Mold, Microbes, Mental Health, & Neurodegenerative Disease – What everyone suffering NEEDS to know!
Updated: Apr 14
I am fortunate to be featuring a guest article written by my very bright friend, Brendan Vermeire. Brendan has a long track record as a researcher and educator in the field of integrative and functional medicine (bio is below). Here is a very informative and enlightening article of an overlooked root cause of mental health disorders. His story brings insight to how a toxic environment can lead to significant neurologic impairment and degeneration. Enjoy! If you'd like more of these guest article, please reach out and let me know
I’d like to tell you a story about my Grandma. We’ve called her Nana for as long as I can remember, although I’m not entirely sure why. She’s always called me her ‘#1 Grandson’, which again, I can’t say I’m entirely sure why. My hope is that I can earn that endearing title with this article by providing what very well could be life changing scientific information for those suffering from impaired mental health and/or neurodegenerative disease.
You see, my Nana was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 10 years ago. A decade ago, I was finishing my senior year of high school and preparing myself to pursue my Navy SEAL aspirations. A lot has changed since then.
Parkinson’s is commonly known as a long-term neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by the death of dopaminergic neurons in the mid-brain’s substantia nigra. It is commonly accepted in our healthcare system that the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown and that there is no cure, although it is thought that there “could be environmental and genetic factors involved”. Treatment aims to slow the progression of the condition while managing symptoms with medications and other therapies.
My Nana was recently in town for Thanksgiving! It had been about a full year since I had seen her. Overall, I was relatively pleased by how well she seemed to be doing. She’s always been a strong and resilient woman, but I was also saddened to see her tremors more pronounced, her posture and movement more notably rigid, her voice weaker. More so it was hearing her comments about the disease lowering her quality of life that told her #1 Grandson it was time for me to speak my truth.
Conveniently enough, I had a box of lab test kits that I had shipped to my ‘mailing address’, aka my parent’s house, and I wasted zero time before lovingly asking my Grandmother “Nana, if you’re willing, I’d LOVE to run a few tests on you that I think could provide very useful information for you. Would you be able to collect a urine sample for me tomorrow morning?”
You see, I don’t come from a ‘Holistic-Minded’ family. Quite the opposite really. My Grandfather was a Medical Doctor and Nana was a nurse. Holistic Health and Functional Medicine is very much becoming an exploding millennial movement, whereas the Baby Boomer generation really was raised on a “low/no fat, high sugar, take this drug for that symptom, follow the Doctors orders without question” type of lifestyle it seems. I obviously am not a part of that generation and won’t assumptively speak further to it, but what I can say is: times have changed. Science evolves.
The Chronic Disease Epidemic
Chronic disease statistics have risen to epidemic proportions. 1 in 6 Americans are on anti-depressants. Over 70% of the American population is overweight and nearly half of the entire American population is pre-diabetic or diabetic. The American National Average of prescription usage was 12 per capita in 2013, with those 80 years old and up using on an average of 29 prescription drugs annually…
It seems unlikely that as a nation we are going to successfully medicate and cut our way out of what is clearly a LIFESTYLE and ENVIRONMENTAL EPIDEMIC!
I started my career as a personal trainer and nutritionist because I knew I was passionate about helping people with their health. At one point I was working full time and going to school full time because I knew I wanted to help people on a deeper level than taking them through workouts and coaching them on their nutritional and lifestyle behaviors. I wanted to be the guy with all the answers. I wanted to use objective data to guide individuals to optimal health!
I considered going to medical school, but I knew in my heart that the conventional allopathic model wasn’t for me. Please don’t misunderstand me. I think the sophistications and technology of our conventional healthcare system is nothing short of astounding. Our ability to save lives and improve longevity with ‘artificial intervention’ allopathically is quite miraculous! I myself wouldn’t be alive today without such a system. With that said, I personally and professionally would rather help people reach optimal health and provide them the guidance and education needed to get well and stay well naturally. I don’t want to reactively manage chronic disease with drugs and surgery. I admire those that have the tenacity to do that for a living. I could donate my career to those medical trenches as we continue to ‘lose the battle against the chronic disease epidemic’, but ultimately…
I’m just a boy from Kansas out to save the world from Chronic Disease, and I believe the Greatest Medicine of All is to TEACH people how not to need it!
