What You Need to Know About Toxic Mold
Summer Is Here! And so is humidity… and toxic mold!
Many people do not understand how difficult daily life can be for the individual dealing with a toxic mold infection. Misdiagnosed individuals are prescribed multiple prescription drugs, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, and sleep medications—even though they have toxic mold illness. Mold-toxic individuals can be diagnosed with a vague diagnosis of insomnia, psychiatric illness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or Fibromyalgia because they are not able to function in daily life.
In my health practice, the issue of mold comes up when individuals seek me out with ongoing health troubles. Red flags can be ongoing sinusitis, environmental allergies, increasing food sensitivities, headaches, especially after consuming alcohol or high histamine foods, chronic Lyme that does not shift with appropriate treatment, mysterious shooting pains, and more. Many people do not know that the mold in the body is contributing to what’s keeping them ill. Once it has settled in the body, it becomes a self-perpetuating factory.
The mold factor is not considered in conventional medicine, even though there is now a new medical diagnosis: “Sick-Building Syndrome.” It has come into being mostly because of mothers taking action because their kids are suffering health consequences in water-damaged school buildings. This does affect Autism- Spectrum challenged children, teenagers in school dorms, and it adults in water-damaged homes and buildings.
Consider the following:
- During Hurricane Sandy, many suffered water damage to their homes. Yes, the water dried over time – but is there hidden mold present behind the walls?
- Indoors, mold is prevalent under older carpets, in sheetrock, in walls, in shower stalls, in basements, and in air conditioner ducts. And in gyms!
- Water damage in older apartments and homes that was not correctly remediated increases the risk of harmful mold exposures for the people living there.
- Newer buildings that are energy efficient and not well ventilated can trap toxic mold spores that are inhaled by occupants.
- Finished and unfinished basements in homes without adequate humidifiers are breeding grounds for mold that can spread quickly through the house during humid and warm months.
If one lives or works in a moldy home or office, frequents a moldy structure (e.g., an old bookstore, church, or library), each time one breathes, one inhales mold spores. These spores also make their way onto our clothes and our belongings, allowing for contamination wherever we go.
Mold spores also exist outdoors. They can be found in the air, soil, and every- where in nature where it is warm, damp, and humid, including compost piles and wooded areas that favor the growth of mold and mushrooms.
We do know that 20 % of the population is genetically vulnerable to the toxins of harmful molds. Just 20 minutes in a ‘moldy’ basement can create health troubles as the spores enter through the nose into the brain, or through the mouth into the lungs. You know if you are having mold issues if you do not feel well when in a damp room or basement. This can manifest as a headache, feeling dizzy, nausea, light-headed or suddenly tired, or need to cough frequently.
If the immune system is weakened by steroid-medications, Lyme disease infections, use of immunosuppressing medications, and / or antibiotics, plus non-optimal eating habits, alcohol consumption, one is more susceptible to fungal overgrowth in the body.
Testing For Mold Sickness In The Body?
There is no one simple test to know if one has a mold illness, but there are some blood markers that care strong indicators. I do suggest to address your concerns with a health practitioner versed in this, as it can be overwhelming.
The work of Dr. Richie Shoemaker is instrumental, and his comprehensive book Surviving Mold is a good resource that discusses the visual aids test, MSH testing, nasal swabs for MARCoNS, inflammatory and genetic blood markers implicated with mold sickness, available mold testing in homes, and remediation techniques
With mold illness, colonization of multiple antibiotic-resistant microbes, called macrons (multiple antibiotic resistant coagulase negative staph colonization), can often occur, and these must be treated before any therapeutic Lyme treatment can begin. Individuals suffering from this condition have no tolerance for exercise. It takes an investigative and integrated approach to address the various components of this complicated and misunderstood environmental illness.
(These mold spores can cause illness, with symptoms similar to those caused by Lyme infections. If one is sick with Lyme, one is more susceptible to acquiring mold sickness.)
Mold toxins wreak havoc on the brain and the body’s biochemistry. The blood-brain barrier is designed to keep toxins out of the sensitive brain; when it is breached, poisonous substances enter the brain and cause damage. The biotoxins are also associated with
- A hyperactive immune system,
- Food sensitivities especially in regards to high histamine foods and yeast-containing foods.
- Neurological disturbances
- Psychiatric manifestation
The Food Connection?
With histamine concerns, dietary modifications are essential. Dairy is also often not tolerated by those with mold sickness, in conjunction with multiple other food sensitivities. Nuts and coffee are known harbingers of mycotoxins (bad mold toxins), so they add to the accumulative stress in the body. Sugary processed foods also induce further sugar cravings and worsening of health symptoms.
High histamine foods include kombucha, avocados, spinach, bananas, and aged foods, often worsen symptoms for those with mold sickness. Yes, these are ‘healthy foods’, but do remember that “one man’s food is another one’s poison.” Mold-sick individuals often do not tend to tolerate alcohol.
Mold toxins disrupt the gut lining, increasing vulnerability of a leaky gut. This opens the door to food sensitivities and increased systemic inflammatory responses in the body.
Treatment for mold sickness involving marcons in the sinus cavity is complex – and controversial. With mold-literate medical doctors, cholestyramine and BEG – spray was popular. In alternative treatment there has been a shift to use of colloidal silver spray while also repopulating the bacteria in the sinus cavity. Neti-pot rinsing is helpful and I will also consider a drop of iodine in the mix, while soothing the sinus membranes with goldenseal. In addition, charcoal is helpful to draw mold toxins out of the body.
Before there was an emphasis of getting rid of marcons, but they can come back if the immune system remains weekend and there is ongoing exposure to toxic molds in the living environment.
Inhaled toxins continue to disrupt hormones, brain and digestive function. This can be mild, or severe. Ultimately it depends on the individual’s immune system. An example: a family of five live in water damaged home. Two kids could be showing sickness symptoms while the parents and the other child are feeling no ill health (yet.).
Cannot Get Better? Check Your Home!
I recommend checking the home for toxic molds if you are experiencing ongoing health problems. A client recently used the Swiffer ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) test to check dust samples in her apartment. The cost was $290.00 and this test is highly recommended by mold-literate doctors and practitioners. Checking of air samples is not accurate. The interpretation must be seen in context with blood work and clinical symptoms.
There are naturally – occurring molds in the home and environment, but also very toxic ones. Exposure matters, especially when certain blood markers, e.g. C4a tested by Jewish National labs, or general inflammatory markers on a blood test are elevated. If one is sick, and lives in toxic mold, one cannot get better until remediation has occurred. Or one moves out.
It is best to use professional remediation to address any mold contamination in the home. Increased exposure to spores and toxic chemicals is a risk, especially without proper precautions. It is worth the money to get it done professionally. Common remediation options include extremely toxic chemicals, but I recommend the biological “ Green” option with enzymes.
So as we are enjoying warm and humid summer days, be aware of the potential mold factor in your home. A dehumidifier is a good idea in closed spaces like the basement or attic. And should you see any mold, do not wait to take action. Sadly, it is often hidden behind walls, or by fixtures in the bathroom or kitchen. Gyms in building basements with carpets can be another mold-exposure source – especially with sweaty bodies and steam baths!
On that sweaty note, have a great summer,
NY Integrated Health