A History of Unexplained Chronic Illness:
Fixed Symptoms with Ever-Evolving Diagnoses
By Cesar Collado
I received some push back (and at least 1 angry face) regarding last week’s article, “Could Mold be your Toxic Tipping Point?” It seems that some readers felt I was discounting the crippling reality of their health situations. So, to set the record straight, I want to express my belief that any chronic illness, with symptoms that include, but are not limited to extreme fatigue, pain, neurological symptoms (cognition, brain fog, memory issues, etc.), is very real, especially to the suffering patients! Regardless of the “diagnosis,” though, I believe that anything that causes an inability to live a normal life, including the ability to work or earn a living, to have relationships, and/or the ability to enjoy life’s every day gifts, is tragic.
While chronic disease, fibromyalgia, mold illness, or environmental illness caused by other toxins have only become clinically recognized as diseases in recent decades, the path to diagnosis in Western medicine still remains unclear and difficult. These illnesses are most often treated by a diagnosis of exclusion, since many have no known cause or specific diagnostic to determine. Many times, the symptoms of these diseases overlap, are systemic, and rely on the interpretation of symptoms explained by the patient. This is fundamentally a problem in the medical community as disease diagnoses usually evolve over time with scientific knowledge of human biology, genetics, and disease physiology advancing every year. Thus, when I seek to better understand any disease, I look to the disease and its treatment over time for better understanding.
Unexplained Chronic Illness Through History:
The 19th Century
In 1869, neurologist George Miller Beard reintroduced the concept of Neurasthenia, a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, neuralgia, and depressed mood. The disease was attributed to “Busy Society Women” and “Overworked Businessmen.” It was also coined a “First World Disease” and referred to as “Americanitis.”As such, it is no longer recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
The 20th and 21st Century
In the early to mid 1900s, several isolated outbreaks of a disease with the same symptoms occurred, sparking beliefs that it was caused by a virus. In the 1930s through the 1980s, several outbreaks of similar nature occurred. These were named “abortive poliomyelitis,” “simulating poliomyelitis,” and additional outbreaks were of a “mystery diseases.” In the 1950s, an outbreak in the UK was referred to as “benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.” This led to the conclusion that the disorder was caused by inflammation of the brain and the spinal cord, particularly the afferent nerve roots, perhaps with neuroimmune etiology. During the 1960s and 1970s, chronic fatigue symptoms were often attributed to chronic brucellosis (bacterial infection caused by exposure to animals), but typically people were labeled as having psychiatric disorders, in particular depression.
- In the mid 1980s, the term chronic Epstein-Barr Viruswas used in the U.S., but the disease was popularly termed “Raggedy Ann Syndrome” to note the fatigue and loss of muscle power patients felt. “Adult Mononucleosis” and “The Yuppy Flu” were
also sometimes used.
- In 1996, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was coined in the United States and recognized by the CDC as a serious illness when they launched a campaign in 2006. It is still considered a hidden epidemic today.
- A 2009 study published in Science reported an association between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and retrovirus XMRV murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV). By 2011, several retractions were published.
Fibromyalgia Diagnosis History
For several centuries, muscle pains have been known as rheumatism and then as muscular rheumatism. The term fibrositis was coined in 1904 and was not changed to fibromyalgia until 1976. The first American College of Rheumatology published criteria for Fibromyalgia in 1990 and neurohormonal mechanisms with central sensitization were developed in the 1990s.
- Antidepressant medications (Serotonergic/norepinephric) were first shown to be sometimes effective for fibromyalgia in the late 1980s.
- Today, Fibromyalgia (FM) is a clinically well-defined chronic condition of unknown aetiology characterized by chronic widespread pain that often co-exists with sleep problems and fatigue. During the past decade, anticonvulsants have been indicated and used to treat Fibromyalgia with limited success.
It is irrefutable that mold is ubiquitous and exists everywhere. Only in recent times have exposure to toxic mold, and prolonged exposure to mold in indoor environments become recognized as a serious cause of systemic and local diseases.
- The First Testament of the Bible makes the oldest reference to mold describing it as “house plague” in Leviticus 14; 32-53. The description describes the moldy presence and is remarkably accurate and on target with today’s mold remediation professional philosophies.
- In recent modern history, toxic black mold was used to make T-2 tricothecene mycotoxins as biological weapons used in the Vietnam War and the Iraq/Iran Wars.
- While toxic mold from outdoors has been known to cause severe illness, it is only in 1986 when toxic black mold inside a home was recognized. Since then, changes in building practices, post energy crisis of the 1970s and materials have led to the highly publicized recognition of toxic mold indoors. This is mostly due to how moisture can accumulate in modern homes and buildings and how Centralized Air Conditioning can facilitate humidity indoors, regardless of Socioeconomics or demographics. This also affects both new and old homes.
- Only as recent as August 2017 has the CDC taken a position to recognize mold as a potential cause of serious chronic illness. Patients with unresolved serious illnesses are urged to speak with their physicians about the possibility of a fungal infection. “The CDC has its First Fungal Awareness Week.”
