Is it Mental Illness or Mold Toxicity?


By Mark Filidei, D.O.

One of my chief tasks as the Director of Integrative Medicine at Amen Clinics is to work up what we call a “toxic brain” as seen on SPECT imaging. Amen Clinics currently has the largest database of brain SPECT scans in the world, and it affords us a unique view into the functions of the brain. When working up a toxic, or “encephalopathic,” SPECT scan finding, many etiologies need to be considered including toxins, infections, allergies, medications, and head trauma. Near the top of my list of possible culprits of abnormal SPECT scans are infections and toxins, especially Lyme disease and toxic mold exposure.

Mold Could Thrive in Your Home

It is estimated that half of the buildings in the United States may be “WDB”, meaning water damaged buildings. Construction techniques in the United States turn out to be a feast and buffet for mold and fungal organisms. Our homes here are often built of wood and drywall rather than stone or brick as in Europe. Mold and fungi thrive on drywall, wood and other soft materials. Mold thrives in dark and moist environments and doesn’t take much water to get the process going. A small drip from a leaky toilet, shower, or sink is all it takes. Small roof leaks are also common causes. If you see a stain on the ceiling or the wall there is very likely an associated hidden mold growth. This is not the type of mold that you see on the shower wall, but rather it is lurking behind the walls and in air ducts, crawl spaces, and attics, etc.

Mold Exposure Symptoms

The toxin-producing “black mold” Stachybotrys, as well as and other neurotoxic molds, including Aspergillus, Chaetonium, and Wallemia can have a dramatic effect on the brain and behavior. There are 2 main effects of mold exposure: the physical airway irritating effects like allergies, cough and fatigue, and the more concerning effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain. CNS symptoms can include brain fog, inability to concentrate, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, irritability, headache, and confusion. Unfortunately, there is about a 99.9% chance that anyone presenting with these symptoms will never have mold considered as part of the differential diagnosis. It is simply not on the radar screen of the vast majority of physicians. When was the last time your doctor asked you if your home had a water leak? Point made.

Issues in the home are not the only problem; many workplaces are also contaminated with mold, especially older buildings. Schools have been condemned because of mold contamination, office buildings, hotels, and industrial complexes can all be a source of the problem. Many of the government buildings in Washington, DC have been found to have significant mold contamination issues. Our lawmakers in Washington seem to have enough trouble getting things done; the last thing we need is for them to have poorly functioning brains due to toxic mold exposure!

Retrace Your Past Experiences

A case in point is a young male patient who came to Amen Clinics with complaints of sleep disturbance, anxiety, and brain fog. He was initially seen by one of our psychiatrists and referred to me for further workup. A careful history-taking found that these symptoms all started when he moved back home from college into his parent’s basement apartment. The whole family seems to have forgotten that the basement flooded on several occasions. Mold diagnostic testing revealed the patient had high levels of mold toxins in his body. The first step is always to remove oneself from the moldy environment, and then treatment can begin. Treatment consists of binding agents and other medications, such as antifungals, and metabolic support supplements. This patient improved with proper treatment and remediation of the mold problem. Here was a patient who didn’t need any psychiatric medications; he simply needed the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. What would have been the outcome for this patient without the proper diagnosis? He almost certainly would have been labeled as having a mental illness and treated (unsuccessfully) with psychiatric medications.

The good news is that there are ways to determine if a patient has been exposed to toxic mold and that there are successful treatments available.

Dr. Richie Shoemaker is a pioneer in detecting and treating what he has termed Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS. It is really a brilliant bit of work. He has found what I would term the “Rosetta Stone” of inflammatory conditions, brought on by not only mold exposure but also Lyme disease and other inflammatory processes. Dr. Dale Bredesen, an Alzheimer’s researcher at UCLA and the Buck Center for Aging has found that a significant number of purported dementia cases are actually caused by mold exposure, and not Alzheimer’s disease at all. He is about to publish a paper linking CIRS to dementia. This is an incredibly important finding! Many patients with memory loss and dementia are actually simply toxic from mold, which is a reversible condition. The tragedy is missing the diagnosis and continuing to proceed with treating the patient for something they do not have and missing an effective treatment.