After all, ‘Doctor’ is a Latin word that means ‘to teach’!
Now to be clear, I’m not a licensed medical provider and I do not pretend to be. I AM a Functional Medicine Consultant, Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Master Nutrition Coach & Personal Trainer.
Perhaps more accurately still, I’m a stubborn, endlessly curious, evidence based, science obsessed, altruist with a big heart for helping people.
So, what testing did I run on my Nana?
Using a single urine sample, I ran 5 tests including:
An Organic Acid Test (OAT): a very cost effective assay that assesses 77 indices of metabolic health, including: microbial imbalances, toxic exposure, detox capacity, neurotransmitter metabolites, energy metabolism (glycolysis, fatty acid oxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction), nutrient status, and more!
A Mycotoxin Test: to measure mycotoxins in the urine in order to determine if the individual has Mycotoxicosis, or mold toxin overload.
An Environmental Toxin Test: to measure metabolites of various toxic chemicals we get exposed to daily. Such as; xylenes (paint, exhaust fumes, perfumes etc.), phthalates (cosmetics, plastic items, cleaning products etc.), pyrethroids (bug spray), benzene (combustion fumes). Just to name a few.
Phospholipase A2 (PlA2): the enzyme that cleaves arachidonic acid from the cell membrane phospholipid bilayer in order to synthesize pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. AKA an enzyme involved in the inflammatory cascade. It is often elevated in those with chronic inflammation. NSAID drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen, work through inhibiting the Cyclooxygenase enzymes that are just a few steps downstream from PlA2 activation.
Glyphosate: the main herbicide in Round Up that is highly toxic to the body, damages our microbiome ecology, causes “leaky gut”, and is associated with cancer. Perhaps you’ve been seeing the commercials lately about “if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and have been exposed to Round UP, you may be entitled to compensation”.
Okay Neato’ Brendan, but what does all that have to do with Mental Health and Neurodegenerative Disease?
In a scientific nutshell, mold and its concomitant mycotoxins are HIGHLY poisonous to all cells of the body. Fungal Infection/Overgrowth and/or Mycotoxicosis very directly causes a high degree of oxidative stress and inflammation. I always refer to oxidative stress and inflammation as ‘the two great plagues of the human metabolism’. Whereas Medical Doctors study pathophysiology and how to treat or manage disease allopathically (drugs and surgery), as a Functional Practitioner I study HEALTH and what etiological factors disturb health and move us away from metabolic homeostasis. I think sometimes we overcomplicate how we think of health vs. disease and it’s easy to get confused with a lot of scientific jargon. So, when I’m mentoring or clinical advising other practitioners, I like to simplify the equation by basically teaching:
Oxidative Stress and Inflammation drive Pathophysiology (aka disease progression)
So now we must be looking for the root cause hidden stressors that are contributing to oxidative stress and inflammation
Now obviously before we go chasing potential rabbit holes, let’s make sure that we’re all practicing health building habits and behaviors consistently! If we’re trying to improve the health of an organism (aka you), ENVIRONMENTAL INTERVENTION AND LIFESTYLE INTERVENTION by far will have the biggest impact! I find that even in the Functional Medicine Industry, things still feel a bit too reactive and allopathic at times. The best way to treat disease…is to PREVENT disease proactively! No one can do this for you! YOU must take ownership and responsibility of your environment and lifestyle!
We offer a 60 day Holistic Health Building Program that teaches all the fundamentals of a holistic health promoting way of life that you can learn more about here!
Okay, so what are some of the biggest hidden stressors and root cause factors that drive disease promoting oxidative stress and inflammation?
