SOME CHRONIC ILLNESS SYMPTOMS CAUSED BY FAULTY BRAIN SIGNALS
Some absolutely amazing findings coming from recent neurobehavioral and psychology research are unraveling a fabric of mystery which is demonstrating that a number of symptoms of “mystery Illnesses” like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity and electromagnetic frequency sensitivity may be significantly generated by faulty brain messages being generated from a Limbic System that has been injured by a variety of toxic insults including mold toxins, Lyme and associated persistent infections, toxic chemicals in air, food and water, psychological trauma and physical head injury.
The amazingly wonderful associated discovery is that our brains are quite capable to “rewire” and recover using the principle of NeuroPlasticity. This literally means that the brain can learn to reroute and reprogram the damaged areas allowing the associated symptoms to lessen and in many cases disappear. This is not really different from the mechanism that allows the victim of a stroke to relearn to walk or talk.
Since the limbic system (which is made up of the cingulate gyrus, the amygdala, the hippocampus and the hypothalamus) acts as a control center for the autonomic nervous system, the immune system, the endocrine system and the digestive system, many physical signs, symptoms and abnormal lab findings may be directly caused by false or inappropriate limbic system messages to the rest of the body.
At Texas Integrative Medicine our goal is to identify the environmental toxic triggers that have led to limbic system disorder sometimes referred to as a Limbic System Trauma Loop. First priority is to stop further exposure to the toxins. For example, we might find that there is toxic indoor mold in a person’s home, school or workplace and we would make every attempt to stop further exposure. Perhaps a person’s drinking water is tainted with lead or pesticides. Again we try to eliminate these exposures. Next, it is necessary to use the body’s natural means of toxin elimination (kidneys, liver, sweat glands, bowel elimination, immune system) to clear the body’s stored toxins and harmful germs as best we can.
We are learning that even once toxins have been significantly reduced, the limbic system may still remain “stuck in a rut”. A good analogy would be when a circuit breaker breaks from too much current demand. You can unplug the excessive appliances, but the system doesn’t work until the circuit breaker is RESET.
There are two successful ways to reset or reprogram the damaged limbic system that we have been working with at Texas Integrative Medicine.
Annie Hopper from Victoria, Canada has developed a system of behavioral training which she has named the Dynamic Neural Retraining System. You can find out more about it at her website- www.retrainingthebrain.com. Her system has helped many people recover from complex “mystery” illness. Please check out some of the Success Stories on her webpage.
Neurobiofeedback scientists and clinicians are perfecting modalities that combine monitoring brain electromagnetic waves (EEG) with reward systems such as using brain signals to alter the color and sound loudness of a movie DVD. In Austin, Lynda Kirk and associates at Austin Biofeedback and EEG Neurofeedback Center offer the most advanced devices and protocols to retrain the limbic system in a way that leads to resolution of symptoms and improvement in brain function. You can learn more about their approach at https://www.austinbiofeedback.com
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
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).
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.
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.
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)
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!
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.
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
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