One of the most prevalent and least appreciated health concerns today is caused by exposure to mold. A quarter of the U.S. population is sensitive to molds and don’t know it. And a major part of the problem is that mold illness is often mistaken for allergies, Lyme disease, depression, PTSD or even multiple sclerosis, among other illnesses.
Mold illness is not an allergic reaction, however. It’s an acute, chronic and systemic inflammatory response to toxins released by molds. Also known as mold sickness, mold toxicity or biotoxin illness, it can lead to severe complications — even death, in extreme cases. That’s why we take it very seriously at Proactive Wellness Centers, and develop individual plans to treat it.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus. Mold can be found everywhere, but it’s usually invisible to the naked eye until it has grown into large colonies of interconnected networks of individual organisms. It often appears as a fuzzy layer on food, or a slimy coating on a surface, in a wide range of colors.
There are thousands of different species in the world. Unlike plants, mold cannot photosynthesize its own food, so it needs some kind of food source as well as moisture to grow. This is why you’ll find mold growing on fruits and vegetables as well as in damp areas. It can also develop in poorly maintained air conditioning and ventilation systems.
Molds reproduce by producing large amounts of spores that spread by wind or in water. Some cling to clothing or fur, as well. When it finds a suitable environment, grows, and reproduces again. However, the spores can survive a long time before finding a favorable habitat, even in extremes of temperature and pressure.
Most molds don’t start to grow or reproduce at temperatures below 39 degrees F, which is why we refrigerate food down to that temperature. However, any mold spores on refrigerated foods will survive in a dormant stage until the temperature goes up again — which is why you may find fuzz on your peaches after you take them out of the refrigerator overnight.
A few mold species produce chemicals called mycotoxins that can cause health problems or even death in other organisms, including humans.
Symptoms of mold exposure are similar to a wide range of other causes:
- watery, itchy eyes
- chronic cough
- difficulty breathing
- Sinus and nasal blockage
This is why mold illness is easily misidentified as an allergic reaction, a cold or other illness.
Black mold is often found in water-damaged buildings — in insulation or wallpaper, for instance — following a flood. It can cause severe lung problems.
Why mold illness happens
The human body cannot process mold. About a quarter of the population has a genetic profile that makes them susceptible to mold illness. This happens because of a series of biochemical changes known as the biotoxin pathway.
At Proactive Wellness Centers, we use a multi-phase process to confirm mold response and then identify the source of the biotoxin. We use a number of different tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to distinguish CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) from Lyme disease, and a range of different genetic and genomics-based tests to personalize the diagnosis and treatment to the individual patient’s body chemistry and needs.
Our Environment Relative Moldiness Index, or ERMI, uses DNA to determine which mold species are present in the patient’s home or workplace. This way, we can find out which biotoxins are affecting the patient, and the extent of the mold problem.
Once we have positively identified the presence of mold illness, the type of mold and its source, we can develop a treatment protocol that’s based on the specific health profile and needs of the individual patient.
- Get you away from biotoxins—The first step is to end the exposure to mold by getting the patient out of the harmful environment.
- Remove biotoxins from the body—Two binding agents, Welchol and cholestyramine, bind to biotoxins in organs and helps to carry them out of the body.
- Eradicate infections—About 80% of people with mold illness and other chronic inflammatory conditions have Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci infection, or MARCoNS. This is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection deep in the nose. Removing it allows the patient to return to health.
- Clean up the terrain—The road back to health is different for everyone. It can involve evaluating the presence of antigliadin antibodies for non-celiac gluten sensitivity and rebalancing hormones. At every step, we re-test to confirm the body’s balance has been corrected.
- Clean up the environment—It makes no sense to return to a moldy, infectious environment. With the specific mold identified, we can help advise the patient on where to look for it in the home or workplace, and how to remove it. Black mold, for example, can be very harmful and may be in an out-of-the-way spot, such as a basement or attic, or between walls.
- Develop a proactive diet—To prevent a return of a mold reaction, we work with each patient to find a diet that avoids foods likely to carry molds and mycotoxin, including corn, rye, wheat, rice, peanuts, cottonseed, oil seeds, some cheeses, black pepper, dried fruits, bread and alcoholic beverages.
Too many people suffer needlessly without realizing their fatigue, nausea, headaches, rashes or other symptoms are caused by mold illness. Many more will waste time and resources seeing allergists and other doctors who are unable to identify the cause of their symptoms, or worse, treat the wrong thing.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above and have not found the cause, call us at Proactive Wellness Centers to set up an appointment and get back on the road to health.