Heavy Metal poisoning has been known for centuries and dates back to several ancient civilizations. Mercury, Iron, Bronze, and others were important elements in society and warfare, and while understanding the specific toxicities of these metals date back to 2000 BC, they were still worked with and are believed to be significant contributors to the much lower life expectancy going back in history.
Exposure to chemical hazards have been widely publicized in recent history due to industrial waste and corporate irresponsibility. However, there has been significant study recently due to massive amounts of data linked to chemical and toxin exposure from disasters such as 09/11/01, The Gulf War (1990), BP Oil Spill, Katrina, and other recent hurricanes. This was when the impact of water- damaged homes became most apparent.
Mold and Mycotoxins
- Mold and mycotoxins continue to be studied and are better understood today. There have been several pioneers in the field, such as Bill Rae MD of Environmental Health Center, Donald Dennis, ENT, and the recently deceased Jack Thrasher. In addition, diagnostics for mycotoxins have been developed by Real Time Labs to aid environmental illness practitioners in identifying mycotoxins in urine and in testing other items for mycotoxins. While these tests are not conclusive, they have been utilized by practitioners to confirm mycotoxin presence in patients. Today, most traditional medical practices have little or no experience treating systemic mycotoxicosis.
- In April, 2017, Dr. Jack Thrasher and Dr. Donald Dennis published a report of treating systemic mycotoxicosis caused by mycotoxins in the sinuses. Their approach required significant investigating into the patients environment and some novel approaches to remove the mycotoxins. They were only able to identify the mycotoxins after the fact. However, these patients did find relief. “Must Read Article on Mycotoxin Poisoning.”
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
The Condition of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity emerged in the 1950s and 60s with exposure to the use of petrochemicals; however, it has never reached full physician acceptance. In 1965, the Society for Human Ecology was founded. In 1985, it changed its name to American Academy of Environmental Medicine. 1n 1992, AAEM began defining what is now called the Toxic Load.
Environmentally Triggered Illnesses (EI) result from a disruption of homeostasis by environmental stressors. This disruption may result from a wide range of possible exposures, ranging from a severe acute exposure to a single stressor to cumulative relatively low-grade exposures to many stressors over time. “Triggered Illnesses are shaped by the nature of stressors and the timing of exposures to them, by the biochemical individuality of the patient, and by the dynamic interactions over time resulting from various governing principles such as the total load and individual.”
Medicine evolves over time. Numerous times in recent history, long held medical beliefs have been identified as inaccurate. We have all witnessed dieting over the years where foods and diets have been deemed healthy only to discover later that things are not as they have appeared. You can look to foods like saturated fats, whole grains, certain cooking oils, soy, and others that were once deemed healthy and are now understood to play different roles in many chronic diseases.
While only a physician can diagnose and treat chronic illnesses, the historical timelines suggest that traditional thinking is still evolving. What is possible at this point in time is for the patient to begin to help narrow the focus by asking about some of these chronic illnesses as they apply to their symptoms when a “mysterious disease” with no known cause or treatment arises. Chronic Pain is a common denominator amongst diagnosis leading to additional symptoms which add to the complexity.
Another possibility is for the patient to investigate whether mold and/or mycotoxins may be a cause or contributing factor to their symptoms. With the little clinical history of illness caused by everyday toxic overload, many physicians are not even asking questions about a patient’s environment as it relates to their symptoms. Most of the time, this only comes up when a toxic overdose is identified in an emergency setting. The fact that sickness can equally be caused by slow exposure, over time is just not part of the picture yet. Thus, the burden of identifying toxins in our environment falls on each of us.
Nothing to Lose
My belief is that regardless of where a chronic illness was diagnosed or characterized, Mold and Mycotoxins should be considered, because a few facts remain irrefutable when you look at the statistics:
- According to industry estimates, 14,000 people in the US experience a water damage emergency at home or work each day.
- 98% of basements in the US will suffer from some type of water damage during their lifetime.
- Mold and mycotoxins can be contributors or causes to chronic illness and Toxic Load.
For patients diagnosed with any of the “Mystery” diseases with no cure, there is little risk or expense to conduct mold testing in your environment. It is inexpensive and easy. Mold test plates cost less than 10 dollars.
In my article, “Taking Mold off the Table”, I described how Dr. Dennis, very early in his diagnosis, eliminates mold as a possibility with a few simple diagnostic procedures. By eliminating mold from the picture or by identifying mold overgrowth or toxic molds in the environment as being present, there increases the possibility of finding relief for the patient.
If the patient finds evidence of mold overgrowth, it becomes possible to find a physician who treats Environmental Illness. You can search on line for a local physician or naturopathic doctor who specializes in these illnesses. They can advise on getting to a safe place or on getting your home remediated. Most importantly, they can help your body get back to wellness by helping it eliminate toxins through natural medicines, nutrition, and diet.