by Dr. Bill Rawls
Mold and mycotoxin exposure can be detrimental to your health, and it could play a critical role in why some patients remain ill despite months or years of treatment for chronic Lyme disease. Certain people may be more susceptible to mold-related illness than others, and the symptoms often overlap with those of Lyme, ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), and fibromyalgia, making it challenging (and sometimes overwhelming) to determine what’s causing you to be ill.
To learn more about who’s most at risk for mold-related illness, plus how to recognize the symptoms, test for, and get rid of mold in your home, food, and body, check out our featured video Lyme & Mold-Related Illness: Who’s at Risk and What You Can Do About It below.
0:00: Host Tim Yarborough introduces special guest Jenny Buttaccio
0:57: Dr Rawls shares his background
2:43: Overview of mold-related illness
3:24: Common symptoms of mold toxicity
5:13: Locating mold and mycotoxins in the environment
9:29: Testing for mold in your home
11:10: Hidden sources of mold
12:56: Solutions for mold exposure
19:15: Foundational Lyme support
21:21: Eliminating mycotoxins
25:51: Testing for mycotoxins in the body
Question and Answer Session
28:42: How big of an issue is mold, really?
34:14: When might testing for mycotoxins be important?
42:57: Can you provide some perspective on the organic acids test (OAT)?
46:35: What do I treat first? Lyme or mold?
49:20: What is your foundational Lyme treatment?
53:47: Does one condition make you more susceptible to the other?
55:52: What do you think made the most positive impact on your recovery?
58:02: Can bentonite clay and activated charcoal be taken together?
1:03:18: What’s a good diet protocol for someone dealing with mold exposure?
1:06:26: Is it possible to detox from long-term exposure to black mold?
1:13:00: Closing remarks
Tim Yarborough: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the webinar for this evening with RawlsMD. I’m Tim Yarborough. I’m going to be your moderator for the webinar topic tonight, which is all about Lyme disease and mold-related illness. A lot of times, we see those hand in hand, and they can sometimes complicate recovery from one or the other, and there’s also often a lot of fear tied up around mold and just if you’ll ever recover from Lyme and those sorts of things. But there’s a lot of information that Dr. Rawls and our special guest, Jenny, are going to share tonight with you, because there’s a lot you can do and a lot that can really be helpful for you. So we’re glad you’re here, and we’re excited to share the information and the presentation we’ve got prepared for you tonight. So thank you for being here with us. So thanks for that.
Our presentation tonight, we will hear from Dr. Rawls, just hear some foundational groundwork about his perspective on mold and Lyme disease, particularly mold focused a little bit more, but we’ll definitely be talking about the interconnectedness between those two. And then, we’re going to have a live panel between our special guest, Jenny Buttaccio, and Dr. Rawls, and then we’ll work our way into Q&As there during the panel discussion. We will take a pause part way through, and we’ll have a little webinar given away, and then also in addition to Dr. Rawls’ book, we’ll be giving away two free health coaching calls for those of you that stick around. There’ll be a drawing that you might be able to win one of those free calls.
So we’re really excited to have Jenny with us tonight. Jenny has done a lot of work with Rawls MD. You may have seen her in name on a variety of blogs. She is also in charge of our social media for Rawls MD, doing a lot behind-the-scenes to educate and empower our Lyme audience throughout the world, so we really appreciate having her here. She does have some extensive personal experience with this as well with Lyme and actually mold as well, and she does a lot of work advocating and raising awareness around these issues. She is a licensed and registered occupational therapist and a health journalist. So we’re so pleased to have her provide some different perspectives from Dr. Rawls, and we’re looking forward to our panel discussion with Jenny. So you can look forward to her joining us right after the brief presentation from Dr. Rawls when we get into that panel discussion.
So if you are not familiar with Dr. Rawls, he is the Co-Founder and Medical Director here at Rawls MD and also at Vital Plan and Vital Plan Select. He has been featured on a number of media sources such as The People’s Pharmacy, two times at NPR, Project Lyme, Tick Boot Camp, Mother Earth Living, at Well + Good, mindbodygreen, and a number of others. So he’s really passionate about writing and educating and researching, and you can find a lot of his blogs at RawlsMD or also at Vital Plan. Definitely recommend you check those two resources out. Also, a lot of great info on his book Unlocking Lyme. If you do not have that already, like I said, we’ll be giving that away, all you have to do is pay shipping, later on in the webinar. So definitely recommend that resource, a lot of information in there. Lastly, he is available for consults, telephone consults at rawlsmd.com.
So we’ll go ahead and let Dr. Rawls join and give a little more background about himself and jump into our presentation topic. Welcome, Dr. Rawls.
Dr. Bill Rawls: Thank you, Tim. Welcome everyone. Thank you for joining us. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been a physician for about 30 years, and, so far, about a third of that career has been helping people overcome chronic illnesses like chronic Lyme disease. I was thrown into that because I struggled with this thing we call chronic Lyme disease myself. Part of that was the mold factor; that I was stuck in an old moldy office building and became Lyme sensitive and dealt with that for years along with Lyme recovery in general, so this is very near and dear. I am very familiar with the topic. So I have been well for many years now, but everything is still in my mind as far as all of those experiences. And, quite frankly, still, if we have a rainy summer that it’s really just moist and wet outdoors, and the mold starts growing, I can start feeling it again. So you don’t completely lose that sensitivity.
What I’m going to do is go through a basic discussion of the mold-related topic and how it ties into chronic Lyme disease. So this is more of an overview, and then as we get into the panel discussion, we’ll get to some questions and just some topics that everyone may have experienced along the way. So we will just get started.
So when you look at mold, mold is absolutely everywhere. It is ubiquitous in the environment. So wherever, would be outdoors, indoors, there are mold spores, and mold is always just waiting to grow in every environment. So it is ubiquitously present. Quite frankly, if your Lyme recovery just isn’t progressing like you expect, it’s always worth looking at that mold factor to make sure that that’s not an obstacle standing in your way.
