- Concentration problems
- weakness, headache, light sensitivity
- Memory and word finding difficulties
- Joint Pain, morning stiffness
- Tingling, unusual skin sensations
- Shortness of breath, sinus congestion
- Cough, thirst, confusion
- Appetite swings, hot or cold feelings
- Red eyes, blurred vision, “ice pick” pain
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea
- Tearing, metallic taste
- Static shocks, vertigo
Mold exposure and toxicity is also one of the causes of Alzheimer ’s disease. Dr. Bredesen, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, has identified 4 main causative factors of Alzheimer ’s disease. Mold (or as it is broadly termed, “biotoxin illness”) is one of the causes of Type 3 Alzheimer’s.
The diagnosis can be complicated by a number of factors. One, the symptoms may come on very slowly. This can make it difficult to attribute them to a specific event or time period. The second issue is that most of the time one does not see the mold. In older commercial buildings, it may be covered up. Or there was water damage, and the carpets were just dried out. In a home, there may be have been a broken pipe behind the walls. Or mold hidden in the basement. Or water in the attic from a leaky roof.
Once the diagnosis is made, the treatment is to follow the Shoemaker Protocol. This is a well laid out, and researched treatment plan designed by Dr Ritchie Shoemaker. He is a pioneer in the treatment of biotoxin illness.
The first step of the treatment is to eliminate the exposure. That is, make sure that there is not any residual mold where you live or work. This needs to be done professionally. You cannot just wipe the walls down with bleach. Once you have been exposed, your sensitivity goes up, and it is imperative that all mold be removed properly.
The next step is to get the mold out of your system. This is done by enhancing your body’s detoxification ability. This requires looking at many factors- eliminating food sensitivities, healing leaky gut, correcting vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, minimizing other toxin exposures. We use compounds called “binders”, which will help your body excrete the toxins once they are mobilized. Sauna treatments are also very beneficial in getting the toxins out of your system.
This treatment program can be very quick (a few months), or it can take a long time (1-2 years) based on many factors. The functional medicine providers at Restorative Health Care are well versed in the treatment of biotoxin illness. Feel free to contact us if you have further questions.
Inflammation Induced Chronic Fatiguing Illness: A steady march towards understanding mechanisms and identifying new biomarkers and therapies. Shoemaker, R, et al. Int Med Review. Vol 3. Issue 11
www.echd.com Environment Health Center-Dallas
The End of Alzheimer’s. Bredesen, D. 2017. Penguin Random House Publishing.