Mold & Mycotoxins — How Our Bodies Deal with Toxic Mold.
It has been suggested for me to go back to the basics of environmental illness to provide a series of articles for our readers to gain a consistent, clear, and understandable description of the path mold takes through the body. In doing so, I ask how our bodies deal with toxic mold. The Toxic Mold Journey Series Part 1: It is important for me to utilize layman’s language and examples, providing a simpler understanding for mold patients and their families. I will address these topics through a series of weekly articles. More specifically, I will describe:
1. The journey mold and mycotoxins take into and through the human body;
2. How the mold and toxins are removed from our bodies;
3. How mold impacts the brain and how the brain detoxes;
4. How environmental illness falls into physician blind spots;
5. Why the air in our homes is so important.
While I am not a healthcare provider, I have spent many years working closely with numerous physician specialties, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, Bau-Biologists, building scientists, mold inspectors/remediators, HVAC professionals, general contractors, nutraceutical manufacturers, mold cleaning product companies, and various testing labs. This breadth of exposure has provided a unique viewpoint to identify similarities, inconsistencies, and different perspectives amongst each professional discipline’s understandings. These differences should be understood, and these professionals must negotiate amongst each other to reach a common representation of the various scientific disciplines and medical science. It is a common misunderstanding that physicians master all relevant sciences well to practice medicine. Physicians fix people using diagnostic and procedural processes. Additional insight into the cross-discipline science can help both patients and providers gain a broader perspective on all diagnostic possibilities and the know-how to identify the right resources to find solutions to mold sufferers’ problems. These solutions come in portfolios addressing many aspects of the patient’s lifestyle and wellness. There is no “magic bullet” of a single medication when it comes to environmental illness.
Prior to my recent focus on the environmental illness space, I spent over two decades working in Pharmaceutical Research and Development. I have worked on strategy and optimization with every function of pharmaceutical research and development. During the 90s, almost all scientific disciplines experienced an evolution. These improvements, inspired by the microchip, nanotechnology, and better materials resulted in quantum improvements in the precision, accuracy, and efficiencies of information, scale, and precision across the board. Many industries changed and companies that did not keep up were left to obsolescence. For example, both Kodak and Polaroid’s core competencies became obsolete in the ’90s. Computations that took mainframes to process now required a desktop or even laptop computer. My responsibility was to work with scientists to identify and access these innovations that would ultimately improve human health. Large, behemoth companies began exploring healthcare. For example, I worked with experts at Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard (Prior to Agilent).
I was agnostic to any particular scientific discipline and collaborated with thought leaders across many disease states. Today, accessing new innovation likely requires multiple disciplines and the base understanding of the breakthrough was often a negotiation between scientific disciplines. The executive decision-makers at the top of organizations are often non-scientists. Their ability to understand innovations in understandable terms when making multi-million-dollar investments was critical.
Environmental illness is still in its early stages of understanding across medicine. It is still in its infancy when it comes to broad medical understanding and treatment across the masses. I am very lucky to be able to use my experience and capabilities today to help mold sick patients get better and help healthcare providers to avoid blind spots and pitfalls. It is also important to me that what we learn together with patients remain accessible and affordable, outside the norms of the traditional medical and pharmaceutical industry pricing practices.
How Mold Impacts Human Health
While it may seem as though mold is just another allergen, the truth is that mold impacts the human body differently than most allergens. One reason for this is that mold is a living pathogen when it enters the human body. In fact, mold not only lives when entering the body, it can reproduce and prosper. For example, when mold is inhaled into the sinuses, the immune system reaction causes inflammation, mucous production, and moisture. Mold can now freely feed on the mucous and moisture in the sinuses and reproduces at alarming rates.
Fungal ball removed from sinuses
Large fungal balls can form inside the sinuses that often need to be removed via endoscopic sinus surgery. Mold can also cause fungal infections throughout the respiratory system as well as the gut.
I believe it is helpful to understand how mold enters the body and seek answers to numerous questions mold sufferers may have.
Why do some people in the same household get sick while others do not?
What are the long-term effects of severe mold illness?
How does mold leave the body?
What can a patient do to help their body to remove mold and toxins?
Why aren’t physicians recognizing, diagnosing, and treating fungal infections and toxin exposures?
What role does indoor air quality play?
