Diagnosing Toxic Mold – Home Sick Home

microscopic-mold_450x450-360x360Molds help ensure balance within the ecosystem by decomposing organic matter, yet mold growth inside of the home or workplace, commonly called “black mold,” can affect health status and quality of life for years after exposure. Often hidden, these insidious indoor molds can cause a diverse range of chronic illnesses, called Chronic Inflammation Response Syndrome (CIRS), or Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

Research facilitated by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, the first recognized leader in mold toxicities, revealed important insights into how we can treat chronic illness caused by mold.

According to Dr. Shoemaker, the proper definition of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome is, “an acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building with resident toxic organisms (mold).”

Causes of CIRS

The term “Sick Building Syndrome” was first coined by the WHO in the 1980s, and is believed to be caused by poor air quality, often due to water damage.

According to Shoemaker:

“The illness occurs after exposure to the interior environment of a Water-Damaged Building (WDB). There are many ways buildings become home to a toxic mix of microbes, fragments of microbes, and harmful chemicals.

Buildings can host molds (which can be toxic) as a result of construction defects like inappropriate ventilation; faulty construction of crawl spaces or inadequate building design; flat roofs or fake stucco cladding without adequate caulking; incomplete basements exposed to saturated ground water conditions; or not correcting water leaks.”

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome is an autoimmune reaction. Research has shown that 25% of the population has a genetic predisposition to CIRS and that women tend to report more symptoms than men. In other words, some people get sick because their genes made them prime targets for an assault by their own immune systems. Exposure to the interior environment of a Water-Damaged Building (WDB) causes an immune response that has gone haywire.

Most often, genetically predisposed people who are later exposed to the mold toxins in a WDB suffer from chronic illness because their bodies are constantly trying to eliminate the foreign substances, which remain in the body long after exposure. This leads to chronic inflammation and the symptoms listed below.

Symptoms of CIRS

CIRS patients present with a variety of chronic, yet vague complaints.

Common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • general weakness
  • muscle aches and cramps
  • unusual pain
  • ice pick pain
  • headache
  • sensitivity to light
  • red eyes
  • blurred vision
  • tearing
  • sinus problems
  • chronic cough
  • chronic shortness of breath
  • chronic abdominal pain
  • chronic diarrhea
  • joint pain
  • morning stiffness
  • memory issues
  • trouble with focus/concentration
  • skin sensitivity
  • mood swings
  • feeling hot then cold then hot again
  • excessive thirst
  • increased urination
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • vertigo
  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • tremors







Unfortunately, CIRS is often misdiagnosed due to the large number and different combinations of symptoms that a patient may present with.

Diagnosing CIRS

Consider running these labs, which may help determine a genetic predisposition to mold toxicity:

☑ HLA Class II DRB1, DQ
☑ DRB 3*4*5

Also these, which determine the extent to which the patient’s immune system is over- or under-activated:

☑ C3
☑ C4a
☑ Stimulating Hormone (MSH)
☑ Hormone (ADH)
☑ Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)
☑ Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9)
☑ Intestinal Peptide (VIP)
☑ growth factor beta-1 (TGFβ1)

Treating CIRS

☑ Suggest that your patient test their home and/or workplace for mold if they believe that either may be implicated. There are a variety of companies that perform these services across the United States. If the tests come back positive, it is advisable to evacuate the location that is making them sick.

☑ Eliminate other biofilm-forming infectious agents.

☑ Eliminate gluten from the diet.

☑ Give Cholestyramine (Questran), a bile acid sequestrant, which binds bile (and toxins) in the gastrointestinal tract to prevent reabsorption. (Shoemaker’s Protocols)

☑ Additional immune system support, such as nutritional therapy.


Paul Savage, MD, FAARM, ABAARM

Founder and Chief Medical Officer


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