A Case Study About Digging Deeper with a Lyme Patient

by Dr. Susan Cucchiara, ND

My name is Dr. Susan Cucchiara, Licensed Naturopathic Doctor in both California and Connecticut and the owner of Naturally Sue Wellness. I have been practicing as an ND just shy of a decade and my true passion is leading patients to optimal health. My practice is mostly virtual, but I also see patients in person a few times a year in NYC.

Because of my own personal history of Lyme disease where I was undiagnosed well over 15 years, I began learning more and more about chronic illness and stealth infections. In the Lyme world, mold and mycotoxin illness often come up, as they are usually part of someone’s picture with Lyme disease. One thing I will never forget is attending a medical conference over 8 years ago and learning how mold can reactivate a dormant Lyme infection. That stuck with me since. Why? Because mold exposure can be a truly missing piece to people getting well.

Now, can someone have mold illness and not have Lyme disease? Of course, but it is imperative in my perspective to be both Lyme and Mold literate to be able to help patients who have been experiencing what we call “chronic illness” because symptoms can be overlapping.

After I learned about how detrimental mold illness can be to one’s health, its association with autoimmune disease, Lyme Disease, skin afflictions, mood disorders, and more, it was now on my radar with every patient.

Mold Exposure Case Study

Just recently, I had a 34-year-old male patient present to my practice with “brain on fire” as indicated by his multitude of neurological symptoms including –

He also had-

  • dark under-eye circles
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • dry eyes

I immediately suspected mold. This patient lives in California and it is very common to be exposed to mold in water damaged buildings, especially on the West Side in the beachy towns.

I explained to him that I suspected that he has mold in his home; he was quite shocked and didn’t understand why or how mold can have that effect on his mind and body. I explained how living in mold can almost feel like someone hijacked your brain. It does cause so much inflammation that it can affect multiple organ systems in the body and cause multiple symptoms that do not often seem related.

This patient was not in the financial position to be able to afford a mold professional to check his apartment out and I let him know that I had a really great solution for him.

What I explained to this patient, as well as all of my patients is that a $36-dollar EC3 Mold Screening Test Kit from Micro Balance Health Products is a really effective and affordable way to at least screen to see is mold is a problem in a home. You get 6 test plates in the kit which is super helpful to be able to screen multiple places in your home, as well as your carpet, and furniture or suspected problem areas. I informed this patient to do the “tap test” to his furniture and his carpet as well as air tests in the rooms where he spends the most time.

He was willing to give this a try because he was truly desperate to feel better, as anyone would be who is suffering with the type of symptoms he was experiencing. This was affecting his interpersonal relationships and his ability to make a living.

Low and behold, here were his results:

Photos show test plates with problematic indoor fungal load.

Deciphering Test Plate Results

How do you know if your test plate is problematic? Follow this simple guide below where the number refer to the number of circular colonies that grow out on your mold plate after the 5-day incubation period:

  • 1-2: Low risk of inflammation
  • 3-5 colonies (count each round growth) are moderate risk of inflammation for low sensitivity sufferers. High risk inflammation for severe sufferers.
  • 6-10 indicate high risk of inflammation to ALL persons
  • 10+ are risk to ALL persons AND can cause autoimmune diseases.

(For further reference, this patient in this case study had test results that were 6-10 colonies and 10+.)

My Analysis & Treatment

Now, I do think this patient had the scenario I mentioned above where mold could have reactivated a dormant Lyme infection.  He is from the East Coast and had also been bitten by ticks in his early adult life without ever being treated. I did inform him I’d like him to do the proper Lyme tests, but I decided to start with treatment that would help if he had Lyme, mold, or both.

So, what did I do first?

For his environment, I introduced the EC3 mold candles to him and talked about proper air filtration, especially in the bedroom at night (since you are spending at least 7-8 hours in there). These mold candles are able to remove spores in the air and can be really pivotal to the patient if they must reside in the home with mold and cannot move or remediate right away.

I had him on systemic support as well including nutrients to support his foundational health and strengthen his immune system and drainers to open his pathways of elimination. On this protocol, even when residing in the mold, he started to feel more like himself.

How I Approach Mold

My first way to approach patients who are living in mold is to clean up their environment the best they can with proper cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, mold candles, air filters and then products to help strengthen their body, as well as to help the body start draining these toxins. I do want to reiterate that detoxing mold often requires support from a skilled, mold-literate practitioner as you can feel somewhat worse before you start to feel better.

Even though this patient was starting to feel better, he didn’t want to continue living in that environment and decided to move.  Unfortunately, when he moved, he ended up feeling even worse in his new residence than he did before! He did not think it was possible for another location to have mold, but sure enough, when he tested again with the test plates (this was an air test with some dust from the top of his fridge), he, again, found high levels of indoor mold growth. (See photos below).

More on Mold

Some patients are able to live in a moldy environment & be asymptomatic and some have difficulty detoxing the mold, especially with an HLA-DR mutation. 25% of people can’t properly detox mold. I do think this was the case for him, and to add, I think Lyme disease was reactivated.

This patient is now deciding to move back to a location he has felt well in the past so he can heal. He is using all of the products I recommended and continuing them even though he is out of the current exposure. He recently just sent me a message saying he is starting to feel back to himself again and he does think the products are helping him. I will continue to help support and detox all of his organ systems (as mold affects every organ system in the body), until he is fully recovered.

One big mistake I see patients make is that they leave their moldy residency, but then do not detoxify after. These patients will present to my practice with a laundry list of symptoms and when I check mold markers in their blood, they are highly elevated. When I dig through their personal health history, its common that they are not being exposed to mold currently, but they lived in a moldy environment even 1-5 years ago. It takes proper questioning and a thorough history (as well as mold screenings tests and labs) to help determine if the patient is in need of detoxing past mold, or if they are currently being exposed.

In an ideal world, we would not stay in an environment with toxic mold, but if forced to, it’s imperative to make sure your drainage pathways are open and you are following the tips I outlined above. If you have Lyme disease, certain nervous system conditions, autoimmune diseases, and/or the HLA-DR gene mutation, it can make it near impossible to heal and stay well living in mold.

For more on how Dr. Cucchiara uses mold test plates in her practice, watch this video recording of her Live event sponsored by Micro Balance Health Products HERE.

Questions or comments about this post? Please write to us here or Dr. Cucchiara’s practice information below to contact her directly. We cannot provide personal medical advice but will respond as best we can.