What’s That Fuzzy Green Stuff? The Inside Story on Mold Illness
Mold illness is a relatively newly recognized phenomena in medicine. It has been found to be a common underlying cause of chronic, unresolved health issues. It is a condition that results from an accumulation of mycotoxins in the body. It is different than a mold allergy. Mold allergy symptoms from mold exposure are temporary and usually consist of runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. Research has shown that 24% of the population has a genetic defect where their immune system cannot properly identify mold toxins in the body and therefore, they are unable to eliminate them.
A person could have elevated mycotoxins in their body either due to a current mold exposure from a water damaged building or due to an exposure(s) from the past. Some people who have had a prior mold exposure, and have proper genetics, detox pathways, and have favorable epigenetic factors, and able to clear the mold from their system once they removed themselves from the exposure. However, due to several factors, including the HLA genetic defect mentioned above, some people’s bodies will not clear the mold. Mold can colonize in the body and if not eliminated, can cause symptoms in any body system.
There are multiple environmental contributors to the rise of mold illness. One major reason is that buildings have been built much “tighter” to conserve energy, yet, often at the expense of adequate ventilation. This causes an increased risk of mold accumulation. In 2011, NIOSH reported that up to 50% of buildings in the U.S. have sustained water damage. If you think about the fact that 50% of buildings has a history of mold growth and almost a quarter of people cannot properly process mold toxins once inhaled, then you can imagine that mold illness is much more prevalent than commonly recognized.
Body accumulation of mold and mycotoxins can result in a wide range of chronic symptoms. The most common symptoms include chronic fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and chronic sinus issues. Other symptoms that can occur include gastro-intestinal symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea, joint pain, dizziness, unusual patterns of numbness, unexplained weight gain, depression, anxiety, and sharp or shooting pains. Children often present with ADHD/ADD in addition to some of the above symptoms. In 2013, a study published by Dr. Joseph Brewer demonstrated that 93% of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had elevated mycotoxins in their urine.
In addition to the above symptoms, when a patient reports that they have become increasingly reactive to chemical and/or environmental stimuli, the healthcare provider should regard that phenomena as a red flag that there is a high probability that a mycotoxin body burden is present. Dr. Michael Grey and his team published several papers in 2003 clearly demonstrating immune and nervous system dysfunction in more than 200 patients who had mold exposure from water damaged buildings. The immune and nervous system dysfunction caused by mold can cause person’s system to become overly sensitive. People report becoming increasingly reactive to more foods, chemicals, EMFs, and in more severe cases, even light and sound.
The diagnosis is confirmed by doing a provoked urine mycotoxin test that is performed by a specialty lab. The test screens for levels of mycotoxins that have been found to cause illness in humans. If the test results are positive, there are definitive treatments that have been shown to be helpful in removing the mycotoxins and help restore health. In addition to facilitating the removal of mycotoxins from the system, an important component to treatment is treating the colonization of mold that occurs in the body. Colonization refers to the inhaled mold spores basically “setting up shop” in certain areas of the body, becoming mycotoxin producing factories. The two most common areas of colonization are the gastro-intestinal tract and the sinuses. These areas require anti-fungal treatment. In a landmark study done at the Mayo clinic in 1999, it was found, treating chronic sinus issues with nasal anti-fungals demonstrated marked improvement. Prior to this, chronic sinus symptoms were thought that to be due to allergy and/or bacterial infections, not fungal infections.
I have found mold illness remains to be underappreciated by most physicians. Of course, if it not looked for, then it will not be found. Many patients who have had a significant decline in the health have found that removing mold and mycotoxins from their system resulted in great improvement in many of their chronic health issues.