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cirs vcs testing

CIRS and VCS Testing

cirs vcs testing

Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) testing is a pivotal diagnostic tool in the management of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Let’s take a closer look into the fundamentals of VCS testing, exploring its role in detecting and monitoring the progression of CIRS.


VCS tests assess the ability to discern differences in visual contrast, which can be compromised in individuals suffering from biotoxin-related illnesses. As a non-invasive and cost-effective option, VCS testing not only aids in the initial diagnosis of CIRS but also serves as a valuable tool for tracking the effectiveness of treatment protocols over time.


Here, we will provide a detailed overview of how VCS testing works and why it is essential for those undergoing treatment for CIRS.


What Is CIRS?



CIRS is identified as a complicated health disorder marked by extensive inflammation and a range of symptoms affecting numerous body systems, caused by an overactive immune system. Properly diagnosing CIRS involves a thorough assessment of the patient’s medical history along with specialized laboratory tests. The symptoms of CIRS can differ significantly from one individual to another, frequently resulting in misdiagnosis or unsuitable treatments. The challenge in identifying CIRS lies in its invisibility in standard autoimmune blood tests, which demand specialized diagnostic methods for accurate detection of the condition.


what is cirs


What triggers the intense immune reactions and extensive inflammation characteristic of CIRS? The primary culprits are biotoxins—naturally occurring toxic substances of specific molecular weights that come from various sources:


  • Water-damaged environments: Around 80% of CIRS cases are linked to exposure to air in environments damaged by water, which are contaminated with mold mycotoxins, bacteria, and a variety of chemical irritants. These pollutants provoke inflammatory reactions in individuals susceptible to CIRS, with both live and inert mold components contributing to significant inflammation throughout the body and brain.


  • Insect bites: Bites from certain ticks and spiders may cause ongoing ailments like chronic Lyme disease, triggered by pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi and Babesia microti. Additionally, toxins from recluse spider bites can result in prolonged health issues.


  • Seafood consumption: Eating tropical reef fish contaminated with ciguatera toxin, often associated with Pfiesteria and harmful algae blooms including cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), can lead to biotoxin-related health problems. This toxin becomes more concentrated as larger reef fish consume smaller fish that have ingested dinoflagellates.


  • Contact with contaminated water: Coming into contact with or inhaling water contaminated with algae blooms, like Pfiesteria and cyanobacteria, can initiate the inflammatory responses linked to CIRS.


  • Other biotoxin sources: CIRS can also be triggered by exposure to certain vaccines, viruses, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), endotoxins, and actinomycetes, which are additional biotoxin sources.


cirs water damaged building biochemical stew


Due to their small molecular size, biotoxins can infiltrate cell membranes, making them nearly undetectable in standard blood tests. These toxins typically enter the body through inhalation, though they can also be absorbed via ingestion, or from tick and spider bites, and direct contact with contaminated water.


Not all exposure to common biotoxins such as mold automatically results in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS); an individual’s genetic makeup and various life stressors significantly impact their susceptibility to biotoxin-related illnesses. Events like severe illnesses, surgeries, high fevers, pregnancies, significant biotoxin exposures, and other traumatic experiences can trigger a cytokine storm. This immune response may activate the CIRS gene in those who are genetically prone, particularly in individuals with HLA-DR genes, suggesting that CIRS can emerge at any time in life. It is crucial to note that the absence of symptoms does not mean one is immune, and genetic testing can be essential for prevention.


While biotoxins might cause immediate illness, most individuals’ immune systems are capable of detecting and removing these toxins efficiently. However, for those genetically predisposed to CIRS, their immune systems fail to recognize and clear these toxins, leading to their accumulation in the body. This results in a persistent, intense immune reaction and widespread inflammation, causing a variety of symptoms and chronic health issues.


The biotoxin pathway explains why CIRS is a multi-system, multi-symptom condition, you can learn more about the biotoxin pathway here.


For a more detailed understanding of CIRS, click here.


What Is the VCS Test?

The US Military, specifically the Air Force, developed the Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test to evaluate the function of the rod cells in the retina. Starting with its initial development in the 1960s, the VCS test was used as an objective biomarker of pilot health and is still used today.


The VCS test measures your ability to see details at low contrast levels and is often used to test nonspecific neurological function. It involves a series of images of decreasing contrasts and the results can aid in the diagnosis of visual system dysfunction which is a symptom of CIRS.


Biotoxins impair the ability to detect subtle contrast due to capillary-level dysfunction within 24-36 hours after exposure. Biotoxins lower the available oxygen due to reduced blood flow to the optic nerves. Lower oxygen to the eyes may reduce night vision and increase light sensitivity.


VCS testing is a valuable tool to detect and monitor exposure to toxic environments for CIRS patients.



While the VCS test isn’t foolproof and about 8% of CIRS patients will have a false pass, individuals with eight out of the 13 symptom clusters who fail the VCS test have a 98% chance of having CIRS. The VCS test has a 92% accuracy rate based on data collected from tens of thousands of tests taken over decades since Dr. Shoemaker first began using it.


