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Mold - New Online Chapter ofWellness Piece By Piece

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:01am

Mold has become another major piece of my health puzzle. So I have organized all my posts on the topic as a new online chapter of Wellness Piece By Piece. The Mold chapter...

Where do breakthroughs come from?

I have been reading about health stuff for over 20 years now as I have tried to find the pieces to my own, seemingly strange health puzzle.

My book, WELLNESS PIECE BY PIECE, is my effort to document what I have learned so far. My goal was to encourage people with chronic conditions that there is HOPE! They can feel better! I write in the book that I don't feel I have yet found ALL the pieces and am continually looking for new ones. (That's also why the sub-title of my blog is "Piece By Piece, The Story Continues")

Recently, I believe I have come across yet another new puzzle piece. At this point, I don't know for certain if this really is a piece, but it sure feels like it!

I came across Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, by reading two of his books, " Mold Warriors" and " Desperation Medicine."

Dr. Shoemaker lives and practices in Pocomoke, Maryland. You almost can't even get to Pocomoke, but thousands of people with chronic conditions now find their way from all over the world just to see Ritchie (as I found out he prefers to be called). I was so impressed with his books and research, that I called his office and scheduled an appointment to travel Pocomoke.

(I made the trip last week and it's still too early to know for sure if I really found another piece or not. I will share more of what I learn in the coming months as I work through the things that I have discovered.)

While I was there, I was interviewed by a Baltimore TV crew that was there to do a story on Ritchie. She asked me why in the world I would come to Pocomoke from Scottsdale to see a Family Physician? I told her that it was because I strongly suspected that he had discovered a breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of certain chronic conditions.

She asked me how could it be that a doctor in Pocomoke could discover a "breakthrough" instead of a place like Johns Hopkins, Duke, or Mayo Clinic.

I said that coming from the computer industry it was not at all surprising to me that breakthroughs were happening in a place like Pocomoke! The entire computer industry in the early 1980s was radically changed by two "nerds" working in a garage in Cupertino, CA. Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniak invented the first real personal computer and called their company Apple Computer. At the same time Digital Computer, Prime Computer, IBM and others were researching all kinds of computing technology. Today, only IBM still exists. The personal computer literally destroyed the other large computer companies.

When you look at most breakthroughs that have taken place in medicine over the centuries, they usually have happened because someone made an astute scientific observation and then followed doggedly where that observation led. That is Ritchie's story!

Usually, the mainstream persecuted and ridiculed the discoverer before they finally woke up to the fact that they were right all along. Then the breakthrough would finally be adopted and become mainstreamed! It is just the nature of how things work. As I quoted last week:

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

       -- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860) courtesy of The Quotations Page.  

  And so it continues today! Arrogance is SOOOO dangerous because it prevents those in the mainstream from rapidly recognizing something incredibly significant. And arrogance typically plays a factor if the discovery does not come from a "prestigious" location. But history should teach us that places like Pocomoke are exactly where we should be looking!!

Keep in mind that 2 centuries ago, people in the Israel said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" It certainly seems to be a pattern!

June 10, 2005 at 09:43 PM in Health, Mold | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Mold: A Health Disaster, Part 1

First installment: My visit with Dr. Shoemaker

I have posted before about Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker MD, author of The Mold Warriors. I promised that I would write more later. This post will be the first of several (many?) to come regarding the things I have been learning about what Dr. Shoemaker calls "Biotoxin Related Illness."

I have come to believe very strongly that he has happened upon insights into chronic illness that are truly a breakthrough. I am predicting that he will eventually win a Nobel Prize. I don't make this prediction lightly! It will take between 15 and 25 years, but I think his discoveries are so important for tens of millions of people, that he will be given this award. If he doesn't get it, then he should!

I first read his book Desperation Medicine in April 2005 at the same time I was first publishing my own book, Wellness Piece by Piece. I was so impressed with what I read that, in May, I personally went to see Dr. Shoemaker. His practice is in Pocomoke, Maryland. You almost can't get there from anywhere. Even so, people come from all over the world to Pocomoke to see him.

