Is it Mold or Lyme? What is ruining my health?

Mold or Lyme?

What is ruining my life and where do I start?

I feel strongly that anyone experiencing symptoms of mold (mycotoxin) illness AND Lyme disease should start by treating the mold & mycotoxins, as well as consider two other explanations of their symptoms and response to the treatments they have tried. My goal in this article is to explain why I feel so strongly. We will discuss mold toxicity, mast cell activation, and porphyria, antifungal and antibiotic treatments, natural Lyme treatments, symptoms, side-effects, contributing factors (like heavy metals and other toxins), and strategies for optimizing health.

Toxins Inhibit Immune Function

There are different types of fat-soluble toxins, which include mycotoxins, many environmental chemicals, and heavy metals. They can all reduce immune function when they bind to sites such as lymphatic glands (key elements of the immune system) and to nerves including in the brain where the immune system is controlled through signaling.

Toxins inhibit immune function, bind to lymphatic glands, and to nerves, including in the brain... Click To Tweet

My clinical experience has shown me that many patients who are affected by Lyme disease, co-infections, Mycoplasma infections, EBV, CMV and other infections have them miraculously resolve after treating toxins — including mycotoxins. I believe this is because mycotoxins make people more sensitive to infections and because mycotoxins reduce the efficiency of the immune system. My patients become better able to fight infections using their own immune system when the toxins are reduced in the body, and they become less sensitive to the infections as well. My own clinical experience has been validated by many of my mentors including Dr. Neil Nathan MD, Dr. Janette Hope MD, and Dr. Bill Rae, MD.

Mycotoxins make people more sensitive to infections because mycotoxins reduce the efficiency of the immune system. Click To Tweet

In my practice, I see that mycotoxins make my patients much more sensitive — more sensitive to everything! The list of sensitivities includes:

  • Foods
  • Light
  • Touch
  • Noise
  • Infections
  • Pain
  • Toxins
  • Chemicals
  • Rough fabrics


Pharmaceutical Medications

Many patients I see have already been treated for Lyme disease using powerful antibiotics for long periods of time and are now suffering from the detrimental effects that antibiotics have on their natural microbiome and mitochondria. My goal is for my patients to avoid this if at all possible. I am not opposed to pharmaceutical medications, particularly in the right dose and at the right time. I will use anti-parasitic medications and believe they should be used before antibiotics in the case of persistent chronic infections. This is because parasites — common in our environment and our bodies — are large enough to harbor microbes within them. A body burdened with toxins will have reduced immune function, so parasites that would be typically cleared by the body can make themselves at home — adding to the infectious burden and stealing much-needed nutrients.

parasites can harbor microbes within them... adding to the infectious burden and stealing much-needed nutrients. Click To Tweet

Multidisciplinary Approaches to Lyme and Mold

Borrelia bacteria,

Borrelia bacteria, the causative agent of Lyme disease, magnified. Photo Credit: CDC via Wikipedia

When antibiotic treatment is indicated, I use anti-fungal medication and herbs along with the antibiotic treatment to prevent a bacterial infection from becoming a fungal or yeast infection due to imbalances. Again, if it is possible to avoid antibiotic treatment by reducing the toxic load I choose that! I would much prefer for a patient of mine to see infections disappear naturally as the incredible immune systems, present in all of us, regain strength once we see to the fundamentals of health: reduce toxins, replenish nutrients, manage stress, improve sleep quality, and balance hormones.


Natural Lyme Treatment

Stealth infections including Lyme; Borrelia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia and Mycoplasmas can also release toxins into the body, which contributes to symptoms. I want my patients to feel better immediately. I will treat Lyme while reducing toxins. I choose to avoid pharmaceutical antibiotics for as long as I possibly can because I have not seen them be particularly effective when considering their adverse side effects. The most effective Lyme treatment alternatives I have come across so far are:

  • Biocidin
  • Argentin 23 Silver
  • Ozone
  • Essential Oils
Consider anti-fungal medication and herbs along with antibiotic treatment to prevent imbalances. Click To Tweet

How long to cure Lyme Disease?

I wish I could say patients only needed a few treatments and they were cured! Unfortunately, it is a slower process than I would like. Many factors affect how long it takes for a patient to recover and for most, I expect at least 18 months. I do not find that treating Lyme and the co-infections while ignoring toxins, nutrient deficiencies, stress, trauma and structural dysfunction ever provides lasting relief.

Other Explanations for Lyme Symptoms

At a recent conference on Mold & mycotoxins hosted by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Dr. Neil Nathan described two other processes that can cause debilitating and confusing symptoms.

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Mast Cells

Photo of cultured mast cells at 100X. Click for photo credit.

The release of histamine, serotonin, tryptases, interleukins and other granules from activated mast cells is the bridge between the immune system and the nervous system. Mast cells also directly affect the nervous system through the vagus nerve. This is what leads to the complex and scary symptoms many of my patients experience.

