Silent Health Threats #1: MOLD
Mold Illness is medically known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) and is also referred to as biotoxin illness.
I want to create an awareness of indoor mold and the health challenges that result if we do not clean it up as soon as it shows up.
I cannot discuss or write about mold however without mentioning the pioneer Richie C. Schoemaker, MD. He specialises in mold-triggered ilnesses, in particular CIRS aquired following exposure to the interior environment of a Water-Damaged Building (CIRS-WDB). His advanced education courses on mold and book; Surviving Mold, impacted and transformed the lives of many people who struggled with this disease.
CIRS is one of the most compelling reasons for the increasnig Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia and “depression” to name a few. We should suspect it and rule it out for every person who presents with a multi-system, multi-symtom illness and anyone who lives, works or goes to school in a water damaged building.
CIRS often has a genetic underlying link that increase the risk for illness. It causes chronic inflammation that leads to decreased blood flow, leaky membrane junctions, gut and brain inflammation and disrupted regulation of multiple systems in the body. Based on certain Genes (called HLADR), 24% of people are more susceptible to mold toxicity. With these genetics, your immune system does not readily tag mold toxins in order to get rid of them leading them to build up and make you sick.
The response to mold is based on inflammation that is rooted in the body’s innate immune response to foreign invaders in the body, called antigens. The symptoms of mold toxicity may vary from person to person. It is true that many of the symptoms presented in mold toxicity can also be due to other non related illnesses and leads to mold illness being overlooked or misdiagnosed.
The inside of water-damaged buildings (WDB) is always a soup of antigens, with sources coming from microbes like fungi, actinomycetes and bacteria. WDB create unhealthy ecosystems. Antigen detection by the immune system leads to inflammation with harmful gene activation resulting in chronic innate immune inflammation.
Molds purpose in nature is to decompose and recycle plant debris and transforming it into nutrients for new plant growth. This makes mold an important cycle outdoors.
Indoors it leads to problematic situations:
- It can easily grow inside buildings undetected in holes and gaps in the walls, in air conditioning and dehumidifying units.
- It can easily live on paper, cardboard, wood, fabric, carpet, drywall and any many other common building materials.
- It can survive in hidden moisture sources like condensation on windows, beneath the sink, in washing machines, in refrigerators and showers.
- It competes for territory by taking out its opponents.
- Mold spores or fragments of mold can easily travel through the air and can be inhaled or ingested.
- Mold toxins are fat soluble and can stay present in fat cells and cell membranes for many years.
- Many foods also have mycotoxins.
- Mold is difficult to identify and is often misdiagnosed.
- Most importantly mold can cause disease.
- It gives off a toxic gas and invades your body.
- The toxic response from mycotoxins produced by mold, damage cell membranes and mitochondria; interfering with the function, reducing the production of energy, and disrupting hormonal and immune functions in the cell.
- The VOC toxins produced by toxic mold bio-films disrupt detoxification mechanisms in the cell, liver, kidney and gut.
- It causes allergies to food, chemicals, and electromagnetic field sensitivities.
- The toxic effect to the white blood cells can directly cause immune system suppression the outcome of which can lead to multiple courses of antibiotics and diminishes the natural gut-flora which can lead to an overgrowth of candida and other yeast organisms in the gut. These organisms all produce their own mycotoxins.
- It can be a barrier to overcoming complex, chronic health issues.
A mycotoxin (from the Greek μύκης mykes, “fungus” and τοξικόν toxikon, “poison”) is a toxic secondary metabolite produced by organisms of the fungus kingdom and is capable of causing disease and death in both humans and other animals.
There is no “clear-cut” list of signs and symptoms that specifically point to mold illness. You may not even recall or be aware that you have been exposed to mold. One possible clue is a sudden, unexplainable downturn in your health. Research showed that 92% of chronic ill people have at least one type of mycotoxin in their urine. In contrast, healthy people have no detectable urine mycotoxins.
Living Mold, and more so dying mold, excrete mycotoxins and poisonous chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). Even in low concentrations both are toxic to the body. Both help mold defend its territory from other microbes. Their modes of toxicity vary. The VOC’s also produce damaging free radicals, aldehydes and alcohols.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air, a trait known as volatility.
Some of the mold types found in toxic indoor environments are more problematic than others.
Most common mycotoxins and their sources, most commonly found in indoor environments are:
Aspergillus flavus and some Penicillium Species
Ways of diagnosing of mold toxicity:
- History of mold exposure: Do you remember spending significant time in a water-damaged building (regardless if you had symptoms at the time.)? Did symptoms start when you moved into a different home/apartment or workspace?
- Sick-building syndrome: Do you feel worse when you enter cetain buildings, such as your home, office, or school? Do you feel better when you spend a few days away from these buildings?
- Continual infections: Do you have reccuring infections, such as sinusitis or tonsilitis or do you seem to have a weak immune system? These can be early sighns of mold illness.
- Chemical sensitivity: Do you have symproms such as nausea, headache or cough when exposed to various chemical fumes? Examples include perfumes, detergents, cleaning products, tobacco smoke, printer ink, paints, varnishes, hair products, street dust and exhaust fumes.
- Odor sensitivity: Have you developed a hypersensitivity to smells, particularly mold? For Example, you may smell mold on other people’s clothes or develop a keen ability to smell mold in buildings.
The more of these criteria you meet, the more likely it is you have mold toxicity. If you meet all the criteria, it is more likely your mold illness is advanced and longstanding.
- Blood Tests:
- Full blood biochemistry
- Checking specific immune system and inflammatory markers via blood tests. Examples are C4a, TGF Beta-1, and MMP-9. Elevated levels of these markers do not prove you have mold illness, but they do contribute to the evedince.
- Hormonal blood tests. (there are also urine and saliva hormone tests available.)
- Urine Testing for mycotoxins:
- Deep Nasal Sinus cultures
I will not be discussing the various treatments for indoor mold or bio-toxin illnesses in this blog.
An important primary action is to move out of a moldy environment and avoid other toxic environments. By moving out of a sick building it is possible to bring the mold with you on your clothes, book, mats bedding, etc. You may have it inside your body as well. When mold invades your body it can live within your sinuses and gut in a biofilm.
If you feel that you have any of the symptoms above it is a good idea to go and consult your doctor.
- Mold Allergies happen when your immune system overreacts to mold spores.
- Mold Illness result from mold growing indoors and producing toxins that can trigger varied and widespread symptoms.
- The Innate Immune Response refers to nonspecific defence mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body. These mechanisms include immune system cells int he blood and on physical barriers such as mucous membranes and skin.
- Mold Illness: Surviving and Thriving – by Paula Vetter (Author), Laurie Rossi (Author), Cindy Edwards (Author), Dr. Ritchie C. Shoemaker (Foreword)
- Break The Mold: 5 Tools to Conquer Mold and Take Back Your Health – by Dr. Jill Crista
- Your Complete Mold Exposure Guide – by Dr. Jil Carnahan
- Surviving Mold: Life in th Era of Dangerous Buildings – by Ritchie Shoemaker (Author)