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MOLD ILLNESS IN CENTRAL TEXAS

by Wally Taylor MD

In my integrative, functional and holistic practice of medicine in Austin, Texas, where I see people suffering from chronic complex illness that has not responded completely to prescription medicine, I frequently encounter folks who have a variety of symptoms from the exposure to mold toxins also known as mycotoxins.  This has been more common lately as the result of the extensive rains and flooding that have occurred in our area recently.  Mold illness is most often associated with indoor toxic mold exposure that results from water damage to a building (WDB Illness).

The telltale appearance of toxic mold growth following water damage. The presence of mold is often much less obvious.

The telltale appearance of toxic mold growth following water damage. The presence of mold is often much less obvious.

Symptoms of mold illness often overlap those from the ill effects of other toxins in our bodies both man-made and those from persistent germs and viruses that may be persisting inside us.

Mold illness symptoms often overlap other illnesses including Lyme Disease

Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker has written extensively about mold illness and is arguably the nation’s authority on this disorder.  He has coined the name Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome also known as CIRS to describe the group of symptoms and signs related to the toxic effects of mold.  His website- www.survivingmold.com contains a wealth of information relating to mycotoxin illness.

Mold Illness and Vector-Borne Illness such as Lyme Disease are more common than widely believed

The symptoms of CIRS are much the same as the symptoms that many people experience when they have a persistent infection due to certain germs that may be transmitted by the bite of a tick, flea, mosquito or spider.  These germs include the names Borrelia, Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and have been described to cause diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Borreliosis, Babesiosis, Cat Scratch Fever, Anaplasmosis, Tularemia, Brucellosis, and Relapsing Fever (together this group is referred to as tick-borne or vector-borne zoonotic illness).  I often see folks that suffer from the combination of Mold Illness and Vector-borne Illness at the same time since both illnesses are unfortunately more common than is widely believed.  The list of diseases that may in fact be misdiagnosed that are actually due to the systemic effects of mycotoxins includes: (Reference-http://www.survivingmold.com/diagnosis/common-misdiagnosis)

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Allergy
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Somatization
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Disorder

In any individual the best way to understand the nature of their symptoms is to take a very thorough history relating to the onset of the symptoms and the environmental exposures of that person.  Lab tests can then be used to further define the nature and degree of disease.   I always tell my patients that in the case of illness due to toxins in the body, the first order of business is to assure that there is not a continuing exposure to more toxins.  This is especially true of Mold Illness.  As long as a person continues to be exposed to mycotoxins in their indoor environment, it is unlikely that any form of treatment is going to be completely successful in eliminating symptoms!

As long as mycotoxin exposure continues in the indoor environment, it is unlikely that treatment in any form will be completely successful in eliminating symptoms

If mold illness is suspected or when there has been water damage or when mold growth is noted (by smell or observation), it may be essential to seek out the services of a certified mold inspector.

If there is a potential mold issue in a house and there is a moisture source, the mold will continue to grow until it becomes a much larger problem

I asked Dan Yates of Texas Mold Consultants to comment about the frequent concern I hear from my patients that they are afraid to have their home mold inspected because they believe it could jeopardize later sale of the home.  Here is Dan’s response:

“Upon the sale of their home, there will be an inspection done that includes the “water damage” area that typically is referred to a mold inspector-so that many times the mold issue will be discovered anyway upon the sale of the house.  If they have it mold inspected now, then they have the benefit of a healthier house to live in until they sell it and the extent of mold growth is stopped now.  If they ignore the potential mold issue and there is a moisture source, the mold will continue to grow in magnitude until it becomes a much larger problem.  When I do a mold assessment/testing, I am not required to report anything to the State or anyone else.”

“The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) “Certificate of Mold Damage Remediation” that is issued by a licensed Mold Assessment Consultant (MAC) and licensed Mold Remediation Contractor (MRC) is intended to prevent insurors and mortgage companies from being biased against a house that has had mold taken care of by licensed individuals.”

“Virtually all houses have water issues of some magnitude over the years.  It is ignoring the water issue that often leads to much larger mold problems that cost much more.  If the house is on the market and mold is discovered then, it appears to have a much more negative impact upon the sale compared to having an issue fixed in prior years with a Mold Certificate issued.  Legal issues can arise for the homeowner if they “had knowledge” of a water leak and did nothing-the purchaser may sue claiming the seller “had knowledge” and hid the damage.”

