Is it Mental Illness or Mold Toxicity?

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.
Amen Clinics
  • 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.

      • James Leonard

        Yes, it is an excellent point. Mycoses and disseminated fungal infections are often misdiagnosed as autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.. TNF-alpha blockers and cortico-steroids that are often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis put an individual at greater risk for contracting a fungal infection… (see how this becomes a circular problem?) Recent studies in Europe show that a radical change in diet consisting of mostly raw vegetables can actually “reverse” diabetes (another so called autoimmune disease). Although, for those of you that have heard of Dr. Gerson and the Gerson diet, this is probably not new “news”. The Gerson diet has also been successful in treating many types of cancer even among patients in advanced stages. Which corroborates recent findings that the composition of our individual gut flora (microbes, bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria in our intestinal tract) relates to the risk and type of cancer an individual may develop.

        Now, what’s important to realize is that mold, fungi and bacteria are not the sole cause of what seems to be a dramatic increase of these diseases.. because they have always been around. It is a combination of factors that include nutrition, genetics, environment, drugs and chemicals that is causing an imbalance and weakening our immune system’s natural ability to defend itself.

        As a matter of fact, stachybotrys the infamous “toxic black mold” is not toxic when cultured in a petri dish or when outside in a natural environment and actually looks quite beautiful.. nothing like the horrific pictures you will see of mold infested houses. It only becomes toxic when indoors because of the environment and what it is eating.. yes the mold is feeding on the wet drywall and chemical laden building materials and therefore becomes a toxic product of it’s toxic environment.. but hey, don’t take my word for it, I’m no one of consequence. I have been battling a known mold issue in my house for several years now and I’m used to everyone treating me like I have a mental illness.. including my own family (parents and siblings who do not live with me) and I just keep telling them. “well, you know I’m living with toxic mold, so if I seem a little bit crazy, it may be because I am a little bit crazy”.. lol. I have to laugh about it because otherwise I’d cry.

  • 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.

    • James Leonard

      You bring up some interesting points. Unfortunately, mold is probably not the only cause of CFS, which is just a generic catch all term, kind of like IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome).
      Actually the western medical way of thinking, with their one size fits all approach to treating illness and trying to just lump everything into neat categories with generic catch all terms is probably one of the bigger issues to begin with. But also, mold doesn’t effect everyone the same so it is often dismissed because some people may get CFS from mold in Nevada, while some will be fine and others will be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when its really a disseminated fungal infection.

      I live in Las Vegas and most people don’t realize that the desert creates the perfect environment for mold to thrive in the soil. We have fungi that is only found in a few specific regions of the world and can cause valley fever and fungal meningitis.. If you are Caucasian and from the area like I am, you’ll probably be fine but if you’re from Asia, like my wife and then move to Las Vegas, you are at a much higher risk of developing a fungal infection and then having it misdiagnosed and given drugs that only exacerbates the problem.

      • Patsy A Burrows

        I too am from Vegas (40 yrs ) and have seen the daily humidity rates go from 10% humidity ( upon arrival in Aug. 1978 ) meant it would rain hard . Now it has 10-23 % humidity , without a cloud in the sky , and it isn’t Monsoon Season . 17.5 yrs. in swamp coolers , complicated by a water damaged building that the landlords refused to re mediate , where my Pet Business was located . Mushrooms growing inside was nothing new . 4 yrs. post removal ( complete loss of business , wages , retirement and health ) I now have Moderate Diffuse Encephalopathy , RA , Celiac , Total grain , seed or any food stuff stored in grain silos reinfects a body with mold all over again . Even Organic food , washed in a vinegar bath . Found 3 tumors in my chest inside , 2 outside . 2 in my left leg on top of the shin bone , multiple in left breast and left armpit . Just got diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the skin , where its spores entered thru the biggest organ we have : the skin . My eyes have Glaucoma and Cataracts now , medical records prove i had none of this prior to the Black Mold / CO / and Asbestos exposure I endured in that one same damaged building . Mental illness : PTSD , Depression , anxiety are rampant . I see an anger management PHD ( cannot write a script ) to combat the symptoms . More than 120 Dr.s since 2013 , when I was too sick to work , couldn’t even talk without uncontrollable coughing …… Most came right out and told me that it was all in my head . In Henderson , there is a wonderful Functional Medicine Dr. , named DR. Robert DeMartino , who saved my life . I saw him 3x a week , for 7.5 months . He did Heavy Metal Detox and infrared light treatments as well , Acupressure with his hands . The man saved my life . HIS PHONE NUMBER IS ( 702 ) 643-9900 . Tell him that the Dog Groomer sent you and he will know who I am . I was paying out of pocket ( $100 mo. ) , until the time I had paid the total of $2000 , the cost of the complete Detox , restarting my Thyroid again and 3 of Dr. Shoemaker’s Protocols . Sure did the trick … for quite a while . When my blood test from Lab Corp came back positive for Mesothelin Peptides in my Blood Stream , He was very honest with me and said ” I am not qualified to treat you for that ” , and my payments stopped and we parted ways . That was 4-5 yrs. ago . Reinfection continues because of mold in our food sources . Even Organic food !!! Check it out for yourself : Google … ” what food gets moldy after harvest ? ” You may find an answer right straight from God , as I just did , last night . Best of all things to all of you feeling what I have for 6.5 yrs now . Please feel free to respond .

  • D W

    Does the Amen Clinic do sleep studies and LPs for opening pressure as part of the workup for “toxic brain”.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899735/
    Are you aware that the VCS test is highly sensitive for papilledema?

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