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Mycotoxin Illness - One Patient’s Story



As discussed in my previous blog, Mycotoxin Illness is not something I learned about in medical school and something that I was initially hesitant to explore with patients. Yet as is often the case when you have a medical practice like mine, you tend to see patients with multiple symptoms who have consulted with multiple providers and have not been given an explanation, diagnosis, or clear treatment plan.

Through years of working with such patients, I have become much more knowledgeable of and comfortable with treating conditions that are often dismissed by traditional Western Medicine. Mycotoxin Illness is one such condition.

In today’s blog, I am presenting the story of one patient recently diagnosed and treated for Mycotoxin Illness.

INITIAL VISIT
I first met Kathy* in August 2020. During our first visit, Kathy described symptoms that began in 2016 during a time of elevated emotional stress, life transition, and a move into a new apartment.

Her symptoms had increased over the past 4-5 years and included:

  • Chronic cough
  • A burning sensation over her chest
  • Chronic itching (head, arms, under breasts)
  • Redness of her eyes
  • Bone and joint aches, including significant pain in wrists and elbows
  • Overwhelming fatigue and brain fog
  • Night-time anxiety, often waking up feeling panicked and hot

Kathy had sought help from multiple physicians prior to our consultation including her primary care provider, two rheumatologists, an allergy specialist, and even a trip to the Mayo Clinic! Despite numerous laboratory and diagnostic tests, she was not provided with a clear diagnosis or explanation for her symptoms.

“I’ve had doctors tell me that it’s all in my head"
Kathy explained during that first visit as she described her symptoms and we discussed her past medical history. She was frustrated and visibly exhausted. Through questioning, I learned that she had been living in her current apartment for three years and had to run dehumidifiers continuously due to wet carpet.

I initiated a comprehensive laboratory workup, evaluating:

  • nutrient status
  • hormone levels
  • markers of underlying inflammation and immune system dysfunction
  • markers of underlying infection (Epstein-Barr virus, yeast, Lyme, mycoplasma)
  • urine mycotoxin testing

Mycotoxins are toxins that are released into the air from mold. Mold can grow in any wet/damp environment. In genetically susceptible individuals, mycotoxins can cause widespread inflammation, dysfunction, and tissue damage. Mycotoxins are very small and not easily detected in the blood, therefore I utilize urine mycotoxin testing when I have a strong suspicion of Mycotoxin Illness.


SECOND VISIT
Kathy and I met one month later in September 2020 to review the results of her laboratory workup, which revealed:

  • nutrient deficiencies (deficient omega-3 fats and vitamins A, D, and B12 and suboptimal glutathione and CoQ10)
  • indicators of bacteria and yeast overgrowth in the gut
  • markers of adrenal dysfunction
  • three species of elevated urine mycotoxins, including one level “off the charts” - Zearalenone

Zearalenone (ZEA) is a mycotoxin that has been shown to damage liver cells, bone marrow production, and the immune system.  Exposure to ZEA is mostly through water-damaged buildings.


I outlined a treatment plan for Kathy, which included:

  • targeted nutraceuticals to replace deficiencies (Vitamins A, D, and B12, CoQ10, and fish oil)
  • probiotics, L-glutamine, and Immunoglobulin powder for her gut
  • herbal adrenal support

We had a lengthy discussion regarding the likely role of mycotoxins in her various symptoms and the fact that her current living situation was negatively impacting her health. I encouraged her to find a way to remove herself from her apartment for a minimum two-week period to assess for change in symptoms.

A treatment protocol was outlined to address Mycotoxin Illness directly, including:

  • Intestinal binders to trap mycotoxins and prevent reabsorption
  • Supplemental Glutathione to enhance mycotoxin removal from the body
  • Adequate hydration, regular sweating, and support for regular bowel movements

 
FOUR MONTHS LATER
Kathy and I did not meet again until four months later. Rather than a two-week trial away from her apartment, Kathy had decided to immediately vacate the apartment and had moved to a new city. She had implemented all of the therapies outlined above and described her response


"It's amazing. I'm not napping all of the time anymore. I have the energy to get through the day without a nap. My bones no longer ache. My skin doesn't itch and my eyes are clear. I haven't felt this good in over four years!"

After initiating gut support, her cough had significantly improved, almost immediately. Other symptoms continued to improve and resolve. By the time we met:

  • she no longer had pain in her wrists and elbows
  • her energy had dramatically improved  
  • her memory and brain fog had significantly improved
  • her skin no longer itched
  • her eyes had cleared

I look forward to seeing how Kathy continues to improve over the coming year!

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, many of us have been spending far more time in our homes than we had in the past. Not surprising, then, that I have seen an uptake in Mycotoxin Illness over the past year. Even Kathy noted that her symptoms had worsened with the onset of the pandemic and more time in her apartment.