When we look at these symptoms that have been attributed to mold toxicity, there are some things that are more specific to mold by irritations, by mycotoxins and spores: burning in the throat/nasal passages, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath. But when you look out to vision changes and headaches and sometimes eye irritation, fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, all of these things are more commonly associated with Lyme disease, so it is hard to distinguish between the two and, quite frankly, it’s because what’s happening with the mold is that it’s disrupting immune system functions and that allows microbes in your system to flourish. So the exposure to mold, the effects of the mold are exacerbating what is already in place with the chronic Lyme disease.
So symptoms that we attribute to mold can be from direct exposure to mycotoxins, typically breathing them in, but you can consume them in other ways. So exposure to the mycotoxins or mold spores in the environment, which can be very prevalent. You can have an allergy to those. So it can occur in more than one way. Determining whether you’re mold sensitive is really pretty simple. If you find mold in your environment, and you’re sick with symptoms that are associated with immune dysfunction, and especially if you have some of those that are more specific to mold toxicity, then you’re likely mold sensitive.
The issue though is finding the mold isn’t always quite so simple. Now, I did say it’s ubiquitous. It is everywhere. But low levels of mold spores don’t really affect us very much; it’s only when the mold is growing and producing new spores in the environment and producing mycotoxins.
So what are mycotoxins? Mycotoxins are substances that mold produce to defend themselves from other molds, from bacteria, from viruses, and they’re toxic to most any kind of living organism, including us. So many molds produce some mycotoxins that are pretty darn toxic. There are several hundred species of molds that can produce mycotoxins. So testing for one or two of the prominent ones can be beneficial, but there’s a lot of stuff out there and they can grow in many environments. Growing mold requires the presence of heat and moisture, so if there’s no moisture and there’s no heat, then mold’s not going to grow. You have to have those two factors in some levels. But considering we live in an environment now that our homes are tightly sealed, even in the wintertime, they contain moisture, and we heat them up to pretty significant temperatures means that, yeah, there’s a lot of places you can grow mold.
Sometimes, you can see it or smell it. If I walk into a building that has most types of mold, I can pick it up pretty rapidly. If your nose is congested, though, yeah, you don’t always pick it up, and some kinds are harder to smell and detect. But most of the time you’ve got an idea if there’s that kind of musty odor. I can walk into a building even now that if there’s a really heavy concentration of mycotoxins in the air, I’ll immediately start getting irritation in the back of my throat. So that is sometimes a tip off. Then visual evidence of mold. Typically, places where there is moisture like bathroom floors and ceilings and crawl spaces and basements and attics. That’s where you typically find it.
Sometimes, though, and this was true in my office, that it was in the floorboards and in the wallboard of the office, and I could smell it. I mean, there was a definite presence of old building, but it was hard to get by. But mold can hide in a lot of places that we don’t necessarily think about. Anything old and organic is suspect. So have you checked your closet lately? If you’ve got a bunch of old shoes in there that you haven’t checked lately, and it’s a little bit moist in your closet, like it is right beside your bathroom, you can find, I found pairs of old moldy shoes, old moldy belts, maybe a leather jacket. So sometimes your closet can be a place where there is mold.
Carpets are really bad for collecting mold, and if there’s any moisture in the house. It’s not the carpet that is supporting the mold, it’s all the junk that collects in the carpet over years. So you get a lot of organic material and that holds moisture and that grows mold. So carpets are really suspect. Woolen blankets that have been stuffed away, but were a little bit damp when they got put away, that can be a problem. Old books, newspapers, and magazines, yeah, that can be a real problem too. I mean, every now and then, I have to purge my book collection because it collects these old books that have mold.
Testing for mold. There are various ways that you can do it. The cheapest is a simple test that you can order from Amazon or other sources on the internet, that is a test strip that you basically gather dust from different places and it tests for a series of different molds. It’s not as thorough as some testing, but sometimes it can give you an idea whether it is there or not. There is a company called, that has a test called the ERMI test that is a little bit more specific, and they have you collect dust samples from all different varieties of areas inside your house and send it off. A little bit more expensive, but it is more precise as far as defining whether there’s a mold actually there.
But that doesn’t really test the mold that’s in the wall boards or in hidden places in your home. So sometimes, the best way to gauge that is with a home inspector. A qualified home inspector who is qualified to do mold testing can do a really good job of finding it in places that you wouldn’t find it. I generally recommend a home inspector over a mold remediation outfit because a home inspector is going to be unbiased. They don’t have any bias toward whether they find or don’t find mold as far as the economic interest.
And it’s not just your house. You have to think about cars. Our cars are closed up, we leave them outside, and if you’re like me, you leave bathing suits, wet suits, things like that inside the car, and that can get inside the ventilation systems in the car and that sort of thing. So you have to be aware that the carpet and other parts of your car, especially if you’ve got a leak in your car, can grow mold.
Mold is present in all foods, every single different food, but there are higher levels of mold and mycotoxins in some foods in others. I’ve read this is a real problem in third world countries where we are sending them leftover grain, leftover wheat and corn that’s been sitting for a long time. It’s evidently loaded with a lot of mycotoxins and it’s just something that they have to deal with. You’ll see that a lot of these foods are things that, yeah, you probably shouldn’t be eating a lot of anyway. Grains, wheat and corn, especially; dairy products; processed meats. Yeah, you probably ought to be leaving those off your list anyway. You also have to be careful of nuts, dried beans, sometimes dried fruits. Those kinds of things can harbor mold, so if you eat these things and you feel terrible, it may not be a food sensitivity, it may be that that food is harboring mold. So something to really be aware of. A lot of these things we don’t cook, so cooking does decrease the concentration of mycotoxins in the food, so especially during your recovery, cooking your food is really a smart idea.
So moving on to solutions. The most important thing that you can do for overcoming a mold issue is reducing your exposure. Now, I know that sometimes, easier said than done, but it is very important. Keeping that moisture down, installing a dehumidifier in any crawl spaces or basements that aren’t part of your ventilation system that could harbor moisture and heat up in the summertime. Ventilate attics; that’s really important. Ventilate your bathrooms. That’s a big thing. In our bathroom, generally, we have a little squeegee that we just knock the moisture off the walls and then cut the vent on, so after a shower, it will get the moisture out of the bathroom quicker so you don’t form mold in the bathroom. Make sure the pipes aren’t leaking and just do everything you can to keep your moisture down in your bathrooms and your kitchen. Ventilation is really important. Air conditioning and heating systems, they can harbor mold so periodically having them checked and cleaned is really important. And carpets, yeah, it’s better just to replace them if you can possibly do it.
