A tiny water leak can be life-changing for some people, if they develop mold illness. About a quarter of us have a genetic sensitivity to mold, so living with toxic mold can be particularly dangerous for those with HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genes that prevent their bodies from recognizing and eliminating these biotoxins.
Moldy homes or workplaces aren’t good for any of us, though. Exposure to toxic mold and mold spores can lead to significant health symptoms that can be hard to resolve, as mold illness isn’t often considered by mainstream healthcare.
Possible Symptoms of Toxic Mold Exposure
- Exhaustion after exercise or exertion
- Brain fog or trouble concentrating
- Memory issues
- Disorientation or confusion
- Vertigo, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Light sensitivity and/or blurry vision
- Burning or tearing eyes
- Skin rashes
- Muscle aches or cramping
- Joint pains
- Cough, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, asthma-like symptoms
- Nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhoea
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Mood swings
- Frequent static shocks
- Weight gain, or inability to lose weight
- Numbness and tingling
- Fever or swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms of mold or other biotoxin exposure can vary according to the individual and the species of mold encountered. They are also found in other illnesses, so it can be hard to identify mold exposure as the root cause without careful questioning the patient and listening to their history. Mold exposure can also cause inflammation, or suppress the immune system, so frequent colds and flus are common.
Diagnosis of Mold Illness
Illness resulting from mold exposure is known as chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS. Arguably the most knowledgeable expert on CIRS is Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, who has worked hard to get information out about this condition.
Other than patient history, there are several ways to test the patient for mold illness. Genetic testing can reveal susceptibility, urine testing can be done for mycotoxins, or an inexpensive online Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test can give about 92% accurate prediction of biotoxin exposure if it is failed. Testing levels of the master hormone Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) can be helpful too.
Treating Patients With CIRS
- The first step in treatment is always removal from the source of exposure. For some people, this means moving homes, or changing jobs.
- Identifying the particular type of mold is helpful, both for treatment, and because some types may require abandoning most belongings so that mold spores aren’t transferred to a new home. A skilled mold inspector should be able to identify the specific species of mold involved. An ERMI, or Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, seems to be the most thorough way to identify exact species of various molds present, including spores that are not airborne.
- Once the patient is removed from the source of mold exposure, and the species of mold is identified, treatment can begin to help the body detoxify the mold. This will vary according to the individual specifics but may involve dietary changes (at least for a few months) and prescription drugs known as “binders” such as cholestyramine or Welchol. These substances grab on to mold in the body as the liver collects it in gall, and forces it to be excreted instead of reabsorbed.
Additional support for overcoming mold illness can come from:
- Dietary changes such as eliminating high mycotoxin content foods: sugar, grains, chocolate, coffee, wine, beer, cheese, and peanuts.
- Glutathione injections
- Treatment for Candida
- Controlling room humidity with a dehumidifier
- HEPA air filtration
Note that exercise is generally NOT helpful in the early stages of recovering from mold exposure.
If you feel that your lingering health issues may be caused by mold illness, please contact us for an appointment.