Dealing with Lyme Disease and Mold Illness
First identified in rural Connecticut in 1975, Lyme disease has plagued the American public for decades. Nearly 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year.
But what is Lyme disease exactly? It is a bacterial infection transmitted through infected blacklegged ticks. Fever, headaches, and fatigue aside, the most telling symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic circular rash known as erythema migrans.
Typically, a two-to-four-week course of oral antibiotics can help to manage the effects of Lyme disease. However, if you’ve been treated for Lyme and show no signs of getting better, chances are there are more nefarious factors at play: namely toxic mold.
Before we jump the gun, let’s explore the basics of mold illness, its symptoms, and how toxic mold can keep Lyme patients sick for longer.
1. What is Mold Illness?
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), also known as mold illness, is an immune dysfunction disorder triggered by biotoxins. If you’re wondering what this has to do with mold, allow us to explain.
The term ‘toxic mold’ is slightly misleading because it suggests that all molds are poisonous. In reality, only certain mold families produce secondary metabolites called mycotoxins. Common mycotoxins responsible for affecting human health and livestock include:
- Ochratoxin A
Repeated exposure to these mycotoxins, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and similar inflammatory elements, can throw your immune system out of whack, paving the way for mold illness.
CIRS causes the mycotoxins to attach themselves to your immune cells, exerting and weakening your body’s defenses. Moreover, this excess immune response results in your body attacking benign tissue, leading to inflammation.
A) Common Symptoms of Mold Illness
CIRS can wreak havoc on your health. Here are the most common symptoms associated with mold illness:
Pain in the Abdomen, Diarrhea, and Numbness
Mycotoxins often induce leaky gut by damaging the intestinal lining and gut microbiome. This, in turn, acts as a gateway to multiple issues, such as chronic pain, diarrhea, and constipation, among other things.
Weakness and Fatigue
No, we don’t mean the kind of exhaustion you feel after a workout session. Instead, mold illness can bring about fatigue that’s persistent and crippling.
Severe fatigue is usually chalked up to compromised adrenal glands- a common after effect of toxic mold exposure. While this alone isn’t enough to suspect CIRS, you should get yourself examined anyway.
Body Aches and Light Sensitivity
Do you suddenly feel uncomfortable in brightly lit environments? If your eyes start to hurt in normally lit rooms, combined with near-constant body pain, it may be a warning sign of CIRS.
Since inhaling mold is one of the primary causes of CIRS, your nasal area is at high risk. Look out for constantly congested sinuses, chronic sinusitis, and shortness of breath.
Imagine bugs crawling all over your skin. Creepy, right? Well, that’s what most CIRS patients feel daily. People suffering from mold illness often complain of sensitive and itchy skin. Other signs include burning sensations, peeling skin, night sweats, static shocks, and hives.
Excess Thirst and Frequent Urination
If you’re urinating more frequently, it may be because you’re thirstier than usual. Interestingly enough, mold may be to blame for this. Mold exposure can decrease certain hormones in your body, thereby hiking up your thirst levels.
This is another tell-tale sign of mold illness. In addition, black mold exposure often leaves patients with an inexplicable metallic taste in their mouths. Needless to say, neglecting this symptom can lead to further complications down the line.
Brain damage is probably the scariest consequence of CIRS. Mold can trigger inflammation in the hippocampus (the part of the brain controlling memory, learning, and the sleep-wake cycle). It can also affect the forebrain and cortical gray matter, causing them to swell up.
This usually translates into a series of neurological and cognitive problems, such as poor memory, lack of concentration, and brain fog.
Other symptoms of mold illness are as follows.
- Sleep disturbances due to disrupted melatonin
- Gut inflammation, food sensitivities, irritable bowels
- Increased propensity to viral activity, courtesy of a dysfunctional Vitamin D metabolism
- Decrease in libido (low testosterone levels)
- Little to no motivation (caudate atrophy)
- Mental illnesses (depression, anxiety)
- Difficulty in recollecting words
- Ice-pick pain
- Dysregulated body temperature
- Red, irritated eyes
In this regard, note that everybody reacts to mold differently. The symptoms will largely depend on your sensitivity to mold, the amount of mold consumed, duration of exposure, and proximity to the mold source.