If you find mold, hire a professional. When you do that, make sure you get somebody who’s certified. And when you are having a mold remediation project done, get the heck out of that environment. So you don’t need to be there when you’re having that mold removed. Temporary measures. We all get stuck in situations. I was stuck in a moldy office and really had no repercussions at that time and couldn’t really afford to do mold remediation, so putting the filters in rooms can knock down the concentration of the mold particles, both the spores and the mycotoxins in the air. The more you spend on the filter, the better you’re going to get. There are some really expensive filters like the Austin air purifiers that can run like 500 bucks a room. That’s a big investment, but they work exceptionally well. So depending on the degree of your issue, would depend on how much you want to invest in getting rid of the actual mold.
Also, a temporary measure is ozone treatment. Now, you don’t want to be in a house when there’s ozone, and you don’t want to leave out anything organic like leather and things like that because it’ll break it down. But periodic ozone treatments, diffusing of essential oils can sometimes push the mycotoxins out of the air and actually neutralize some of them. Those measures won’t eradicate the mold, but temporary measures, like if you’re stuck in an apartment, and you’ve got six months or a year on the lease, and you can’t get out of it, then you do the best that you can. So all of those things are important.
It is important to note that molds can recirculate in your system. So our body is designed to purge mold and mycotoxins. As I said, mold and mycotoxins are ubiquitous. So our body is designed to purge these things and they get trapped in the cellular spaces. But if you’re healthy, your body will neutralize and purge these things. The problem comes with this conundrum of being debilitated with a chronic illness like chronic Lyme disease and ending up with exposure to the mycotoxins at the same time, you lose that efficient detoxification, and it becomes this vicious cycle that you’re collecting these mycotoxins in your system, you’re not getting rid of them, and at the same time, you’re stimulating all the symptoms that perpetuates the Lyme disease. So you do get a bit caught with that.
In addition to that, about 25% of people carry a gene that makes it even a little bit more difficult to get these things out of their body. Testing for that, sometimes, if you’re just not getting well, testing for these kind of things is important, but it isn’t necessarily going to change your management. It just means you might have to work a little harder, but you can overcome the mold toxicity. So mold and mildew don’t grow inside your tissues. I hear that from time to time, that I’ve got mold growing inside of me. It doesn’t. You have to be really deathly ill before mold and mildew will grow in your tissues, but it can grow inside your body cavities and notoriously nasal passages and sinuses can harbor mold. So there are a lot of natural things that help it. Natural solutions with xylitol and also a garlic solution called Allimax or Allisure. It’s liquid. You can flush it up into your nasal sinuses. Steam breathing eucalyptus essential oil helps neutralize some of these things and just washing it out.
Another thing you can do, didn’t make it on the list, I forgot about, is there are products that contain slippery elm. Now, slippery elm contains something called mucilage, and we use that in the GI tract a lot, but it’s also a nice nasal wash because the mucilage protects the cells in the nasal cavity and the sinuses, and just helps those cells heal, so they can defend themselves and recover, which is what all of this is about, right?
So when you go beyond that, I’m often asked, “Well, what do you do first? Do you treat the Lyme disease or you, what do you do first? Do you treat the Lyme disease or do you treat the mold or address the mold problem?
And it’s really simultaneous. And like I said, both of them are feeding off of each other. If you go deeper into our Lyme recovery programs, using various kinds of herbs, the herbs are doing a lot of things. The herbs are not only killing the microbes, but they’re balancing immune system functions that have been over activated by exposure to mold. They are protecting cells. When you protect cells throughout the body, the cells are able to recover. And as you’re doing that, you decrease cellular die off, that helps prevent collection of debris and garbage that we call inflammation around cells. That allows cells to heal. When cells work better, and part of that recovery program is getting blood flowing.
How you purge these toxins, we’re going to talk about, everybody’s heard about using binders to get these things out of your system. You have to mobilize them from where they’re congested around your cells first though. You can take all the binders you want, and if you’re not mobilizing the mycotoxins and other toxic substances from the space that they’re congested around the cells and inside cells, then you’re not going to do anything. It is part of that comprehensive recovery from Lyme disease, with herbs, with good diet, with low stress and with either exercise, or this is a case where sauna is really good because it moves blood, and it starts mobilization of these toxic substances, so we can get them to the GI tract and get them out of the body. They are one and the same. I think it’s really, really important to recognize that.
Baseline things, glutathione isn’t necessarily going to bind mycotoxins but it does protect cells, and it gives cells a mechanism for neutralizing toxins and getting them out of the body. Chlorella is another thing. I like glutathione and chlorella right up front because these things have really, really low potential for toxicity. You’re not going to typically have GI distress from them and things like that. They’re not as strong. They’re not super potent binders but they can protect cells. Both of these are great cell protectants. Both of them are helping to mobilize other toxins to get that whole process going. I think both of these things should be essential in most any kind of recovery process and especially if mold is an issue.
Beyond that, we start looking at stronger binders, and there’s always a question of who needs this? And does everybody need these things? And I would say a lot of people don’t. It’s really about exposure. If you’ve got low-grade exposure, you’re very sensitive, and you’re really sick with Lyme disease, focus on that Lyme recovery, focus on the herbs, focus on everything else because the problem is a lot of people have slow motility, and they have constipation associated with the Lyme disease, and you throw in activated charcoal, bentonite clay and others, you’re going to slow everything down and just everything is going to become rock solid. I’ve had some people have some real issues but for some people, these things can be extraordinarily valuable. I don’t like to exclude any possibilities. I think it’s important just to go down the list.
Start first with your full Lyme recovery, add on glutathione and chlorella as part of that but do all the needs to move things. As far as low grade exposure, vegetable fiber is a really good binder that doesn’t tend to lead to gastrointestinal issues. Start with those things. If you’re not getting there or if your exposure is high.
