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Are you Sick from Mould?

by Emma Lane(more info)

listed in environmental, originally published in issue 256 - August 2019

 

When you have the unfortunate experience of walking into a room or building that has a musty smell, generally you may think to yourself “this is an unpleasant smell”, and quickly remove yourself from the environment. What you probably didn’t think was, this is bad for my health! Musty smells are a sign of damp and indicate that a building may be harbouring toxic mould.

 

Mould

 

Unfortunately, many people are unaware that mould can be very harmful to their health, and maybe the health symptoms you are experiencing could be related to mould toxicity.

Given the prevalence of mould in our buildings and food supply, it is very likely that you have been exposed to harmful moulds and mycotoxins at some point in your life.

Take a look at this list of mould toxicity related symptoms to see if mould mycotoxins may be affecting your health:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Lack of concentration, and difficulty focusing
  • Brain fog, mood swings, and disorientation
  • Poor memory
  • Morning stiffness, joint pains, and muscle cramps
  • Tingling and numbness in the extremities, irritation, rashes, and unusual sensations
  • Sinus congestion and chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Allergies, and nosebleeds 
  • Red eyes, blurred vision, and seeing halos around lights
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Multiple chemical sensitivities and histamine intolerance
  • Night sweats
  • Light sensitivity
  • Increased thirst and urinary frequency 
  • Bloating, nausea, and abdominal discomfort
  • Headache
  • Appetite swings
  • Static shocks

People can be exposed to toxic mould just about anywhere, however common areas of exposure are homes, schools, office buildings and hotels. 

Moulds are fungi that can grow on almost any surface. They are invasive and versatile and they thrive in warm, damp, humid conditions, therefore damp buildings provide a perfectly hospitable living environment for mould to proliferate. Once established in a damp environment, mould can spread and reproduce by releasing tiny microscopic spores that are carried in the air. The spores are capable of surviving harsh environmental conditions. Spores germinate and then form new mould colonies. Spores can travel on people and animals as well as in the air.

Airborne exposure is the most likely route of exposure in damp indoor environments however, ingestion of contaminated foods and through skin contact with a contaminated surface can also lead to illness.

Therefore if you suspect a current mould problem in your home or work place environment, it would be wise to complete a simple, affordable and convenient mould test using mould plates. The ones that I prefer are available from www.holisticsonline.com/mouldplates

What makes these Moulds Dangerous?

The harmful effects of mould are mediated by bio toxins, including spores, cell fragments, endotoxins, beta-glucans, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and mycotoxins - toxic chemicals that are present on spores and small fragments of mould and fungus that are released into the air. These often unseen culprits are sneaky and dangerous.

Toxic Load

Mould is just one of the many bio toxins found in damp buildings, and the illness caused by exposure to these toxins, is much more complex than most practitioners and patients assume. Mycotoxins and bio toxins can suppress the immune system, opening you up to other health problems i.e. being more susceptible to an overgrowth of Candida, another type of fungus that produces its own mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are tiny and fat soluble, therefore they are easily able to access the cell membranes and the mitochondria, disrupting the ability to produce energy and often cause chronic fatigue, as well as disruption of hormonal and immune functions of cells.

Mycotoxins can stay present in fat cells and cell membranes for several years after exposure, even after the mouldy environment has been addressed. So in other words, a previous exposure, such as growing up in a home with a mould problem or student digs in higher education, may often precede your sickness later in life.

Mould toxins can alter the defence system of the host. Mould is especially problematic for people who are suffering from other chronic illnesses such as Lyme and other pathogen borne illnesses. People with immune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other health conditions are also at risk from the adverse effects of mould.

Mould and Bio Toxins

There are four major reasons that mould and bio toxins can cause the symptoms listed earlier these are

  • Toxic response from mycotoxins produced by the moulds can damage cell membranes and mitochondria thus interfering with cell function and poisoning energy production.
  • Allergic response to the mould itself triggers the immune system to create inflammation cascades and imbalances.
  • Additional toxins from other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that toxic moulds and bacterial biofilms produce can disrupt detoxification mechanisms in cells, liver, kidneys and the gut.
  • Immune system suppression has a direct toxic effect on many forms of white blood cells.

