Hello, Meat Fam! Lady C checking in here... I was diagnosed with CIRS in May of 2022 after struggling with an autoimmune flare that started in June 2021. My diagnosis, at the time of this post, is recent and I am just beginning the protocols that will help me get better.
I reached out to Corrie @meatbasedhealth to learn more about her experience with CIRS as she is much further along in the protocol than I am. I hope you enjoy learning about her experience as much as I did!
What is your experience with CIRS? What symptoms have you experienced?
I was diagnosed with CIRS (mold toxic) in Nov 2019 after years of chronic illness.
Unlike some people who react to mold immediately, ones who have an allergic reaction to mold like sneezing, runny nose, swollen eyes/face, etc, I do not experience any of that. I had a slow health decline over my lifetime of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses that could never be resolved/healed by holistic health care and diet alone.
As a child, I experienced a lot of ear infections. In my teens, I experienced a lot of step throat. In my 20’s kidney infections, acne, eye styes, and unexplained rashes. In 2012 (age 35) I started becoming extremely fatigued and experienced the “normal” 20-30lb weight gain gradually over the prior couple of years. Up until this point I never experienced weight issues. The weight gain appeared with no change in diet or lifestyle. My western medicine primary care doctor, at the time, simply said you are burning the candle at both ends, slow down, eat less, move more, and yes your TSH is high so you have non-autoimmune hypothyroidism. Take this pill and we will see you back in 3 months.
CIRS mainly hit my endocrine system and mold being my main biotoxin. With that came hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, gut issues, metabolic issues, hangry all the time, constipation, major sugar cravings, sleep issues, gallbladder and liver issues when going keto/carnivore, and major fatigue off and on during my life.
Were you diagnosed with something else before your CIRS was identified?
Around 2015 I started seeking integrative medicine then holistic doctors where I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, reactive hypoglycemia, adrenal insufficiencies, non-active Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), non-autoimmune hypothyroidism (2012), many vitamin deficiencies, and beta-cell dysfunction.
What led to your CIRS diagnosis?
In 2014 I started a calories in calories out (CICO) program that cleaned up my diet from a low fat higher carb way of eating to a “clean/balanced” diet, I started cardio and strength training. In 2015 I started working with integrative and holistic doctors. Then in 2019, I started keto and quickly started the Carnivore diet. In 2020 I started working with Judy Cho (nutrition with Judy) for 9 months on gut healing. Each one of these steps helped improve my symptoms but I could not fully get healed. Eating the most nutrient-dense, with a strict carnivore diet for 1.5 years and 9 months of gut-healing got me most of the way there but still issues lingered. It was after this, Nov 2019, Judy Cho introduced me to the possibility of CIRS (mold toxicity). In years past I had already gone through heavy metal testing, Lyme testing, EBV, and the only thing that came back positive was non-active EBV. Why my integrative and holistic doctors missed the mold still baffles me, but Judy suggested testing after much research she had done on CIRS. Sure enough, after the extensive testing, I was positive for CIRS and mold toxicity.
I have the HLA-DR gene where I cannot clear mold from my body like others who don’t have the gene can. Over 50% of buildings being water damaged and living in humid environments my entire life, mold was able to build up over time in my body slowly wreaking havoc until the amounts in my body tipped my health negatively.
I cannot thank Judy Cho enough for never giving up on full healing for me and continuing to dig and research for answers.
When were you diagnosed? How did your diagnosis make you feel?
I was diagnosed in Nov 2021 using the Dr. Shoemaker protocol.
The diagnosis made me feel immediate relief. I had been in the integrative/holistic world since 2015 digging for root causes, trying to heal, spending so much money/time, and just could never get to full healing. To finally feel like I had a root cause and a protocol that was designed to “easily” follow, with a CIRS certification doctor, was total hope for me.
What has been your experience with the mental aspects of dealing with CIRS?
When I was first diagnosed I was completely overwhelmed. I have a tendency (with my type A personality) to go all-in on research when I discover a new diagnosis or possibly root cause. I absorbed myself with Dr. Shoemaker’s book “Mold Illness Surviving and Thriving”, stalked the survivingmold.com website, and finding any info I could regarding mold and other possible biotoxins.
