Beat Chronic Illness Caused by Mold and Other Toxins

The information I’m about to share with you is controversial, even to some doctors of integrative medicine. Others, however, have told me that if this theory is accurate — and they think it is — it will change the way they practice medicine forever.

You’ve no doubt heard about Sick Building Syndrome — a group of symptoms associated with exposure to chemicals and microorganisms found in contaminated buildings. The symptoms may be mild or severe like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Often, they are relieved when people leave the building. Sometimes they remain and get worse.

These symptoms can be caused by a number of contaminants in buildings. The contaminants can include bacteria, molds, pollen, and even viruses. The toxic substances from some species of molds and fungi including Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, and other organisms that grow in water-damaged buildings, are insidious. They’re extremely toxic and almost impossible to eradicate from buildings and people.

Why only some get sick
Some people get extremely sick from exposure to toxic molds, while others don’t. Why? Because our bodies have natural defense mechanisms that clear them out. In some people, this doesn’t work as well as in others.

Another reason is genetics. If you have a genetic defect, exposure to these toxic molds will make you sick. Your symptoms will never go away, and you will never feel better, unless you take specific steps to address it.

Dr. Ritchie C. Shoemaker, a Maryland physician and molecular biologist, found this genetic connection when he treated several patients exposed to toxin-forming algae. They had terrible diarrhea, headaches, and memory loss. What was puzzling was that their lab tests were normal and they didn’t respond to traditional treatments.

Dr. Shoemaker stumbled upon part of the solution when he gave his patients a cholesterol-lowering drug to stop their diarrhea. This medication reduced their other symptoms as well. Next, he treated patients exposed to toxic molds from their homes or office buildings. This same medication helped their symptoms. Dr. Shoemaker had discovered part of the solution, but it took a lot of research to discover why.

Failure to clear
The reason why many of us don’t get sick with exposure to various toxins is that your liver normally removes many harmful substances like biotoxins from your blood. Or they are attacked and broken down by a healthy immune system, then excreted.

But 24% of the population lacks a “toxin-removal” gene that makes antibodies against molds. It’s called HLA-DR. These genes tell your body to make antibodies to fight neurotoxins. Without them, your body doesn’t recognize these toxins as being foreign invaders. If you lack the genes needed to clear biotoxins, and you’re exposed to harmful molds and fungi, you’ll get sick and stay sick.

There are no routine lab tests that measure biotoxins. But you can measure their effects. Ken Hudnell, PhD, a neurotoxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found he could measure the effects of biotoxins on the brain with a visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) test. The VCS showed specific deficits only in people exposed to biotoxins.

This test measures the contrast between dark and light bars. Biotoxins affect your ability to see a particular group of these bars accurately. If you have unexplained symptoms, a positive VCS test, and think you have been exposed to biotoxins, you may be unable to clear these toxins. VCS scores correlate with the severity of symptoms and can be used to monitor your progress.

You can get more information on this test, and even get a free preliminary screening with registration, at Dr. Shoemaker’s website ( His treatment protocol and three more VCS tests (to monitor your treatment) are available from him. His protocol is also available in his book, Mold Warriors (Gateway Press, 2005).

Getting rid of your mold sensitivity
I wish I could tell you it’s simple to clear your body of the fungal toxins that are causing your illness. It’s not. But what I can tell you is that it’s possible. You’ll need a doctor to work with you and prescribe the tests and solutions you need.

Treatment begins with a medication, cholestyramine (CMS), which is used to lower cholesterol. But CMS, also known as Questran, does much more. It stops diarrhea and binds to cholesterol and bile. This is important, because while toxins temporarily attach themselves to fat cell receptors, they also leave the receptors and travel into bile. Once biotoxins are in your bile, CMS binds to them and removes them from your body. Be aware that in some people CMS causes bloating, constipation, and reflux.

Illness from toxic molds requires more treatment than CMS, which only clears some of the toxic buildup. Neurotoxins frequently cause inflammation, damage hormone pathways, and affect the immune system. All of the damage from exposure to neurotoxins needs to be evaluated and treated. This is why your doctor needs this doctor’s complex and detailed protocol. It may not be the only way to treat biotoxins, but it’s one that has had years of success.

Getting rid of household mold sensitivity
If you live or work in a building with toxic mold, you can’t simply be treated and continue to live or work there. Many remediation companies say that they can remove molds from “sick” buildings. But after working with more than 2,000 toxic mold patients, Dr. Shoemaker hasn’t found that they work well enough for many people. Even if the mold can be killed, their spores may live on for years on paper, in clothing, and in heating or air-conditioning vents.

The most a remediation company can do is to bring down the level of neurotoxins to “an acceptable level.” Remediation may be helpful if you have mold in your home or office and are not yet sick. However, there’s no acceptable level for someone who is sick from exposure to toxic molds.

Your next step
If you believe you have a chronic illness that may be due to exposure to toxic molds, first get the VCS test. If it’s positive, begin by taking cholestyramine. Then have your doctor order the recommended tests that fit your profile, outlined in Mold Warriors (Shoemaker, Gateway Press, 2005), and put you on Dr. Shoemaker’s protocol. This includes a specific diet that may be necessary to reduce inflammation.

For more information, read Desperation Medicine (Gateway Press, 2001) by Dr. Shoemaker. This book is a primer on chronic neurotoxin illnesses. Additional support for you and your doctor, as well as a list of doctors that use this protocol, is available at or through Dr. Shoemaker’s office (410-957-1550).

A simple solution to consider
Neurotoxins in your intestines can also be removed with the PectaSol Chelation Complex I’ve talked about in the past (800-728-2288). This formula, which combines modified citrus pectin with modified alginate (from seaweed), binds to these toxins as well as to heavy metals. Heavy metals interact with neurotoxins and increase their adverse effects. Most importantly, this chelation therapy doesn’t stimulate bile secretion, which can cause aggravated symptoms.

To remove neurotoxins with this method, use the PectaSol Chelation Complex as directed for three months. Then add PectaSol Detox Complete, a formula that helps remove toxins through the liver, bile, intestines, and urine (800-308-5518). It also helps secrete these toxins and heavy metals from your tissues, including the brain, where they’ve been trapped.

Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences: Damp Indoor Spaces and Health (August 2004).

Shoemaker, Ritchie C., MD, et al. Mold Warriors, Gateway Press, 2005.

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Written by Nan Kathryn Fuchs PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021