“After we treated our son for a parasite with antibiotics, within two days, his health and personality changed dramatically. He became upset easily. Depressed. Lethargic. Constantly tired, yet had difficulty sleeping. He could not think clearly. What had been a smoldering problem with attention issues up to that point suddenly became an acute crisis with multiple new symptoms. We later learned that the “friendly” bacteria which had been holding the fungus in check in his gut were killed off by the antibiotic. Ingested and colonized, systemic molds were releasing their mycotoxins into Wes’s body. Mold was winning the war for his health.”
DAVID FROME: My name is David Frome and I have with me David Brooks, who has shared with us earlier about his son’s exposure to toxic mold, a little bit about his symptoms and how he discovered that his son had environmental illness and how he began his journey to helping his son recover. In this second segment we are going to focus a little bit more on what David has learned about mold allergies, toxicity and multiple chemical sensitivities and also a bit more detail about the insidious nature of environmental illness and how these symptoms crept up on his son and how they became progressively more and more involved. I’m going to let you take the floor David.
DAVID BROOKS: Thank you for inviting me to share our story. My disclaimer here is that I’m not a doctor. I have no formal credentials saying I’m an expert. But I do have an important credential. We were parents on a mission to learn—and with a resolve to get answers. We watched our 13-year-old son spiral downward to a point where my wife and I knew we were fighting for his life. Doctors had been helpful, but we were stuck. We had to dig for information. Thankfully, this search led to some highly expert doctors who understood what we were dealing with. After years of struggle, our son received help.
Wes’s mold illness is the hardest thing our family has ever faced. We have dealt with cancer and other hard issues, but this was beyond anything. What compounded the difficulty was that the mold we were dealing with for many years was not visible to us because it was growing inside our walls. You could walk into our house and it looked clean. It did not show paint damage from moisture. The indoor air quality was severely compromised—and we didn’t know it. What caused his health crisis was a mystery.
Before we discovered the mold problem we did the ALCAT test and found that Wes had 101 food sensitivities and 52 environmental sensitivities. We threw our hands in the air… “Good grief, what CAN he eat? And where CAN he go?” That’s when we found he had a parasite, Dientamoeba fragilis. We began learning how vital gut ecology is in the immune system.
We treated the parasite with antibiotics. Within two days, our son’s health and personality changed dramatically. He became upset easily. Depressed. Lethargic. Constantly tired, yet had difficulty sleeping. What had been a smoldering problem with attention issues up to that point suddenly became an acute crisis with multiple new symptoms. We later learned Wes already had compromised gut health from long term mold exposure which suppressed his immune system. Now the sudden jolt of antibiotics weakened the “friendly” gut bacteria which had been holding the fungal infection somewhat in check. The ingested and colonized, systemic molds he’d been fighting for years were now releasing more of their mycotoxins into Wes’s body. Mold was winning the war for his health.
DAVID FROME: This is such an important topic. We are in a time where this is all really coming into mainstream recognition, which is that healthy flora, healthy bacteria in our bodies is critical in terms of our immune system. When we take antibiotics we often interfere with the healthy flora in our gut. There is also a lesser known issue with taking antibiotics, lesser understood. I raise it more as a question which is, what is the role of antibiotics in mold toxicity? Antibiotics originally were derived and sometimes still are from molds so in effect we are using molds to try to kill specific bacteria. When we take antibiotics, we destroy the healthy bacteria along with potentially problematic bacteria. In so doing we are really impairing the body’s immune system and as you so beautifully mentioned that a great percentage of the body’s immune system lies within the gut and within this healthy flora. I was also mentioning how antibiotics are often derived from molds.
My question that I really have to the medical community as well as to anyone is, what role does this toxic substance – the antibiotic play in contributing to environmental illness? We know that the body stores toxins in the liver and fats in the body. How does taking antibiotics potentially contribute to this kind of environmental crisis?
DAVID BROOKS: Picture a lawn. Where the grass becomes patchy, weeds will take over in those bare spots and may threaten to take over the whole lawn. But thick, well-nourished grass will make it hard for weeds to get started. Our gut is like a lawn, with good bacteria as the grass, and pathogens like weeds. Healthy gut bacteria will hold the bad bacteria in check. This is critical for overall health, because medical literature now says nearly 70% of the immune system is in the gut.
The problem is, when we take antibiotics we can destroy that delicate balance. All of a sudden the good bacteria are weakened and are less effective against bad bacteria like Clostridium difficile or pathogenic fungi in the gut, like Candida Albicans. When the “weeds” take over, it’s hard to reestablish a healthy balance. Antibiotics may fix one problem while opening a door to create more by shifting the balance in gut ecology. Beneficial gut flora can be built back through probiotics and fermented foods. But it takes time.
