In my functional clinical practice, Texas Integrative Medicine, one of the most common problems I see is chronic, complex illness from the presence of mold toxins in the body. I usually see patients who come in with a group of unexplained symptoms and the cause is unknown. In other cases a person knows that they are being exposed to bad mold and have symptoms, but don’t know what to do about it.
Some of the symptoms of mold toxin/mycotoxin toxicity are caused by the direct toxic effects on our cells and sub-cellular organelles (especially mitochondria). Probably even more symptoms are caused by immune self-injury! Let me explain. When our body’s immune system encounters non-self, such as a mycotoxin molecule, it is programmed to respond with what is called the immune response, the purpose of which is to neutralize or remove the non-self (think germ invader or germ toxin). Unfortunately in many cases our own cells and tissues can be injured by the immune response in a process of immune self-injury or “autoimmunity“. Many of the symptoms that patients encounter with mycotoxin exposure are immune self-injury or immune inflammation symptoms. Ok, what are they? Almost always severe fatigue and intolerance to exercise or exertion is a hallmark of mold illness. Symptoms involving the nervous system are almost always present. These symptoms are from effects on the Central Nervous System as well as the Peripheral Nervous System (all the many nerves outside the brain). Brain Fog is a term my patients often use to describe the brain effects of mold toxicity. This term means that they experience loss of focus, loss of train of thought, difficulty with word finding, difficulty with problem solving, memory loss, and even confusion. In addition to brain fog most patients also experience significant mood alterations. They experience a sense of anxiety, emotionality, excessive fear or worry, depression, sense of despair, and often the inability to get restful sleep. Symptoms of peripheral nervous system involvement include many symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and pain. This is often localized to one area or side of the body and often migrates and comes and goes. Digestive Disorder symptoms are exceedingly common. When mold toxins on mold spores are inhaled into the nose, they stick to the nasal mucous and later are usually swallowed. Some mold toxins are actually on the food we eat and are consumed. Effects of mycotoxins in the Gastro-Intestinal tract include acid reflux/heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Pulmonary manifestations include shortness of breath and cough. The toxic effects of molds also can reek havoc on our hormone-producing glands leading to a wide array of hormone imbalances and deficiencies. Immune self-injury of the muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, and tendons often causes severe aches, pains and stiffness.
In 1996, Dr. Shoemaker was practicing Family Practice in Maryland on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. Some of his long-time patients were coming to him with the symptom picture that I described above. He had heard about a toxin-producing algae-like germ called Pfiesteria that occured in algae-blooms in the bay. One of his patients came in with severe diarrhea. He decided to treat her diarrhea with cholestyramine, an old medicine used to lower cholesterol by binding it in the intestine, which was one of his favorite diarrhea treatments. To his surprise and pleasure, the patient reported that within a few days her diarrhea was gone along with her memory loss, headache and cough. He later learned that similar toxins could be produced by many indoor molds and lead to a similar clinical picture. Over the years Dr. Shoemaker worked out many of the mechanisms that resulted in patient’s symptoms and he called the disease process Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS based largely on the fact that most of the symptoms were the result of inflammation due to the immune system’s response to the mycotoxins.
Later Dr. Shoemaker worked out a complex protocol and actually formed a training program (subject to tuition costs of course) to “certify” practitioners in his Shoemaker Protocol. He has published several books on CIRS including Mold Warriors: Fighting America’s Hidden Health Threat (April 2005) and Surviving Mold: Life in the Era of Dangerous Buildings (December 2010). He also maintains a very informative website about the illness- www.survivingmold.com.
It has been my experience in working with patients with the symptoms of Mold Illness that the symptoms seen from a variety of diseases associated with infection from a variety of Vector-Borne diseases are much the same.
Lyme Disease which is a disease reaching epidemic proportions in the United States is one such disease that overlaps the symptoms of mold illness. The germ Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete which does occur in Texas and in much of the United States is just one stealth infection that may look like mold illness. Even though the principles of treatment of each disease is different although some of the approaches to treatment overlap.
In my practice I am amazed by the differences that I see among individuals that are shown to have mold toxins and stealth germs in their bodies. It appears that some people are completely without any symptoms even though they harbor mold toxins/mycotoxins and stealth germs like the “Lyme germ” in their bodies. I have found that it is very important to individualize the treatment of these diseases. The individual’s susceptibility to manifest symptoms from the various toxins is what I call BioTerrain. These are the various factors of genetics and epigenetics which is what causes one person to be a “Canary in the Coal Mine” while another person with essentially the same set of mold toxins and stealth infection toxins is like a “Cast Iron Skillet” and may be perfectly well.
To successfully resolve symptoms, I have found that rule #1 is to identify and eliminate ongoing exposure to the toxins causing the problem. This may require inspecting for mold-toxin causing molds in the indoor environment. This may include testing for the presence of mold toxins and stealth infections in the body. Often tests to understand the BioTerrain are helpful in order to modify the individual’s susceptibility to symptoms and inflammation. Finally the goal of treatment is to assist in the elimination or reduction of toxins, mycotoxins and harmful stealth germs such as the “Lyme Borrelia” from the body. There are quite a few tools that are used to accomplish this and I have found that these tools must be individualized from patient to patient. One size definitly does not fit all.
I would be privileged to assist anyone who suspects that they are suffering from the effects of mycotoxins and other biotoxins and has not found the answers that they are looking for. I am accepting new patients. Please call 512-420-9300 if you wish to be seen by me in consultation.
