And among other symptoms, indeed she was. Julia, a bright 40-something, had written “fatigue,” “pain,” “bad digestion,” and “brain fog” on her WholeHealth Chicago intake paperwork. She’d been ill for years and brought with her two binders full of medical info on herself.
The thicker of these contained accumulated medical records, lab tests, imaging studies, and physician summaries. At first glance, it appeared the various specialists she’d seen simply kept ordering the same tests, month in and month out, before telling Julia everything checked out as normal.
The second binder was a multi-paged chronology of her symptoms written in her own words, carefully noting details about what made things worse or better.
In the margins, she’d written notes to herself like “Could this be Lyme?” or “Must read Shoemaker on this.” (Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, is a pioneer researcher on mold-related illness. His website is survivingmold.com).
Julia told me she’d spent a lot of time on the internet trying to get some idea what was happening to her body. She had requested tests for Lyme disease at the university medical center that conducted her diagnostic evaluation and was told that they had considered Lyme first and the tests came back negative.
Unfortunately, they’d selected a mediocre test for Lyme and had not checked for co-infections. Julia remembered tick bites as a kid, but never recalled a bulls-eye rash or becoming ill afterward.
Not only Lyme, but mold
Julia’s research also revealed that her symptoms were not only in line with chronic Lyme disease, but also with the inflammation linked to mold disease. When she mentioned this, her doctor asked, “Do you mean you’re allergic to mold?”
“No,” she replied, “The mold produces a toxin in my body that’s making me sick.”
Her doctor at least had heard of the medical issues with black mold and over time had referred her to a string of specialists, including a rheumatologist, an infectious disease specialist, and an allergist, each unhelpful, each offering suggestions like “Find a new house” or “Get a new job.”
Actually, had the specialists ordered the right tests for Julia (all are available in the hospital lab), they would have seen evidence of the chronic inflammation from mold (called chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS) as well as antibodies not to Lyme, but to the so-called co-infections often occurring with it (Babesia, Bartonella, and others).
Not only Lyme and mold, but revived herpesviruses
They also might have noted that once-dormant old infections Julia had years ago–Epstein-Barr (mono), Cytomegalovirus, Human Herpes Virus 6 (HHV-6)–might be in a stage of reactivation. Would it surprise you to know that these are all herpesviruses? Click through for more information on each of them.
The number of separate symptoms in Julia’s diary had likely intimidated her primary care physician and prompted his flurry of specialist referrals. Looking up from her well-ordered catalogue of symptoms, I inquired about a second group, less related to toxicity and inflammation and more geared toward hypersensitivity (odors, sensations, weather changes, new food intolerances, even electromagnetic sensitivity).
“Oh,” said Julia, “I wrote about those at the end. Keep going.”
At this point, you might be wondering “What in heaven’s name is happening to this poor woman?”
Multiple diagnoses related to climate change and enviro toxins
Actually, Julia is experiencing diagnoses (note the plural) we’re seeing pretty frequently with the rise of climate change and environmental toxins. Rain and flooding bring mold. The clearing of forests sends ticks and the animals that carry them into the Chicago suburbs.
I’ll walk you through step-by-step what happened to Julia and it should slowly begin to make some sense.
–Julia is among the 25% of people genetically sensitive to the biological toxins (biotoxins) produced by certain species of mold. The remaining 75% of people have immunological systems that safely inactivate these toxins. However, for Julia they not only don’t go away, they keep accumulating inside her.
–Mold is everywhere. Noticed some rain lately? Julia’s exposure, probably via inhalation, may have occurred at home, at work, or even in her car.
–The biotoxins in Julia trigger widespread inflammation (pain, fatigue, brain fog) plus an assortment of reactions in her body that produce a smorgasbord of apparently unrelated symptoms (“brain zaps,” muscle twitching, and visual changes among them). The biotoxins also weaken her immune system to the extent that previous infections held in check for decades (like the Lyme co-infections and the awakening herpesviruses mentioned above) can now emerge and produce their own menu of discomfort.
–Although her body does try to rid itself of these mold biotoxins via her liver as it secretes bile into the small intestine, there’s a recycling system called enterohepatic circulation that’s intended to recycle bile but also ends up recycling the non-metabolized toxins back to the liver. And the whole mess starts again, sort of like the movie “Groundhog Day.”
–In addition, these toxins literally stick to every cell in Julia’s body, making the cells hypersensitive. Although there are gentle meds and supplements to extract the toxins, we’ll need to move slowly and cautiously to avoid slamming Julia with side effects. This is where microdoses of homeopathy and low-dose immunotherapy (LDI) can save the day.
–One of the most interesting aspects of all this (to me, at least) is that each of these symptoms can occur in the absence of mold biotoxins. Julia could simply have chronic Lyme disease (or one or more of the co-infections). She might have had the tick bite at age 11 (the average age in the US) and carried the Borrelia in its dormant (sleeping) state for decades, until something other than a mold biotoxin awakened it.
The catalyst could be anything: chronic stress, childbirth, environmental exposure, a severe flu. And now Lyme takes the upper hand, without a black mold trigger. Yes, the symptoms of mold biotoxins and chronic Lyme are virtually identical, differentiated only by readily available lab tests.
How we approach treatment
Treatment might be a little dicey for Julia simply because she’s already developed significant sensitivities. The practitioners at WholeHealth Chicago are well aware of biotoxin/Lyme hypersensitivity and generally use a combination of low-dose prescription medication (cholestyramine, a binding agent), supplements, herbs, and homeopathy.
Each new case is approached individually. Patients are definitely not one-size-fits-all when it comes to treating mold or Lyme (or anything else, for that matter).
One of the most highly regarded methods of detoxification is intravenous (IV) phosphatidyl choline, a type of phospholipid (fat) that detoxifies by unlocking the biotoxin stuck to the cell wall and allowing the cell to heal itself.
One last word: intravenous therapies have become more and more a vital part in the treatment of chronic illnesses as well as maintenance of overall good health. However, far too often I’d see the look of disappointment cross the face of someone who needed this treatment (ozone, phosphatidyl choline, glutathione, poly MVA, etc) but couldn’t afford it. We have been working diligently to lower our cost and make IV therapy more affordable to our patients, and we are pleased to announce a significant drop in our IV treatment prices. If you are interested in learning more, please contact our office.
David Edelberg, MD