I had a friend one time who inherited a house, and he went in to redo the house himself, and he pulled out the floorboards and the wallboard, and there was black mold everywhere. And within a week, he was deathly ill. He had a huge load of mycotoxins into his system so he needed binders and probably chelation and a lot of other things to pull as much of that really toxic overload out of his body as quickly as possible. It’s all about load. If your exposure is low-grade, and it’s just kind of aggravating your recovery, you may not need these binders. But if your exposure is more high-grade, you’re in a house, you’re stuck with it, and you really need to get these things out of your system, or your condition is so debilitated that your exposure is such that your body is so sick you can’t mobilize these things, sometimes these things can be helpful, but be careful with them because all of these things can potentially cause constipation and other issues. There is a place for them though.
I’m a big fan of infrared sauna or sauna in general because sauna moves blood. And a lot of people can’t exercise because their tissues are so inflamed but mycotoxin moves blood, it flushes the extracellular space, and that starts to mobilizing these toxins of where they are. You got to think about where are they? And how do we get them mobilized? Blood flow is really important. Sauna can be really, really important for that.
Testing for mycotoxins. There isn’t a lot of evidence that testing for the mycotoxins themselves can be hugely valuable. It’s just whether you’re doing blood testing or urine testing, it hasn’t proven to be that accurate for most people. There are some tests that you can use though. Does everybody need these tests? No. These are for people who aren’t getting well; they know they’ve been exposed to mold, they’re not getting well and this can be some testing to see how sick you are. What are these tests? These are various kinds of hormones. C4a is a complement, it’s part of the immune system. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone is produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary. It regulates immune functions. Various growth factors are related to vascular growth or other factors. And then antidiuretic hormone is another pituitary hormone.
Are these things specific for mycotoxin toxicity? No. They can put us in the ballpark. C4a has been looked at as a possible marker for chronic Lyme disease in general. If you have several of these markers that are elevated, that can give you an indication that you have inflammation in your body that might be related to mycotoxins but they not aren’t necessarily absolutely specific. But if you have several of them, that can sometimes be a guide if you’re really sick and just not getting better.
But again, I’m not encouraging everybody to run out and get those tests. Not everybody is going to need them. That’s going to wind up the main presentation. I’m going to turn it back over to Tim. We’re going to bring Jenny along and we’re going to talk about stuff.
Tim: Awesome. Thanks Dr. Rawls. Jenny, whenever you’re ready, we’d love to have you join us and everybody. Hope you got a good foundation built there by Dr. Rawls on some of his views on mold. Jenny, thank you so much for being here. Glad to have you join us.
Jenny Buttaccio: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Tim: Yeah. You all may have seen Jenny’s work. A lot of blogs at Rawls MD, some great graphics on coinfections that went around recently and also on our social media. Jenny keeps a really close pulse on a lot of our audience at Rawls MD and elsewhere. It’s great to have your perspective, Jenny.
Jenny: Thank you. It’s nice to be on the other side of things.
Tim: Yeah, yeah. Well, just want to get started here. Maybe you can get us going Jenny and then pass it to Dr. Rawls, but it seems like in the Lyme world and with physicians in general that some of them really place a lot of weight on the importance of mold. And then on the other hand, some of them seem to feel like it’s completely kind of made up and not at all an issue. What’s your personal experience with that, Jenny? And what have you seen based on other folks that you’ve talked to with mold related illness? How big of an issue is it really?
Jenny: I have actually experienced both exact scenarios that you just mentioned. I’ve been dealing with Lyme for about a decade, chronic illness for about 16 years, but Lyme specifically for about a decade. And when I first started into the Lyme world, that particular doctor put a lot of stock in a mold diagnosis and did all of the tests on the slide that Dr. Rawls showed, plus probably a dozen others or even more than that. There was a significant list of tests, but in the end, it was only moderately helpful for me because the suggested treatment at the time were more harsh binders, and I was far too sick to be able to tolerate them. In that case, I really didn’t get too far along. Then, I worked with a nurse practitioner who didn’t put a lot of stock in mold at all, and I actually started getting some forward momentum from treating Lyme first and setting the foundation that we just saw talked about.
That really kind of pushed me further along, and then people that I’ve seen since then, put a mild to moderate degree of emphasis on it and they consider it as part of the whole picture. I’ve mentioned this to Dr. Rawls, but I always like to think of things as a wheel with multiple spokes on it. And mold seems to be one or maybe two spokes on that wheel in conjunction with all the other infections and all the other sorts of things that can happen. And it might take up a little more room on that wheel, depending on the person or a little less. But for me, I just found that it was just a small piece of the picture. It certainly wasn’t all of it. And ultimately the practitioners I’ve seen that considered more than just mold seems to be for me, it seemed to be more accurate in terms of helping me find the right path to healing.
But as far as what’s going on in the wider scope of the Lyme world, I think that what you said is very accurate. I know patients that go years and years and they’ve not ever even considered mold, and perhaps they’ve stalled out, plateaued on Lyme treatment, and it is a step that should be considered. And then I know people who dive all in and remain sick and they don’t know why they’re sick, and it’s, they’ve never progressed to any sort of Lyme treatment. It really is a pretty vast and varied array of experiences that people are encountering. And I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast rule. I think it probably depends on the physician.
Tim: That’s great. How does that compare with your experience Dr. Rawls?
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. Thank you, Jenny. I think that was really great information. Again, I experienced mold exposure. It was something I had to deal with in my recovery but wow, there is a wide spectrum of what patients encounter. And for this webinar, I did another, it’s research on PubMed, just looking for articles on mycotoxins and mold toxicity. And in that, I came across five different articles posted in mainstream journals of physicians just blasting the idea of mold toxicity and mycotoxins and claiming that it was all just a figment of people’s imaginations. And that’s what conventional physicians are adhering and exposed to. It does make it really frustrating for patients. We’re trying just to provide good information to guide people in this sometimes very tricky pathway.
Tim: Yeah. That’s helpful. We’re starting out with questions that I had from you all that when you registered that you asked, but also I’m seeing some great questions coming in here, so please keep those coming, and we’ll address those and kind of weave those into our panel discussion as we go. We’ll move on to the next question, but please keep those questions coming. I want to go back to testing for mycotoxins. Dr. Rawls, you mentioned about five different tests there and just wanted to see if you and Jenny could provide a little more perspective on when that may be important for folks and how much weight to place on those.