Dan has twenty five years of experience as a licensed mold inspector and frequently provides testimony as an expert witness in legal cases involving indoor mold.  Dan can be contacted at 512-563-2253 or by email at

Danyates76@gmail.com        www.TexasMoldConsultants.com

At Texas Integrative Medicine I am highly motivated to identify the root causes of my patients’ chronic complex illness symptoms.  I get a tremendous amount of gratification from helping people reduce or eliminate their symptoms by assisting them in removing toxins from their bodies (including mycotoxins).  In my experience assisting the body in taking advantage of its own systems of toxin elimination is usually the best way to get well and stay well!

About Wally Taylor MD

Dr. Taylor practices integrative medicine at Texas Integrative Medicine in Austin, Texas.  After obtaining a general medical doctorate degree from University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas he completed a general medical internship and residency training in head and neck surgery ENT and allergy.  After 20 years service in the US Army Medical Corps and practice in Colorado and Texas he founded Texas Integrative where he now offers a functional holistic approach to disease which treats the entire individual instead of each separate symptom.  He has a special interest in precision genome-based healing of chronic inflammation-caused illness and anti-aging.  He has found more satisfying results using this Systems BioIndividualized approach.  Dr. Taylor recently published GOT TO SHINE-A Guidebood for True Health and Sustained Wellness in the 21st Century available in the Amazon bookstore. 

For an appointment to see Dr. Taylor in his Austin, Texas office call 512-420-9300. Website-www.texasintegrative.com

 

THOSE PESKY OUTDOOR BUGS

Which Non-Toxic Insect Repellent is Best for Your Family?

How to make a Natural Mosquito or Tick Repellent with Essential Oils

Mosquito BitingNow that school’s out, it’s time to play outside.  Unfortunately the out-of-doors also means exposure to bugs like mosquitos, chiggers, and ticks.  The reality is that dangerous and often persistent diseases carried by these bugs are being encountered with greater frequency.  These diseases include Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Babesiosis.  The need to come up with strategies to protect our children and ourselves from bug bites and potential pathogen exposure is more important than ever.  Increasing concern over the arrival of the Zika virus to the lower continental U.S. is adding increased concern as well.

Also of concern are the potential harmful effects of some of the ingredients of some available insect repellents such as D.E.E.T. and other potentially toxic petrochemical ingredients.  D.E.E.T. also known as N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide is the most common petrochemical used in many commercial repellents.  It is approved by the EPA.  In a recent publication, Dr. Abou Donia, a Duke University pharmacologist, found that an average human dose (40mg/kg body weight) applied to rats caused them to perform far worse than control rats when challenged with physical tasks requiring muscle control, strength and coordination.  He also found that D.E.E.T. caused neurons to die in regions of the the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory and concentration in lab animals. Reference: DukeToday- Duke Pharmacologist Says Animal Studies on DEET’s Brain Effects Warrant Further Testing; May 1, 2002

Coverage of the skin with clothing is always helpful.  Wearing socks, long sleeves and long pants affords relatively good protection.  In the case of ticks it is important to examine skin for attached ticks frequently when out-of-doors paying special attention to hair and skin crevices.  Exposed skin is the  concern, of course.

Is there an option that is effective to prevent bugs biting that is not excessively toxic and will not contribute excessively to our already substantial load of environmental toxic chemicals?

I believe that there is.  There are a number of natural essential oils that are quite effective at preventing bugs from lighting and biting.  Safe and effective products can be purchased or homemade sprays can be mixed up as well.

To make your own natural essential oil repellent spray you need to choose between water-based or oil-based.  Water-based repellents tend to need to be reapplied more frequently.  To mix water-based repellent you can also use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar which tend to dissolve the essential oils easier and then can be diluted with distilled water.

To make oil-based repellents you should use a carrier oil such as jojoba, sesame, or sweet almond to dissolve the essential oils in.  The typical recipe is about 20 drops of 100% pure essential oil (you can blend your favorites) in 2 tablespoons/one ounce of carrier oil.