2. Diagnostic Tests for Mold Illness
Unfortunately, detecting mold illness is easier said than done. No single test can diagnose CIRS with 100% efficiency. Most certified CIRS experts follow a three-tiered diagnostic protocol created by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, which includes tests for:
- Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) tests that gauge your ability to differentiate between light and darkness
- Mycotoxin testing to identify mold-related biotoxins in the blood
- Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genetic testing, which screens you for the HLA-DR gene and determines whether you’re genetically susceptible to mold
- Nasal swab tests for Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci (MARCoNS) that can contribute to CIRS
- NeuroQuant MRI to check if mold illness is jeopardizing your cognitive function.
Additionally, doctors also test for various biomarkers specific to mold illness and Lyme disease.
3. Treating Lyme Disease with Respect to Mold Illness
So, how does mold illness affect people suffering from Lyme disease?
For Lyme patients, mold and mycotoxins can seriously impair recovery. Mycotoxins suppress the immune system, decreasing the body’s ability to fight off infections. They also reduce the effectiveness of antimicrobial medication.
Furthermore, mold exposure can initiate an inflammatory response that may aggravate existing Lyme.
When Lyme disease and CIRS exist side-by-side, the treatment can only take effect when there’s no remaining potential for mold exposure.
Here’s how Lyme is treated in connection with mold illness.
A) Eliminating Mold
Firstly, it’s critical to ensure that the Lyme patient has a mold-free safehouse. Trust us, this isn’t rocket science. All you have to do is:
Check Your Home for Mold Growth
More often than not, indoor mold is the prime suspect in CIRS cases. While there is no practical way to remove all mold spores from a closed space, you can control them by keeping your moisture and humidity levels in check.
If you have noticed any visible mold growth or musty smells, especially in crawl spaces, attics, or basements, you should schedule a mold inspection right away. Inspectors will gather samples for lab testing to determine if the mold is toxic.
Additionally, you can help to prevent further mold growth by:
- Drying damp materials within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth
- Installing a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity levels between 30-60%
- Avoiding carpeting areas with a perpetual moisture problem
- Clean, Clean, Clean
Mold thrives in damp spaces. While clean surfaces won’t allow mold growth, those with soap suds and grease will. So, prepare to clean as your life depends on it- because it probably does.
If the mold is concentrated in a small area, you may handle the problem yourself. A homemade bleach solution, soap, and water will kill the mold spores and wash away the discoloration. However, larger spots or mold growing on drywall must be checked out by certified mold inspection specialists.
Equip Your HVAC System
Given that mold spores are airborne, you may benefit from investing in an air-conditioning unit with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This will trap outdoor mold spores and keep them from entering your home.
B) Decreasing Inflammation
The second step is to clear the biotoxins circulating through the body. Finally, doctors may use a host of binders to combat inflammation. In case the patient is immunocompromised, they’ll need antiviral medication.
C) Addressing Lyme and Other Co-infections
As mentioned, it’s best to treat Lyme after managing mold and inflammation. The treatment must be slow and steady, especially if there’s a history of CIRS.
D) Removing MARCoNS from the Nasal Cavity
Remember MARCoNS? Well, these bacteria protect themselves using a biofilm shield that keeps many antibiotics out. If the test for MARCoNs comes out positive, the patient is treated with a Bacitracin/EDTA/Gentamicin (BEG) nasal spray.
E) Preparing for Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VIP)
Patients with severe CIRS and Lyme disease can greatly benefit from VIP. This 28-amino acid treatment works to decrease inflammation by reducing cytokines. It also helps restore hormone levels, improves cognitive capabilities, correct proteomics, and enhances grey matter nuclear atrophy.
4. Avoiding Future Mold Exposure
You’ve finally defeated Lyme- congratulations! But is it possible for your symptoms to recur? Well, yes, it is. Accidental re-exposure to a water-damaged building or other mold-friendly regions may set you back days, months, or even years.
For people genetically predisposed to mold illness and Lyme disease, staying safe is a lifelong commitment. Be sure to keep a diligent eye on your home and workspace. If possible, wear a dust mask outside to avoid inhaling mold spores.
As you see, CIRS and Lyme disease can devastate your health for good. Although all this may seem a little too overwhelming, we’re here to tell you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And, you can take matters into your own hands by mold-proofing your home today!
At GP Inspect, we’re on a mission to safeguard you against mold illness by scanning your property for hazardous mold growth. Be it professional mold inspections, air quality testing, or post-remediation mold clearance, we do it all. Contact us today or call (949) 239-3727 to know more!