Dr. Rawls: Jenny. I’d be glad to follow up. I have researched them but give them your take on it, and then I’ll try to maybe fill in with just a little information about what each one of those things are and what they do.
Jenny: Sure. There seems to be a lot of overlap with many of the mold tests, like the C4a and the MSH, the ADH and the other two, I think that were on the list. There seems to be an overlap with those. Thank you. The TGF-beta- 1 and the VEGF. Those seem to overlap a lot with Lyme and coinfections, and so it could sometimes be difficult to get a whole picture of what’s going on, I think. I think you have to look at these in conjunction with everything to really be able to tell. If you know that you have Bartonella and, say, Babesia and Borrelia, and then maybe you do a couple of these tests. Like Dr. Rawls said earlier, it might pinpoint you in the direction of, yes, there’s also a mold issue, but there’s a lot of overlap.
It’s certainly not a clear-cut diagnosis, and it’s just certainly not a clear-cut path. I’ve done all of these tests, and I’ve done many more, and it wasn’t unhelpful, but it wasn’t a magic solution either. It allowed me to put a little more emphasis on mold, but again, it wasn’t a home run. It wasn’t magic. I wish it was, but it wasn’t. I think that there’s just so much overlap, and I think it’s important for people to know that these are just a guide and they help pinpoint the direction that may be your next step, but they’re not a hard and fast diagnostic tool.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. Okay. I’d be glad to add to that a little bit. And I will state out front that I really haven’t used this testing very much in my own practice, but I did take the time to research these things just to get that little deeper level of what they are. Just because you may run into these, if you’re working with an integrated physician who is educated about mold, they may be using some of these tests. Learning a little bit about them is valuable.
First of all, I just wanted to say that we’re doing all this testing, and we’re looking for things that are specific to mold or specific to chronic Lyme disease or different kinds of illnesses. And if you’ve been on my other webinars, you’ve heard me say this over and over again: When I’m looking at chronic Lyme disease, I’m looking at a model for all chronic illness, and we know that Lyme disease isn’t an infection with a microbe. There was a new study that came out last week, showing that most people have multiple microbes. We know that ticks carry hundreds of different bacteria. We know that there are a lot of other microbes that you harbor in your tissues. And if you’ll put that back on there, Tim, that slide would be really good when I start talking.
When we look at these markers, what we’re looking at is markers for chronic illness because we see, when you ask instead of how somebody’s ill, what’s their diagnosis? Why they’re ill, and what’s going on in their body, you start thinking about illness very differently. And what’s driving all chronic illness is five categories of things: nourishment, bad food, toxic environment, which can and include mold but also other toxins, chronic stress, physical factors like trauma, being sedentary, temperature and then the microbes.
And we’re all picking up microbes throughout our lifetime. We collect these things, and now I’m seeing connections to all chronic illness. Finding markers that are specific to a diagnosis is really, really a slippery slope. C4a is something we call complement. It’s part of the defense system of the immune system. And we see it, it has been found to be increased when you have a musculoskeletal component of Lyme disease. It’s increased in mold toxicity, but also in the musculoskeletal predominant Lyme disease. But we also see it in diabetes, pregnancy, vasculitis. There are other kinds of things that can activate this. I think there are microbes driving it. I think you’re going to see it in other kinds of things. And I think mycotoxins can also activate this part of the immune system’s defense.
Melanocyte stimulating hormone is produced by the pituitary. It regulates the immune system and other parts of our body. It’s a hormone, it’s a messaging system. It cells talking to other cells and the brain managing what cells are doing and managing the defense systems. We find that it’s increased when the body is stressed. When cells in the body are stressed, then you’re pumping out more of it, so it’s increased when you have stress to the level of being sick. They found it’s a pretty good marker for chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic fatigue syndromes in general, of which mycotoxins could contribute to. Transferring growth factor is an inflammatory cytokine, the transforming growth factor.
The transforming growth factor is one of the messaging systems of the immune system, and it’s been found to be increased in many types of cancer, melanomas, gastric cancers. When the body is dealing with these stress factors with cancer, it increases these factors.
Vascular endothelial growth factor, this is increased when you have vascular damage. When you have damage to small blood vessels, then you stimulate a hormone to try to increase the growth of new blood vessels and new cells inside blood vessels for repair. You see this with anything that’s going to damage the vascular system, including mycotoxins. They’re not specific for mycotoxins or chronic illness, in general, but if these things are elevated, it does give you a window of what’s going on inside.
Antidiuretic hormone is another pituitary hormone that when your body is stressed, you’re going to produce more of it and that’s going to affect urination, your blood levels, your electrolyte levels. That’s a little bit about what those tests are and maybe what they might mean to your recovery.
Tim: Great. Thank you all for that. For sure, that’s super helpful. I’m seeing another question come in here. Not sure if you all are familiar at all with OAT test? Looks like organic acids test, key fungal markers for mycotoxins and mold. Have you all heard about that one at all, and any perspectives on if that is covered in what you’ve talked about here, or if that’s a different one?
Jenny: I can take that one. I’ve done it. I’ve used it. I think it’s helpful, actually. It’s a urine test and you, I don’t know, it takes maybe three weeks, four weeks for the results to come back. It’s you get a test kit, and you send it in. I can’t recall the price but it was a few hundred, some hundreds of dollars, I mean, maybe 350, 450 but don’t quote me on that, I’m not sure. It wasn’t the cheapest test I’ve done, but it definitely wasn’t the most expensive.
But when it comes back and provided it shows something, then there’s different categories of binding or detox type agents you can use, and it’s really what we covered. And so if you have certain mycotoxins that show up, glutathione is helpful for it, or if you have another one that shows up, then activated charcoal and bentonite clay is helpful. If you have a different one than something else, like maybe Welchol or Cholestyramine, is useful.
For me, I used it in conjunction with the rest of my treatment. So again, it was just one part of a larger picture that I was already doing. The particular mycotoxins that came back for me, I don’t have the name in front of me. I would’ve shown them. I could have shown them. I didn’t know that that question was going to come up.