I greatly enjoyed meeting Ritchie, as he prefers to be called. He spent over 2 hours with me asking many questions and carefully listening to my answers. That is a totally different medical concept, isn't it?

He took about 15 vials of blood for all the tests he regularly does for people who have chronic illnesses. These are tests which I had never heard of, but which I have since learned are widely available. He has tested and treated more than 3,000 chronically ill patients and has developed a database of biomarkers based on the results of these tests. He has more data than any other doctor on the planet regarding chronic illness.

He did a Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test that measures your ability to see different contrasts. He learned from a PhD at the Environmental Protection Agency that people exposed to biotoxins have an impaired ability to discern contrasts that improve upon treatment. Biotoxins affect the brain. The retina is a microcosm of the brain. Up to one third of the brain is used for processing sight. About halfway into the test, Ritchie said to my wife, "I hope you realize that he is failing this test miserably." (I don't like to fail tests!)

He measured my wingspan to determine if it was greater than my height. Statistically, Ritchie had learned that if a person's wingspan is greater than his or her height, then that person is much more likely to be susceptible to biotoxins. My wingspan is greater than my height.

As he listened to my medical history, he commented that my genotype was most likely HLA DR 14-5-52B. A few weeks later, I got an email from him confirming that, in fact, this was my genotype. I was impressed! He said this genotype is highly susceptible to many biotoxins, especially mold. This genotype represents 3.1% of the population. It is one of several genotypes susceptible to biotoxins. He added that it also meant he and I were likely related since it was his genotype as well. I told him I thought he looked familiar! He actually does look like one of my uncles. :-)

Another doctor had previously done a Western Blot Lyme test on me earlier in the year. The test came back positive. He wanted to install a catheter to feed antibiotics into me intravenously 3 times a day for a few months. I refused because my intuition said that I did not have Lyme. I wanted to learn Ritchie's perspective about my Lyme diagnosis since he had treated over 1,000 patients with Lyme and he had it five times himself. (Maryland is one of the Lyme capitals of the world.) After looking at all my blood tests he said I definitely did not have Lyme. He was able to tell mainly from a couple of my immune system biomarkers called C3a and C4a. And I did not fit the pattern of a Lyme patient at all. That was a great relief.

A few weeks later in a follow-up conversation Ritchie told me that I had a "very deranged physiology." However, he said that I was functioning at a much higher level than I should be. He said I should be feeling much sicker. He said that he needed to learn more about the nutritional, lifestyle things I had learned to do since they were obviously helping me. I found this encouraging. Over many years, I had learned many things that helped me. I now could possibly get even better. I felt like I was uncovering an underlying cause that I had never suspected at all. It would prove to be a pivotal turning point for me.

Mold: A Health Disaster, Part 2

Second Installment: Mold in the house ( Part 1.)

Imagine talking on the phone with a doctor 2,500 miles away who is looking at your lab tests and he tells you "There has to be mold in your house." Could the bio-markers that he has learned to read tell him so definitely that I was being exposed to mold? Who has ever heard of that? But that is exactly what Dr. Shoemaker told me.

My response was, "I don't think so. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona where it's usually very dry. I don't see any mold. I don't smell any mold. I just don't think there is any mold Ritchie." To which he responded, "There is mold!" I asked how to find it. He said that there really are very few experts on finding hidden mold but he knew someone that he trusted in Washington DC. Over the previous few weeks, everything that Dr. Shoemaker said to me turned out to be very accurate. But I had real trouble imagining that my beautiful, 11 year old home had mold.

Shortly after I saw Ritchie for the first time, he prescribed a medication called Cholestyramine (CSM). It is an older drug that is rarely used today. In the past, it was used to lower cholesterol before the introduction of statin drugs. CSM works by binding cholesterol in the intestines and not allowing it to be reabsorbed. It also removes certain types of toxins that are bound up in the cholesterol that is part of bile.

My initial physical response to taking CSM was very positive. After about 3 weeks, I felt really good. Actually, I felt much better than I had in years. (This isn't to say that I had been feeling bad, but CSM did make me feel that much better.) It was very obvious to me that CSM brought me to a new level of wellness. After I got feeling so much better I stopped taking CSM. CSM is not particularly pleasant to take, so the decision to cut back, and eventually stop, was not hard to make.

