, Did you know that mold could be causing your illness? Patients with mold-related illnesses face difficult challenges finding care from a qualified provider who understands the mold issue. Many end up feeling frustrated and unheard, confused about why it is so difficult to find effective care.
So why does it seem like no one knows how to adequately treat mold toxicity, and why is it so hard to get doctors to believe you?
You might not know that a huge gap exists between what practitioners see in their patients and what has been published regarding mold toxicity and its management. While it’s clear that mold causes illness in humans, few research studies or clinical trials on how to diagnose, treat, and manage these illnesses exist.
Mold Toxicity could be causing your illness
Mold grows and flourishes in damp environments, which is why it often appears in buildings with high humidity and water damage. Even though mold problems are less common in desert climates, it is still not uncommon to find mold problems due to leaky pipes or closed areas that harbor moisture that encourages its growth.
Practitioners who treat chronic illnesses like mold toxicity often have patients who tell them, “I was healthy until I moved into this building” or “I feel better when I leave for work or a vacation, but worse when I come home.” If any of this sounds familiar, then mold could be causing your illness, you should check your house and other buildings you spend significant time in for water damage, leaks, humidity, and mold growth. If yours is a hidden problem, you can have a professional do a check for airborne mold spores that may uncover that problem.
But first, you should be aware of the difference between mold and mildew.
Mold is typically green or black. Keep in mind that not all species of mold produce the mycotoxins that can significantly impact human health.
Mildew is green or white. It has a very distinctive smell that you have probably encountered in many old buildings but is not necessarily toxic.
Black mold is the most concerning, as well as other similar species known to cause more severe reactions such as aspergillus and stachybotrys.
Reactions to mold determine mold toxicity
Mold releases compounds called mycotoxins (or more specifically, aflatoxins) which trigger inflammatory responses in the body. But not everyone has the same reaction to mycotoxins, and severity can vary drastically from person to person.
Part of it is related to your immune tolerance – how fit your immune system is to either react or not react to environmental pathogens. The integrity of the lung barrier and genetic factors also play a role. The microbiome, the types of microbes that live in and on us and are an important part of our immune system, also play a role in the severity and type of reaction to these airborne pathogens.
The key idea is that everyone’s going to respond to mold differently and have different reactions – which also means certain people are uniquely susceptible.
Mold allergy/mold toxicity sensitization
An important phenomenon to understand is the difference between routine immune reactions to mold and the development of a mold sensitization or mold allergy.
Exposure to mold leads to the production of antibodies called IgG. These antibodies can be measured from blood samples, which lets physicians know that the immune system is being exposed and reacting to these toxic mold species.
It’s possible for people to shift from an IgG response (a type of immune antibody) to an IgE (a different type of immune antibody associated with allergy) reaction, making them even more sensitive so mold could be causing their illness. This is what some call a mold allergy, where the person becomes primed and experiences immediate symptoms whenever they enter a building contaminated with mold spores.
Anyone exposed over a long enough period of time will eventually experience an immunological shift from IgG to IgE.
How mold toxicity can cause lung barrier breakdown
Repeated mold exposure can also cause the breakdown of barriers in the lungs, often referred to as leaky lung syndrome. While not the technical term, it’s a simple description that works because of the condition’s similarity to leaky gut syndrome.
The pulmonary epithelium barrier in the lungs has:
- Zonulin proteins that keep the epithelium tight together.
- Occludin proteins that keep the intestinal epithelium junction in the lungs together.
People with regular mold exposure experience constant inflammation which breaks down their pulmonary tight junctions. They become extremely sensitive to pathogens and irritants in the air which can eventually lead to chronic inflammatory conditions or autoimmune diseases. Some of the most common symptoms of lung barrier breakdown are difficulty breathing, coughing, irritation, and a hard time recovering after strenuous physical activity.
What to do if mold is gettin you ill
If mold is causing your illness, the first thing you can do is reach out to your doctor about testing for mold exposure. A routine blood test will indicate whether you have antibodies that confirm an immune reaction to mold, and a urine test can be used to measure any mycotoxins in your system.
One test I use is the Cyrex Labs Array 12 Pathogen screen, which tests for antibodies to common mold species and other pathogens.
Ultimately, the most important factor in mold toxicity is the environment. If you don’t remove your exposure to the mold, you can’t beat it. No supplement is going to be able to counteract constant exposure.
Whether or not you are able to remove the exposure, it’s important to improve your immune tolerance and maintain the integrity of your pulmonary barrier. Vitamin A, antioxidants like acai and pomegranate extract, and glutathione or supplements that raise glutathione are all key parts of protecting yourself from barrier breakdown. Therapies like UBI + ozone and Neuromodulation Technique have proven to be very helpful for many people.
Another important aspect of strengthening your immune system is improving your microbiome diversity and strength. The microbiome is an important part of the immune system and the gut microbiome, often called the second brain, communicates with the microbiome of the lungs to help assure that the right kinds of organisms are present and that they are doing their job of defending the lungs.
Some things you can do to reduce immune reactions if you’ve already developed mold sensitivity are improve your ventilation, use an air purifier with a HEPA filter, and purchase a hygrometer and dehumidifier. This helps to monitor indoor humidity, which you should aim to keep under 40 percent.
While for the most part anecdotal, some patients have experienced success with certain natural compounds. However, you should know that these approaches haven’t been vetted through clinical trials or tests but many of them have a long clinical history of success and may be helpful. These natural compounds, which include tea tree oil, retinol, cloves, and thyme, seem to have antifungal properties and can be taken as botanical extracts or diffused during the night while sleeping . Biofilm disruptors and binders such as Biocidin, are other options.
Is mold causing your illness?
So, if you are one of those patients feeling like the underlying problems are not being addressed in your current treatment and are looking for additional help, approaching treatment from a more holistic method and ruling out the “mold perspective”, may be just what you need to get on track to healing.