Within a month or so my mental exhaustion slowed down as I felt I finally had my head wrapped around the diagnosis, and having the hope of healing with a trained CIRS doctor.
Prior to CIRS diagnosis, what traditional treatments and therapies did you try?
Prior to CIRS, over the past 8 years I have tried a “clean/balanced diet, then keto, then finally carnivore starting in October 2019. I spent years working with my holistic doctor on many supplements chasing every deficiency but never getting to the root cause and no sight of ever getting off the supplements. I worked hard on my gut healing in 2020 with Judy Cho. I went from the traditional thyroid medication of levothyroxine (T4) to Armour (NDT) and cytomel (T3) medications. I have done acupuncture, massage, meditation, adrenal/stress management work, and light therapy.
How did you stumble upon a carnivore diet?
While I spent 5 years on the CICO program I could not eat over 1200 calories (eating a clean/balanced diet) without gaining weight. This was along with hours of cardio and strength training a day. I even began marathon running. After 5 years of continued health decline and still fighting easy weight gain I started researching other weight control ways. I had heard of keto but I came from the dietary fat phobic 90’s era and even though I had seen so many of my friends benefit from the keto diet over the years, I could not bring myself to all that fat. After months of keto research, I caved and decided to try it. Within a couple of months I ran into Kelly Hogan (12-year carnivore) and the Facebook group she is involved with. After hearing all the fat loss and improved health stories I dived right in. I went full carnivore in October 2019. I was amazed at all the stories. To have fat loss, weight maintenance, health, and eat all the fatty meat sounded amazing. I went “all in” carnivore filling up on lots of fatty meat. I was mainly eating beef in the beginning but quickly added in all types of animal proteins and seafood. I ate until I was full, stopped, and repeated when I was hungry.
What was your initial experience with it, did you find immediate relief?
My initial first 2 weeks on carnivore I lost a couple lbs (probably water weight) and then as weeks past my belly bloat got awful. I was having a hard time sleeping and by month 8 my hair started falling out, my lips started peeling like a snake, I had gained 26lbs, and I was experiencing the most awful fatigue. Not all was a wreck at this point though. My blood sugar was stabilizing and my sugar cravings were gone. At this point most would have given up but I just had read and researched way too many antidotal stories of healing that I was not willing to give up. At this time I found Judy Cho (nutrition with Judy) and after she reviewed all my prior testing (and it was ALOT) and some additional testing she had me do it was discovered I was not absorbing my nutrients and my gut was a wreck. She quickly started me on a gut healing protocol and within a month my hair stopped falling out, my bloat was getting better, my lips stopped peeling, and the fatigue was lifting.
So to answer the question, “Did I find immediate relief after starting the carnivore diet”? No, and as I found out later with the CIRS diagnosis carnivore alone was not going to heal me totally. It was a great start along with the gut healing but the mold was holding me back from total healing.
How did your diet evolve over time?
I stayed strict carnivore for 1.5 years before I started introducing a few non-starchy veggies occasionally. To this day (2.5 years) most days are 100% carnivore but once in awhile if non-starchy veggies sound good I have some. I feel best on 100% carnivore and all my nutrients (from testing) are great. I only incorporate non-starchy veggies occasionally because they don’t bother my stomach and sometimes I enjoy them.
Do you utilize any supplemental or additional therapies to support your remission and health?
Since gut healing and eating carnivore the past 2.5 years I was able to come off all my supplements except a couple. When I started the Dr. Shoemaker protocol Judy also helped me by using Cellcore products to support my detox pathways and organs. I also use dry brushing or facia blasting for lymph movements and a sauna to sweat out the toxins. I started using the Sperti vitamin D lamp in the winter and played around some with red light therapy. I do think light and being outside in the sun is important to health and I try to be outside as much as possible.
What has the process of removing the biotoxin from your environment been like?