Since CSM worked so well for me, I decided that Ritchie was probably right about there being mold in my house -- even though I couldn't find it. So, two months later (took that long to get the guy to come) I had his expert from DC fly to Scottsdale. He spent a few hours carefully inspecting the outside of my home looking for ways that moisture could enter. He found some windows in a walkout basement area that appeared to have been installed improperly. We then went inside to those same windows. He peeled back some wallpaper and BINGO, there it was. Massive amounts of black mold on the entire wall. More on the adjoining walls. Ritchie was right big time!

Later we hired a remediation company to remove all of the mold infected materials. There was tons of mold on the inside cavities of the walls as well. The workers were careful to seal off this basement area from the rest of the house and also to use filters to continuously blow this toxic air to the outside.

But I had already taken a hit! After several days of being exposed to this, I began to feel ill. It was a very familiar feeling. I knew that my old symptoms were returning. I was panicked actually. But this time, I had a new tool.

I immediately went back on CSM. I will tell you that I was amazed when after 2 days, I started feeling better. I continued to return to normal over the next 3 days. This was a first! Never had I been able to stop my symptoms once they started. Never! Over the past 30 years, any time I started down the slope, there was no going back up until I hit rock bottom. And then, it always took many months of a very disciplined regimen to recover.

Needless to say, I was impressed. In fact, I was thrilled!

After discovering the poorly installed windows, all the windows were then inspected very carefully. We found several that had problems. We now are in the painful process of fixing all of these areas. Since I know that there is more mold in my home than in just the garage, I continue to take CSM. And so far, I continue to feel well.

As I look back on 30 years of recurrent chronic illness, it is pretty easy to trace all of the places where I lived and worked that I know had mold. All the puzzle pieces that I have found over the last 20 years that I write about in my book (mercury and detoxification, proper nutrition, thick blood, chronic infections, etc.) are all still valid for me. But I very much believe that within these last six months, I have stumbled upon yet another major piece to my chronic health puzzle. I now need to learn how much damage had done to my body so that I can hopefully fully recover from it.

Mold: A Health Disaster, Part 3

Third Installment: How the Biotoxin Discovery Was Made  ( Part 1, Part 2.)

I am always interested in how something significant got started. People are amazed when I tell them that ACT! got started in 1985 when I wrote a software program for my own use to track my contacts when I was selling computers. Everyone who saw it said, "Can I get a copy of that?" After this happened several times I realized I may well have stumbled onto something significant. Duh! 4 million copies later it is astounding to realize that I did not even set out to build a product that others would use.

I believe that Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker's discovery regarding biotoxins and Illness is incredibly significant. It will take decades for the significance to be recognized but it is inevitable that his observations will positively effect the health of millions of people.

How did he discover this? Just like so many other great discoveries, he basically stumbled onto it. To be fair, great discoveries may well be by accident, but after all is said and done, someone usually has to work very hard to actually make something of the discovery. That is the case with Ritchie. While he stumbled onto this discovery, he doggedly followed every possible trail where the original discovery led. He really is more scientist than doctor, and this actually makes him a great doctor. His instincts and curiosity as a scientist drove him to learn everything he possibly could from his original observation. Many people have a unique insight into something, but for some reason don't have the drive or passion to follow up on it.

Around 1995, a few dozen patients came to Ritchie's clinic all with the same cluster of symptoms. It was all of sudden. They were already his patients and had never had these symptoms before. Ritchie was totally puzzled. They all had terrible diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, sensitivity to light, muscle and joint aches, memory problems, weird anxiety, sleeplessness. These symptoms had all appeared suddenly. He tried numerous things and nothing worked for them. He talked with other docs in the area and they suddenly had patients like this as well.