So which essential oils work best?  Geranium oil/geraniol is used in many formulas.  Other oils known to be effective at repelling insects include cedar oil, clove oil, eucalyptus oil, lemon eucalyptus oil,  lemongrass oil, rosemary oil, citronella oil and neem oil.  Either water or oil based mixtures should be stored in a cool, dark location and will keep for approximately 2 months.  They can be either stored in a small spray bottle and sprayed directly on the exposed skin (caution with young skin less than age two), or they can be poured on to the palm of the hand and rubbed in (best for facial application).  With oil-based repellents it might be best to use an oil mister as standard spray bottles tend to clog.  Natural mosquito repellent should be reapplied every one to two hours or even more often if needed.

Makers of essential oils include Wyndmere Essential Oils, Aura Cacia Essential Oils, Now Essential Oils, and Plant Therapy Essential Oils.  It is best to buy 100% pure essential oils to use in your preparations.

Some available brands of prepared natural essential oil sprays include Skeeter Screen, Jason Quit Bugging Me, Buzz Away Extreme from Quantum Health, and BugOut.

Another clever option is a device called the Buglet– an essential oil diffusing bug repellent bracelet.  The bracelets with colorful designs contain a pumice stone that allows for reapplication of appropriate essential oils when needed in order to allow a consistent release of scent.  The Buglet comes with a mixture of essential oils containing citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint and geranium.  It is reusable (refills of the oils are available or you can use your own).  It is especially good for sensitive skin or for skin affected by sores (previous mosquito bites-ouch!!)

Here are some helpful hints from the CDC for use of any insect repellent:

  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not apply repellents under your clothing.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using repellent sprays, do not spray directly on your face-spray on your hands first and then apply to your face.
  • Do not allow children to handle or spray the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child.  Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands because children frequently put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application does not give you better or longer lasting protection.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
  • If you (or your child) get a rash or other reaction from a repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor, it might be helpful to take the repellent with you.

The above guidelines are from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and were designed to apply to the use of “recommended products containing active ingredients which have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing.  http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html

Forest StreamEnjoying nature is one of the most therapeutic activities we can do.  Just learn to avoid bringing unwanted keepsakes back home from your time in the out-of-doors.  Be safe and have fun!

NAVIGATING COMPLEX ILLNESS

FORUM FOR INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE CONFERENCE ON     NAVIGATING CHRONIC COMPLEX ILLNESS PROVIDED OPPORTUNITY TO INTERACT WITH NATION’S LEADERS TREATING THE CHRONICALLY SICK PATIENT

The number of chronically ill individuals continues to steadily increase.

The number of chronically ill individuals continues to steadily increase.

Last week I had the privilege to attend a gathering of a select group of the nation’s best health care providers who have accepted the challenge to treat the sickest of the sick.

The conference which took place in San Diego, California was organized by the Forum for Integrative Medicine and the topic was “Navigating Complex Chronic Illness”.

The atmosphere of the conference was one of compassion for the suffering and passion for the understanding of the best ways to identify the root causes of chronic, complex illness and to allow and facilitate the body to heal itself.

Participants were treated to very stimulating presentations of the latest clinical  pearls for treatment of a group of devastating diseases including autoimmunity, illness due to mold exposure, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Morgellon’s disease, dementia and other degenerative brain disorders,  a host of hormone disorders, depression and anxiety, insomnia, cancer, PANDAS, autism, and many other conditions.  Presenters included a “Who’s Who” of the nation’s best practitioners in this field.  Those in attendance were treated with the most recent understanding of how chronic inflammation-based disease is caused by the harmful effects of toxins (poisonous substances that we get from the germs in our bodies) and toxicants (damaging substances that man has polluted into the environment (80,000 different chemical substances with 2,500 new ones being added every year).  We discussed how our inherited genetic traits along with the factors that determine how those traits are expressed (a process known as epigenetics) dictates how each individual has a different predisposition to manifest illness when we encounter the various toxins and toxicants in our world.

Our environment is rapidly becoming polluted with harmful man-made toxicants.

Our environment is rapidly becoming polluted with harmful man-made toxicants.

