Biotoxins, Mold, Lyme

What is Biotoxin Illness?

First, what is a biotoxin?  A biotoxin is a toxin produced by a living organism.  Organisms usually produce these substances to defend themselves or obtain food.  An obvious example of this would be a rattlesnake.  A lesser known example of this would be a mold colony responding to a threat.

Exposure to certain biotoxins, like those produced by some molds, algae, Lyme bacteria, and seaborne organisms like pfiesteria, can cause long-term, chronic illness in susceptible individuals.

Exposure + Susceptibility

Illness caused by biotoxin exposure is fundamentally a detoxification problem.   The detoxification system includes not only the liver and kidneys, gut and digestion, immune and lymphatic systems, but also the way every single cell in the body metabolizes.  A weakened detox system appears to make a person more susceptible to developing biotoxin illness.

When people are exposed to biotoxins, some get sick.  For example, seafood contaminated with biotoxins is a periodic problem in the U.S. Eating the same seafood meal can affect some people mildly, some severely, and others not at all.  However, the key is that some of those affected people may also develop long-term illness after the poisoning episode.

Some doctors theorize these weaknesses are genetic.  Other doctors believe they are primarily exposure based.  Either way, one member of a family might be made ill in a moldy home while others might remain unaffected.  Usually, different people are affected in different ways.   This variability makes it challenging to recognize the source of the illness even in a group of related biotoxin ill people.

Sick All Over the Place

The diverse list of affected body systems is a part of why this illness looks so variable. Food, chemical, and EMF sensitivities; chronic migraines; autoimmune diseases; IBS and IBD; ME/CFS; POTS; fibromylagia; hypothyroidism; Lyme disease; lung disease; light and sound sensitivity; joint, lymphatic, nerve, skin, and connective tissue disorders; memory and cognition loss; anxiety and depression.  This is a short list of physical disorders that can come from biotoxin illness – ones that I have personally experienced and healed from through mold and biotoxin avoidance and healing my body.

In people with weaker detoxification systems, even small amounts of exposure to toxins are hard to handle.  Think of coal miners using the more sensitive canary bird to reveal harmful gases.  A more sensitive person’s body can react severely to substances to which no one else shows an obvious response.

The most difficult part is that the body’s response can also be masked among seemingly unrelated symptoms.  This physical “noise” can make it hard to relate the symptom to the exposure.  For example, after leaving a certain type of mold exposure, my husband discovered that a long-time wrist pain that he had surgery to try correcting the problem was actually triggered by that exposure.

Is This for Real?

Currently, a few dozen medical professionals and researchers focus on treating this illness.  Thousands of patients have benefited from mold avoidance and pursing treatment, either with help of practitioners or on their own.  My goal is to document and demonstrate a road to recovery that most people can use to recover substantially on their own.

As I became more and more ill, receiving a myriad of diagnoses, I remember wondering in amazement why I kept getting diagnosed with more “no cause, no cure” illnesses.  And how others could tolerate things that made me quite sick.  Now, those “no cause, no cure” ailments are almost all gone, and I know what affects them and how to avoid recurrence.

My experience was intensely sensory, and I was able to pinpoint many things in my environment that worsened my symptoms.  Not all biotoxin illness sufferers have this experience.  If you suspect you may have biotoxin illness, I highly recommend reading about other people’s experiences of discovery and see if you relate to their experiences.  I also have a brief article on three types of tests you can use to help determine if you may be biotoxin ill, located here.

Roads to Recovery

In the end, my and my husband’s journey through chronic illness to recovering health was a long discovery process. It required both dramatically reducing exposure and healing our detox systems to make significant improvement.  But now we’re mostly back to normal, living life again, and loving it.

We’ve had an amazing healing journey which we plan to stay on.  How we figured out the exposures we most need to avoid is explained in our story at

To learn more about other experiences with biotoxin illness, read these personal stories:

A continuation of our journey on Paradigm Change:

Lisa Petrison on how she found her way from bedbound with ME/CFS to freedom:

Biotoxin illness pioneer Erik Johnson’s journey from being a prototype for ME/CFS to developing mold avoidance and healing:

View many other people’s stories of improvement on this page at Paradigm Change:

Ana Harris shares her journey from professional ballerina to critically disabled Lyme patient to a woman able to camp, hike, and travel again:

Sara Riley Mattson’s description of her life before she was properly diagnosed with biotoxin illness:

Andrea and Chris Fabry’s detailed story of how their family of eleven was critically injured by mold exposure in their home and their road to recovery:

A shorter but concise summary of the Fabry family’s experience:

A contractor’s story of his journey through repeated misdiagnoses to healing from biotoxin illness:

Fitness guru Phil Kaplan’s misdiagnosis with Parkinson’s disease and his recovery after Hurricane Wilma caused mold damage to his Florida office:

If you prefer videos to reading:

Watch many personal interviews in the now free documentary movie Moldy, by founder Dave Asprey:

Paradigm Change’s Lisa Petrison’s personal story in a short interview:

Interview of Phil Kaplan, a fitness guru who was wrongly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after a severe mold exposure:

Be well,