Microbial Imbalances: aka “bad bugs” that can overgrow in the complex eco-system of your body (microbiome/microbiota). This could be fungi (candida, mold, etc.), parasites (giardia, cryptosporidium, blastocystis, etc.), bacteria (H. Pylori, Clostridia, Klebsiella, etc.), or viruses (EBV, cytomegalovirus, etc.).
Note: I think it’s important to define and distinguish between an “infection” (as diagnosed by a Medical Doctor) vs. a “microbial imbalance”. If a microbe aggressively attacks your body, causing acute or chronic illness, that would more be considered a true infection that very well might require immediate medical treatment (such as a severe C. Diff infection requiring hospitalization). However, I think we need to be cognizant that even more subtle “microbial imbalances” can very much contribute to pathophysiology over time (such as C. Diff OVERGROWTH that is causing symptoms and metabolic dysfunction BUT HAS NOT YET caused severe health ailment requiring hospitalization or medical intervention). Now we don’t want to “create a problem where there isn’t one”, but certainly we need to adopt good lifestyle practices that encourage a healthy microbiota and not overlook sub-clinical bug imbalances that could be contributing to health complaints and symptoms. This illustrates the paradigm shift between ‘waiting for disease to manifest and treating allopathically’ vs. ‘functionally investigating your health proactively to identify healing opportunities and hidden stressors’.
TOXINS: there are MANY toxins that we all get exposed to regularly. Some come from our microbiome (like lipopolysaccharide endotoxins). Some come from our environment (like mold toxins). Some come from our consumer goods (like Bisphenol A from plastics). Some come from our agricultural food supply (like Glyphosate).
Food: food allergies, sensitivities, intolerances etc. are VERY REAL! Considering we’ve known about the many branches of the immune system for a long time, I really don’t know how we all got convinced that a true IgE Allergy is the only possible detriment. Thankfully our society is slowly but surely moving in the right direction. For example, it is now recognized that gluten intolerance is a spectrum that includes: non-celiac gluten sensitivity, celiac lite, and celiac. Whereas this has been common knowledge in the functional and holistic space for quite a while, it’s just now starting to become more mainstream accepted. There is no one perfect food sensitivity test, but overall, they tend to be helpful for clients/patients. However immune reactivity is not the only mechanism by which food can drive inflammation and oxidative stress. Maybe bacterial overgrowth mixed with a high fermentable diet is driving GI dysfunction (SIBO/Endotoxemia/Dysbiosis) and you’d benefit from a low FODMAP diet. Maybe your estrogen is high, and your microvilli of your intestines are atrophied, and you have histamine intolerance and would thus benefit from removing high histidine/histamine foods for a while. Maybe your uric acid and oxalic acid are high, and you’re experiencing fibromyalgia and might need to investigate your oxalate metabolism and gut health. Maybe you have MTHFR and need to know diet practices to improve methylation! Yes. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Diet is highly individualized. It takes a mix of common sense, real food, mindfulness, intuitive eating, and functional investigation to figure out the “perfect diet” for you.
Nutrient Deficiencies: our population is horribly overweight YET malnourished at the same time…makes sense if you don’t think about it. It disturbs me how much we over complicate nutrition chasing instant gratification through silly bandwagon diet strategies (how’s Keto and IF going for you?). I know it’s not sexy, but good ol’ nutrient dense real food has always been our most powerful form of medicine. Without key nutrients (macro and micro), we simply don’t have the tools to qualm inflammation and oxidative stress. Maybe instead of overcomplicating nutrition, we should just focus on mindfully eating real food from the earth that is sourced as “clean” (organic and non-GMO) as possible? Maybe instead of neurotically yet inaccurately “counting macros” and using over complicated “feeding windows”, we should just be mindful of our hunger, energy, cravings, and mood? Maybe we just need to eat real food, listen to our bodies, and eat/live mindfully? Or you can keep doing the neurotic and orthorexia inducing bandwagon stuff.
