Getting an Environmental Illness Diagnosis:
Difficult Circumstances with Dire Consequences
By Cesar Collado
Many patients have exhaustive stories of seeing multiple doctors and specialists before finally realizing that their home might be making them sick. Why is that?
To start with, our primary care physicians have responsibilities of gathering all relevant information, making diagnostic decisions, and examining the patients while focusing on the symptoms at hand. Human disease biology and physiology is perhaps the most complex scientific system for even our research experts to understand. With advances in human genetics, disease physiology, and pharmaceuticals, the landscape is constantly changing.
Environmental illness symptoms are not clearly defined and often bridge many medical specialties. Symptoms often include allergy, respiratory, cognitive (neurological), psychiatric (mood), chronic fatigue, headache, pain, and several others. These symptoms overlap with symptoms of many chronic illnesses. This can lead a patient to have to seek disjointed treatment from a specialist in each aliment; making the all-encompassing diagnosis of environmental illness even more elusive during a patient’s path to search for wellness. This bouncing from doctor to doctor for more testing without answers or relief is frustrating, expensive, and often debilitating. Read More:
Environmental illness research was relatively minimal prior to the year 2000. From that year, catastrophic events such as September 11, the BP Oil spill, long term effects of the Gulf war, and the water-logged aftermath of Katrina provided large numbers of patients to study for scientifically relevant data on illness as it relates to patient environment. Further disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and others have provided larger populations in other regions for further research.
The Healthcare System
The days of physicians knowing each of their patients personally are long gone. Primary care physicians are more effective when treating patients they see regularly. These are patients they see for yearly physical exams with bloodwork, so that they can monitor the patient over time. Without this continuity, primary physicians are high output diagnosticians. They gather patient history and information with the paperwork as well as review existing medications. This review occurs rapidly as numerous patients must be seen in any day. The average amount of time a primary care physician spends per patient is approximately 13 minutes. That would be around 28 patients per day. I know many who see 40 per day. That is likely not enough to learn patient history, symptoms, and existing treatments. It is far too little time to also ask the right questions about the home environment.
While primary care physicians have a wide variety of medical and diagnostic tools at their disposal, specialists are often required to address each of the body’s organ systems. Specialist medicine is very effective in treating numerous illnesses effectively by managing symptoms with medicine. However, seeing a specialist often requires a referral with its own set of similar processes of gathering information and diagnostics specific to the system. These diagnostics take time and are often expensive (CT, MRI, Endoscopy, etc.) A vast majority of these physicians are not focused necessarily, or have the time and information, to manage wellness in addition to sickness. Further, they have little or no control over the patient’s environment, lifestyle, and nutrition. Changing these conditions and behavior is also very challenging and physicians are likely to rely on pharmaceuticals, which they can control and monitor.
Consequences: The Reality of The Situation
Given the constant rush, reimbursement limitations, and limited time with each patient, it is often impossible for physicians to deduce the definitive cause of an illness. Patients expect results and relief and often leave the office with a pharmaceutical solution. This may help symptoms or create adverse events that further complicate the diagnosis. Symptomatic relief is sometimes accepted as the “new normal” or side effects of medicine add to the complicated puzzle, making an accurate diagnosis elusive.
In my previous article “Must Read Article on Mycotoxicosis” I described the sleuthing Drs. Dennis and Thrasher undertook to find the cause of the chronic illness symptoms in two female patients. In the article, it was identified that both patients had water-damaged homes. Learning that fact in their medical history was a necessary for the Drs. to diagnose and treat them for systemic mycotoxin poisoning.
Some health care providers, like Dr. Dennis, Functional Medicine Specialists, and Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are fully aware of the health repercussions of toxic mold and employ a mold protocol to test for it with a swab to the nose, and/or taking a “Tap” test of the patient’s clothes with a mold test plate. The results of these tests provide information on the specific toxic molds on a patient’s clothes. This circumstantial evidence can prove or deny that they are exposed to mold in their homes. My article “Taking Mold off The Table” describes this process as an efficient way to get relief from mold sooner and avoid unnecessary referrals, diagnostics, and medications.