We also have a gut microbiome composed of billions of microbes, “good” bacteria, and fungi that aid in the digestion of food. In fact, Candida Albicans, a single cell yeast exists in approximately 70% of the population. Problems occur when these yeasts grow out of control by being fed a diet containing sugars and simple carbohydrates.
There are several additions to the modern diet over the decades that have caused an entirely new generation of illnesses today. These additions include processed foods made with enriched and processed flour and cereal grains, high fructose corn syrup, soy flours other foods that can disrupt gut health (leaky gut, gluten intolerance, IBS, Crohn’s disease, etc.) Too much of any form of sugar can cause an imbalance of yeast in the human body. This can be manifested in a diagnosis of reflux or other GI problems. Other common fungal infections can also occur, such as vaginal yeast infections, oral thrush (thick white or yellow growth on the tongue), and toenail fungal infections. All of these are difficult to eradicate because resilient fungi require potent antifungal medications that physicians take caution to use because they come with their own toxicities. In most cases, an antifungal diet is essential to “starve” the candida until it is in its normal balance in the gut, in the brain, and in the sinuses. Industrial seed oils such as sunflower seed or canola oil are also problematic additions to the modern diet. These oils may be lower in calories, but they disrupt the ratio of good omega 3 fatty acids and bad omega 6 fatty acids.
There is also a candida connection to the brain. Candida with hyphae can be identified by microscopy. Some scientists suggest the hyphae growth invades brain tissue in a similar manner as in the gut. Others recognize that when candida feeds on sugar, releases acetaldehyde as a cellular waste product into the body’s tissues and crosses the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, acetaldehyde can then combine with dopamine to form salsolinol, a compound that can then further modulate addictive behaviors in an opioid-like fashion. Fear causing, Alzheimer’s like symptoms such as brain fog, memory issues, headaches, and neuromotor function problems can result from candida overgrowth or infection.
Pseudohyphae of Candida Albicans in brain. PAS stain (250X)
Source: Goodman Microb World. August 2013
Genetic Disposition to Mold – The HLA-DR Gene
Chronic mold or fungal infections are much more common than traditional physicians believe. In addition, knowledge of common mold secondary metabolites, mycotoxins, and their impact is not broadly understood. In these cases, mycotoxins can be produced inside the body. Several parts of our bodies provide a hospitable environment, food, and moisture for fungal reproduction in the body at rapid rates. Scientists have identified a specific gene and developed a diagnostic that can suggest whether a person’s immune system cannot identify, kill, and remove these molds and associated chemicals from the body. Approximately 25% of people have this genetic predisposition to mold exposure. This can explain why different occupants in the same family or household can have very different responses to mold, including some who do not get sick at all. Family members may have immune systems that can identify the pathogen, kill, and remove the debris from the body.
Toxins Produced by Mold
Many molds produce secondary metabolites that are toxic chemicals. These toxins are potent and can cause organ failure, including the liver and kidneys, and brain. Mold toxins are potent neurotoxins and often cause severe symptoms of chronic illness or have an exacerbating impact on existing chronic disease. The fact that physicians do not normally recognize mycotoxins leads to common misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis has financial and human costs when it results in a lengthy physician referral chain over months to years while a physician attempts to treat the misdiagnosis with rounds of different medications. This phenomenon is compounded when patients see several doctors in different practices. Each of these physicians has the potential to prescribe potent medicines without full knowledge or consideration of other medication taken by a patient. Adverse events (side effects) and drug-drug interactions can cause compounding symptoms, making an accurate diagnosis very difficult.
There are also several diseases that are based on diagnoses of exclusion. Chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, and depression/anxiety are diagnoses that are utilized when diagnostics for other diseases deliver no clear diagnosis.
Inhaled mold can also have direct access to the brain and the pituitary gland. The frontal sinuses are adjacent to the blood-brain barrier and mold mycotoxins can be stored in sinus tissues for lengthy periods of time. In these cases, a patient can have severe neurological symptoms that are not likely to be detected in a urine test. Urine mycotoxin tests are available from several labs; however, these are not FDA approved diagnostics. In fact, building science experts that fix sick houses regularly discuss how they have presented urine mycotoxin test results that do not match with the mold inspection findings. Regardless, patients may be encouraged to purchase these tests by a medical provider.
