Mold toxin illness is the most common of the biotoxin illnesses.  Other biotoxins that cause illness include toxin-forming dinoflagellates, such as members of the fish-killing toxic Pfiesteria complex that can cause Possible Estuary Associated Syndrome (PEAS); cyanobacterial exposure in fresh-water lakes that causes cyanobacterial illness; and ciguatoxin consumption from eating certain kinds of infected ocean-caught fish that causes Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP).  Lyme dissease and its coinfections (Babesia, Bartonella, and Ehrlichia, amongst others) are also biotoxin illnesses.  Exposure to any of these biotoxins can cause acute illness that can become chronic in some people who, due to their genetics, have difficulty clearing these types of compounds out of their bodies.

Symptoms of mold toxin illness may include:



Myalgia (muscle pain)

Muscle cramps 

Unusual pain 


Light sensitivity 

Blurred vision 

Sinus issues


Shortness of breath 

Abdominal pain 


Arthralgia (joint pain)

Night sweats

Memory problems

Difficulty concentrating 



Increased thirst 

Increased urination 


Mold exposure is an issue for anyone who already has any of the other biotoxin illnesses because having another biotoxin illness primes your system to start reacting to mold toxins.  This means that, even if you were positively diagnosed with ciguatoxin poisoning or Lyme disease, you must do ERMI testing for mold in your environment to make sure that you are not currently exposed to mold; otherwise your treatment will be inaffective.


Mold toxins are pervasive.  A study by Harvard University found that over 50% of the homes studied had enough mold to cause symptoms. When a building has a water leak or water damage that is not corrected within 48 hours, molds such as Stachybotrys, Aspergillus penicilloides and versicolor, 

Wallemia, and Chaetomium are likely to start growing out of control without competition from outdoor molds.  Living in a dry climate will not protect you:  New Mexico has the highest rate of indoor toxic mold of any state.  (This is likely because some types of mold like dry environments, and because no home or workplace is impervious to possible water damage from leaking foundations or plumbing.) Mold spores, whether living or dead, produce biotoxins that can mix with bacteria, dust mite debris, and other components of indoor environments that once inhaled produce a "toxic soup" which some people just can't get rid of.  It is important to understand that often the mold in an indoor environment can't be seen or smelled.  People who can actually smell musty odors where they live or work usually have the most acute mold toxin problems.


When neurotoxins from an indoor water-damaged environment are inhaled, about 76% of the population can make antibodies to the toxins and quickly eliminate them. They may sneeze, have a sore throat or have other minor symptoms, but their symptoms are temporary.  If they spend several days in a moldy building they may begin to feel sick but when they are away for a few days they recover.  About 24% of the population has a gene set that makes them unable to produce the needed antibodies from their immune systems to clear mold toxins, and they don't eliminate them.  The liver sends them to the digestive tract via the bile, but they are quickly reabsorbed back into the blood. As a  result, the continual or repeated exposures to mold toxins brings an ever-increasing amount of these toxins "trapped" in the body. 


It is also common to have a genetic make-up that does not detoxify Lyme biotoxins, and many people can detoxify neither mold nor Lyme toxins. Lyme biotoxins can also build up in the body. These people get very sick and stay sick even when they do long-term antibiotic and other treatments for Lyme.  


All biotoxins can disrupt immune function and hormone function, and cause disability.  At Trillium, using the Shoemaker protocol, we test certain inflammatory markers, hormones, genetic markers, and immune cells. This not only gives us certainty about your diagnosis, it also gives us a road map on how to treat you. 


Here are some of the markers we may test in you:

Leptin- When the leptin receptor sites are blocked by inflammatory chemicals produced in response to biotoxins, leptin levels increase and leptin resistance ensues.  The excess leptin causes weight gain and fat deposition, and increases appetite.  People with high leptin can gain weight on 1000 calories or less.

Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH)- If MSH production is blocked by inflammation due to a biotoxin illness, levels of MSH fall.  Low MSH results in low melatonin production, causing sleep problems.  Endorphin production will also be low resulting in excess chronic pain and perhaps depression.  MSH also controls pituitary hormone production and if MSH is low, there will be a loss of hormonal control with several other types of hormones like testosterone. Finally, low MSH equals increased inflammation.


Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH)- ADH production by the pituitary is often disrupted resulting in excess urination (even to the point of dehydration) with excess salt remaining in the blood. There may also be a layer of sodium chloride on the skin.  When that happens, the person is a good conductor of electricity and many patients have problems with increased static electric shocks. 


C3a and C4a are split products of complement activation from the immune system. Each activates inflammation and stimulates smooth muscle spasm in small blood vessels, amongst other duties.  C3a and C4a are typically both high in Lyme and other bacterial infections.   C3a is low or low normal, and C4a is high 99% of the time in other biotoxin illnesses, most commonly in mold toxin illness. 


Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9)- MMP-9 is released in response to inflammatory chemicals produced by your immune system.  High MMP-9 is a sign that you have an inflammatory response happening in your body due to a biotoxin illness.  MMP-9 can destroy tissue, and has been implicated in demyelination in diseases such as MS.   Lowering MMP-9 can improve headaches, neurological issues, cognitive brain function, muscle pain, breathing, static shocks, and urinary frequency. 


Transforming growth factor beta one (TGF b-1)- TGF b-1 is an inflammatory marker high in those with connective tissue disorders and especially prevalent in those with the 11-3-52B haplotype and those with ciguatera poisoning.  High TGF beta-1 causes shortness of breath due to remodeling of lung tissue from normal, fluffy cells to fibrotic, stiff cells that have trouble taking in oxygen efficiently.  TGF beta-1 also promotes autoimmunity.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)- VEGF can be low in biotoxin illness, indication reduced oxygenation, or can be high, indicating that your body is trying to compensate for low oxygen levels.


Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)- VIP is a hormone that regulates inflammatory responses from the immune sytem as well as regulating processes such as pulmonary artery pressure.  Low levels are common in biotoxin illnesses, and symptoms of low VIP include having shortness of breath with exertion and exercise intolerance due to low oxygen levels.


Antigliadin antibodies (AGA)- AGA are common in those with biotoxin illness, especially with low MSH.  Gliadin is a componenet of gluten found in wheat and related grains and in processed foods.  When someone with high AGA eats gliadin, their body releases inflammatory immune chemicals in the intestine; stomach pain, diarrhea, and ADD-like behavior can result.  Over 58% of children and many adults with biotoxin illness have high AGA.


MARCoNS (mulitply antibiotic-resistant coagulase negative staphylococcus) or other coagulase negative staph bacteria colonies that live in the deep nasal passages is common in all biotoxin illnesses. These are not an infection, but a commensal colonization.  These bacteria send chemicals into the blood that increase inflammation and lower MSH which in turn creates more inflammation.


Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) testing- 92% of people with biotoxin illness will have a "fail" score on this visual test.   VCS testing asks you to look at lines of gray against a gray background and identify which direction they point. Biotoxin illnesses often produce a decline in the ability to see the edges of things, and is a reflection of inflammation in the brain.  We use this test to monitor improvement in our patients.  If you'd like to take the test, click here.


Although there are more tests that we do, this list gives you an idea of what to expect.  Once we know what's broken, we can begin the appropriate treatments to bring you back to health.

© 2018 by Trillium Integrative Medicine. 

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