This is just one patient’s story, but it is consistent with what I have been seeing in my practice over the past several years. While the response to treatment varies per individual, I have been amazed by the rapid and significant improvement in symptoms witnessed in those diagnosed and treated for Mycotoxin Illness. For those who have developed Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), testing and treatment protocols are often more complex.

You can learn more about Mycotoxin Illness in my previous blog What you need to know about Mold & Mycotoxin Illness.

Concerned that you may be experiencing symptoms related to mold exposure?  Contact our office to schedule an appointment!  231-638-5585



*This patient has read and approved this blog, however, her name has been changed to maintain privacy/patient confidentiality.



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic I continue to see both new and returning patients using our secure, easy video-visit format. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.

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Three Steps to a Healthier Detox

Thinking about a “detox”? You are not alone! New Year’s resolutions often contain a theme of renewal, change and improved health, and I am commonly asked about detoxification programs this time of year.

TOXINS & DETOXIFICATION
We are exposed to toxins on a daily basis, both from our environment and through our lifestyle choices. Within each of us exists a natural and complex system of metabolic detoxification that works every day to identify and remove toxins from the body. Many factors can contribute to an accumulation of toxins in the body, including:

  • Exposure to pesticides, plastics and industrial chemicals
  • Heavy metal exposure
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the gut resulting in endotoxin exposure
  • Poor food choices
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of physical activity

Cultures around the world have long believed that the accumulation of toxins in the body is an underlying cause of a variety of health problems. For centuries, various cleansing and detoxification therapies have been used to minimize toxin exposure and aid the body’s ability to break down and excrete toxins.

DO YOU NEED TO “DETOX”?
Our bodies are actively detoxing on a daily basis, however sometimes they have trouble keeping up! When our natural system of metabolic detoxification becomes overburdened, toxins accumulate in the body. These toxins can cause tissue damage and may interfere with normal cellular processes. Common symptoms of toxic overload include:

  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Poor Sleep
  • Chronic constipation
  • Abdominal pain, gas and bloat
  • Increased allergy symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin/rashes
  • Bad breath
  • Confusion or “brain fog”
  • Anxiety

If you are experiencing symptoms of toxic overload it may be time to consider a detoxification program. Such a program generally involves:

  • Reducing exposure to toxins.
  • Supporting and enhancing the body’s natural detoxification systems.
  • Encouraging the removal of toxins from the body.

While there are many approaches to detoxification and many programs available, I focus on three simple steps to ensure a safe and healthy detox.

THREE STEPS TO A HEALTHIER DETOX  

STEP ONE - FOCUS ON NUTRITION
I am generally not a fan of “juice cleanses”. Not only are such programs lacking in fiber and protein, they can also upset hormone balance by raising cortisol and disrupting blood sugar regulation.

For effective detoxification, I prefer to focus on nutrients that support the body‘s natural detoxification mechanisms and emphasize clean, organic whole foods. In particular I recommend adequate amounts of quality protein providing amino acids essential to the metabolic detoxification pathways in the liver, and a variety of colorful non-starchy vegetables which add supportive vitamins, minerals and fiber.

While non-starchy vegetables are alkaline, most toxins are acidic, so consuming these vegetables will help to push acidic toxins to be filtered out through your kidneys. Specialized proteins shakes and targeted nutraceuticals may also be utilized to support detoxification pathways.

STEP TWO - INCREASE HYDRATION
Adequate hydration is essential for a safe detoxification. Proper hydration can protect the cells and tissues in your body from the damaging effects of toxins. Water intake promotes removal of toxins from the body through your kidneys via urine, and through your intestines via stool.

During a detoxification program, I recommend higher than average water intake. To determine the amount that is right for you, take half of your weight in pounds and convert that to ounces of daily water (for example, a 140 pound woman should consume at least 70 ounces of water daily during detoxification).

STEP THREE - TREAT YOUR GUT FIRST
If you have digestive problems, it is essential to address these issues before beginning a detoxification program. This is especially important for those with chronic constipation.

Why is the gut so important in detoxification? Because you have to “take out the garbage”! The gut (along with the kidneys and your sweat glands) is the primary pathway by which toxins leave the body. I recommend support for bowel regularity with water, fiber and magnesium to help this process.

Bacterial overgrowth in the gut contributes to toxicity by exposing the body to bacterial endotoxins. For those with a history of chronic abdominal bloat, gas, and diarrhea or irregular bowel movements, identifying and treating underlying gut imbalances is an important first step in detoxification. For some, I recommend an herbal gut cleanse prior to beginning a detoxification program.

Are you ready for a personalized detoxification program? Let’s get started!

Call 231-638-5585 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to send me an email!



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, I continue to see both new and returning clients via our easy, secure, video-visit format. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.

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