I’m not saying our approach represents the right solution for everybody, but we’ve decided to do everything possible to avoid giving our son antibiotics. He’s not had prescription antibiotics for six years. Twice from earlier treatment we’ve seen antibotics create gut dysbiosis. The imbalance that was so severe that it took months to recover the first time and years the second time. We’ve had to look for other tools. For example, manuka honey from New Zealand is naturally high in antibiotic properties, yet it’s friendly to healthy gut bacteria. Oregano oil and fresh garlic are other good options. We are using antibiotics. But we’re using them from nature instead of from pharmaceuticals.
DAVID FROME: The gist of the conversation that you’re sharing is the role of antibiotics in destroying the healthy flora and tipping the balance, making you susceptible to pathogens that were probably in your son system or anyone’s system. We live with them all the time but if we lose the healthy flora they become more virulent and that becomes a problem that tips the balance, the health deteriorates. What did you learn in terms of the difference between mold allergy and mold toxicity?
DAVID BROOKS: There’s a common understanding that mold can cause a runny nose, teary eyes, or rashes on the skin. These symptoms are typical for mold allergy, or hypersensitivity and can be easily observed and diagnosed. Allergic responses are not seriously life-altering and do not impair multi-organ system health like toxicity can.
Some say mold is everywhere, so mold toxicity must be a myth. I’d agree that mold is something we can’t avoid. But what this perspective fails to take into account is the difference between typical outdoor molds and the highly toxic types of molds which most often grow indoors as a result of water damage. Water damaged buildings host an entirely different ecosystem. Mold from water damage thrives on high humidity and steady temperatures year around and doesn’t get the wind, rain, sunshine and snow. In general, if there’s been interior water damage there will likely be molds producing some level of harmful mycotoxins placing a load on the immune system. Prolonged exposure can lead to systemic infection, with mold colonizing inside the nostrils, the ear canal, or other locations. Mycotoxicosis, or mold toxicity, is a very, very different issue to deal with than mold allergies triggered by common outdoor molds.
For example, trichothecene mycotoxins have been used in biological weapons to produce Yellow Rain. These toxins are produced by various species of Stachybotrys and Fusarium—molds which are fairly common in water damaged buildings. In treating Wes, we found the difference between typical outdoor molds and toxic molds from water damage can be enormous and we had to take it seriously.
Food can also be high in mold and can also contribute to mycotoxicosis. For example, corn may not be a problem for everybody, but we’ve found our son reacts to corn. We’ve learned corn is known to often host aflatoxin and ochratoxin, mycotoxins produced by mold. Grapes and mushrooms are examples of other foods we have to be very careful about. There are some foods we’ve decided it’s just better to stay away from because they tend to be moldy and can contribute toward immune system load.
I keep coming back to this vitally important point, David. Minimizing total system load is one of the keys to rebuilding or maintaining health. Our body burden can be environmental. It can be through things that we eat. It can be through pesticides or preservatives in foods. Everything adds up to a cumulative load that our immune system has to process. We found with Wes that we have to respect this reality and minimize the overall load as best we can, giving his immune system an opportunity to rally against the threat. Thankfully, he’s made tremendous progress in his recovery.
DAVID FROME: This is such an important point. Very often when we have a sensitivity to an environmental toxin and you spoke about molds, the airborne part are the micro spores and micro toxins and if you are sensitive and you are being exposed or your system is being bombarded with all those toxins, you become sensitive potentially to a great number of other chemical irritants. You mentioned pesticides, but there’s literally over 100,000 chemicals that are produced in the US and many of them are potentially hazardous and we in the US have an erroneous assumption that the government is really watching over us and taking care to make sure that the chemicals that we are being exposed to are healthy for our bodies, in many cases they may be but in some cases they are not. The food and drug administration really doesn’t test many of these chemicals that are in use around our homes, in our carpeting, in our clothing and so these substances can contribute to what may have started as a mold toxicity and then you mentioned diesel was a trigger for your son as well. The exposure to mold and also to chemicals has a cumulative effect so that over time these toxins build in the body and the load becomes too great and this is when you see a further breakdown in the immune system and deterioration really can affect almost any aspect of our health.
Perhaps this is a good place to put a check on this segment of our talk and in the next segment we will talk more about the steps that you took in terms of helping your son to recover from environmental illness. I want to thank you, David for being so candid and sharing so openly with us about not only the challenges of your son but the many things that you’ve learned in the process of helping him to recover.