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 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
As a doctor who sees patients with chronic, complex disease on a daily basis, I see regularly patients who have been told that they have Lyme disease. I must start by saying that I believe the term Lyme disease is a poor term. First of all as I am sure most of the citizens of the quaint Connecticut town of Lyme would agree, Lyme is merely the name of the town where in the early 1970’s an epidemic of arthritis, body aches, fever and skin rash was determined to be due to infection with a strain of spirochete later named Borrelia burgdorferi. Today we know that chronic disease symptoms caused by many different strains of spirochetes (screw-shaped bacteria) and other germs occur all over the world and have for decades if not centuries. I prefer to use the term stealth infection to describe generally the condition whereby a difficult to diagnose (and eradicate) persistent microbe is contributing to the existence of chronic symptoms of disease in the patients that I treat.
Thanks to the development of new microbiology diagnostic tests (such as PCR testing), we are now better able to demonstrate the presence of DNA or RNA strands that are unique to specific strains of harmful microbes also known as pathogens. These tests are only now just beginning to make their way in to clinical practice in order to make the diagnosis of stealth infection. Stealth pathogens may include bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds, and even parasites. Many stealth infection pathogens are very difficult, if not impossible to culture in a lab and have therefore been able to elude diagnosis. Up until now these infections have sometime been identified by using various immune system tests also referred to as serologic tests. There are problems with serologic tests when the infection is not caused by the exact strain of pathogen as the test is made for (serologic type) or if the patient’s immune system is incapable of reacting normally to the pathogen. This may occur more often than widely believed. This can result in false negative results.
So what does this all have to do with the title of my post? It actually has a double meaning. Clearly I want to “shine light on Lyme disease” to make the general condition of stealth infection better understood by my readers, but the main reason for the article is to introduce the concept of using light as a therapy to treat stealth infection. Light, as from the sun, actually has an extremely important role to play in the beneficial treatment of many different stealth infections. Light is made up of light waves containing photons. Different light waves have different frequencies of vibration which we know as color. Sunlight contains all the wavelengths of light including both those visible and invisible to our eyes.
Man-made antibiotics have a number of drawbacks when used to treat stealth infections. Light therapy has several advantages over the use of antibiotics in a number of circumstances. There appears to be much less damage to our normal intestinal bacteria known as the microbiome. Light does not put foreign chemicals into the body which must be eliminated by our body’s mechanisms of detoxification. Light is generally less expensive to produce than antibiotics. Light seems to have a much less likely tendency to cause allergic or toxic effects when used in appropriate dosage. Stealth pathogens do not develop resistance to light in the same way that they develop resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a big problem nowadays leading to the development of “superbugs” such as MRSA.
Various wavelengths of light have been studied in the treatment of various medical conditions since the 1800’s if not before. In fact the beneficial effects of the sun on health has been known since ancient times. One of the early pioneers of light treatment, Niels Ryberg Finsen, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1903 for his work “in recognition of his contribution to the treatment of diseases, especially lupus vulgaris, with concentrated light radiation, whereby he has opened a new avenue for medical science”. (Quote from the Nobel Foundation) Lupus vulgaris has been shown to be caused by a persistent infection by the tuberculosis pathogen.
Various light devices have been used especially in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s to treat a number of conditions including a number of cancers and infections even in the United States. With the advent of antibiotics and vaccines in the 1940’s and 50’s in the United States and Canada, light therapy quickly fell out of favor although it continued to be actively used in Eastern Europe and Russia. Today light therapy also known as PhotoBioModulation therapy is making a comeback.
Ultraviolet light (UVL) is capable of damaging the DNA of stealth pathogens like viruses and bacteria. In fact UVL is used to sterilize or sanitize operating rooms and hot tubs. Although UVL can also result in damage to the cells of the human body, our cells are much more capable of repairing damage caused by UVL than the pathogens are which is the reason that it can be effective as a form of treatment. This is similar to the ability of cancer chemotherapy to kill cancer cells more readily than the body’s normal cells.
Other wavelengths/colors of light interact with receptors in our cells to induce beneficial changes much in the way that light is absorbed by plant leaves to produce sugars in a process known as photosynthesis. The mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells, have proteins known as cytochromes that absorb photons of red or near infrared light causing activation. This process leads to a number of direct and indirect effects that result in production of mitochondrial energy (ATP), cellular recovery and repair, increase in the number of circulating stem cells, reduction of harmful free radicals, reduction of harmful inflammation, and beneficial modulation of the immune system. The role of red and near infrared light in the treatment of sports injuries and other forms of tissue injury has been extensively studied. New evidence is emerging that is showing that these same wavelengths of light can assist in the recovery of inflammation and tissue injury caused by stealth infection.
Other wavelengths of light have other beneficial effects on our cells and tissues. Green light has been shown to have an anti-oxidant effect and a beneficial effect on red blood cell flow in our microcirculation.
At Texas Integrative Medicine I have recently introduced treatments with the Thor Low Level Laser device (www.thorlaser.com). This device which is FDA approved for use in humans was developed in the United Kingdom and has been studied for use in multiple conditions in humans and animals. It is used often in veterinary medicine as well as orthopedic and sports medicine. A number of studies have been performed by researchers at Harvard. In my clinic we are using it for its known beneficial effects to restore cellular energy, modulate inflammation, reduce pain, and to speed up tissue repair and regeneration from a wide assortment of injuries including those caused by stealth pathogens. If you would like to learn more about the Thor LLLT treatments, please call and speak to one of our phototherapists at 512-803-6790 or make an appointment to be evaluated at our clinic by calling 512-420-9300.
The FDA has not approved light therapy including the Thor device for the treatment of any infectious disease including Lyme.
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
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.
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.
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!