Living with Chronic Pain and Illness? You May Be Suffering from a Toxicity Disorder

Anyone can be at risk of being exposed to and affected by environmental toxins. Exposure can occur in your own home, at work, or while traveling. The good news is that for most people the liver is able to break down these toxins so they can pass through the intestines and be excreted from the body. However, approximately 20 percent of the general population lack the enzymes needed to break down toxins for elimination, leaving this group particularly vulnerable. Instead of being excreted, harmful toxins can be reabsorbed through the lining of the intestines back into the body. The body then sequesters them wherever it can, damaging the muscle tissue, nerves and nervous tissues in those “holding areas.”

You can be exposed to toxins in the following ways:

  • By ingesting contaminated food, beverages, and water.
  • By inhaling aerosolized particles in the air.
  • Through direct contact with mucus from eyes, nose, mouth, etc…
  • Through direct contact with the skin

If you think you have been exposed to toxins that are affecting your health, call and speak with a nurse today: 703-532-4892, ext. 2.

Not all toxins are the same

Biotoxins are toxic substances from biological sources, like plants, bacteria, molds, and animals that alter the body’s normal biological systems that manage digestion, respiration, circulation, joint flexibility, etc. When this happens the resulting condition is called biotoxicity.

Neurotoxins affect the nervous system and disrupt the normal functioning of neurons, key cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. This is called neurotoxicity.

Neurotoxins can be of natural or manmade origin. For example, neurotoxins can be found in molds, heavy metals (lead, mercury), and insect bites, as well as in pesticides, food preservatives (aspartame), and substances used in chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and drug therapy, among other things.

Mycotoxins are a type of biotoxin and the byproducts of fungi (molds) that can have toxic effects on humans and animals. Aspergillus, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Fusarium are some of the more common fungi that produce the following toxic offspring: Aflatoxins, Gliotoxins, Ochratoxins, and Trichothecenes.
Mycotoxins are primarily found in:

  1. Structures: In water-damaged homes and buildings
  2. Food: Common contaminants of human food products, like wine, coffee beans, nuts, cereal grains (wheat, corn, barley, etc…) and animal feed. They can also enter the food chain through food products, such as milk, meat, and eggs, obtained from animals that are fed mycotoxin-contaminated feed.

Health effects of mold toxicity

Mycotoxins and leaky gut: The job of the small intestine is to allow nutrients to pass through its lining so they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulated to all the major organs. But it also works as a filter to prevent foreign or toxic substances from entering the bloodstream. When there is damage to the lining and foreign substances are able to penetrate this is called leaky gut or intestinal permeability. Since we now know that 70-80% of our immune system is located in our gut it is not surprising that the effects of leaky gut can be serious.

Researchers investigated the presence of mycotoxins in the gastrointestinal tract and concluded that Candida Albicans, one of the pathogenic fungi residing in the intestines, harmless in small amounts, starts producing gliotoxins if its number outgrows the other beneficial bacterial species in the gut, causing a myriad of neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms. Exposure to Candida Albicans and other mycotoxins results in:

  • Disrupting intestinal integrity causing dysbiosis (imbalance in gut bacteria) or leaky gut
  • Disrupting the microbiome
  • Suppressing the local immune response in the intestines

Neurocognitive Symptoms: In the brain, the glial cells (microglia and astrocytes) are part of an interactive network of cells that work to protect the nerves and brain from damage and ensure their proper development. Research shows that exposure to mycotoxins can suppress and impair their proper functioning, putting an individual’s cognitive development and/or function at risk.

A research study that measured IQ scores in 277 six-year-old children, who were exposed to indoor mold for more than 2 years, showed IQ deficits of approximately 10 points using a scale of intelligence, exemplifying the dangers of exposure on cognitive development in early childhood.

Other classic neurologic disorders that result from mycotoxin exposure include pain syndromes and depression, movement disorders, delirium, dementia, and balance and coordination disorders.

Mold toxicity is one of the major toxicity conditions we see at the Kaplan Center. Over the years we have gained a better understanding of the pathophysiology, or disease process, of environmental toxicity and have developed a successful treatment protocol. We have been delighted to see an extraordinary resolution of symptoms in about 50 percent of patients, and notable improvement in another 40 percent. Obviously, the protocol is not a cure-all, but it has helped a number of patients feel significantly better.

What Are Common Symptoms of Biotoxicity & Neurotoxicity?