The body of Scientific Literature (see the Self Healer’s Guide for over 120 scientific study references) suggests Mold and Mycotoxins are etiological factors that contribute to the pathophysiology of:
Neurodegenerative Diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.).
Intestinal Hyperpermeability (‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’).
GI conditions and disturbances (IBS/IBD).
Reproductive Disorders and Hormone Imbalances.
Mental Health Disorders (Anxiety, Depression, ADD/ADHD, Autism).
So, let’s take a look at some of my Grandmother’s Test Results…
Page one is indicative of fungal overgrowth, bacterial overgrowth, and C. Diff overgrowth. Although she is not acutely ill, these underlying microbial imbalances very directly contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress that fuel disease, such as Parkinson’s.
Her Mold Toxin test indicated elevated levels of Ochratoxin and Mycophenolic Acid. Not so fun fact: mycophenolic acid is used in conventional medicine as an immunosuppressive agent (shuts down the immune system) for organ transplant rejection surgery. Imagine how your health is going to be with elevated levels of this naturally occurring mold toxin in your body long term….
Oh! And what about Ochratoxin?
Damn… Ochratoxin induces cell death in brain cells and “may contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases”.
I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one.
I didn’t actually know if my Grandmother had been exposed to mold when I ran the testing!
I just knew that there was a significant scientific connection between Parkinson’s and mold/microbes. Being her #1 Grandson, I wanted to TEST NOT GUESS to see if my hunch was correct. The test results speak for themselves. I then showed and discussed the results with my Father and was informed that she did indeed have a mold problem in her house years ago…
“Have you been diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to Round Up? You may be entitled to compensation!” I guess if we’re getting bombarded with such legal commercials on mainstream media…maybe this stuff is important?
Elevations in PlA2 coincide with chronic inflammation. Chronic Inflammation drives all disease. Let’s leave it at that for now, shall we?
Considering there are over 86,000 chemicals approved for commercial manufacturing in the US that have NOT been thoroughly tested for human toxicology safety standards AND other countries have much higher standards for such chemical usage…I think it’s time we start doing more research on the role of synthetic toxins and human disease. The World Health Organization is starting to speak up more about this topic…perhaps you should pay attention too? https://www.who.int/heli/risks/toxics/chemicals/en/
I genuinely hope by now you are starting to see why this stuff matters!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my quirky, nerdy, and at times slightly facetious, writing style! I think education is more impactful when it is fun! Plus, this science can quite literally be the difference between optimal health, happiness, and longevity vs. symptoms, health complaints, chronic disease, and death. Although my line of work can be very emotionally heavy at times, I simply strive to do everything I can to shed light on real science to help educate and empower individuals to become Self-Healers!
I know I can be a walking soap box…but wake up! Look around! If you unconsciously go along with the standard American lifestyle, you are statistically inclined to become fat, depressed, be prescribed many drugs, and develop a chronic disease…
I don’t want that for my loved ones! And that includes YOU!
If you found this article to be educational, enlightening, and empowering…DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET! Share it with your loved ones who are suffering!
Like what you're reading? Sign up to get updates on more posts like this.
Brendan is a Functional Medicine Consultant, Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Master Nutrition Coach, Master Personal Trainer, USAW Sports Performance Coach, and Crossfit Certified Trainer.
He began his career as a personal trainer and nutrition coach at the age of 19 after disappointingly being medically discharged from the United States Navy Seal training pipeline due to an injury. After being exposed to the power of functional lab testing in the start of his career, he began intensely pursuing that as a career path which has led him to be widely regarded as one of the top leading experts in Metabolic Health and Holistic Education.
When he’s not educating doctors/ practitioners/professionals, helping clients overcome their most severe health struggles, or producing cutting edge scientific education, Brendan enjoys all things fitness and is probably working out. He also enjoys anything in nature and any activities that expand his heart, mind, and soul.