Mold is a foreign substance that can be an allergen, an antigen, or a pathogen causing a histamine reaction or mobilizing the entire immune system. Mold species that create secondary metabolites (mycotoxins) are poisonous to most organ systems. Some of these toxins are also known to be very potent, harmful, or carcinogenic. In fact, mycotoxins have even been weaponized into chemical weapons that are currently banned. T-2 mycotoxin from Fusarium species of mold is believed to have been tested and used by USSR in the mid-1900s. Numerous descriptions of “yellow rain’ have been described during the Vietnam War in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.
Regardless of the body’s reaction, the only way to remove the toxins is for them to be metabolized and excreted via the GI tract, or sweated out, as these toxins are lipophilic (fat-soluble). Because a sick person’s body can be depleted of nutrients, physicians often prescribe diets, supplements, and medical treatment modalities to optimize a patient’s ability to rid itself of the toxins. Chemical binders may be used to bind to the toxins in the GI tract and escort the toxins out of the body. You can read more about The Use of Chemical Binders in Detoxification HERE.
It is also important to understand the impact of mold and mycotoxins that are stored in fat and other tissues. This can prolong the longevity of mold sickness for years if not properly dealt with. As your body burns fat as energy, toxins can be released and circulated. It is common for mold mycotoxins to be released from fat cells during exercise and excreted via perspiration long after general wellness has been achieved. This leads to a relapse of sorts until the mycotoxins are metabolized and excreted by the body. Another place that can store mold and mycotoxins is sinus tissue. This can be debilitating. It sometimes requires surgery to remove fungal balls. Mycotoxins can have direct access to the brain and pituitary gland, the control gland for 8 hormonal systems in the body. Mold at this location can cause cognitive effects that can be frightening to experience. Any impact on the body’s hormonal systems is potentially very problematic to reaching wellness.
The solution to getting well can come across as common sense or nonsensical. Besides the obvious avoidance of additional mold exposure, a poisoned body usually requires help to become more efficient with its metabolism of mold and toxins. Blood work will determine deficiencies patients are experiencing. Nutritional deficiencies can be corrected by IV, supplements, or a healthy diet. An anti-fungal diet is often required to starve the fungi that grow significantly when actively fed simple carbohydrates and sugar. Physicians also recommend the use of various chemical binders to help remove mold and toxins from the body. This is primarily effective in the GI tract. Binders are taken orally into the GI tract where they bind to and escort the toxins out of the body. There are also several physician treatment modalities such as IV therapy, far infrared sauna, oxygen, and others used by integrative physicians to help the body remove the toxins.
CitriSafe Citri-Rx line of products includes two products that I highly recommend to patients suffering from mold-related illnesses. Daily rinsing or irrigation of the sinuses will help remove mold spores and mycotoxins physically before they become problematic. Drinking water with Agrumax Dietary Supplement may help balance the gut microbiome and assist with reducing candida overgrowth. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. Glutathione is one of the few nutritional supplements that has a real therapeutic impact and has consensus approval. I recommend the highest quality of products to aid in recovery, including:
Agrumax Dietary Supplement is the original blend and label of citrus seed extracts that are natural and safe to use. Rinse the sinuses using a sinus rinse system (Sinugator, by NeilMed). Daily rinsing of sinuses with an antifungal rinse is probably the most effective thing someone can do to get well. It is like power-washing your deck for pollen. Mold spores and fragments are not allowed to accumulate. Mycotoxins are also rinsed away.
CitriRx Acetyl-Glutathione is among the highest quality glutathione made. The product is naturally sourced and employs a proprietary micro-cluster nanotechnology delivery that allows for maximum absorption in the body. Absorption is the Achilles heel for many glutathione products on the market.
For mold sufferers who are chemically sensitive and have recognized the need to use botanical-based antifungal cleaners, I also recommend the CitriSafe Remedy portfolio of mold cleaning and the BioBalance Haven fogging & misting products. I have worked closely with several brands and have experimented with many homemade products. Having lengthy discussions with Walter Hayhurst, CitriSafe’s founder, I believe CitriSafe offers the best products available. They have been on the market for many years longer than others and have very precise recipes, the highest quality ingredients, and well-thought formulation. He explained that “every product was formulated with every ingredient having a purpose.” He explained each product formula to me.
Next Time on the Toxic Mold Journey
Part 2 of the Toxic Mold Journey will discuss The Body’s Toxic Load. What happens when your body reaches its lifetime limit of toxic exposure?
- Epp LM, Mravec B. Chronic polysystemic candidiasis as a possible contributor to onset of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2006;107(6-7):227-30. PMID: 17051898.