The Battleground of the Mind
The last battleground I want to talk about, which is probably one of the biggest and most difficult to overcome in patients with CIRS, is the battleground of the mind.
When I say the battleground of the mind, I’m not just talking about past traumas, abuse, family situations, or adverse childhood experiences, although they can contribute as well.
CIRS, by itself, can actually cause brain inflammation.
Recent medical literature highlights specialized brain scans called NeuroQuant scans, used to measure changes related to brain volume and traumatic brain injury.[1–2] Many triggers, like concussions and tick bites, can contribute to this brain-related trauma response. When this happens, the brain becomes inflamed and interferes with the functioning of the immune system, hormonal balance, blood pressure, mood, digestion, sleep, and the pain response.
For those with CIRS, this means that even after they have remediated their home, after they have treated their gut, after they have used lipid therapy, their brain can remain inflamed. When this happens, I sometimes see patients get only 60% better. They get stuck because they’re not dealing with this trauma brain response.
Trauma therapies, such as limbic kindling, EMDR, tapping, and others can help these patients get out of this trauma brain spiral. By itself, this can reduce their inflammation, and help their body to start to heal and repair. Calming the trauma response is an important, often overlooked, step on the road to healing for my patients with CIRS.
One system I often recommend to patients is the Dynamic Neural Retraining System™ developed by Annie Hopper. The Dynamic Neural Retraining System™ is a drug-free, self-directed program that uses the principles of neuroplasticity to help reverse limbic system impairment in the brain, and to regulate a maladapted stress response involved with many chronic illnesses such as Long Covid, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Lyme Disease, Food Sensitivities, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and many other conditions.
The Big Picture in CIRS Treatment
Reflecting on brain trauma is a reminder that CIRS is rarely a standalone condition.
Patients with CIRS also tend to have one or more of the following chronic conditions:
- Dysautonomia (and more specifically, POTS)
- SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)
- Autoimmune disease
- Sleep apnea
These conditions tend to go together, and it’s important to see them in the bigger picture of a person’s health to be able to connect the dots.
Of course, the first step is, ideally, removing yourself from the triggering environment, but that is not also always possible.
The second group of interventions that I usually leverage are lipid therapy and binders. This is an important step and one that requires a skilled practitioner to help you navigate which ones to use.
From there, I consider what else is going on with the patient from a holistic perspective. For example, if the patient is struggling with dysautonomia, they are not getting enough blood to the brain and gut, we work on getting the blood pressure up using things like fluids and electrolytes.
If the person is hypermobile, that makes it hard for them to detoxify. Hypermobility also increases the likelihood of sleep apnea. And if the person has sleep apnea, it’s really hard for their body to heal. If you don’t sleep or you don’t manage your stress, it’s really, really difficult to get better.
Connecting the Dots in Your Health
I hope this series has been helpful in expanding your understanding of some of the deeper concepts and issues that we consider when treating CIRS. As you can see, there is much controversy around diagnosing CIRS, identifying the cause (which may not even be mold), addressing the environment, and treating the patient to allow their body to heal. This is why it’s so important to find a practitioner who is skilled and experienced in this area.
If you would like to learn more about connecting the dots in your own health, and are living with the burden of stress and fatigue, you won’t want to miss this free masterclass, Why am I Still Sick: The Chronic Illness Connection We’re All Missing.
- McMahon SW, Shoemaker RC, Ryan JC (2016). Reduction in Forebrain Parenchymal and Cortical Grey Matter Swelling across Treatment Groups in Patients with Inflammatory Illness Acquired Following Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings. J Neurosci Clin Res 1:1. doi:10.4172/jnscr.1000102
- Shoemaker, R. C., House, D., & Ryan, J. C. (2014). Structural brain abnormalities in patients with inflammatory illness acquired following exposure to water-damaged buildings: A volumetric MRI study using NeuroQuant®. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 45, 18-26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ntt.2014.06.004
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