But yeah, but for me, that particular test showed that I needed to increase glutathione, so that was an easy one. In that case, it didn’t require too much more than I was already doing because I was already using it. I just needed to use it more consistently and more often, so it was just an easy tweak.
Would I have known the same information without that test? I may not have known that I needed more, so I think it had value. I think it was helpful. Does everyone need it? I was at a place when I did it that I felt stuck. In that case, that’s what I used it for, to help find the gaps in the treatment that I was doing, so for that it was very valuable.
Tim: That’s helpful. It sounds like there are a lot of parallels, if I’m understanding you all correctly, between Lyme and mold and that testing is not a hundred percent accurate by any means. It can give you some information, and in some certain case,s if you’re stuck or you’re just not sure where else to go, then it may help you get to that next spot. But it certainly, you shouldn’t wait to start doing stuff until you have done all those tests.
Jenny: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
Tim: Cool. I know that’s a big challenge. A lot of people get frozen between, I need to know exactly what I’m dealing with here before I can do anything, so I think that’s where some of the foundational components really come into play. Great. Glad we could answer that one. I forgot who asked that but that was a live attendee. Thank you for that question.
I want to jump into treatments now, and the first question is an umbrella question about treatments. I’ve seen a lot of things here about what to treat first, everything from if I have parasites, do I need to deal with that before I do Lyme and mold? But since we’re talking about Lyme and mold specifically, what are your perspectives on addressing those at the same time versus one first, and then the other one? Jenny, maybe you want to start us out again and then we’ll pass it to Dr. Rawls?
Jenny: I think overall Dr. Rawls’ approach of doing it simultaneously, I think, is probably the best option if you can handle that. Now, not everyone can handle tackling everything at once. Sometimes you have to prioritize based on how debilitating the illness is and financial strain, so maybe you have to prioritize. In that case, I sometimes think you have to try one thing and maybe try the other.
In my case, it was most helpful to tackle Lyme first and then build onto that by adding mold. I did try to tackle mold first, and there was just so much inflammation, and I had such a significant inflammatory response that I couldn’t do mold treatment until I tackled the Lyme. In my case, my body did the speaking for me and said, “Nope. Treat Lyme first, then add on with mold.”
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. Jenny, I think that’s well said, and I would certainly agree with that. One thing I would say though is when we look at this treatment of Lyme and mold together and a conversation that you and I have had, Jenny, is as far as eradicating the mycotoxins, that can take some time. But it is imperative that if you find yourself in a situation of thinking that you have mold toxicity, doing everything you can to reduce your exposure.
I think that should be front and center, and that should be part of your total recovery just trying to do. I know sometimes that’s hard. Like I said, I was stuck in a moldy office for years, but anything that you can do to keep the air clean and reduce your exposure through that whole time, I think, is really important.
Tim: Building on that, Dr. Rawls, seeing questions coming in about what is your recommended Lyme treatment? What do you mean when you say a foundational Lyme treatment, and is that different than a foundational mold treatment?
Dr. Rawls: Man, they can go together, but as far as Lyme disease I look at just stepping outside of Lyme disease and going, okay, let’s talk about chronic illness. To me, what chronic illness is, is when cells of the body are stressed. We are all a composite of cells and if we have symptoms, what symptoms are or when cells are stressed or injured in the body.
What healing is, is the ability of cells to recover from being stressed. If you define yourself as having any kind of chronic illness it’s because your cells are chronically stressed. They’re not getting what they need to recover. The stresses are ongoing, and that can be mold. That can be microbes in your tissues. It can be bad diet. It can be all of these things.
As part of that foundational recovery from anything, I think it is imperative to create an environment inside your body that your cells can recover from being stressed. Here, I’m talking very generically, but no matter whether your symptoms are neurological or heart or muscle or joint, it is cells being stressed. Different microbes invade different tissues, so we all get a different spectrum of symptoms, but it’s all cellular stress.
And so you do the things that you can do right up front. You eat the best diet that you can, I think that’s important. Lots of vegetables, clean food, getting rid of the processed food. You clean up your environment, clean water, clean food, clean air to the best of your ability. You do what you can to keep your adrenaline levels down and cultivate sleep, which I know it’s really hard. I’ve been there. I know it’s terrible, but getting as much sleep as you can because sleep is when your cells recover, and you got to have it, so cultivating that.
Then as far as the microbes go, I have found that the best way to start controlling the microbes is with herbal therapy. Even if you’re recovering, even if you have a mold issue, most people can start low levels of herbs from the beginning, and the herbs are doing multiple things. They’re helping suppress microbes and tissues but they’re also protecting cells from free radicals. They’re helping neutralize a lot of different kinds of toxic substances, so the herbs do have a lot of protected properties that might give your cells a little bit of protection from the mycotoxins too.
And so if you do that basic foundation, and we have talked about our herbal protocols plenty in previous webinars, we have lots of content to gain access to, but starting that base level of herbs, and sometimes it’s very gradual. I talk to people that it takes months to build up to anything. Those things are all part, I think, of any recovery.
I was reading a journal article the other day about recovery from chronic illness that defined that recovery from any chronic illness is 90% self care. There are things that you need from the healthcare system, but so much of it, it’s you and in what you do to create that environment. Really important.
Tim: Right. Definitely. Jenny, anything you wanted to add to that or Dr. Rawls covered it all?
Jenny: I think he got it. That was great.
Tim: Awesome. Well, got a lot more questions coming here.
All right. Well, let’s get Dr. Rawls and Jenny back whenever they are ready, and we’ll jump into some more questions. We’ve got about 15, 20 more minutes of your questions. Thanks everybody for sending those in so far. Let’s see here. Would love to move now to if having one of these conditions makes you more susceptible for the other one. Do you find it’s often someone gets mold issues and then gets Lyme or the other way around? How do they interplay with each other, how do they interface?
Jenny: They sure seem to go hand-in-hand for a lot of people, don’t they?
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. I think it’s true. Yeah. Just adding to that a little bit. 95% of the people that I talk to, and I’ve done literally hundreds and hundreds of consults over the past decade with people with chronic Lyme disease, and 95% of the people that I talk to do not remember a tick bite and do not remember becoming acutely ill around the time of the tick bite, which means they were harboring the microbes in their system before they became ill.
