IS TOXIC MOLD EXPOSURE THE CAUSE OF YOUR SYMPTOMS?
written by Jill Carnahan, MD
Dr. Peters’ Commentary:
While more and more integrative physicians are learning about mold and mycotoxin disease conventional doctors are still mostly treating the symptoms of this very common disorder. It is estimated that 50% of the American population has been exposed at some time in their life to a water damaged home of work environment and a significant percentage do not recall seeing the water damage. Consider the following information on mycotoxins in the body:
- Can affect any organ in the body thus producing a wide variety of symptoms.
- More than 50% of symptoms are neurological, cognitive or psychiatric, including anxiety, panic attack, insomnia, “brain fog”, lack of motivation, memory loss and poor decision making.
- Produces neuroinflammation which can progress to neurodegeneration (eg Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS)
- Major cause of mast cell activation with elevated whole blood histamine.
- Diagnosis depends on exposure, diversity of symptoms and urine test for mycotoxins.
Are you one of the many people unknowingly living or working in water damaged building? Did you know it may be dramatically affecting your health? It’s estimated that indoor air pollutants, including mold and mycotoxins may be contributing to more than 50% of our patient’s illnesses. Typically we think of smog, smoke, and outdoor pollution as detrimental to our health but indoor air quality may be an even bigger risk to your health. Many patients are unaware that a toxic home or workplace is contributing to their symptoms.
Exposure to water-damaged indoor environments is associated with exposure to molds. The most common types of mold that are found indoors include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, and Aspergillus. Stachybotrys chartarum (sometimes referred to as “toxic black mold”) is a greenish-black mold, which grows on household surfaces that have high cellulose content, such as wood, fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint and is usually an indicator that there has been elevated moisture present or previous water damage.
Some molds secrete mycotoxins, that can be measured in the urine, such as ochratoxin, aflatoxin, and trichothecenes. Exposure to mold and mold components is well known to trigger inflammation, allergies and asthma, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction in both human and animal studies. Mold spores, fungal fragments, and mycotoxins can be measured in the indoor environments of moldy buildings and in humans who are exposed to these environments. Most of the time, we are exposed to molds, like stachybotrys, through the skin contact, through ingestion, and by inhalation. Most common are reports of exposure involve water-damaged homes, schools, office buildings, court houses, hospitals, and hotels. It’s estimated that as many as 25% of buildings in the US have had some sort of water damage. Molds have the ability to produce various symptoms, such as skin rashes, respiratory distress, various types of inflammation, cognitive issues, neurological symptoms, and immune suppression. The most common symptoms associated with mold exposure are allergic rhinitis and new onset asthma.
Top Symptoms Associated with Mold-Associated Illness:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Headache, light sensitivity
- Poor memory, difficult word finding
- Difficulty concentration
- Morning stiffness, joint pain
- Unusual skin sensations, tingling and numbness
- Shortness of breath, sinus congestion or chronic cough
- Appetite swings, body temperature regulation,
- Increased urinary frequency or increased thirst
- Red eyes, blurred vision, sweats, mood swings, sharp pains
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating
- Tearing, disorientation, metallic taste in mouth
- Static shocks
- Vertigo, feeling lightheaded
Checklist that might indicate mold exposure or mold sensitivity (from ECH website)
- Do musty odors bother you?
- Have you worked or lived in a building where the air vents or ceiling tiles were discolored?
- Have you noticed water damage or discoloration elsewhere?
- Has your home been flooded?
- Have you had leaks in the roof?
- Do you experience unusual shortness of breath?
- Do you experience recurring sinus infections?
- Do you experience recurring respiratory infections and coughing?
- Do you have frequent flu-like symptoms?
- Do your symptoms worsen on rainy days?
- Do you have frequent headaches?
- Are you fatigued and have a skin rash?
How do I Treat Mold/mycotoxin Exposure?
- Remove yourself from the contaminated environment first. (don’t even think about going on to other treatments until you get out of the contaminated environment)
- Avoid exposure to porous items (paper, clothing, etc) from the moldy environment.
- Use clay, charcoal, cholestyramine or other binders to bind internal mycotoxins
- The Shoemaker protocol has proven effectiveness for cholestyramine powder or prescription Welchol as off-label bile sequestering agents to decrease total toxic load of mold and other toxins from water damaged buildings.
- I also recommend Upgraded Coconut Charcoal or GI Detox to bind toxins in the gastrointestinal tract and Glutathione Force to support glutathione, which is often depleted in toxin-related illness.
- While you are using binders, you must maintain normal bowel function and avoid constipation. You can add magnesium citrate, buffered C powder, or even gentle laxatives if needed but constipation is the enemy of detoxification!
- Treat colonizing molds/fungal or bacterial infections in the body
- Common locations of colonization include sinuses, gut, bladder, vagina, lungs
- Test and treat for candida overgrowth – living in an environment with mold leads to immune dysregulation that allows candida to overgrow in the body in some immunocompromised patients
- Enhance detoxification support
- Some common supplements used to aid detox are liposomal glutathione, milk thistle, n-acetylcysteine, alpha lipoid acid, glycine, glutamine, and taurine. Methylation support is also key and involves optimal levels of methylcobalamin (B12), methyl-folate, B6, riboflavin, and minerals
- Invest in a high quality air filter and home and at work, like Austin Air Healthmate Plus
- Avoid common mycotoxin containing foods:
- Corn, wheat, barley, rye, peanuts, sorghum, cottonseed, some cheeses, and alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. Others include oats, rice, tree nuts pistachios, brazil nuts, chiles, oil seeds, spices, black pepper, dried fruits, figs, coffee, cocoa, beans, bread.
Other Treatment Options
- Anti-fungal herbs and medications
- Infared sauna
- Detoxification support – oral and IV
- Remediation procedures for environment and belongings
- Create a “safe” place, with little potential for mold/allergens and great filtration system – this could be a bedroom or other room that is mold and chemical free
- Some patients benefit from IV immunoglobulin therapy (IVIg)
Here is a chart on page 72 in Townsend Letter July 2014 that explains sources and binders for common mycotoxins: