Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) and Mold – The Body Under Attack
Mycotoxin illness and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) are two interrelated conditions that can affect individuals exposed to toxic mold. This exposure can lead to a wide range of health issues, including respiratory problems, skin irritation, and even more severe conditions.
Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals that are found in mold spores and fragments of mold or fungi. They easily travel through the air and can enter the body, causing inflammation, oxidative stress, immune system dysfunction and more. And it’s not just mold that can make you sick. Water-damaged buildings can contain mold, fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and several other compounds that can cause severe illness, including CIRS.
CIRS is a complex condition that occurs as a result of exposure to biotoxins, including mycotoxins. In patients with CIRS, the body’s immune system is unable to properly respond to exposure to biotoxins and to remove those biotoxins from the body. This can lead to widespread, chronic inflammation and a range of health issues. CIRS can also be caused by exposure to other biotoxins like tick-borne organisms that can cause Lyme disease, and from spider bites, including brown recluse spiders.
Symptoms of mycotoxin illness vary depending on the person and the severity of exposure and can affect many different systems within the body. In addition to the common symptoms of fatigue, headaches, joint pain, muscle aches and weakness, and sinus infections, a patient sick with CIRS can experience memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and neurological symptoms such as tremors and seizures. Doctors must do a comprehensive medical evaluation that includes blood tests and imaging studies to help diagnose mycotoxin illness and CIRS.
CIRS also can contribute to a number of related illnesses, including asthma and other respiratory conditions. Patients with weakened immune systems, including those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, may be more susceptible to the health effects of molds and mycotoxins.
Diagnosing mycotoxin illness and CIRS can be challenging for doctors because symptoms can mimic other conditions and exposure can happen over an extended period of time, making it difficult to determine where and when symptoms started. Patients suffering from CIRS or mold illness are often misdiagnosed as having allergies, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, or they may even be called a hypochondriac.
It is important to know that CIRS and mycotoxin illness can have a genetic basis. As many as one in four people, or 25% of the population, are genetically predisposed to have an inflammatory immune response to mold toxins. When these patients are exposed to mold spores, their bodies mount an acute inflammatory response within minutes. And while they may not appear sick outwardly, they can be among the sickest patients, experiencing debilitating symptoms that ultimately can cause them to lose their quality of life. Patients with CIRS often feel like they are the “canary in the coal mine,” because they can feel a mold “hit” or the effects of mold exposure within minutes of being in a contaminated environment.
Treatment for mycotoxin illness and CIRS includes supporting the body’s immune system through detoxification therapies such as sauna therapy (including far-infrared sauna), IV nutrient therapy and other methods that support the body’s natural detoxification pathways. Nutritional therapies can include supplements that support the body’s immune system and strengthen overall health. Prescription medications such as Cholestyramine or Welchol can bind the mold toxins and help the patient eliminate them from the body, reducing circulating levels of toxins. Activated charcoal, sterols and chlorella can also help remove toxins, though not as effectively. Antifungal medications may also be used to treat fungal infections in CIRS patients. The effectiveness of these treatments varies from one person to another, depending on the severity of the illness and toxin load.
Preventing exposure to mold and mycotoxins is essential for avoiding CIRS and mycotoxin illness. Addressing indoor air quality is key to preventing mold growth and the spread of mycotoxins. This can be done in a number of ways including:
- Maintaining adequate ventilation in indoor spaces
- Controlling humidity levels
- Promptly addressing any water damage or leaks
- Regularly cleaning and maintaining HVAC systems
CIRS and mold illness are complex health conditions that can cause severe symptoms and affect your quality of life. It’s important to ensure that the environment you live in and the air you breathe is safe for you and your family. If your home smells musty, you could have hidden mold that needs to be found and removed. If you suspect you have a water leak in your home, you should have it checked and repaired right away, as mold can start growing at the site of water intrusion within 24 to 48 hours.
If you think you and your family are being exposed to mold, the best action is to get away from the contaminated area and work with a qualified remediation company like Healthy Air USA to test and identify the sources of mold, remove and remediate the area, and restore your healthy environment so you and your family can start healing.