For those who are looking for more posts, I post the majority of my work on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/bridgestohealthatl.
Many of you may have noticed the new signs in my office asking everyone to avoid wearing perfumes or using other scented products in my office. The main reason is that many of my patients are chemically sensitive. At least once a month, one of my chemically sensitive patients becomes sick, disoriented, and confused after walking into my office because a patient earlier in the day wore perfume. The vast majority of my patients have compromised immunity and detoxification and adding additional toxins such as perfume is not a good idea.
http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=222 has an article describing the toxic effects of fragrances. Many people do not realize that fragrances contain numerous toxic compounds and manufacturers aren’t required to tell consumers the details. The following are the major reasons to avoid fragrances including perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, scented detergents, and fabric softeners.
1) Many fragrances contain sensitizers which can cause the immune system to overreact
2) Fragrances often contain a class of chemicals called phthalates. Studies show that phthalates can cause problems with hormones and fertility. http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=290 has more information on phthalates
3) The National Academy of Sciences has classified the compounds in fragrances as neurotoxins. This means that they can damage your brain and nerves. The vast majority of my patients are already neurotoxic from Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome and need to avoid other neurotoxins.
4) Fragrances may contain synthetic musks which can also cause problems with estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in the body.
5) SPECT scans of the brain have demonstrated that the compounds in fragrances adversely affect blood flow to the brain.
I frequently talk about mold illnesses as an important cause of illness among my patients. However, the term “mold illness” is an oversimplification of what the true problem. The real problem is the ecology of what is found in a water damaged building. Not only is there mold, there is also bacteria, amoeba, and sometimes mycobacteria and actinomycetes growing. These organisms can release a variety of toxic substances such as:
- endotoxins / mycotoxins
- beta glucans
- c-type lectins
- spirocyclic drimanes
- volatile organic compounds
It is the combination of all of these components that cause illness. It’s nearly impossible to test for all of the possible substances in a water damaged building and it’s not possible to tell someone which one they are reacting to. However, it is easy to test for inflammation caused by a water damaged building.
If you look at some of Dr. Shoemaker’s research, the term he uses for “mold illnesses” is CIRS-WDB: Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome from Water Damaged Buildings. Now you can understand why.
In the vast majority of my patients, I check a genetic test called an HLA DR/DQ from Labcorp (test #012542) I learned about this test from Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker. This gene is located on chromosome number 6 and it encodes a protein called an MHC Class II protein. Each person has two copies: one from the father and one from the mother. This test tells me if a person is susceptible to biotoxin illnesses and I’ve found that 98% of my patients are.
To give some background on this gene, when the immune system first encounters a foreign object such as a bacteria, the first immune cells to arrive on the scene are called APCs (Antigen Presenting Cells). The APC “eats” the foreign object then attaches it to a MHC Class II protein. It’s like taking a piece of the bacteria and and putting it in a picture frame. The APC then moves the foreign object and the MHC protein (the picture frame) to the surface of the cell so that the rest of the immune system (specifically T- cells) can study and learn how to defend against the foreign object. The APC essentially tells the rest of the immune system, “Look what I found! I put it in a picture frame!”
As an analogy, imagine that a crime was committed. The first police officer on the scene was able to take a picture of the criminal before he ran away. The policeman then shows a picture of the suspect to the rest of the police force. The MHC II protein does the same thing as the first police officer: to show a picture of the suspect to the rest of the immune system.
What if the police officer’s camera didn’t work well or he had trouble developing the picture? He wouldn’t be able to show the picture to the rest of the police department so they wouldn’t know who to look for. The criminal is able to run around the city to commit more crimes. This is what happens in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. The MHC II protein is unable to show a picture of the foreign invader to the rest of the immune system.
Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, has identified 10 types of MHC II proteins that are unable to show small biotoxins to the rest of the immune system. Biotoxins are poisons released by a variety of organisms. Examples include snake venom, bee venom, and jellyfish stingers. Bacteria and mold also make biotoxins. Some of the smallest biotoxins are those made from indoor mold and Lyme Disease. If one of these 10 types of MHC II proteins run into the small biotoxins from indoor mold or Lyme, they can’t “see” the biotoxins so the biotoxins are able to run around the body causing damage. There are about 50 other types of MHC II proteins that are able to recognize the small biotoxins from mold or Lyme so people with these don’t get biotoxin illneses very easily.