The symptoms continued for weeks. Diarrhea particularly worried Ritchie because you can die from that. He tried numerous anti-diarrhea meds and nothing worked! One day, with a women patient, Ritchie was desperate to find a way to stop her diarrhea. He remembered that there was an old medication called Cholestyramine that was used to lower cholesterol levels before the invention of statin drugs. It was also used for cases of diarrhea where fatty bile was causing the diarrhea. It works by binding with cholesterol that is part of bile. It does not allow the cholesterol to be reabsorbed in the intestine but rather gets flushed out in the stool. It has the side effect of making you VERY constipated. He thought that could be useful to stop the terrible diarrhea that she was experiencing.

After a few weeks on CSM the woman came back and happily reported that her diarrhea had finally stopped. She added that not only had her diarrhea stopped but ALL of her terrible symptoms had stopped as well. This totally surprised Ritchie. Why had all her other symptoms stopped as well?

He prescribed CSM to all the other sick patients and sure enough, all of their symptoms went away within a few weeks on CSM. Ritchie was amazed and perplexed. A lot of docs would have just shrugged and said "well that is great!" and then gone and played golf. Not Ritchie! He wanted to know WHY this happened!

He began asking all the patients every question he could think of trying figure out what they had in common. The only thing he could find was that every single one of them had recently been in the local Pocomoke River. He later realized that there had recently been a very large algal bloom in the river killing tens of thousands of fish. He was unaware of any connection to illness in humans from algae blooms. An algal bloom happens when the conditions are just right for the growth of algae and it reproduces at a tremendous rate becoming the dominant organism.

Ritchie learned that this algae was called pfiesteria. He learned everything he could about it. He learned the pfiesteria produced a particular type of toxin that was fat soluable. He theorized that these people had picked up enough of this toxin to cause the symptoms. Since it was fat soluable it got trapped in a cycle where it would bind to nerves and brain since they are mostly made of fat. The toxin would make its way to the liver. The liver would dump the toxin into the bile duct for elimination. But since it bound to cholesterol it would NOT get excreted. Aside from the current negative connotation given to cholesterol, the body considers cholesterol to be a very valuable substance, so it has a way of reabsorbing cholesterol before it is excreted. This allowed the toxin to re-enter the body repeatedly, causing sickness with no end.

One thing that puzzled Ritchie was that these people were not the only ones who had been in the river. They got sick and others did not. He could not figure out why, until later.

Mold: A Health Disaster, Part 4

Fourth Installment: The Genetic Connection

In my last installment, I talked about how Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker happened onto his important discovery. Basically, he found that the one thing that his newly sick patients all had in common was that they had been in the Pocomoke River during the time when there was a huge fish kill from a major Algal bloom of an algae called pfiesteria.

The thing that puzzled Ritchie was that there were a lot of other people who had also been in the river at the same time who did NOT get sick. Why did only some people get sick??

This is actually a major problem in medicine. Everyone is different biochemically and genetically. Not everyone responds the same way to the same thing. This is true with cigarette smoking, exposure to heavy metals like mercury from dental amalgams, petrochemicals, peanut butter, and even HIV. There are many people who are HIV positive who never develop the symptoms of AIDS. It makes a doctor's job hard to do, especially when they either don't have time or they don't make time to really devote thought and attention to a patient's underlying issues. It makes it easy to simply prescribe a drug to mask a symptom but not try to uncover the underlying problem that someone has.

That is the major theme of my book, Wellness Piece by Piece. Chronic conditions are a PUZZLE that have to be patiently pieced together. It can be done, but is hard. A goal of Jigsaw Health is to help people unravel their puzzles more quickly than it took me.

To his credit, Ritchie wanted to know and understand why these people got sick and others did not. He read everything he could get his hands on. He began to run tests on all the people he encountered who had a Biotoxin related illness. He began to identify a number of tests that could help determine the biomarkers or patterns of his sick patients. He also began to see that there were many more organisms that produced the type of toxins that caused his original set of patients to get sick. He learned that mold was the most common toxin forming organism that people were regularly exposed to. He became an expert on mold. He testified in mold cases and helped to win several large settlements from insurance companies. He won because he had data. Lots of data!