What Can We Do?
Unfortunately, self-education and vigilance is most often a requirement for Environmental Illness patients. The internet has made an abundance of information available from credible sources. Finding a physician that treats environmental illness remains the key! It is a challenge to find Medical Doctors who treat environmental illness in healthcare networks. The diagnosis requires a physician to spend ample time with the patients to listen closely to symptomatic history and ask the right questions. This often means seeing a physician or functional medicine specialist outside of a patient’s insurance network to find answers and relief. This can become costly but leads to treatments that work and quicker relief. In my situation, my insurance plan would have no problem paying for me to go from Dr. to Dr. (while paying my enormous deductible); and, I do not know if I would have ever found the help I truly needed. I have spent hours on the phone with member services and have only confused my insurance provider without even one successful outcome in getting coverage for the kind of medical services I needed.
In my experience working in the field of environmental illness, I found that the few MDs that treat Environmental Illness either have suffered or have a family member that suffers. These physicians have first-hand experience with symptoms, treatment, and environmental solutions. In many cases, the physicians discover a “calling” to focus their practice on this huge unmet medical need.
Functional or integrative medical practices that treat the “whole patient,” spend time listening to patients, performing specific diagnostics, looking for mold, and providing the nutritional support required to unlock the body’s remarkable ability to heal itself and dispose of toxic substances. Naturopathic Doctors will often feature environmental illness on their websites.
Finding a healthcare practitioner that treats environmental illness remains the critical link to finding relief. You can Google “environmental illness” and your city to see what healthcare providers are available. By doing so, you can review their websites to determine if environmental illness is a focus in their practice.
What About Mold?
Fortunately, identification of mold by the patient can help streamline the diagnosis. If you can smell or see mold, it is likely you have a moisture or water problem and the fungal load of mold spores in your indoor air is high. Water damage from flooding and leaks is a telltale sign. Monitoring humidity in the home can also be helpful in the determination of mold. High humidity combined with dust or any cellulose, adhesive, building materials, furnishings and other materials that serve as food for mold is a very strong indicator. In the next few weeks, I will discuss what needs to be done and the service professionals required to fix a moldy home when possible. Regardless of these efforts, finding any moisture sources in your home and fixing them immediately is critical. Once the source of the moisture or water leak is eliminated, the materials can dry and mold will go dormant. The home will still need to be remediated; however, you might be able to do certain action steps to decrease the fungal count in your air to allow your body to start healing itself. My article “It Doesn’t Require a Hurricane” provides details to do this yourself in your home.
Your Health Can’t Wait
If you discover you have a mold problem, there are things you can do that are cost effective and will provide some relief. Absent fixing the home and removing the mold, you can have some control over personal and home hygiene for mold. You don’t have to wait for that specific doctor’s appointment to use these products. The following infographic and link will take you to the portfolio of Microbalance Health Products that can be used to clear, to the best of your ability, the mold from your nose, home, and clothes. In particular, taking these steps with offer immediate assistance:
- Cleaning your nose by rinsing with saline and CitriDrops Dietary Supplement as directed or using CitridDrops Nasal Spray will help eliminate the inflammatory response of mold in your body.
- Regular spraying with EC3 Mold Solution Spray or fogging with EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate will reduce the mold counts in the air.
- Burning EC3 Air Purification Candles will clear indoor air in confined spaces of mold and mycotoxins in rooms where you are spending the most time in your home.
- Washing your close and bed linens with EC3 Laundry Additive will make sure you are not carrying the mold problem with you or sleeping with it.
Using Sinus Defense and CellTropin will help you heal faster by supporting your immune and endocrine systems, boosting your own natural resistance to fungus and promoting cellular healing with pituitary gland support.