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Mold Illness & Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) – When Your Fatigue Has an Invisible Cause

Showing an image of a man in bed suffering from symptoms of mold illness.

What Is Mold Illness?

Mold illness is a bit of a misnomer. It isn’t just mold that makes these people sick but rather it is an unhealthy immune response and associated inflammation as a result of being exposed to a water-damaged building. In these buildings, it isn’t just mold that makes people sick but there are also fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, mycotoxins, and other inflammatory chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) among others. Mold biotoxins are specifically called mycotoxins and are considered some of the most harmful substances to humans on the planet.

Mycotoxins harm the body in many ways. One prominent effect of mycotoxins is that they adversely affect the mitochondria (tiny “energy factories” within the cell that are responsible for creating all of your cellular energy). As a result, when your mitochondria aren’t working well, it dramatically affects your overall energy levels.

Almost half of the buildings in America are thought to be water damaged to some degree and therefore have conditions perfect for growing harmful mold species and other organisms as well as creating these toxic compounds. Many people do not know they have issues with mold or water leaks in their homes. Past water-damaged building exposures can contribute to health concerns in the genetically susceptible individual. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t have to be an active leak or water issue for one to have symptoms.

People with mold illness are often commonly misdiagnosed as having:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Atypical autoimmune conditions
  • Hypochondriac
Showing a person holding their head having difficulty with concentration due to mold illness.

Symptoms of Mold Illness

How you react to mold exposure is completely unique to you, depending on your body chemistry and the function of your immune system. However, there are some symptoms we commonly see in patients with mold illness. These symptoms are often grouped together in ‘clusters.’ 

Some of the more unusual symptoms, such as a metallic taste in the mouth or increased static shocks, are pretty unique to mold exposure and can be a telltale sign. If you know (or suspect) you’ve been exposed to water-damaged buildings, see if you relate to any of the symptoms below:

  • Post nasal drip and sore throat
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased static shocks
  • Digestive issues
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability
  • Angry outbursts/mood swings
  • Vertigo
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Diarrhea
  • Strong appetite fluctuations
  • Excess weight which is difficult to lose
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Numbness and tingling of the limbs
  • Chronic pain in joints and muscles

If you have several of the symptoms on the list above, you may be suffering from mold illness or chronic inflammatory response syndrome and should be seen by a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of these disorders.

What Is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome?

Chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) is on the rise and is a term for a collection of symptoms (listed above) coupled with specific laboratory abnormalities. CIRS occurs when there is widespread inflammation caused by a biotoxin in the body that leads to immune system (and often hormonal) dysfunction. Mold illness is a subcategory of CIRS but this inflammatory process can also be caused by exposure to other biotoxins including Lyme disease, additional tick-borne organisms, and certain spider bites – such as brown recluse spiders.

The complex nature of CIRS has caused many patients to go from doctor to doctor wondering what’s wrong with them. People are often sick for years before ever receiving a diagnosis. For a long time there weren’t very many answers for people with CIRS. However, recent developments have offered thousands of people relief.

Showing an image of a woman with her head down on a book, suffering from extreme fatigue.

Is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Real?

There is a gene that encodes a specific protein giving the body and immune system information about biotoxins. HLA-DR/DQ genetic testing reveals that an estimated 25% of the population is more likely to get chronic inflammatory response syndrome because they have inappropriate immune responses and don’t recognize the biotoxins as harmful. Therefore, instead of the body ridding itself of these harmful toxins, the toxins remain and cause inflammation. People with these genetic variants are often referred to as the “canaries in the coal mine” because they become ill more quickly than others. Blood tests can determine your “HLA type”.

For example, if there is water damage in a house, often only someone with one of these HLA gene types may become sick, while the rest of the family is unaffected. This has led to a lot of confusion. In some cases, the person with CIRS has been accused of making it up or has told the symptoms are in their head. In the work setting, these patients may be accused of malingering.

For a long time, CIRS was written off as a phantom illness. Experiencing it personally and successfully identifying and treating hundreds of patients with CIRS, we certainly understand the hopelessness and frustration that occurs when the symptoms are dismissed. If you’ve been struggling with complex, unexplained health issues for a while, CIRS should definitely be considered.

Showing an image of mold in a a petri dish, relating to mold illness testing and chronic inflammatory response syndrome.

CIRS Testing

To get a proper diagnosis, you’ll need to work closely with a certified Functional Medicine Physician who has expertise in identifying and treating CIRS. Both Dr. Ellen Antoine and Dr. Scott Antoine are considered experts in this field. They are Diplomates of the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI) and have been trained in the Shoemaker Protocol.

During the diagnostic process, you can begin reducing inflammation and removing these toxins through our proprietary Fully Functional® process.

We’ve developed the Fully Functional® process to help patients with CIRS/mold illness. In fact, when you work with us we’ll begin taking certain steps so you can reduce inflammation in your body and experience symptom relief even before diagnostics are complete. Our goal is to help you become your most healthy, joy-filled, productive self as quickly as we can.

Doctors Who Specialize in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome in Indianapolis

The good news when it comes to CIRS is that it is becoming better understood and identified as a health concern. Because these are chronic conditions that impact numerous systems it’s best to see a certified Functional Medicine Physician with expertise in CIRS and environmental toxins who will look at the body as a whole.

Dr. Scott Antoine and Dr. Ellen Antoine are Founding Members and Diplomates in the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness. They are the first and only physicians in Indiana who have been recognized for this level of expertise.

A Functional Medicine approach to chronic inflammatory response syndrome/”mold illness” is a necessary one because there are often many factors contributing to symptoms. Our Fully Functional® process allows us to IDENTIFY and REDUCE anything that is negatively impacting health, including biotoxins and the associated inflammation. We also OPTIMIZE detoxification and SUPPORT the immune system, the body, and the person through the process and ultimately we PERSONALIZE a long-term plan so that our patients can become Fully Functional® for life.

If you think you have chronic inflammatory response syndrome or you’ve been exposed to mold/water-damaged buildings you should look for a certified Functional Medicine Physician with expertise in treating these conditions. Dr. Scott Antoine and Dr. Ellen Antoine are experts in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, difficult diagnoses, and medical mysteries. They’re located in the Carmel / Indianapolis area.

If you believe you may have any chronic health conditions, You can book an appointment by clicking here. We are also happy to speak with you at (317) 989-8463, Monday-Thursday, from 8AM – 5PM Eastern time.

Schedule a Consultation Today.

The Center for Fully Functional Health® is led by a team of award-winning, internationally recognized physicians, committed to providing personalized, life-changing care.

40 North Rangeline Rd. Carmel, IN 46032