Mold & Bartonella, a Lyme coinfection are the great sensitizers and can lead to mast cell sensitization and increased sensitivities. As the world is becoming more and more toxic people are becoming more and more sensitive. This means that for some people, exposure to toxins or molds more easily causes activation of mast cells and the symptoms that come with that.

As the world is becoming more and more toxic people are becoming more and more sensitive... and toxins or molds can more easily activate mast cells... Click To Tweet

Mast Cell Activation Symptoms and Signs

The symptom list is long, however, the most notable symptom with Mast Cell Activation is the rapid onset of symptoms after eating or drinking. These symptoms can include

  • Increased sensitivity to chemicals, food, touch, smell, light, sound and EMF (radio waves)
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Palpitations
  • Itching
  • Wheezing
  • Abdominal bloating & gas
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Temperature deregulation
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Air hunger
  • Rashes of every description, especially itching, flushing, and hives
  • Itching in the throat, post nasal drip, congestion, sinusitis, rhinitis & pharyngitis
  • Lightheadedness, weakness, dizziness, vertigo, POTS, chest pain, unusual edema
  • Shifting muscle and joint pain that doesn’t get better with treatment
  • Headaches, numbness, tremors, tics, seizures, pseudo-seizures, dyskinesias
  • Anxiety with panic, depression, mood swings, cognitive impairment, brain fog, difficulties with focus, memory and concentration and insomnia

This is a very difficult phenomenon to test for because the granules that mast cells produce will not keep at room temperature so are hard to identify in blood or urine samples due to the time it takes to get them to the lab.

Working with a doctor to treat Mast Cell Activation Syndrome starts first with identifying that it is a problem. Our goal is to reduce the activation of mast cells using both nutrients and sometimes pharmaceuticals. A low-histamine diet can be helpful for some patients, however, I recommend this only if it is significantly helpful because so many of my patients are already on very restricted diets.

For sensitive patients, I recommend adding one new treatment at a time and going very slowly. Although there are target doses for many of the treatments we try there is no right dose for everyone. My most sensitive patients start by dipping toothpicks into their supplemental support and work up from there. The dose matters less to me than seeing my patients get better.

“If some is good, more is not necessarily better”

— Dr. Neil Nathan

Mold/Mycotoxins and Bartonella

Mold/mycotoxins and Bartonella may be a cause of the sensitivity and mast cell activation. My goal is to get my patients stable enough to tolerate the treatment for mold/mycotoxins and Bartonella to eliminate the cause of the Mast Cell Activation.

*MCAS is not the same as mastocytosis which requires the guidance of an oncologist.


The symptoms of porphyria are very similar to Herx reaction, mold, Lyme and Mast Cell Activation Disorder. Unlike a typical Herx reaction, these symptoms seem to last on the scale of weeks versus days.

As described by Dr. Neil Nathan, MD, what seems to happen in some patients is that antibiotics used in the treatment of Lyme coinfections cause the proteins that are used to make hemoglobin — the molecules that carry oxygen around in your blood, to accumulate outside of cells. These proteins have a profound effect on every cell’s ability to detoxify and generate energy. Disruptions in their production can lead to a worsening of already terrible mold toxin and Lyme symptoms.

Some Unique Porphyria Symptoms Include:

  • Rashes with sun exposure
  • Strange patterns of edema in the knees but not in the feet
  • Onset after new treatment

The biggest issue with porphyria is recognizing that it could be a problem. The best way to test it is to collect urine at the time you feel the absolute worst and put it directly into the fridge protected from light with aluminum foil. Porphyrins, like the granules associated with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, degrade quickly with light and at room temperature. Protecting the urine sample quickly helps us get the most accurate lab results.

The treatment is relatively simple and involves adding glucose and fluids both through IV and diet. Charcoal, B vitamins, specific types of exercise and some pharmaceutical medications can also help to stop the porphyria attack. Identifying this is what is happening is the most difficult step for most patients because this transient porphyria phenomenon is not well understood in the medical community, including those who regularly treat patients suffering with Lyme disease.

*Porphyria, in this case, is a transient phenomenon that may have a genetic component cause that is unknown. Chronic porphyria diagnosed with the help of genetic counseling is a separate disorder.

Next Steps for Mold and Lyme Treatment

In clinical practice attempting to combine treatments for mold toxicity, mast cell activation and porphyria is next to impossible. The treatments are often contradictory and must be done at the right time and in the right order.

The especially sensitive mold and Lyme patients are the most likely to develop mast cell activation and/or Porphyria, so the treatments need to be modified depending on tolerance constantly. This process can take a considerable amount of time — often months to years. It is important to find a doctor — and often a team of doctors — who you trust and feel comfortable communicating with regularly. I recommend finding someone who is convenient to see in person or has an easy and efficient way to practice Telemedicine with video.

If you’d like to discuss your symptoms or testing options, schedule a consultation. We can discuss your health concerns and allow you to determine whether you’d like to move forward with testing or treatment. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Written by Dr. Heather Sandison, ND

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