He gradually uncovered the fact that there was a definite genetic link to biotoxin-related illness. Ritchie now knows the genetic types of most, if not all who are susceptible to biotoxins. He uses a Labcorp test for HLA DR genes. These are groups of immune response genes that control the attachment of an HLA "tag" to antigens. He has found about 26% of the population lack this ability to recognize biotoxins, tag them, and then eliminate them. Without this ability, the toxins continually circulate within the body. They constantly cause the immune and inflammation response to turn on and never turn off since the toxins never leave the body.

Some of the toxins may slowly be excreted through feces since the toxins are eventually dumped into the intestines in bile, dissolved in cholesterol. The body reabsorbs most of the cholesterol because the body considers cholesterol to be very valuable. Some does get excreted however. Therefore it is possible to get well very gradually if you are not exposed to new or continued sources of biotoxins like mold. The problem is that it is common to be continually exposed.

A good way to think of the inflammation response is what happens when you get the flu. The tired, wiped out, achy, even delirious feeling that you get is your bodies inflammation response. When the bug causing the flu is gone, you start feeling better because the body turns off the inflammation response.

People with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and other "fatiguing" types of conditions feel like they have the flu all the time! The inflammation response never turns off. Ritchie can measure most of these biochemical responses. There are patterns. He can tell whether you are responding to mold, or Lyme tic toxin for instance.

This is a critical observation for people with these conditions. Almost 100% of doctors are totally baffled by these chronic conditions. The myriad of diagnoses are simply buckets that doctors throw people in when they have NO CLUE what is wrong with you. They have NO CLUE what to do for you. Dr. Shoemaker is really the first that I have come across in all my reading, studying, and going to doctors who does really know what is going on and is able to do something about it.

When I first met Ritchie, there was a news crew from Baltimore (3 hours away) there doing a story trying to answer the question, "Why are people coming from all over the world to Pocomoke to see a family practitioner?" The reason is because he has figured out much of the puzzle of numerous chronic conditions.

Still more to come...

Mold in the News

For the last 6 months, I have been working with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker to learn more about the role mold has played in my recurrent bouts with numerous chronic health conditions. I recently wrote three installments about this here, here, and here.

When New Orleans was hit by Katrina and the levees broke, flooding much of the city, the first thing that came to my mind was the enormous amount of mold damage that was sure to occur as a result. No surprise then that this news article caught my eye. In a place where mold was already a major problem, the readings are now off the charts!

Moisture fosters the spread of mold. About 80% of the city was flooded after Katrina's surging waters broke through levees and floodwalls along canals. Mold is a naturally occurring growth that discharges spores the way plants release pollen. Like pollen, the spores can trigger allergies or episodes of asthma.

In high concentrations, mold can be a serious health risk for people with asthma, allergies, respiratory problems or immune system deficiency, said Gina Solomon, a San Francisco physician and professor of medicine who led the research. Also at risk: chemotherapy patients and the elderly.

Solomon said the outdoor readings, taken Oct. 15-17, were at least two to four times higher than normal for New Orleans, where the warm, humid climate promotes mold growth. Indoor results were worse. The findings "are really disturbing to me," she added.

The highest outdoor reading was 102,000 mold spores per cubic meter in the Mid-City neighborhood, where city officials this week lifted restrictions on overnight stays by returning evacuees. The National Allergy Bureau classifies a mold spore count above 50,000 as "very high," its highest level.

Solomon said mold is "the leading culprit" for a condition known locally as "Katrina cough." Some people have reported a nagging cough, sore throat, runny nose and other symptoms.

Imagine an entire city of people wearing respirators! Virtually all the buildings and homes in New Orleans need to be torn down and rebuilt if they are going to be inhabited without catching the "Katrina Cough," or much worse. New Orleans and other cities ravaged by Katrina are still a total disaster, and quite frankly, much more than we realize. Katrina is gone but the after-effects continue to pile up.

According to Ritchie, about 26% of the population has a genotype combination that make them highly susceptible to mold toxins. 1 out of 4. Bad news for those trying to inhabit New Orleans.

Technorati Tags: Health, Mold, Katrina, Katrina Cough, New Orleans

November 18, 2005 at 03:04 PM in Health, Mold | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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