And so that means that what happens is, is people have this perfect storm of factors that come together that disrupt the immune system, and allow these microbes that are already in their issues to start flourishing, and so that can be mold. And for a lot of people, especially on the East Coast, we have basements and crawl spaces that have mold growing in them, and it’s permeating up through the house, and then maybe they have a few other things.
They have some mental stress, and they’re not sleeping as well or they have some kind of trauma or a head injury. Next thing you know, just the whole immune system is erupting, and then they become mold sensitive, so then every little bit of mold is an insult, and it gets to be this vicious cycle..
Tim: Thanks Dr. Rawls. Jenny, had a question for you unless you wanted to add anything else to that, from Beth here?
Jenny: No, go ahead. That was-
Tim: Awesome. Beth’s wondering, “Jenny, relatively speaking, what do you feel like made the most positive impact on your recovery?”
Jenny: I mean, people ask me this question all the time, and I really, truly would love to say it was one or two magic things, I really would, but in reality, it has been a slow chipping away over multiple years that really helped me gain traction. Now, some of the things that helped chip away, I would say, so I’ve done the gamut. I have done extremely intense, rigorous, antibiotic protocols, and I did not feel that they pushed me too much further along.
Then, I backed off and did really natural therapies like the ones that we’re talking about and the ones that were in the slide. And actually, interestingly enough, I felt that when I started to scale back, and I just started to use more foundational and natural sorts of therapies, I mean, I take cat’s claw and resveratrol, and the gamut of herbs, that I actually started feeling a little bit better than I had with anything else. I think for me, doing less but being a little bit more strategic instead of trying to like throw everything all at once at myself, is really where I’ve gotten the most traction from. I guess it would be in taking a more restorative approach instead of just killing, killing, killing, killing the microbes.
Tim: Great, thank you. Thanks for that perspective, Jenny. I don’t know how many questions I’ve got here on binders, so I think we definitely need to address that one here. One from Doris asking if bentonite clay and activated charcoal can be taken together. Other folks were wondering about the timing. They hear it needs to be two hours separated from other medications, but then something about you should eat 30 minutes later and won’t that disrupt nutrients? Can you recap when, from your perspective, it’s generally helpful to think about taking binders and how do you go about doing that?
Dr. Rawls: Jenny, I’m going to let you take that one, you’ve got more experience.
Jenny: Okay. I’m the binder queen. Okay. First of all, I would say check the product that you’re taking, because sometimes the instructions will be on the product itself in terms of timing for it. I have a bamboo charcoal that advises taking it 90 minutes away from any other supplement and then 30 minutes before the next wave, so it would be 90 after, 30 before, but that’s specific to that supplement.
And so if you are taking a prescription one like Cholestyramine or Welchol, there usually is a protocol that comes with that as well that is similar, where it’s two hours after you’ve taken supplements or medications and then yes, 30 minutes before. It gets a little bit confusing, but those usually come with, your doctor usually gives a protocol for that. In terms of binders like chlorella, Dr. Rawls, I believe that can be taken with food, right, and you can take that in conjunction with supplements.
Dr. Rawls: I consider it like a functional food. Yeah, I think you can take that most anytime you want to.
Jenny: In terms of bentonite clay and activated charcoal together, yes, you can take them. They can be taken together. But it can be constipating. So one way around that that I found is to really kind of increase magnesium intake, not at the same time, but at other parts of the day, that does kind of help keep things moving. But yeah, you can take them together. I have taken together. I took like a teaspoon of bentonite clay and two activated charcoal capsules together. I didn’t take more than that, and I didn’t take it multiple times a day. I just did it in the morning. So I took herbs and supplements, waited two hours, took the bentonite clay and the activated charcoal together, and then waited two more hours and took whatever I was going to take for lunch.
So I like to err on the side of caution. Some integrative physicians will feel differently about the length of time, and I don’t actually know if there’s a full consensus on the perfect amount of time. I’ve had doctors tell me, wait an hour, and then I’ve had other doctors tell me, wait two hours. Unless it specifically says on the bottle, or it’s a functional kind of food binder, then I like to err on the side of caution and give myself a nice two hour window, just to make sure because we’re putting out a lot of money for various things. I don’t want to get it sopped by binders. I want to get the full effects of everything whenever possible.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. Jenny, that’s great information. I was not aware of bamboo charcoal, and you mentioned that that was much milder on your system. So that sounds kind of like a nice option for people that define that they actually need binders.
Not getting constipated is really important though, but you have to think about the fact you need to get these toxins out of your system. And so you want to keep things moving. Everybody talks about magnesium, but don’t forget just plain old Milk of Magnesia from the drug store. So that form of magnesium is a colloid. It’s designed to hold water in the stool, and that’s what we’re doing with magnesium. It’s an osmotic laxative. It doesn’t damage the colon. So that puts magnesium ahead of some other things out there as far as using it, but basically it’s holding water so things don’t get hard and impacted.
And so the Milk of Magnesia does a pretty good job of that. It’s inexpensive. And I tell people, learn how to titrate the dose, and what I mean by that is if you take a big dose, a couple of tablespoons, you’re going to get this enormous flush, and it’s going to be uncomfortable. So if you can kind of find that sweet spot where you take enough just to soften the stool and make it so that you can go without getting that huge flushing effect, that’s going to be the best option that you can get.
Tim: All right. Awesome. Well, I hope we clarified a little bit with the binders there for folks. I got a question here from Wilbur, and we’ve got time for just a couple more questions, so stick around folks. This one’s from Wilbur. Dr. Rawls, you mentioned your presentation about molds in food and really trying to buy fresh, cooked foods. Are there any other considerations as far as foods to avoid? And what do you recommend is a good diet protocol for someone dealing with mold exposure?
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. You do want to decrease, even your oral mold load. And again, cooking, even steaming, can help break down mycotoxins in food. You’re going to find some mold and some mycotoxins in every food. Especially during your recovery, you should be cooking your food as much as you can. Grains are a big source of mold. So really being careful about grains, and you can find it in any grain, but oats, wheat, corn, those kinds of grains, you’re going to have a higher load of it than rice, so be careful about your grains.
