What is CIRS?
CIRS stands for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. It is also called Mold Biotoxin Illness. This multisystem, multi-symptom condition occurs when mold biotoxins (like mycotoxins) attach to immune cells and don’t let go.
The immune cells keep sending signals to produce cytokines — proteins produced by your immune system. When your immune system keeps producing cytokines, it weakens from being overworked.
On top of that, all the excess immune response leads to your own immune system attacking benign tissues, causing inflammation.
There are three common ways you can run into CIRS:
- Water-damaged building (home or office)
- Tick bite-related diseases, such as Lyme disease
- Exposure to dinoflagellates (waterborne toxin producers) like Ciguatera or Pfiesteria
So what is CIRS? Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, or CIRS, is a condition with a wide range of symptoms that are triggered by a biotoxin – usually mold. Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker coined the term CIRS to describe when a body’s immune system is out of whack. In some people, this could mean the immune system is weakened, while in others it’s running rampant.
You can also get CIRS from common chronic sinus infections with MARCONS and tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease ticks, fish that’s been contaminated with ciguatera, and infections from a brown recluse spider bite.
Essentially, CIRS is a dysfunctional reaction of the body’s immune system in response to a biotoxin. In my practice, I’ve seen the symptoms range from manageable to debilitating.
The different markers we can test for and the differences in how symptoms present make CIRS a complex condition to diagnose. Though diagnostics are improving, there still needs to be a cluster of symptoms and an improvement in treatment response for a CIRS diagnosis to be made.
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for a person with CIRS to go years, even decades, without a proper diagnosis.
Symptoms of CIRS
The symptoms of CIRS can vary greatly, as they affect multiple systems in the body. Some common symptoms include:
- Fatigue and Weakness: Persistent and unexplained fatigue is a common symptom of CIRS, often leading to a decrease in daily functioning and overall quality of life.
- Cognitive Dysfunction: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and confusion are often reported by individuals with CIRS. This can lead to misdiagnoses such as ADD or ADHD.
- Respiratory Issues: CIRS can cause shortness of breath, chest tightness, and sinus congestion, often leading to misdiagnoses of asthma or sinusitis.
- Joint and Muscle Pain: Chronic joint and muscle pain, along with morning stiffness and muscle cramps, are common symptoms of CIRS.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and leaky gut syndrome are often experienced by individuals with CIRS.
- Skin Issues: Rashes, skin sensitivity, and tingling sensations are common skin-related symptoms of CIRS.
- Neurological Symptoms: Headaches, dizziness, and vertigo can be experienced by individuals with CIRS.
- Mood and Emotional Issues: Anxiety, depression, and mood swings are common emotional symptoms of CIRS.
- Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia and other sleep disturbances can be experienced by individuals with CIRS.
- Temperature Dysregulation: Difficulty regulating body temperature, excessive sweating, and chills can be experienced by individuals with CIRS.
Causes of CIRS
While a proper diagnosis is needed, the primary cause of CIRS is exposure to biotoxins. These can be produced by a variety of sources, including:
- Mold Exposure: Exposure to mold and its mycotoxins, particularly in water-damaged buildings, is the most common cause of CIRS.
- Lyme Disease: Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can also lead to CIRS, as the biotoxins produced by the bacteria cause the immune system to become overactive.
- Dinoflagellates: Exposure to waterborne toxin producers, such as ciguatera or Pfiesteria, can cause CIRS.
- Genetics: Approximately one in four Americans are genetically susceptible to CIRS, making them more prone to developing the condition when exposed to biotoxins.
Natural Treatment Options for CIRS
While conventional treatments for CIRS often involve prescription medications, there are several natural treatment options that can be explored:
- Dietary Changes: Adopting a low-amylose or gluten-free diet can help reduce inflammation and support the body's detoxification processes. This may involve eliminating grains, sugars, processed foods, and certain fruits and vegetables from the diet.
- Supplements: Certain supplements, such as activated charcoal and bentonite clay, can help bind to and remove toxins from the body. Other supplements, such as glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, can support the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Detoxification Techniques: Regular use of detoxification techniques, such as infrared saunas, can help the body eliminate toxins and support overall health.
- Stress Management: Stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation, can help support the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Environmental Changes: Ensuring a clean and mold-free living environment is crucial for individuals with CIRS. This may involve testing for mold, using air purifiers, and addressing any water damage or other sources of biotoxin exposure.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight can all support overall health and help the body better manage CIRS symptoms.
CIRS is a complex and often misunderstood condition that affects multiple systems in the body. By understanding "what is CIRS" and its symptoms, causes, and natural treatment options, individuals can take steps towards better managing their condition and overall health.
If you suspect you may have CIRS, it is essential to consult with our medical experts at Sponaugle Wellness Institute in diagnosing and treating the condition.