A list of the MHC II proteins / HLA DR/DQ that can’t recognize mold or Lyme biotoxins can be found at https://www.survivingmold.com/diagnosis/lab-tests. A more complete list can be found in his book Surviving Mold
4-3-53: susceptible to both biotoxins from mold and Lyme
11/12-3-52B: susceptible to both biotoxins from mold and Lyme
14-5-52B: susceptible to both biotoxins from mold and Lyme
7-2-53: susceptible to biotoxins from mold
13-6-52A, B, or C: susceptible to biotoxins from mold
17-2-52A: susceptible to biotoxins from mold
18-4-52A: susceptible to biotoxins from mold
15-6-51: susceptible to biotoxins from Lyme
16-5-51: susceptible to biotoxins from Lyme
1-5: susceptible to low MSH which makes one susceptible to biotoxins from mold and Lyme
About 25% of the world’s population have one of the 10 susceptible types of HLA DR/DQ gene. As of Nov 27, 2012 in my practice, I have tested 227 patients. Out of those 227 patients, 222 have one of the 10 types. That’s an astounding 98% of all of my patients who are vulnerable to the biotoxins from indoor mold and Lyme! Another way of putting it is nearly all of my patients come from only 25% of the population. I have spoken to my colleagues across the country and they’ve had very similar findings to mine. I sometimes joke that the HLA DR/DQ gene predicts if someone will get frustrated with conventional medicine and seek out alternative care.
I’ve written about some of the symptoms and diseases that are associated with these genes in my previous post. Unfortunately, there are only several hundred doctors in the world who are aware of this gene. Therefore, the vast majority of doctors know nothing about this gene so that countless patients are not diagnosed properly. I suspect there has been an increase in the number of doctors who are aware of this gene as a result of a talk given at this year’s ILADS conference and hopefully this important knowledge will continue to grow.
Daniel Amen, MD, is a psychiatrist and New York Times bestseller, who frequently has programs on PBS. He is a pioneer in the use of a special brain scan, called a SPECT scan. It is able to detect abnormal changes in blood flow to the brain.
Just this past week, Terry Thompson Horn and I attended a seminar with Dr. Amen. I was fascinated to learn that a SPECT scan is able to detect damage to the brain from mold toxins.
The following is a picture of a normal brain:
The following is a picture of a brain exposed to mold toxins:
You’ll notice that in the second picture, there are many holes near the edges and scalloping of the edges. These holes represent lack of blood flow to those areas of the brain. A similar picture can be seen in those with brain damage from carbon monoxide, alcohol, illegal drugs, Lyme Disease, and heavy metals.
The lack of blood flow can explain a variety of symptoms that many with mold toxicity experience such as:
-poor concentration and memory
The good news is that when a person is no longer exposed to mold toxins, the blood flow to the brain returns to normal. This is why mold remediation is a crucial component of recovery in those with mycotoxicity.
It’s been 2 1/2 years since I last posted an article on this blog. It’s mostly because I’ve been posting updates on our Facebook page. However, it’s time to write more than just a few sentences to describe what’s happened over the last 2 1/2 years.
In July 2010, I left my practice of 10 years at Internal Medicine Associates of Rockdale (IMAR) in Conyers to open Bridges to Health, LLC in Atlanta with Terry Thompson Horn. Starting a new business is not easy and there were many hiccups and obstacles to overcome, but one by one they were solved.
I left IMAR because I wanted to focus on understanding why people get sick and correct the underlying causes instead of masking symptoms with medications. My intention was to use the principles of functional medicine which says that every part of the body is interconnected with each other. If you correct problems with food allergies, digestion, hormones, metabolism, and inflammation, then health should be restored. Extensively using lab tests not used by conventional doctors, I found that the vast majority of people who were told previously that “their tests were normal”, had multiple abnormalities with food allergies, digestion, hormones, metabolism, and inflammation.
In the middle of 2011, my approach to health care was turned on its head when I started to read the research by Ritchie Shoemaker, MD. He has been studying chronic fatiguing illnesses for over 10 years. He discovered that just about everyone who has chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple symptoms, or unexplainable symptoms had what he called a biotoxin illness. Biotoxins are poisons released by microbes and they primarily damage nerve function. Dr. Shoemaker found that 75% of the population had genes that protected them against biotoxins, but 25% did not. Without protective genes, those exposed to biotoxins would build up high levels in their bodies and their immune system would go into a “state of panic” and release large amounts of chemicals such as free radicals in an attempt to eliminate the toxins. This process is called chronic inflammation. It is like an army who knows they are in danger and fire their weapons blindly at an enemy they can’t see. This results in collateral damage to the body.