If the previous or current mould in your home has not been addressed correctly, but was hurriedly wiped off or painted over, maybe not by you, but by the previous owners, it could contribute to illness for you and your family.

Mould thrives in moist, warm and humid conditions, indoors and outdoors. When these conditions combine with a suitable food source, mould can spread very quickly, often in unseen places. Mould easily lives on paper, cardboard, wood, fabric, carpet, drywall, and many other common building materials.

Underlying Causes of Mould in your Environment of which to be Aware

  • Moisture: Ensure any water pipe, roof leaks or any kind of leak are fixed immediately;
  • Condensation: If the warm air inside your property hits a colder surface, like your windows, it causes interior condensation. This often leads to mould eating away at wooden window frames;
  • Air Conditioning units: air conditioning, heating, and ventilation units needs regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure that it is not the culprit. It could be circulating fungus spores around the house. Get an expert to look into it and consider getting a HEPA air scrubber to clean the air;
  • Humidity: purchase dehumidifier units, depending on the size of your home. A dehumidifier ensures you can keep the humidity of your property around the 50% mark – mould finds it harder to multiply in drier air.

Foodborne Exposure

Many foods have mycotoxins in them, therefore a low mould diet can be very helpful.

It is important to note that mycotoxins can grow on a variety of different crops and foodstuff, and can penetrate deep into food and do not just grow on the surface.

To minimize the health risk from food based mycotoxins, it is advisable to inspect whole grains (especially corn, sorghum, wheat, rice), dried fruit and nuts such as peanuts, pistachio, almond, walnut, coconut, brazil nuts and hazelnuts which are all regularly contaminated with aflatoxins for evidence of mould, and discard any that look mouldy, discoloured and shrivelled.

In the European Union, 20% of all grains harvested have been found to be contaminated with mycotoxins. Unfortunately, mycotoxins are resistant to heat and many processing procedures.

Avoidance of further exposure to water damaged environments and items contaminated by those environments is advised, as ongoing exposure will reduce any efforts at detoxification and perpetuate a reactive state.

In addition to avoidance of further exposure to contaminated items, it is recommended to decrease exposure to other chemical xenobiotic agents including pesticides, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and fragrances, vinyl chloride, plastics, non-stick cookware, and other toxins in an effort to reduce total load and improve the ability to detoxify in general, as well as from the exposure to a water damaged environment.

To prevent and control mould development install proper ventilation systems for showers, laundry, air conditioning etc., therefore minimizing the moisture and wet environment. Humidity control should be properly maintained to minimize mould development.

Steps to Improve your Health

  1. Work with a health practitioner that has experience of dealing with mould. They will be able to access the appropriate tests and confirm if mould is a problem. They will also be able to guide you properly in regards to addressing it;
  2. Clean up your environment as discussed above throughout the article. Full remediation of your property may be necessary and can be expensive;
  3. Clean up your diet. Go for organic, grass fed, wild etc. Aim to eat more fresh foods rather than commercial processed foods. Reduce your sugar intake aiming for more of a low mould diet and avoid the high mycotoxin risk foods, such as grains, nuts, mouldy fruit and yeast containing products such as cheese, alcohol and cured meats;
  4. Support your immune system and get to bed and sleep by 10.30pm, reduce your level of stress, reduce exposure to EMF’s, Wi-Fi etc.;
  5. Resolve any gut and digestive issues;
  6. Bind the mobilized toxins with a binding agent such as charcoal, clay or pectin, beta-glucan, chlorella or chitosan, so toxins don’t re-enter circulation from increased intestinal permeability. Many supplements can be found here www.holisticsonline.com/anti-pathogenic/binders;
  7. Support nutritional deficits, inflammation, and mitochondrial function with lipoic acid, methylated B vitamins, CoQ10, turmeric, fish oils, phosphatidyl choline, minerals, electrolytes, vitamin C, and other supportive nutrients. Many clean beneficial products can be found on Holistics Online  - www.holisticsonline.com; Everyone is different in regards to their needs, so please browse and choose specifically in regards to your needs;
  8. Reduce toxic load and gently increase the removal of the toxins by supporting your liver, gallbladder and kidney detoxification channels with milk thistle, NAC and glutathione etc. Many options can be found here - www.holisticsonline.com/detoxification/detox-support;
  9. Support your lymphatics. Move toxins from inside the fat cells and lymph system with hot Epsom salt baths, lymphatic drainage therapy, homeopathy, dry skin brushing, far infra-red saunas, ionic foot spas, sweating, coffee enemas, colonics, glutathione, using a mini trampoline or a “Chi machine” can all be helpful. Organic mud baths are helpful especially if there is musculoskeletal aches and pains and or skin issues. Mud Baths can be purchased from – www.holisticsonline.com/pathogenic/mould.

