What is mold and what are its effects on the body? There are various misconceptions about mold, its types, and its effects. Mold is a type of fungus that includes a large variety of species. Most kinds of mold can be distinguished from other fungi by the soft, fuzzy appearance on the surface. This is caused by the networking of hyphae that connect the organism and distinguish mold from other fungi. When mold takes on a particular color it is most often due to the development of the mold’s spores, but otherwise it tends to be white and transparent. Mold is present everywhere but will not be visible to the naked eye unless colonies have formed.
Is Mold Always Bad?
No, definitely not. Mold is actually an essential part of many ecosystems and helps with decomposition of organic material. This process is an important part of all healthy ecosystems. Mold is also an important part of the development of medicines like the antibiotic penicillin, which is derived from the Penicillium fungi. Other drugs that are derived from fungi include lovastatin (lowers LDL cholesterol) and cyclosporine (used during organ transplant to prevent rejection of an organ). Despite the usefulness of mold, certain species that are commonly found in human environments can cause a wide range of symptoms in susceptible individuals. Since the growth of mold in a home or other building is insidious, it is often the case that people notice the symptoms of mold exposure before they notice the mold.
How Mold Grows in Your Home
The mold that is found in your home usually is the type that likes warm, wet environments. That is why it is found in kitchens and bathrooms. It also grows more easily in dark spaces, so it may be found in basements and in hard-to-see areas of your home. Most of the environmental aspects of mold growth are out of your control. If you live in an area with high humidity and very little sunlight your home may be susceptible to mold growth. Mold can use many types of material for food including food, wood, drywall, and more.
Parts of your home you can control to reduce the chances of mold growing include the ventilation, leaks in the roof or pipes, and damp basements or bathrooms. Keeping your home dry and clean is the best way to prevent it from becoming hospitable to mold. Reducing the accumulation of moisture in your home is one of the best methods of prevention. Open the windows and let sunlight in during the day to help the moisture evaporate and reduce dark spaces where mold can grow.
Other Kinds of Dangerous Mold
The mold that is most relevant to people in the United States is usually the kind that grows in water damaged buildings. However there are many different types of mycotoxins that affect people all over the world. In some cases crops that have not been treated with fungicides may become contaminated with mycotoxins that can cause severe illness or death. In the U.S., there have been a few cases of this occurring in dog food. It may occur also with food given to farm animals. This is mostly due to the lower standards applied to these types of food products, despite methods used to prevent the spread of fungi.
What are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins in some mold species are produced in order to inhibit the growth of other micro-organisms. In other cases, what are referred to as mycotoxins are actually the mold spores that have become airborne and are being inhaled or ingested. The scientific term for mycotoxin poisoning in humans is mycotoxicosis, however various other terminology has been used to describe the wide range of symptoms that are produced.
Chronic Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia have all been associated with exposure to mycotoxins. Individuals who already have a chronic conditions are more likely to be affected by these conditions. Mycotoxins may be inhaled or ingested, causing a variety of symptoms that can become chronic.
Effects of Mold on the Body
The toxic parts of mold that can be inhaled or ingested by humans are called mycotoxins. Individuals who are exposed to mold in their home may or may not exhibit symptoms. Those who develop a chronic condition from mold exposure likely are genetically predisposed to developing it. They may be more likely to develop a condition like CIRS because they have a pre-existing that has weakened their immune system.
The two types of mycotoxin toxicity that can occur are acute and chronic. Long-term, low-to-high level exposure to mycotoxins can result in chronic symptoms. The first symptoms of mold exposure most often are acute symptoms and include irritation of the throat, nose, and sinus passages. These may be the only symptoms that present for some individuals. For others, chronic symptoms can develop which may include:
- Depression, fatigue, anxiety, and other emotional changes
- Dizziness, headache
- Development of new sensitivities to foods or chemicals
- Muscle pain, joint pain
- Difficulty with sleep
- Hard time concentrating or thinking (“brain fog”)
- Breathing difficulties and congestion
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Hormonal imbalance
- And many other possible symptoms depending on the individual
CIRS and Mold Illness Treatment
People with particular genes may be more likely to develop chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS). CIRS is an inflammatory response to mold exposure that can result in many of the symptoms listed above. It can slow the body’s ability to heal itself and prevent other conditions from being treated. The treatment of CIRS is usually accomplished through following the Shoemaker Protocol. This protocol follows a series of steps that utilize various treatments to eliminate mold from the body. The first step of any mold illness protocol is to either remove yourself from the moldy environment or fully remediate the environment so it is free from mold.
Once there is no more exposure to mold, a treatment that involves nasal sprays, binding agents, and supplements can be used to help the body recover. Our pharmacy provides all of the medications needed to complete the Shoemaker Protocol, including BEG nasal spray or EDTA/silver nasal spray, pure cholestyramine resin, and VIP nasal spray. These medications can only be obtained from a compounding pharmacy as there are no commercially available preparations.
The treatments for mold related illnesses get talked about a lot more than remediation. However removing yourself from a water-damaged, moldy environment or having it fully remediated is an essential part of getting better. If you are not in a mold-free environment you will continue to experience symptoms and it will seem like treatments are not working. There are many resources online for finding help if you have mold in your home. Check out some of the excellent communities on Facebook that have developed to help people with CIRS, Lyme, and other chronic conditions. There may be someone in your community who can help.
Mycotoxins – Clinical Microbiology Review