The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate the presence of biotoxins or neurotoxins in your body:

– Joint Pain – Muscle Pain – Chronic Headaches
– Fatigue – Digestive Problems – Decreased Ability to Focus
– Sleep Problems – Decreased Libido – Weight gain / Obesity
– Depression – Anxiety – Mood Swings
– Poor Memory – Irritability – Wheezing

Are the Symptoms of Biotoxicity & Neurotoxicity Similar to Those of Other Disease Conditions?

Yes. Because the symptoms of biotoxicity and neurotoxicity are similar to those of other diseases toxicity is often overlooked as the underlying cause of illness.

Can I Be Tested for Biotoxicity or Neurotoxicity?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and, especially if your condition has not responded to conventional medical treatment, the Kaplan Center recommends the following steps:

  1. (And most important!) Take the time to talk with your doctor about your history of exposure to environmental toxins.
  2. Take an On-line Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test (VCS). This non-invasive test is a sensitive indicator of your exposure to a variety of toxins. There are a number of online resources that offer this test for a small fee.
  3. Undergo genetic testing (HLA-testing) to determine if your body has the enzymes necessary to breakdown biotoxins.
  1. Undergo advanced testing. There are a variety of tests that can detect the presence of toxins (including mycotoxins, heavy metals, infectious sources, food additives, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals). Talk to your physician about which test(s) may be most appropriate for you, based on your history of exposure
  2. Test for leaky gut. When the protective filtering system within the intestines is compromised, it is known as Intestinal Permeability – or leaky gut. Toxins and other substances that would normally have been kept within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and eliminated are now able to get into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.

Is There an Effective Treatment for Biotoxicity and Neurotoxicity?

There are a variety of treatments available to patients suffering from biotoxicity or neurotoxicity disorder, but there is certainly no “one-size-fits-all” remedy. If the underlying cause of your pain or illness is biotoxicity or neurotoxicity, your treatment plan must include a detoxification regime or your overall recovery is likely to be incomplete and slower than it needs to be. Your treatment plan should be individually tailored after consideration of your overall medical history; your current symptoms; your genetic makeup; your history of exposure to biotoxins and your lifestyle. In essence, a detoxification regime is designed to “draw out” the biotoxins from whichever tissue they have been stored and “bind” the toxins at the molecular level so they can finally be eliminated from the body.

Medications used to treat biotoxicity and neurotoxicity include Cholestyramine (CSM), Welchol, Chemet, Amphotericin B nasal spray, Antibiotics, Anti-yeast remedies, and Anti-fungal compounds. At the Kaplan Center we also prescribe dietary changes, such as Detox Food Plans, and nutritional supplements including Glutathione, Activated Charcoal, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Chlorella, Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Probiotics. Before purchasing any over-the-counter nutritional supplements or herbal remedies, it is important to note that:

  1. The quality and efficacy of nutritional supplements can vary widely depending upon the manufacturer and the dosage consumed.
  2. Supplements can interact with other prescription medications, enhancing or undermining the effectiveness of your other medications or even creating new and unexpected problems.

Be sure to ask your physician to provide you with an individualized treatment plan recommending the specific nutritional and herbal products and dosage levels that would most benefit you (given your diagnosis and the other medications you are currently taking).

The Kaplan Center medical team also offers patients who are undergoing detoxification integrative therapies, such as nutritional consultation, acupuncture, osteopathic manipulation, Chinese and American herbal remedies and recommendations for saunas and exercises. These alternative modalities can provide patients with significant relief from their symptoms and from any side effects of the detoxification process.

What Can I Do Now to Protect Myself and My Loved Ones from Biotoxicity and Neurotoxicity?

The MOST important thing you can do to improve your health and wellbeing is to limit your environmental exposure to toxins by:

  1. Making sure there is no hidden mold in your home.
  2. Avoiding high processed foods that contribute to leaky gut – a disruption in the lining of the small intestine that, when present, allows toxins and other unwanted substances to circulate throughout the body.
  3. Eat fresh, organic, and non-GMO whenever possible.
  4. Use green/clean products that do not contain pesticides and other toxic ingredients.

Where Can I Get Additional Information?

