Biotoxin Illness or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is a well-established, published, documented condition affecting millions of patients in the US alone. According to the Consensus Statement released November, 2015 by the Center for Research on Biotoxin Associated Illness, “Evidence supports a cause-effect relationship between exposure to the air and dust in water-damaged buildings (WDBs) and a chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) that is linked to certain HLA haplotypes. CIRS-WDB is mediated by an overactive innate immune response to the toxins, antigens, and inflammagens found in the interior environment of WDBs.” Other causes of CIRS include Chronic Lyme Disease, Brown Recluse Spider Bites, Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, Pfiesteria and other Cyanobacteria outbreaks. By far the most common cause is toxic mold and its byproducts in a WDB.
24 % of the US population has the genetic susceptibility to toxic molds from WDB’s and 20% has susceptibility to Borrelia (Lyme Disease). If exposed to these organisms, these patients have no effective innate immune response to identify and eliminate them. The result is chronic immune system inflammation and multiple brain and hormonal abnormalities. According to NIOSH, 50% of the buildings in the US are WDB’s. According to the CDC, 300,000 new cases of Lyme Disease were reported last year. Thus, there are a lot of potential patients with CIRS.
CIRS is a multisystem, multi-symptom illness affecting the entire body. The symptoms of Biotoxin Illness/CIRS appear similar to other common conditions, including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (now called Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease), Autoimmune disorders, Neuropsychological disorders, and Leaky Gut Syndrome. Chronic pain is a common complaint among patients, which can be diffuse, such as in Fibromyalgia, or localized, such as in Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Leaky Gut Syndrome. Fatigue can be severe and debilitating. Sleep disorders, brain fog, heachaches and strange neurological symptoms are common. A Symptom Questionnaire is available and very accurately screens for this disorder. If there are 6 or more symptom clusters positive, then a workup for CIRS is needed.
A visual screening test for CIRS exists. It is called Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) testing. It is based on the fact that Biotoxins, such as toxic mold, secrete a neurotoxin that affects the brain and retinal artery blood flow. This interferes with the ability to discriminate white and gray (contrast). While the VCS test was developed by the US military for jet pilots, it has been found to be useful in identifying CIRS patients. If the symptoms are present (multiple organ systems and multiple symptoms) and the VCS test is positive, even in one eye, there is a 98.5% chance of having CIRS. This makes it one of the most accurate screening tests in medicine. 8% of patients can be false negative, meaning they have the symptoms, but can pass the test. These tend to be younger people with an eye for details, like graphic designers, artists, baseball and tennis players.
To take the VCS test, go to VCSTest.com and register as a new user. From the dropdown menu, identify Alan W. Gruning, DO as the referrer if you are an established patient or going to become one of our patients; otherwise, don’t select anyone. You will be asked for a donation and are encouraged to give one toward their work if you are able. We will receive your results by email.
When taking the test, follow instructions exactly. You must have good lighting and your eyes must be measured from the screen as told. If you have glasses you wear for working on the computer or reading, use them. You must have 20/50 vision or better for the test to be accurate. Don’t make up answers to what you are shown; simply identify the direction the lines are going. If you can’t see it, just say so. You will do each eye separately. You will be given a score by the website and a determination of the likelihood of Biotoxins present.
The diagnosis of CIRS is by the presence of symptoms, a failed VCS test (remember, 8% of patients can pass this though), a history of possible exposure, and by laboratory findings. The blood work is designed to check for the presence of genetic susceptibility to Biotoxins, evidence of depressed Hypothalamus (part of the brain) hormone production, and signs of immune system inflammation. The presence of Autoimmunity is sought as many patients have evidence that their body is attacking itself; this may be expressed in any number of Autoimmune disorders. Blood and saliva testing for Thyroid, Adrenal and Hormone imbalances is completed. In addition, nutrient and vitamin levels are assessed.
The treatment protocol for CIRS is complicated and starts with changes to diet and lifestyle. This is where a Functional Nutritionist is very helpful as the changes are substantial. It involves the use of a binder to remove the neurotoxin, steps to regulate the immune system, and to eliminate harmful co-infections, especially in the sinuses. The Endocrine system is balanced and nutrient levels restored. Natural supplements are used as much as possible. Some prescription medications must be used. None of this works if the patient is not out of the exposure, if due to toxic mold, so testing is performed and remediation done if needed on the home or work environment.
Most of our patients that follow the protocol steps precisely get better. Not just partially better, but completely better! It is all dependent on compliance and the desire to do whatever it takes to get well. There is truly Hope for the Tired and Hurting.