Some of the major effects of this chronic inflammation include lowering of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to organs and tissues and disruption of hormones. For example, lack of blood to the brain will cause fatigue, poor memory, and mood disorders. Lack of blood to muscles will cause muscle pain. Lack of blood to the gut can lead to a variety of digestive complaints. The hypothalamus is a gland in the brain which controls all hormones. Chronic inflammation from biotoxins usually causes it to malfunction. One can get an abnormality of just about any hormone in the body. Many people who come to my practice have diagnosed themselves with a hormone problem. In most cases, the hormone problem was triggered by a biotoxin.
Shortly after reading about Shoemaker’s research, I started to run tests looking at those genes and for inflammation caused by biotoxins. To my surprise, I found that nearly all my patients did not have protective genes against biotoxins and nearly all of them showed signs of inflammation from biotoxins. I shared my experience with other integrative practitioners around the country and to their surprise, they found the same thing I did. Could it be that the vast majority of people who aren’t helped by conventional medicine and seek integrative care have a biotoxin illness?
What are the symptoms of biotoxin illnesses? Many of my patients were told by their doctors that “it was in their head”, they were “depressed”, or they are “getting old.” Some are diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel syndrome. Universally, they were told that their labs were normal. However, when I ran labs looking for evidence of a biotoxin illness, I found it nearly universally. Biotoxins affect people differently so no two people look exactly the same. The following is a list of the symptoms I and others seen so far that seem to be either caused or worsened by biotoxins.
• Brain fog
• Poor memory and concentration
• Confusion / disorientation
• Word finding problems
• Weakness, poor stamina
• Autoimmune disease
o Rheumatoid Arthritis
o Multiple Sclerosis
o Polymyalgia Rheumatica
• Parkinson’s Disease
• Lou Gehrig’s Disease
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
• Light and sound sensitivity
• Blurry vision
• Red eyes, tearing
• Muscle pain and/or cramps
• Muscle or facial twitches
• Joint pain and/or stiffness / tendonitis
• Back pain
• Painful soles esp in the AM
• Neuropathy: numbness, tingling
• Neuropathic pain
• Skin sensitive to light touch
• Metallic taste
• Digestive problems
o Persistence microbial imbalance
o Abdominal pain
o Nausea / vomiting
o Constipation / diarrhea
o Food sensitivities
• Feeling hot and / or cold
• Hot flashes
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Frequent infections (sinusitis, bronchitis)
• Hormones (numerous)
o High and low adrenals
o High and low estrogen, progesterone, testosterone
o High and low thyroid
o ED, decreased libido
o Menstrual disorders
• Mitochondrial damage
o Problems generating energy
• Impairs liver detoxification
o Depleted antioxidants
o High levels of lead and mercury
o High levels of other environmental toxins
o Sensitive to alcohol
• Mood disorders and swings
o Bipolar disorder
o Obsessive compulsive
• Dizziness / vertigo
• Restless legs
• Poor wound healing
• Air hunger / shortness of breath / cough
• Chest Pain
• Hair loss
• Appetite swings and weight problems
• Frequent urination
• Thirst / feeling dehydrated
• Interstitial cystitis
• Electromagnetic field sensitivity
According to Dr. Shoemaker, the most common biotoxin are those released by indoor mold and bacteria. When wood or drywall is exposed to a relative humidity of 60% or higher such as from a water leak or being in a humid basement or crawlspace, that’s enough to start feeding the growth of mold and bacteria. They release a variety of substances which trigger uncontrolled inflammation in genetically susceptible people. 75% of the time, the mold is in a crawlspace or basement and the HVAC system blows the toxins into the main areas of the home. Because, most people have protective genes, only some people get sick while the rest feel fine.
Dr. Shoemaker has developed a step by step protocol which he says will help over 90% of people recover. I’ll talk more about those steps in a later post.
For more information:
Dr. Shoemaker has written a book called Surviving Mold. Parts of it are difficult to read, but it is all about his research on CIRS.