For more information about Biotoxicity and Neurotoxicity, we recommend the following sources:
View the EPA Mold and Moisture Page.
Your Guide to Mold Toxins by Gary Rosen, Ph.D. and James Shaller, MD
Lose the Weight You Hate by Ritchie Shoemaker, MD
Desperation Medicine by Ritchie Shoemaker, MD


Hope, J. (2013). A review of the mechanism of injury and treatment approaches for illness resulting from exposure to water-damaged buildings, mold, and mycotoxins. The Scientific World Journal, 2013.
Sobral, M. M. C., Faria, M. A., Cunha, S. C., & Ferreira, I. M. (2018). Toxicological interactions between mycotoxins from ubiquitous fungi: Impact on hepatic and intestinal human epithelial cells. Chemosphere, 202, 538-548.
Empting, L. D. (2009). Neurologic and neuropsychiatric syndrome features of mold and mycotoxin exposure. Toxicology and Industrial Health, 25(9-10), 577-581.
Jones, D.C., Miller, G.W. (2008). The effects of environmental neurotoxicants on the dopaminergic system: A possible role in drug addiction. Biochemical Pharmacology, Volume 76, Issue 5.
Kwon-Chung, K. J., & Sugui, J. A. (2009). What do we know about the role of gliotoxin in the pathobiology of Aspergillus fumigatus? Medical Mycology, 47(Supplement_1), S97-S103
Niide, O., Suzuki, Y., Yoshimaru, T., Inoue, T., Takayama, T., & Ra, C. (2006). Fungal metabolite gliotoxin blocks mast cell activation by a calcium-and superoxide-dependent mechanism: implications for immunosuppressive activities. Clinical Immunology, 118(1), 108-116.
Liew, W. P. P., & Mohd-Redzwan, S. (2018). Mycotoxin: its impact on gut health and microbiota. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 8, 60.
Reemst K, Noctor SC, Lucassen PJ, Hol EM. The Indispensable Roles of Microglia and Astrocytes during Brain Development. Front Hum Neurosci. 2016;10:566. Published 2016 Nov 8. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00566
Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clin Exp Immunol. 2008;153 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):3-6.

This article was originally published on Nov. 26, 2008. Updated December 20, 2018.


Is Mold Making You Sick?

Q: I was reading a previous Q&A where someone inquiring about chronic pain said she had tested high for mycotoxins. Is this something you are familiar with? Does this diagnosis indicate that the person has a fungal overload in their body? Thank you for clarifying this – I appreciate the information as we all try to heal from unknown causes of pain in our bodies (I’m suffering from Interstitial Cystitis or IC). Thank you! – B

Lisa Lilienfield, M.D.: Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites (organic compounds that are not directly involved in the normal growth, development, or reproduction of an organism) of molds that can have toxic effects on animals and humans1. Exposure to mycotoxins in the home is mostly by inhalation, but it can also occur from ingestion or physical contact. Depending on the kind and length of exposure, mycotoxins can cause acute or chronic illness. Genetics can also influence whether or not a person will suffer ill-effects – some people are genetically able to metabolize toxins, while others are not.

Headaches and migraines, muscle and/or joint pain, cough, shortness of breath, vision problems, recurring sinus infections, and even short-term memory loss, and depression are common symptoms of mycotoxicosis. However, these symptoms are also common to a variety of other disease conditions, meaning that toxicity is often overlooked as a potential underlying cause of illness. This can leave a person who is searching for a diagnosis feeling hopeless.

The mycotoxin test we recommend to our patients is done by a specialized and independent lab, and looks for exposure and accumulation of either airborne mold toxins (such as black mold toxin or aspergillosis), or toxins found in certain foods such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin, which are commonly found in wheat, barley, corn, and peanuts. If mycotoxins are the cause of your illness, your treatment plan should be tailored to take consideration of your overall medical history, current symptoms, genetic makeup, history of exposure, and lifestyle.

A mycotoxin treatment protocol at Kaplan Center includes using binding agents like clay, charcoal, or bile acid sequestrants (which require a prescription) to accelerate the removal of toxins through the gut. In addition, supplements to support the liver, such as omega-3 fatty acids, chlorella, magnesium, D-ribose, N-acetal cysteine, glutathione, and vitamin-C, can help in the detoxification process. (Nutrients like magnesium, glutathione, and vitamin-C can also be given intravenously in higher doses than can be tolerated orally.)

Things You Can Do to Help The Detoxification Process

  • Eliminate mold exposure. Talk to a professional mold removal service or indoor health specialist in your area immediately if you suspect that you have mold in your home.
    Examine your diet. If mycotoxin exposure appears to be rooted in a food source, such as aflatoxin or ochratoxin, an amylose-free diet (a diet low in sugar, grains, and tubers) may be helpful.
  • Try a complementary therapy. Meditation, acupuncture, or Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) can provide significant relief from the symptoms and side-effects of the detoxification process.

