Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker was practicing as a Board-Certified Family Physician in the Maryland area in the mid-1990s. At that time, there was an outbreak of unusual and mysterious illnesses in and around the Chesapeake Bay area. Many people were suffering from a variety of symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, headaches, abdominal pains, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pains, memory loss, brain fog, red irritated eyes, asthma attacks, and skin rashes. Dr. Shoemaker treated several of these patients. Among them was a 30-year-old woman who became ill after swimming in the Pocomoke River. She had terrible headaches, as well as abdominal pains, diarrhea, nausea, and a poor appetite. Her diarrhea was becoming more problematic. Dr. Shoemaker tested her for a variety of illnesses, and tried treating her with anti-diarrhea medicine and antibiotics, but to no avail. She had been sick for weeks and her diarrhea and other symptoms were not getting any better when Dr. Shoemaker gave her a drug named Cholestyramine (CSM). CSM works by binding your bile salts, but was originally developed to lower your cholesterol. Bile salts contain large amounts of cholesterol, and when bound to CSM, tend to have a constipating effect. As Dr. Shoemaker had hoped, the woman’s diarrhea was successfully treated. Surprisingly, the patient’s chronic fatigue, aches, pains, headaches, and stomach pains also all improved within three days of treatment with CSM. Within two weeks of her treatment with this bile binding drug, all her symptoms completely resolved.
Dr. Shoemaker started prescribing CSM to other “mystery illness” patients, with similar positive results. Connecting the dots, Dr. Shoemaker came to the realization that the patients he was treating with CSM must have been sickened by some sort of biological poison since this drug’s only function is to remove bile from your body. Further investigations by Dr. Shoemaker and other investigators revealed that these biotoxins were extremely small. Even more insidiously, these tiny toxins can travel almost anywhere in your body because they are both fat- and water-soluble.
Dr. Shoemaker published his experience with this “mystery disease” in the Maryland Medical Journal November/December 1997 in an article titled “Diagnosis of Pfiesteria – Human Illness Syndrome”. Pfiesteria is a biotoxin-forming dinoflagellate that had killed billions of fish in the bays and rivers of Maryland and North Carolina in the mid-90s.
Shortly thereafter, Dr. Shoemaker started recognizing patients who had symptom clusters similar to his Pfiesteria patients. Upon further investigation, he astutely concluded that the aerosols produced in water-damaged buildings (WDBs) could also contribute to biotoxin illnesses. Finally, in September 2003, Dr. Shoemaker, Dr. Hudnell, and Dr. House gave a presentation at the fifth International Conference on Bioaerosols linking sick building syndrome (SBS) to biotoxins produced in WDBs. Over the ensuing years, Dr. Shoemaker continued his research and collaborations, adding to his knowledge and understanding of how various biotoxins contribute to a multitude of chronic “incurable” diseases. He eventually developed a scientifically supported model of biotoxin illness that he named The Biotoxin Pathway.
Dr. Shoemaker has since retired from clinical practice, but he continues to be involved with medical and scientific research and has authored and co-authored many peer-reviewed published papers. Dr. Shoemaker is the creator of the Surviving Mold Protocol and is teaching other doctors about his work through the Surviving Mold Certification process.