We’re getting towards the end of our 10-week series, 10 Barriers To Recovery From Lyme Disease. Today we’re going to be talking about mold.
Mold toxicity in the body can be another reason why some people struggle to recover from Lyme disease. In some ways, Lyme and mold toxicity have a lot in common – both impact every system of the body, both create a toxicity in the body that is hard to recover from, both have profound impacts on the neurological system, both take advantage of genetic predispositions such as HLA phenotypes and methylation dysfunction.
The area of mold toxicity is a complex one. The expert on this topic is Ritchie Shoemaker, who has written a very in-depth book called Mold Warriors, and has a website www.survivingmold.com. He also has a follow up book called Surviving Mold.
Molds are types of fungi that can grow and reproduce forming spores. Mold grows indoors and outdoors, and is typically worse in damp environments. Some mold is visible, like the type we see growing on old food, but some is not visible. Black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is one of the most toxic types of mold. It is greenish-black in color, and can grow indoors or outdoors.
Mold illness can be hard to test for directly. There are some labs that measure antibodies to various molds (we use US Biotek but it’s a very basic panel only showing five different types of mold). The more effective way to assess the impact of molds on the body is to test a number of different markers including neurotoxic markers and inflammatory markers. Dr. Shoemaker uses the following lab markers as part of his assessment – VIP, melanocyte-stimulating hormone, TGF beta-1, C4a, HLA testing, anti-gliadin antibodies, ACTH/ cortisol, VEGF, anticardiolipins, ADH, MMP-9, and leptin. If that all sounds quite complicated, it’s because it is! Dr. Shoemaker also has a test on his website called a Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test which one can take online to assess the impact of mold and the neurological system. Real Time Labs offers a urine test measuring mycotoxins, which can be useful to see too, albeit quite expensive.
The first step in addressing mold issues in the body is to check, double-check and triple-check that there are no current exposures. There is no point in pursuing any further treatment options if there are sources of mycotoxins still entering the body. For some people, avoiding the source of exposure is enough to have them feeling better. The next step is the use of Cholestyramine (CSM). This is a binder – its on-label use is for high cholesterol, as it binds fatty acids and helps get them out of the body rather than being absorbed. But it can also bind neurotoxins, helping mold patients out significantly. It does have some down sides – it’s very constipating, and it needs to be taken three times daily on an empty stomach, which makes compliance quite difficult. But for those with mold toxicity, it’s the most obvious treatment to try.
Mold toxicity and Lyme disease is a real double whammy. Definitely the comorbidities make recovery from each more challenging, but it can be done! If you suspect mold toxicity might be a factor in your case, Dr. Shoemaker’s website is an excellent place to start gathering information, and get your current residence professionally tested!