Dr. Rawls: Dairy products really are just notorious for harboring mold. Supposedly the highest mold concentration in any food source is cottage cheese. I used to eat it when I was a kid, and I don’t eat that stuff anymore. You don’t find mold in cultured yogurts, and pasteurized milk is going to have a lower load of mold, but going with some alternative milks, like almond milk and things like that, you’re going to decrease that even more. So just being careful about dairy, with the exception of if you like yogurt, the bacteria are going to keep the mold concentration down.
So all of those things just to minimize how much you’re getting in your food, lots of fresh vegetables, but even vegetables, you cook them and leave them in the refrigerator a couple of days, they’re going to grow mold. So refrigeration is going to slow mold growth, but isn’t going to eliminate it. I mean, if you’ve ever had something that you have cooked or made and it gets stuffed to the very back of the refrigerator, the refrigerator starts to have that little odor after about a month or two, and you find that thing. I mean, anything will grow mold sooner or later. So you have to be aware of that in your refrigerator too.
Tim: All right. Good deal. And for folks that do Dr. Rawls’ herbal protocol, there is a comprehensive three phase diet guide, and that would encompass a lot of the stuff that Dr. Rawls is talking about there. And Jenny, did you have anything you wanted to add?
Jenny: No, I think you covered it.
Jenny: RIP aged cheese.
Tim: Yeah. Sorry. Awesome. Well, just want to wrap up here with one final question. Maybe we’ll go to Jenny first and then let Dr. Rawls wrap up here. But this one’s from Catherine, and I’ve seen a number of folks with a similar sentiment. They’ve been exposed to black mold for years unaware and wondering if it’s possible to detox their body with that length of exposure. They also have Lyme disease and suffer from fibromyalgia. So is it possible to still detox from that much exposure given these other situations they’re dealing with? Jenny, start us off for our kind of final answers here.
Jenny: Well, first I really feel for the people who are in that specific situation because they’re being hit by all angles, and I definitely know how challenging that can be. And sometimes it’s extremely discouraging, and it sometimes feels like it’s hard to figure out which way to go, which way you need to go for help. I was sort of in that situation. And I think first of all, it’s important to know, and Dr. Rawls you said this too, but you do the very best you can. Every step you make isn’t a perfect a step, that just doesn’t exist. It’s not possible. So you do the very best you can.
And so some places to start when you’re in a situation like that is with many of the things that we mentioned today, getting rid of rugs. I don’t have a single rug in my house except for a little aisle runner. I literally don’t have any rugs in my house. There are people who live below me. They probably wish I had a rug, but I don’t. I don’t keep any rugs. Yeah. And I have two dogs, so, oops, sorry, but I don’t have any rugs. I have air purifiers going on pretty much constantly in every major room that I’m in, so in the bedroom, in the living room. I’ve even had them in the bathroom at times. I’ve had them in the kitchen, just wherever I feel that they need to be. I have air purifiers, HEPA vacuums, and obviously I try to keep moisture down and get rid of any hidden sources of mold.
So those sorts of things, if you can kind of lay that groundwork, then the next step of trying to detox from mold, I think, becomes just a little bit easier. Doesn’t totally solve every issue, but it just becomes a little bit easier, and then you can begin to chip away. Like I had mentioned earlier, and again, this is my personal experience, but adding my mold treatment to what I was already doing foundationally for Lyme was easier than tackling mold from the most aggressive perspective. It was just too much for me to handle, and I was too sick.
I spent two years bedridden. And so from that time period, it just wasn’t doing aggressive, aggressive mold detox, just it was not possible. It was too harsh, and I just was much too ill to be able to handle it, but chipping away at Lyme with a comprehensive protocol. I used herbs, I used a little bit of medication, and then adding a little bit of mold treatment on top of it was possible. And so that’s kind of the route I’ve taken, but there is definitely some trial and error involved here.
You might find you tolerate one step a little better than you tolerate another step. And so, maybe you stick at this one step for a while before trying something else, and that’s perfectly okay. I think just one of the most important things to remember is you will hear many people say it has to be done this way, and even on forums and doctors will say that, and you’ll hear that everywhere. But the reality is each person is an individual and you have to do what works for you, and it may not be what everyone else says, and it might be a slightly different path. So I do think it’s possible, and I think that it’s probably going to take a pretty gentle approach though.
Tim: Great. Thank you.
Dr. Rawls: Jenny, that is so well said, and I agree with absolutely everything that you said. It is etching away at it, and it is true. Every person is different. Our journey, each of our journeys is slightly different and there is a little bit of trial and error. When I talk about my protocols, I tell people, it’s a foundation. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. It’s to build on and find your own pathway. And some people jump on the primary herbs, and that’s all they need, and that’s great. And that’s half of people, but I found that I had to try different herbs, I had to try different things and there are other things out there.
And I will have to mention that Jenny has done an exceptional job putting together something on the RawlsMD website of a guide to different therapies, looking at other things for you to consider. Should you consider things like red light or is there any value in ozone? And she’s done a really good job of putting this information together, along with all the other information on that website. It’s just an extraordinary resource to help people make good decisions as we go through this journey. It is just so important that you learn as much as you can and be really wise about making those choices of what you’re going to put personal risk and personal money toward looking at the value that those things might give you. So thank you so much Jenny for sharing your story and the information that you’ve added. We appreciate it very much.
Jenny: Well, thank you for having me. I wish we could answer every question.
Tim: Yeah, I do too. And thanks everyone for sending all of your questions in. There were so many good ones. Try to take the most popular ones I was seeing a lot of people asking, but if you have any other questions, I highly recommend check out Unlocking Lyme, feel free to email us at info@vitalplan. Dr. Rawls and Jenny, thank you so much. I’m seeing a lot of appreciation on both of your perspectives, so really appreciate you taking the time to share that with us. So thanks for being on with us, Jenny. It was great. We hope to do it again with you sometime and Dr. Rawls, I’ll will see you soon, for sure.
Jenny: Thank you so much.
Dr. Rawls: Pleasure. Everyone take care.