CONFERENCE FOCUSED ON THE ROLE THAT PERSISTENT INFECTION BY “STEALTH PATHOGENS” IN CONTRIBUTING TO CHRONIC COMPLEX ILLNESS

The experts presented the role that numerous “stealth germs” play in setting up persistent infections in our tissues.  In the past it was accepted dogma that one germ caused one disease and that our bodies were for the most part sterile.  Our current paradigm which is becoming more completely understood day by day indicates that we all literally have a “zoo” of microbes in our bodies.  Some subsist peacefully with us and in fact provide necessary support (the healthy intestinal “microbiome” for example) while many others contribute to disease (think HIV virus, the Borrelia spirochete causing Lyme disease, mycoplasma causing chronic lung disease, Strep bacteria causing PANDAS as examples).  These stealth pathogens (harmful microbes) include viruses, bacteria, rickettsia, yeasts, fungi, protozoans (single-cell parasites), and helminths (parasitic worms) cause symptoms by complicated mechanisms.  Many of them can make proteins and other molecules that break down our tissues, weaken our immune systems, imbalance our hormones, and rob us of vital nutrients.

At the same time that the biotoxins made by the germs are causing damage, our body’s own immune system tries its best to halt the infection by creating inflammation to thwart the damage.  Unfortunately in the process of doing so, the immune system creates its own set of harmful proteins and small molecules that also have a harmful, toxic effect on our cells and tissues.  In this way our immune system is really a two edged sword.  Seems as though we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it so to speak.

LATEST TECHNIQUES FOR ASSISTING THE BODY TO SELF-HEAL FROM THE EFFECTS OF CHRONIC INFECTION AND EXPOSURE TO ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS WAS EMPHASIZED

We learned about exciting techniques (many just becoming available to our clinics now) that can be used to accurately identify and characterize these many lurking germs that up until now have been next to impossible to identify.  The experts presented an impressive armamentarium of tools and techniques useful to provide natural measures to “remove, restore, replace and regenerate” the body.  We discussed the role of plant-based botanical agents, energy techniques, proper adjustment of diet and lifestyle, replacement of healing nutrients, and healing hands-techniques including applied kinesiology (muscle testing).

I always feel fulfilled after returning from a medical conference if I can institute one or two new techniques to better care for my patients.  In San Diego after the 20 hours of formal lectures, case presentations, and lively question and answer sessions I came away with 54 pages of clinical pearls and a very long list of new protocols and modalities to better assist my complex, chronically ill patients to navigate their way back to restoration of true health and wellness.

I want to thank Scott Forsgren, the Better Health Guy, and Susan McAmish  and her team at Beyond Balance for organizing the event.  I also want to acknowledge the generous contributions of the stimulating presenters who included Dietrich Klinghardt MD, Kristine Gedroich MD, Ann Corson MD, Ginger Savely DNP, Steve Harris MD, Raj Patel MD, Sunja Schweig MD, Michael Lebowitz DC, Todd Thoring ND, Kelly McCann MD, Amy Joy Smith NP, and Christabelle Yeoh MD.  I came away with the sensation that I had spent three days “drinking from a fire hose” of knowledge.  What a blessing!

 

 

STEALTH INFECTION IN CHRONIC DISEASE-PART 2

In my last blog post, Part 1 of this series, I introduced the concept of stealth infection as a cause of chronic disease.  I explained that many persistent illnesses with many different symptoms-diseases like autoimmune disease, diabetes, thyroid disorder, adrenal fatigue, heart disease, and even cancer- may in fact  be manifestations of the presence of harmful microscopic organisms called pathogens within the body.  Since stealth germs are often very difficult to identify and recover in the body, the concept of stealth infection has been underappreciated by many health care providers.  I explained how diseases such as HIV/AIDS, chronic viral hepatitis, chronic neuroborreliosis (Lyme Disease) and others are explained by this phenomenon.  I discussed how symptoms like chronic fatigue, chronic pain, arthritis, depression, brain fog, irritable bowel are common symptoms associated with stealth infections.Germs

In Part 2 I will dive a little deeper into this subject and attempt to answer some common questions about stealth infection.

Why are stealth infections sometimes difficult to diagnose?

