Mould Illness & Mast Cell Disorders
Mould or Mycotoxin illness
Mould or Mycotoxin illness is a systemic inflammatory illness involving multiple organs/systems in the body including the immune system (thereby activating mast cells), the endocrine system, the nervous system and the brain. Anecdotal reports indicate that mycotoxin illness may contribute to dementia and this has been referred to as ‘inhalational dementia’.
The products of mould (mycotoxins) from water-damaged buildings rather than the mould particles or spores themselves are the likely culprits in this disorder, but more research is needed to fully establish this. Symptoms of mycotoxin illness include chronic headache, poor sleep, new onset anxiety for little reason, lightening pains, increased static shocks, fatigue, brain fog, poor mental functioning and skin rashes. Later in the illness, patients may be very debilitated with fatigue, POTS, multiple chemical sensitivities, food intolerance, bloating, diarrhoea, and other symptoms of mast cell activation syndrome (see below).
Because it is a newly recognised disorder, making a diagnosis of mycotoxin illness rests on clinical presentation along with supportive findings of non-specific inflammatory markers (TGFbeta1, C4a, VGF, MMP-9), urinary mycotoxins surveys and brain imaging with neuroquant analyses. Dr Hale is on the board of the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness (www.ISEAI.org) and is involved in collaborative efforts to study the MRI brain neuroqant findings in patients with mycotoxin illness. The University of Arizona are in the planning stages of this research.
Dr Hale says, “the best part about recognising mycotoxin illness is that it is relatively straight forward to treat. Even better, the treatment doesn’t involve toxic or dangerous medications. Reducing exposure to mould and mycotoxins however is paramount and sometimes in advanced disease, lengthy treatments for chronic mast cell issues, poor immunity and limbic system retraining is needed.”
Reading: Hope, J., A review of the mechanism of injury and treatment approaches for illness resulting from exposure to water-damaged buildings, mold, and mycotoxins. ScientificWorldJournal, 2013: Article ID: 767482.p1-20
Mast Cell Disorders
Mast cell disorders and their relationship to chronic illness, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and autism are gaining more recognition. At Tuft University, Dr. Theo Theoharides has been leading research in this area for at least a decade. He has been instrumental in spreading awareness of the different syndromes that the mast cells are responsible for. He is particularly interested in what has been termed mast cell activation syndrome or MACS.
In recent years, more clinicians have been treating patients with chronic illnesses that involve mycotoxin exposure and a myriad of symptoms consistent with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). Mast cell activation syndrome can cause a myriad of symptoms including skin flushing, hives, fleeting itchy rashes, sudden swelling of body parts, heart palpitations, feeling of air hunger, wheezing, low blood pressure, severe abdominal pain with no clear pathology, headache, fatigue with no clear pathology, poor concentration, anxiety and various neuropsychiatric symptoms.
It appears that an increasing number of patients are presenting with symptoms of MCAS. Based on observations and various publications of case reports, it appears that MCAS could be associated with auto-immune disease, coeliac disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), multiple chemical/food sensitivities, migraine, mood disorders and mycotoxin illness.
Other than exposure to mycotoxins, there are other factors that may trigger MCAS. They include medications, stressors (physical or emotional), cold temperature, heat, pressure, noxious odors and fumes, insect bites, trauma or environmental toxicants. Researchers have also been interested in studying the effect of electromagnetic fields (Wifi) on mast cells, so watch this space.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome can be managed with antihistamine and other medications, however a full response may not be achieved until the triggers can be discovered and reduced or eliminated.
Reading: Theoharides, T.C., I. Tsilioni, and H. Ren, Recent advances in our understanding of mast cell activation – or should it be mast cell mediator disorders? Expert Rev Clin Immunol, 2019. 15(6): p. 639-656