Chronic inflammatory response syndrome or CIRS is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms that are the result of an immune response to environmental triggers. CIRS may develop in more vulnerable people following exposure to a mix of ‘inflammagens’ (irritants that stimulate an inflammatory response) and toxic microbes found in water-damaged buildings (WDBs), or through direct contact with/ingestion of waste or food contaminated by toxic bacteria from dead fish.1 The increasing number of people with CIRS-like symptoms, coupled with the prevalence of damp and mould in Australian homes (estimated to be between 10%-50%)2 is reason enough to talk to your health professional about CIRS if you are experiencing a collection of otherwise unexplained symptoms.
Genetics also plays a role in triggering symptoms, so while ultimately it is unhealthy for any individual to spend long periods of time in WDBs or being exposed to the offending toxins, those with genetic susceptibility are likely to feel the effects much sooner and more severely.
Symptoms tend to be found in clusters and may include the following:
- Weakness, decreased assimilation of new knowledge, aches, headaches, light sensitivity
- Memory impairment, decreased word finding
- Difficulty concentrating
- Joint pain, morning stiffness, cramps
- Unusual skin sensitivity, tingling
- Coughing, excessive thirst, confusion
- Appetite swings, difficulty regulating temperature, increased urinary frequency
- Red eyes, blurred vision, sweats (night), mood swings, ice pick pains
- Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, numbness
- Watery eyes, disorientation, metallic taste in mouth
- Static shocks, vertigo
Six months or more of any symptom is considered chronic.
One (or more) health professionals
Finding a qualified health professional who has experience in supporting patients through CIRS recovery is vital and a treatment plan may require the input of more than one health professional for comprehensive support. A number of tests are available to confirm if the symptom clusters are a result of biotoxin exposure leading to CIRS.
Diet plays a crucial role in any CIRS treatment plan, but as an array of diet strategies exist and are likely to vary for each individual, this is best discussed with your health professional.
It may be worthwhile calling in a building biologist to assess your residence for exposure to any of the inflammagens that may be exacerbating symptoms and preventing recovery.
Removal from the source
Unfortunately, the number one strategy for treatment is to remove oneself from the source of exposure, which may be easier said than done! While there are options available to treat the WDB, this is often more costly than just moving house.
Management of CIRS tends to centre around supporting the body’s safe removal of biotoxins, thereby reducing the burden on the organs. This is most commonly achieved with the use of binders – substances with the ability to bind to and safely remove the offending toxins. A number of binders exist, and the general consensus is that a combination is best. Some popular binders include activated charcoal, cracked cell wall chlorella, acacia gum, chitosan, and bentonite clay.3-7
One of the most frustrating parts of CIRS is the lack of clarity on symptoms that have often been experienced for some time and which may appear to be random. However, with the right guidance from experienced health professionals, along with a tailored treatment plan to suit your individual needs, it is possible to regain good health and wellbeing.
To find a health professional in your area, go to our Find a Practitioner page.
- McMahon SW, Shoemaker RC, Ryan JC. Reduction in Forebrain Parenchymal and Cortical Grey Matter Swelling across Treatment Groups in Patients with inflammatory Illness Acquired Following Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings. J Neurosci Clin Res, 2016;1(1).
- Helsetine E, Rosen J. WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mould. World Health Organisation, 2009.
- Park S, Lee HJ, Shin J, et al. Clinical effects of activated charcoal unavailability on treatment outcomes for oral drug poisoned patients. Emergency Medicine International, 2018(2018);4642127.
- Hope J. A review of the mechanism of injury and treatment approaches for illness resulting from exposure to water-damaged buildings, mould, and mycotoxins. ScientificWorldJournal, 2013;2013:767482.
- Sears ME. Chelation: Harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification – a review. ScientificWorldJournal, 2013;2013:219840.
- Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 2013, 5(4):1417-1435.
- Moosavi M. Bentonite clay as a natura remedy: a brief review. Iran J Public Health, 2017;46(9):176-1183.