After working with my CIRS doctor we concluded that my mold exposure happened throughout my years of homes and places of work. The major mold was from a beach park model we owned between 2005-2015. My current home was built by the ocean in 2015. It was built green with a built-in dehumidifier, non-VOC paints, and energy-efficient. After all this, my ERMI still showed a score of 21. To fully recover from mold toxicity Dr.Shoemaker says that CIRS patients need to have an ERMI under 2. Living on the ocean in such high humidity and hurricane alley that is not going to happen. I hired an indoor environment professional (IEP) mold specialist to come in and do more ERMI testing of the HVAC system, cavity mold testing, air testing, and moisture testing of every inch of the house. They spent 8 hours at our house. After all this they were not able to find any source of mold. I spent around $4500 on this step. This honestly was the most stressful and most expensive piece of the protocol for me. At this point I’m 5 months into the CIRS protocol on step 7 of 12 and done detoxing. It’s a wait-and-see if I will have slow re-exposure to mold in this house with an ERMI of 21. So far 2 months later, after finishing the detox, I have passed the VCS test (an inexpensive quick test that can help determine mold exposure/re-exposure) and have not experienced any symptoms. I suspect since the bones of the house are not moldy then it was all the items we brought in the house that could have caused the mold. The ERMI tests molds via dust particles around your house. Mold can be on furniture, in cloths, in carpet (which we have none), vehicles, house guests that bring in suitcases of clothes can also contaminate the house with mold if they live in mold, etc.
I did have 1 re-expose experience so far, when I was 4 months into the CIRS protocol. My dad had passed and I had to fly home. While staying in his home for 5 days, returning to NC, and re-testing my VCS test, I failed. They have a basement that is musty smelling therefore I’m sure to high levels for a CIRS patient. This can also be part of my years of mold exposure over the past 20 years when visiting them for weeks at a time.
Have you incorporated any limbic retraining practices into your healing protocol?
I have not done any limbic retraining practices. I’m finding out now that this is highly recommended (by non-CIRS practitioners) before starting the CIRS protocol. So many experience PTSD and other mental disorders dealing with all the trauma that a CIRS diagnosed patient can experience from years of chronic illnesses. I feel pretty strong in this area but know the resources are out there if I feel I need them. My small mold group Judy has for her CIRS patients seems to be all I need for now.
What are your top recommendations for people recently diagnosed?
My top recommendations for newly diagnosed CIRS patients is to first take deep breaths. This diagnosis can be both relieving (to finally find root cause healing) but also so very overwhelming. Mold is not talked about in mainstream medicine and it’s just such a black hole of unknowns.
There are many mold “experts” out there. You can easily get overwhelmed with all the advice available on social media. I chose to go with Dr. Shoemakers' protocol for several reasons but the main reason is that this is a true medical diagnosis. Dr. Shoemaker has many peer-reviewed published papers backing this diagnosis and protocol. If the protocol is followed exactly with a CIRS-certified doctor there has been proven total healing.
So my main point is to research a lot but choose 1 protocol to follow. Following many of them haphazardly will only prolong your healing and possibly set you back further.
The big question is always, “How long does it take to detox and heal”? That is a hard question for the CIRS doctors to answer. Generally, their answer is 6 months to a year and in some cases even longer. I have had years of exposure in my, almost 45 years here on earth. I have accumulated a lot of mold over the years. My endocrine system being the worst hit by the mold. I was diagnosed non-autoimmune hypothyroidism in 2012. That is a lot of years of being unwell and on thyroid medication. I hope I can reverse my thyroid issues and endocrine issues but only time will tell. I can say at this point (5 months into mold healing) I have felt the best I have in years. So I know it’s working but I also know this will never be over. Due to toxic molds being everywhere (especially in my high humidity environment living on the coast of NC) I will continue to have to be aware of my surroundings, following CIRS protocols for re-exposure, and continue to eat the most healthiest way I can.
I plan on staying meat-heavy carnivore with occasional veggies because I have found the best health benefits eating this way. So far I have lost 15lbs of the 26lbs I gained on carnivore while trying to heal. Most of that dropped after starting the CIRS protocol (26 months into the carnivore WOE) to detox the mold. Yes mold can hinder fat loss no matter how healthy and nutrient dense you eat.
I continue to share my health journey on Instagram @meatbasedhealth