How to Test for Mold

The workup for CIRS includes tests that are widely available via LabCorp and Quest, although they are somewhat esoteric tests, including MMP–9, TGF beta 1, MSH, VEGF, and others. Urine testing for actual mold toxins circulating in the body can also be utilized; however, these results are questioned by some in the field of CIRS treatment.

Testing for mold exposure, as well as treatment recommendations for mold toxicity/CIRS, is available at Amen Clinics. For more information, please contact us at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule a visit.

Amen Clinics

Amen Clinics

The Amen Clinics Method—developed through 26 years of clinical practice—uses a detailed clinical history, SPECT imaging to understand brain function, neuropsychological testing and laboratory studies to target treatment specifically to your brain using the least toxic, most effective means. If you are interested in learning more or to schedule an appointment, contact the Amen Clinics Care Center today at 888-288-9834 or contact us here.
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  • Steph

    I have been diagnosed with CIRS and every doctor I saw told me to get on an anti-depressant and seek therapy. Thousands of dollars in tests and dr appointments, and absolutely no answers except to be looked at like I was unstable and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. How do you cope if nobody believes you’re ill, and you’re in such a bad state that you can no longer function, let alone work? Thank goodness for the documentary MOLDY. It all became clear, in my fogged up brain, and I took action and sought out a FMD. The list of certified Shoemaker doctors is very short and most have wait lists, unfortunately. I’m finally able to say I’m not crazy, I’m physically sick.

  • FreshNewLife

    Severe abuse in marriage led to divorce. With no family rescue and in need of shelter, my kids and I were shunted into subsidized (read: substandard and dangerous) housing in a volatile complex.

    Though grateful to receive the financially “affordable” housing, after two subsequent decades of flooding basements, leaking windows and ceilings, insect infestations, crumbling basements, faulty electrical wiring, uneven floors, yards sharply sloping toward the foundation and precipitous sidewalks and steps, we were relieved when we found better housing in the regular market. However, we were profoundly demoralized by the lack of will not only of our families but of our society to immediately, intelligently and effectively respond to any threat to the health and well-being of its members, especially when rendered most vulnerable after having suffered a catastrophe, albeit limited and personal in scope.

    Obviously, such buildings ought to be torn down and healthy, affordable ones built. The unnecessary price individuals and society pay for ignoring (or having to tolerate) such degradation is enormous over a lifetime in terms of loss of health, capacity, opportunities and potential. How can we be so intelligent and so stupid at the same time?

    Interestingly, we were relieved but not surprised to find the coughs, asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia we dragged ourselves through as we somehow finished our schooling and maintained jobs soon simply vanished after we had managed to move out. (However, the autoimmune conditions brought on by constant inflammation have not.) Another family was immediately moved in. The line-ups to exhange shelter for the health and safety of you and your children are long.

    Thank you, Dr Amen, for your part in drawing attention to this issue and beginning to educate the public through your writing.

    • Sharlyn Zimmerman-Tollefson

      I am curious about the autoimmune conditions that you referred to as I am very interested in autoimmune disease and why it is so common in so many today.

  • Erik Johnson

    It is a curious thing that although thousands of doctors and CFS researchers have seen Dr. Shoemakers books,
    not a single one of them responded to inquire about this incident.
    One would swear that CFS researchers never had any intention of solving the incident that started the CFS syndrome.

    Mold Warriors by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker

    Gateway Press 2005

    Chapt. 23

    Mold at Ground Zero for CFS

    The history of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) begins in Incline Village, Nevada
    in 1985. In the medical history of CFS, each of the concepts applies–failed
    theories and failed criticism.

    One victim, Erik Johnson, told everyone who would listen that mold was a cause
    of CFS. He came up with his theory at the wrong time in the politics of medical
    opinion, as a unknown viral cause was blamed instead. Johnson tried repeatedly
    to get the attention of leading CFS researchers then and now to look at what he
    knew about mold sensitivity. None of the heralded CFS researchers would listen.

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