Fungal mycotoxins & ME/CFS could this be why you're tired?
Science is all about observation and forming hypotheses to answer questions. For scientists like myself, I’m interested in how the environment affects health, and specifically, how water damaged buildings and exposure to poor indoor air quality can affect quality of life. For this week on The Mould Show we're going to be talking about fungal mycotoxins and myalgic encephalomyelitis termed ME for short and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
The reason I've chosen this topic is that I've met a family whom I've now done three separate mould inspections for. Why this is unusual is that the symptoms experienced by the female occupant and her daughter are classic ME/CFS symptoms. Across all 3 of the different properties hidden mould problems were discovered. That information in itself was useful for this family and helped them to break their lease due to the fact that there was verified mould present. However, that's not the point of this podcast and even the positive mould confirmation as an environmental trigger didn’t help the mother and daughter from understanding why they reacted so strongly when indoors. They thought they were going crazy, since how could 3 different properties cause them so much trouble? They couldn’t understand why some buildings caused no issues, and the 3 they’d chosen to rent all set them off?
This has bothered me all year. I know mould is a huge issue for some people – but what exactly might be going on for THIS family?
On a side note, I'm an avid reader and through the COVID pandemic I've enjoyed the increasing number of authors who choose to publish on a newsletter type subscription service termed Substack.
One of these authors published a very interesting article in May this year focusing on his experience with chronic pain and ME/CFS and how after 25 years of suffering, he discovered by chance, following a recommendation from a friend to read a book that talked about the connection between ME and chronic fatigue syndrome and mitochondrial dysfunction. So that is the true focus of the topic today.
- Could exposure to fungal mycotoxins be the reason why they were tired and experiencing pain?
- Could this be the reason you’re tired? Is this another aspect to environmental illness?
- And could this be classified as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)?
- Are there any patient-specific tests to verify ME/CFS or mould exposure and what can be done to alleviate the symptoms?
Firstly, let's define what ME/CFS is. There are three core symptoms + at least one or more other symptoms which include:
- an inability to participate in routine activities that would have been possible before becoming ill and that lasts for greater than six months.
- the fatigue which is also a primary symptom tends to worsen after physical, mental or emotional effort.
- and does not resolve after sleep, termed ‘unrefreshing sleep’.
Other problems include:
- an inability to concentrate or memory impairment and/or
- something called orthostatic intolerance. Which means that when people stand up, they feel lightheaded or dizzy and can even faint.
The family that moved into those three different properties all complained that after a few days of occupying the mould contaminated building the wife especially experienced episodes of unexpected fainting and collapsing into her husband's arms.
Those 3 inspections coupled with reading the Substack article led me to investigate further whether there was any published literature, focusing on exposure to fungal cells or their mycotoxins in the ME/CFS literature.
Very recently a publication appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that has looked at exactly this topic. These scientists looked at the levels of Aspergillus toxins like aflatoxin, ochratoxin, and gliotoxin in the urine of 236 ME/CFS patients who had a known exposure to mould from water damaged buildings.
The evidence from two types of urine mycotoxin testing from Real Time Laboratories as well as from the Great Plains Laboratories revealed that 92.4% of ME/CFS patients who had exposure to water damaged buildings had mycotoxin evidence in their urine, with ochratoxin being the most prevalent.
This study is extremely important because it validates what many of us mycologists and microbiologists have known for many years - that exposure to water damaged buildings leads to mould exposure and that it is the mycotoxins and not just the intact cell which contribute to adverse health.
In this Livestream, I'll also be extending on the concept of mitochondrial dysfunction and we'll be looking at three additional publications which have looked at how the individual can improve their mitochondrial activity for better health.
Watch the Livestream or listen to the podcast for further information on how nutritional supplements like cocoa flavanols or astaxanthin, resveratrol and even functional phenolics like quercetin, curcurmin, melatonin and even selected tea’s can be used to improve cellular mitochondrial activity. Examples are cited from the exercise literature and from contemporary anti-ageing research. It looks like ME/CFS is strongly influenced by not just bacterial, fungal or viral infections or from toxic man-made chemicals – but that commonly encountered mycotoxins should be added to the list of triggers.
From an integrative perspective, functional foods and targeted use of nutraceuticals, together with healthy lifestyle choices, may help support mitochondrial biology and in turn promote better health.
Rogers, T. (2022). Chronic pain, ME/CFS, "post exertional malaise", what is killing the mitochondria, wrong theories of the case, and the slide into the metaverse. Retrieved 26 June 2022, from https://tobyrogers.substack.com/p/chronic-pain-mecfs-post-exertional
Wu, T.Y.; Khorramshahi, T.; Taylor, L.A.; Bansal, N.S.; Rodriguez, B.; Rey, I.R. Prevalence of Aspergillus-Derived Mycotoxins (Ochratoxin, Aflatoxin, and Gliotoxin) and Their Distribution in the Urinalysis of ME/CFS Patients. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 2052. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19042052
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Gonçalves AC, Gaspar D, Flores-Félix JD, Falcão A, Alves G, Silva LR. Effects of Functional Phenolics Dietary Supplementation on Athletes' Performance and Recovery: A Review. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Apr 22;23(9):4652. doi: 10.3390/ijms23094652. PMID: 35563043; PMCID: PMC9102074. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35563043/
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology (DHCPP). June 1, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/index.html
What is ME/CFS?. ME/CFS Australia Ltd. https://mecfs.org.au/about-mecfs/what-is-mecfs/
Myhill, S. (2018). Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalitis, 2nd ed. - Chelsea Green Publishing. Retrieved 26 June 2022, from https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/diagnosis-and-treatment-of-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-and-myalgic-encephalitis/
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