Experiencing ongoing, debilitating fatigue and the normal treatments don’t help? Mould illness could be responsible.
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is the debilitating condition that flies under the radar in Australian health care. The appropriate testing to diagnose CIRS is currently limited in Australia, however an increasing amount of help is available through specialist practitioners working in the field of mould illness.
Recent parliamentary lobbying from CIRS affected MP, Lucy Wicks, offers hope that the condition may be more broadly recognised and treated amongst mainstream medical practices in Australia in the future.
If you suspect you could be affected by mould, or perhaps the cause of your symptoms has been left undiagnosed, read on to learn about CIRS and how you can claim your health back if mould is affecting you.
THE SYMPTOMS OF CIRS
Many internal systems are out of whack in people with CIRS, including immunity, cognition, hormones and digestion. As a practitioner or patient, it’s easy to get pulled down a rabbit hole in pursuit of an answer for each complaint, explaining why CIRS is often missed. In the search for answers in CIRS patients, it is important to take a step back and look at all the body systems collectively. If you have tried many treatments and nothing has worked for your symptoms, it is a good idea to consider CIRS.
The symptoms of CIRS can be very bizarre, and commonly include:
- Chronic fatigue and weakness
- Feeling much worse after exercise (post-exertion malaise)
- Difficulty thinking clearly (confusion or disorientation)
- Muscle and joint pain or cramping
- Hypersensitive eyes
- Recurrent sinus congestion
- Shortness of breath, even at rest
- Digestive issues
- Propensity to static shocks
HOW DID I GET CIRS?
There are two things that must occur for you to develop CIRS. First, you must be genetically susceptible. You can find this out by working with a practitioner familiar with the testing options in Australia. Second, you must have had environmental exposure to mould toxins at some point in your life. Think back to the time when you felt like your health started going down hill. What environment were you living in at the time? Have you ever lived or worked in a mouldy building? Perhaps a place you once exercised or socialised is the source. It could have been a place you rarely visited.
Once you have inhaled or ingested the mould toxin and it’s in your system, your immune system is unable to bind it up and remove it from your body (thanks to your genes). So it just goes on circulating around your body causing all kinds of trouble.
The inability to bind mould toxins explains why many individuals who have CIRS experience symptoms long after mould exposure. That said, the symptoms of CIRS are generally exacerbated by repeated exposure to mould, so you may find that your symptoms have come and gone over the years as your exposure to mould has fluctuated.
Requirement of a genetic susceptibility to mould illness illustrates why multiple people can live in a mouldy house together, however only one person gets the prolonged illness after exposure. Without the mould susceptible genes, the immune system is able to recognise mould toxins and get rid of them.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
If you meet the above criteria for CIRS, there are a few things you can do right now to set you on the right track.
1. Assess your current situation
First things first, you need to assess if your current environment could be making you feel worse. Start with the places you spend most of you time - your home and work environment. Does it smell musty? Can you see patches of dark mould on the ceiling (a leaking roof perhaps)? Or patches on the floor (dampness rising from below)? Is the wall or ceiling paint bubbling in places?
Your senses alone may not be enough to determine if mould toxins are present.
Leaking water pipes in the walls can create a mouldy environment invisible to the eye. Mould toxins can also persist in dust, well after the original source has dried up. Some people are so sensitive, that only the smallest amount need be inhaled to have a negative effect.
There are companies within Australia that thoroughly assess your environment for mould, so you can be sure of the mould status in your current environment. If mould toxins are present, changing your living situation may be necessary. Remediation of the environment through renovation and air filtration is another potential option.
2. Support gentle detoxification
Some patients find that supporting gentle detoxification in the body can make them feel better while they clean up their environment. It is important to take this very slowly, as too much at once can make CIRS patients feel worse. Some detoxification methods that may offer benefit include:
- Regular infrared sauna sessions
- Regular foot baths with Epsom (magnesium sulphate) salts
- Consumption of fresh juice that contains chlorophyll and nutrient rich leafy plants (if food sensitivity is not an issue)
- Herbal or nutritional supplementation to support the liver, kidneys and overall digestion
- Coffee enemas (an unconventional practice that some report benefit from, if used appropriately).
3. Seek help
The diagnosis and treatment of CIRS is often complex and requires guidance from a CIRS trained practitioner. Natural or synthetic binders (substances that attach to mould toxins for removal from the body) are generally needed to make a full recovery, however many steps precede the use of binders in order for mould toxin removal to be done safely and without adverse effects.
As well as supporting recovery, a practitioner can provide additional resources and education so that you can go through life preventing CIRS reoccurrence. You can find a list of CIRS trained practitioners in Australia at the Toxic Mould Support Australia website: http://www.toxicmould.org/health-professionals/
By Lucy Mason, BHSc Naturopathy