While awareness of the health effects from certain types of mold exposure continues to slowly increase, the reality is is that mold and problems from mold have been with us as a society for as long as humans have been building dwellings and water damage has been happening!
While many molds may pose no or minimal health threats to the majority of individuals, some individuals and some types of mold are at much greater risk and are much more potentially dangerous. Reasons for this include: overall health status and immune system functioning (those that are on immunosuppressive drugs like steroids or those dealing with cancer, AIDS, or autoimmune illnesses may be at greater risk); genetic differences (approximately 25% of the population has a certain genotype that makes them more susceptible to biotoxin related illnesses, such as mold and lyme disease); age (very young children and the elderly are typically more vulnerable due to immature and/or weakened immunity); and nutritional status (those with nutrient, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies have less ‘reserves’ to counter the potent toxins produced by some mold species).
While symptoms and subsequent health problems from mold exposure can range from mild to severe, many of the most common medical issues and symptoms seen from chronic mold exposure include:
- Allergies (runny nose, sneezing, throat irritation, itchy eyes, irritated lungs)
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, or memory troubles
- Problems breathing, increased asthma or in severe cases, coughing up blood
- Changes in urination and bowel frequency
- Light sensitivity
- Appetite and thirst dysregulation
- Joint pain
- Morning stiffness
- Mood swings
- Sinus problems
- Temperature swings (hot to cold and vice versa with no apparent reason)
So why do some molds cause all these (and potentially more) problems? Well, it is important to understand a little bit about mold, the living organism, to better fully understand this issue. Molds, like all living organisms in this world, compete for food and moisture resources. In order to try and ward over other molds and microorganisms coming in to take over their food supply (i.e. moist, rotting boards, plasterboard, cellulose, etc.), they produce ‘mycotoxins’ to kill off and ward off these other molds and bacterias. Unfortunately these ‘mycotoxins’ are not only harmful to other molds and bacteria, but they can also harm us! This is why some people can get very sick from being exposed to mold. It is not the case where someone has a fungal infection but rather they have had toxin exposure which has been damaging cells and tissues all over their body (thus conventional anti-fungals will not typically help such a person!). It should be noted that there are many, many types of molds and thankfully most of them do not cause harm in the majority of humans. Some of the more common culprits for mold related illnesses include: Cladosporium, Alternaria, Penicillin, Chaetomium, Fusarium, Basidiospores, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys. As mentioned earlier, about 25% of the population is genetically at a much higher risk for developing problems from repeat mold exposure. These are typically the individuals that even after they have moved out of the affected home or workplace environment still are sick afterwards and may have much more severe symptoms than others.
Treatment for such individuals and mold related illnesses revolves around ultimately a number of key points including:
- Removal of exposure to mold (the majority of most filters are not able to filter out both mold and biotoxins from an enclosure, note).
- Absorbing and allow the biotoxins to exit out of the body through the bowels and to be metabolically processed out through the kidneys and liver
- Supporting the body to regenerate and heal through variety of means potentially including IV therapies, supplements, lifestyle changes, nutrition, and prescriptions
- Monitoring key lab markers of inflammation and other bodily functions that may be often affected by biotoxin illnesses
Ultimately because each individual has a unique genetic, medical, and life history, treatments should be individualized for each person to maximize their results and improvement, which is also the essence of a more integrative, holistic medicine approach! Other relevant health issues that may be contributing to the severity of the reactions to mold and/or impeding one’s recovery from the mold exposure will also need addressing as they play powerful roles in either facilitating or interfering with one’s ability to recover!