Hopefully this has given you some insight into mould and its possible contribution to your health challenges. Mould is a complicated, challenging and often frustrating health issue so please implement things slowly, and gradually you will move in the right direction to improve your health. It is often part of a more complicated and diverse collection of health imbalances that a person is experiencing, so again I suggest that it is always a sound and sensible idea to get assistance from an experienced practitioner in this area.

References

Pizzorno J. Is Mold Toxicity Really a Problem for Our Patients? Part I-Respiratory Conditions. Integr Med (Encinitas) 15(2):6–10. 2016.

Pizzorno J, Shippy A. Is Mold Toxicity Really a Problem for Our Patients? Part 2-Nonrespiratory Conditions. Integr Med (Encinitas) 15(3):8–14. 2016.

Antibodies against molds and mycotoxins following exposure to toxigenic fungi in a water-damaged building. Vojdani A, Campbell AW, Kashanian A, Vojdani E. Arch Environ Health 58(6):324-36. Jun 2003.

Adverse human health effects associated with molds in the indoor environment.

Hardin BD, Kelman BJ, Saxon A. J Occup Environ Med. 45(5):470-8. May 2003.

Hope, J., A Review of the Mechanism of Injury and Treatment Approaches for Illness Resulting from Exposure to Water-Damaged Buildings, Mold, and Mycotoxins. The Scientific World Journal 20. 2013.

Aleksic, B.; Draghi, M.; Ritoux, S.; Bailly, S.; Lacroix, M.; Oswald, I. P.; Bailly, J. D.; Robine, E., Aerosolization of 
mycotoxins after growth of toxinogenic fungi on wallpaper. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2017.

Bennett, J. W.; Klich, M., Mycotoxins. Clinical microbiology reviews 16 (3), 497-516. 2003.

Viegas, C.; Nurme, J.; Pieckova, E.; S, V., Sterigmatocystin in foodstuffs and feed: aspects to consider. 
Mycology 2018, 2018.

Mycotoxins and human health. IARC Sci Publ (158), 87-104. 2012.

Johanning, E.; Biagini, R.; Hull, D.; Morey, P.; Jarvis, B.; Landsbergis, P., Health and immunology study following exposure to toxigenic fungi (Stachybotrys chartarum) in a water-damaged office environment. International archives of occupational and environmental health. 68 (4), 207-18. 1996.

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About Emma Lane

Emma Lane ND Dip NT CMTA C.H.E.K IV HLC3 PEA RSA has more than 29 years’ experience in the industry, working as a Naturopath, Naturopathic Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Practitioner. Emma has two busy practices in the north of England and central London and is also the founder and director of Integrative Health Education and PCI Europe. Emma regularly lectures around the world and is passionate about sharing her knowledge with other practitioners. She works closely with Dr Omar Amin, a world-renowned professor of parasitology. Emma is qualified to practise across a wide range of natural health sciences including Naturopathy, Naturopathic Nutrition, Functional Medicine, Neuro-linguistic Programming, Timeline Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Auricular Acupuncture, Functional Corrective Exercise, Sound Therapy and Energy Healing. For further information please contact Emma via https://www.energizemindbody.com; Lane Wellness group - http://lanewellnessgroup.co.uk

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