There are other various factors that can affect your ability to perceive contrast, including:


  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Consumption of alcohol, drug, and medication use
  • Exposure to endogenous or exogenous neurotoxins and/or biotoxins


Where Can You Take the VCS Test?

First-time users can take the test for free here or use the official VCS test from Dr. Shoemaker for a nominal fee here. We prefer using VCSTest.com as it has a tracking feature for all historical VCS data. They also offer a lifetime package to take unlimited tests which can be invaluable for tracking treatment progress.


How Does the VCS Test Work?

The Online Contrast Sensitivity Test™ from VCSTest.com is identical to the Funcal Acuity Contrast Test (FACT®) Dr. Shoemaker used in neurotoxin research, in terms of contrast levels and spatial frequencies tested.


VCSTest.com also features on-screen display size and gamma calibration to ensure that results are accurate and valid regardless of the type, size, and settings of the device being used for testing. Additionally, OCST test images are generated dynamically in software, which ensures that images are the highest quality and that the test is different each time you take it.


VCSTest.com‘s pass-and-fail algorithm is also the same proven algorithm used by Dr. Shoemaker. They score performance at the other tested spatial frequencies using criteria developed from current contrast sensitivity-related research. That’s why you’ll see enhanced, expanded results and interpretation at the end of each test which includes research-based information on what deficits at each of the tested spatial frequencies might suggest.


VCS Test Results and CIRS

Your score will show up as a pass or fail. A failed test generally suggests the existence of CIRS or biotoxin illness.


The VCS test is an initial screening step in the Shoemaker diagnostic testing process for CIRS. If you have failed test results, you’ll need to follow up with a Shoemaker practitioner for further diagnostic testing. Lab work for diagnostic blood markers is needed for a confirmed CIRS diagnosis.


Pro-Tip:  If you’re interested in working one-on-one with our CIRS nutritional therapy team to support you through your journey, our CIRS Support Package delivers the support and accountability for achieving root-cause healing.

How Do I Interpret My VCS Test Results?

Aside from its utilization in diagnostic testing and exposure tracking throughout treatment and CIRS maintenance, the VCS test can offer deeper health insight. For all of this nuanced information, join our CIRS Support Group for the remainder of this content.


How Is the VCS Test Used During CIRS Treatment?

The VCS test is used for tracking treatment progress and can also be used as a cost-effective tool for gauging how patients do in certain environments.


Most patients will see an improvement in their VCS results after one week of starting Cholestyramine (CSM), the prescription binder for CIRS. Improvements in VCS results are a positive sign that CSM and Welchol (the gentler CIRS binder alternative), are reducing biotoxins in the body.


While ERMI and HERTSMI-2 testing are always required to determine the safety of a new environment, the VCS test can also be used to help gauge how individuals do in these environments as well. The VCS can be used as a preliminary screening tool for CIRS patients looking at various properties.


Closing Thoughts On CIRS and VCS Testing

VCS testing offers a great, cost-effective resource for both diagnostic and ongoing tracking for CIRS treatment. For individuals who suspect they may be suffering from CIRS, we recommend starting with this testing and evaluating if you have eight of the 13 symptom clusters.


If you fail the VCS test but don’t have at least eight of the 13 symptom clusters, we’ve found that this can be more common in our Carnivore community and recommend pursuing further diagnostic testing. If you don’t fail the VCS test and do have at least eight of the 13 symptom clusters, there’s a chance you’re a part of the 8% of the population with false passes. In these cases, we do recommend pursuing further diagnostic testing as well.


nwj cirs group


Pro-Tip: Are you looking for more in-depth practitioner resources and a like-minded community to support you through your CIRS journey? Join our exclusive CIRS Support Group for the latest research, step-by-step protocol tools, and support to successfully achieve root-cause healing.


Work With Our Trusted CIRS Practitioners

The Nutrition with Judy practice is honored to be trusted CIRS practitioners having served hundreds of clients and patients from around the globe. We’re passionate about helping our clients achieve root-cause healing in order to lead the best quality of life possible that’s nearly symptom-free. Our team is dedicated to helping CIRS patients navigate this complex illness. If you think you’re suffering from CIRS, start with our White Glove Service for comprehensive care.

Start your root-cause healing journey today and contact us any time with any questions or concerns.


DISCLAIMER: This content is for educational purposes only. While we are board-certified in holistic nutrition and are nutritional therapy practitioners, we are not providing medical advice. Whenever you start a new diet or protocol, always consult with your trusted practitioner first.

Nutrition with Judy


  • Joanna S
    June 7, 2024 at 9:59 am

    My daughter took 2 VCS tests, one on the surviving mould website and the other on VCS and her results were pass in one and fail in the other. Why could this be? Is one more accurate than the other?

    Thank you in advance.

  • Joanna
    June 7, 2024 at 2:22 pm


    My daughter did the test back to back on both websites (surviving mould and VCS test) and had a pass on one and a fail on the latter. How do we know which one is accurate?

    • Nutrition with Judy
      June 7, 2024 at 3:19 pm

      Having one positive is sufficient. You can email our customer service and we can better serve you.

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