– Dr. Lisa Lilienfield, M.D.

If you think you have been exposed to toxins that are affecting your health, call and speak with a nurse today: 703-532-4892, ext. 2.



1 M. Peraica, B. Radic, A. Lucic, et al. Toxic effects of mycotoxins in humans. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 1999, 77 (9)

Biotoxicity Disorders And A Protocol For Detox

LilienfieldDr. Lisa: One of the most common Biotoxicity disorders I come across is mold toxicity. Other sources of biotoxins are from Lyme (even after treatment with antibiotics), spider bites, and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) just to name a few. There are a number of tests that I usually order that include inflammatory cytokines and other markers, and if mold is highly suspect, then I will recommend a urine mycotoxin test that looks at Afflotoxin, Ochratoxin and Trichothecene (black mold toxin). These mycotoxins can be airborne or in certain foods like corn, coffee beans and nuts.

Biotoxicity Protocol

If these tests indicate there is a biotoxin, then obviously the first step is to clean up the environment, or get rid of whatever is producing the toxin. If it is home related, we recommend an excellent home inspector who does a thorough report on the home and makes recommendations for cleanup. Next I use a protocol using binding agents combined with antioxidants which over time will lower toxic load. This approach has been very successful. I don’t know of any studies right now, but we may do one in the future.
AC: Thank you so much! Please let me know of any upcoming study I would love to heal and help others with this condition in the future. I’ve had tests, the only ones abnormal are for Biotoxin illness. Can you treat me from California and how would that work? Can you feel worse when toxins are clearing out if your body?
LilienfieldDr. Lisa: I would need to see you in person to treat you before I could do a consultation. Thank you for your comments. There is a condition Herxheimer reaction that causes a flare of symptoms as the toxins are being mobilized. That is not unusual to have.

This Q&A was part of our Live chat with Dr. Lilienfield
on Facebook in January, 2016!

Hi can you please address Biotoxin illness/ mold poisoning or Chronic inflammatory response syndrome. Appreciate any…

Posted by Andrea Cordova on Monday, January 11, 2016


AC: That makes sense! I will private message for treatment details and options. Thanks again for doing this chat. I’ve been feeling so lost and hopeless with this. As I’m sure others are with their conditions. Your compassion in doing this for everyone is awesome. Glad to know theirs Drs out there commuted to healing!
Kaplan Center: If you live in the McLean area, feel free to call Kaplan Center at 703-532-4892 and speak with one of our front desk staff about a possible consultation with Dr. Lisa. Also, the Kaplan Center website goes into more detail on Mold Toxicity, including the treatments offered at the clinic. You’ll find more information here.
AW: Do you have any dependable home inspectors for the Sacramento, CA area?
Kaplan Center: David Young, MPH, an indoor health specialist who recently gave a lecture for the Kaplan Center on indoor air quality, may be able to help you find someone in your area. Please visit his website at

Hello again, I already posted about Biotoxin illness, can you maybe address the use of essential oils with this or…

Posted by Andrea Cordova on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

LilienfieldDr. Lisa: I claim to be no expert in essential oils, but I am wary about ingestion of unregulated substances. Aromatherapy, however, has been helpful in stimulating the relaxation response, which makes sense since the olfactory bulb (where we process smells) sits next to the hippocampus (the emotional memory part of the brain). I highly recommend herbs and spices that have medicinal value. I think we often have lost the connection between our food and health. As an example, in Ayurvedic medicine, spices in foods are used for different constitutions (doshas). Examples are anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, garlic, ginger, saffron, and turmeric. We also know that oregano, marjoram, sage, and rosemary have anti-inflammatory properties.
AC: Thanks again, I have been drinking warm water with rosemary and lemon essential oils, seems to really help with inflammation.
Kaplan Center: Andrea – you might be interested in the online community at, which is hosted by the Foundation for Total Recovery, a not-for-profit organization founded by Dr. Gary Kaplan that will conduct much-needed research to help better understand, diagnose, treat, and ultimately prevent the progression of neuroinflammatory disease. This community was created to connect people so they can ask questions, find advice, share their stories, and get to know others on similar journeys toward healing. For more information, visit or