Dr. Shoemaker has a website at www.survivingmold.com
Dr. Mercola has interviewed a mold expert at http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/30/dr-thrasher-on-the-health-dangers-of-mold.aspx
The Global Indoor Health Network has a document on mold at http://globalindoorhealthnetwork.com/position_statement.html
Policyholders of America has a document on mold at http://www.survivingmold.com/docs/POA_MOLD_7_27_10_final.pdf
Dave Ou, MD
Shoemaker R, Rash JM, Simon EW. Sick Building Syndrome in water-damaged buildings: Generalization of the chronic biotoxin-associated illness paradigm to indoor toxigenic fungi; 5/2005; Pg 66-77 in Johanning E. Editor, Bioaerosols, Fungi, Bacteria, Mycotoxins and Human Health.
Shoemaker RC, House DE. A time-series of sick building syndrome; chronic, biotoxin-associated illness from exposure to water-damaged buildings. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 2005; 27(1) 29-46
Empting, LD. Neurologic and neuropsychiatric syndrome features of mold and mycotoxin exposure. Toxicology and Industrial Health. 2009; 25(9-10), 577-581.
Shoemaker RC, Mark L, McMahon SW, Thrasher JD, Grimes C (2010). “Research Committee Report on Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Caused by Exposure to the Interior Environment of Water-Damaged Buildings”
McMahon SW, Hope J, Thrasher JD, Rea WJ, Vinitsky AR, Gray MR (2010). “Common Toxins in Our Homes, Schools, and Workplaces”
I just set up a page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/wwwdrdaveoucom/181589059084 Just click the link to become a fan. I’ll be posting some quick comments on the wall in addition to my blog posts here.
–Dave Ou, M.D.
Lately, I’ve heard numerous reports of people being told by their doctor that they have the H1N1 flu. This has puzzled me because there is no way to diagnose the H1N1 flu without sending a sample to a state lab. At the same time, the CDC has told state labs to stop testing for H1N1 in July. According to a CBS News report at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/21/cbsnews_investigates/main5404829.shtml?tag=cbsnewsLeadStoriesArea, only 2% of the suspected samples in Georgia sent to the state lab were H1N1. In fact, most of the samples thought by doctors to be H1N1 were actually the common cold. What is more puzzling is why the CDC is saying that most flu like symptoms are caused by H1N1 when the data shows otherwise and why they aren’t tracking this supposed epidemic anymore. I’ll let you make up your mind on why that is.
To learn more, read the story above. You can also read Dr. Mercola’s comments at
–Dave Ou, M.D.
If you’re interested in learning Matrix Energetics and live near Atlanta, don’t miss the Atlanta seminar on November 13-16. I took the seminar about 2 years ago because they claimed they could teach anyone to be a “healer” I always thought that most healers were “born” with the gift and that it couldn’t be taught. To my surprise, I learned the basics during a single weekend. Since then, I’ve performed hundreds of successful sessions, yet I’m surprised each time I see positive changes. One of the remarkable aspects is that anyone can see it taking effect. The person undergoing a session almost always has shifts in their spine and posture that anyone, including the client or video camera, can see.
Just recently, I was traveling and one of my friends hurt his back. Ibuprofen and Flexeril were helping some but his back still bothered him quite a bit. I worked on him using Matrix Energetics for only 10 minutes and the pain never returned.
Most people who take the seminars aren’t in the healthcare profession. They are there just to learn how to help their friends and family. I did tell the former medical director of the Mercola clinic about it and now Dr. Mercola is recommending Matrix Energetics.
If you look at the website and think it looks unbelievable or like a bunch of crock, then at least go to the free Friday session.
I’m also assisting Dr. Richard Bartlett as part of the teaching staff as well so I’ll be there all weekend.
To learn more, visit the Matrix website at www.matrixenergetics.com
Disclosure: I have absolutely no financial incentives in whether anyone attends or not.
–Dave Ou, M.D.
I recently discovered a letter published in the prestigious British Medical Journal in 2005 that accuses the CDC of falsely exaggerating the number of flu deaths each year in the U.S. ( http://thinktwice.com/BMJ_Flu.pdf ) The CDC says that 36,000 people die every year from the flu. Given that number, you’d think that I’d seen at least one case during my last 13 years in medicine but I don’t remember any. I asked one of my colleagues who has been in practice for 15 years and she couldn’t recall one either.
According to the article, 257 flu deaths were reported to the CDC in 2001. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, 849 flu deaths were reported to the CDC in 2006 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124217724145913411.html) . How do you go from a few hundred deaths reported to 36,000? According to the articles, the CDC used a mathematical model and estimated that about 36,000 people per year have flu-related deaths.
The discrepancy between the reported deaths and estimated deaths is confusing. Exactly how many lives are saved each year by the flu vaccine? Does anyone really know?
-Dave Ou, M.D.