The answer to this question requires a brief explanation of how infection is generally diagnosed.  Infection is first suspected clinically based on symptoms and signs that the patient exhibits.  Often symptoms of infection are caused by the immune system’s response to infection that is sometimes referred to as inflammation.  If the immune system does not recognize or respond to infection, symptoms of disease are often absent or diminished.  This may not be a good thing since the pathogen proceeds unchecked.  When there are symptoms of inflammation-classically fever or warmth, local or generalized pain, swelling or induration, and redness-infection is likely at fault.  Infection may be diagnosed by growing the pathogen in appropriate culture conditions from a specimen (urine, blood, sputum, etc.) of the sick person.  In the case of a Strep throat or a bacterial urinary tract infection this is straight forward.  In many other infectious diseases it if very difficult if not impossible to culture the disease-causing germ.  Viruses are especially resistant to culture.

Infection is sometimes diagnosed by seeing the pathogen usually under a microscope since they are very tiny.  Again this can be routine as when the germ causing tuberculosis is seen under the microscope in a sample of a sick patient’s sputum.  Many germs that cause stealth infection are difficult to see.  Viruses because they are extremely tiny are not typically seen under the light microscope but may be seen under an electron microscope.  Many germs that cause stealth infection have adapted the ability to enter our human cells and may be more difficult to see even under the microscope.  Special staining techniques can assist in seeing these pathogens within cells.  Stealth germs may reside in nests of sticky material known as biofilms and not be readily visible.  When stealth germs are present in specimens in small numbers, which is often the case, they may be overlooked with microscopic visualization techniques.  Techniques are sometimes employed to try to increase the numbers of pathogens in a specimen using tricks to concentrate their numbers in order to make it more likely that they may be seen.

What are some of the tests use to diagnose stealth infection?

Very commonly infection is inferred by indirect tests that depend on measuring factors from the patient that are specific for infection.  These tests are sometimes referred to as serologic tests (present in the patient’s serum/blood) or antibody titer tests.  Often, but not always, when a stealth pathogen is present it will trigger the immune system to form antibodies which are proteins produced by specialized cells of the immune system.  Of course this requires that the patient’s immune system is capable of making enough antibody to measure.  Sometimes the amount of antibody is measured at the onset of suspected infection and again later to see if the quantity of antibody rises (acute and convalescent titers).

Are some germs that cause stealth infection able to defeat our immune system?

Some stealth pathogens have developed the capability of preventing the patient’s immune system from making antibodies that would normally assist in the control or elimination of the disease.  These stealth pathogens have “learned” to become immune system disruptors in order to give them a survival advantage in evading immune system attempts to control or eliminate them.  Some stealth pathogens make enzymes that break down or digest elements of our immune systems rendering it ineffective in combating disease.  In other cases antibodies that are produced by the body may not be specific for the germ that is causing the stealth infection and the infection may be wrongly diagnosed.  These types of antibodies are said to be cross-reactive.

More recently molecular diagnostic techniques are emerging that attempt to identify molecules within the patient that are unique to a specific stealth infection-causing germ.  Often the DNA or RNA molecules of the stealth pathogen are the targets for this type of testing which sometimes goes by the name PCR testing.  DNA and RNA, of course are the unique instruction-containing “molecules of life” that differentiate one living being from another.  They are “fingerprints” so to speak that identify each creature.  Testing techniques which attempt to identify DNA or RNA of a stealth pathogen are rapidly being developed.  One drawback is that there must be enough DNA or RNA to pass the threshold of detection within the specimen being evaluated.  The exact sequence or makeup of the DNA or RNA of the stealth germ must have been previously determined in order to diagnose a specific infection much in the same way that to catch a criminal with a fingerprint, the fingerprint of that criminal must have been determined previously.  Even though the DNA or RNA of a specific stealth germ is identified in a patient’s specimen, there is no guarantee that the presence of the germ in question is directly causing the patient’s chronic disease.

Later we will explore how stealth germs actually cause disease once they enter the body.

Aboutdr_tyler Wally Taylor MD

Dr. Taylor practices integrative medicine at Texas Integrative ENT and Allergy in Austin, Texas.  After obtaining a general medical doctorate degree from University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas he completed a general medical internship and residency training in head and neck surgery ENT and allergy.  After 20 years service in the US Army Medical Corps and practice in Colorado and Texas he founded Texas Integrative where he now offers a functional holistic approach to disease which treats the entire individual instead of each separate symptom.  He has found more satisfying results using this Systems BioIndividualized approach.  His motto is Health and Wellness from Head to Toe”.   www.texasintegrative.com     office phone-512-420-9300