The official start of summer is almost here, and warmer weather means we get a break from cold and flu season, right? Not if your “summer cold” is actually being caused by allergies, particularly mold allergies. The hottest months of the year offer great times for many activities; but for people with mold sensitivities who live in damp areas, this season can be especially difficult.
When temperatures rise, molds that were relatively dormant during winter come to life and “bloom” into surrounding environments, spreading spores and wreaking health havoc — mostly among people who are predisposed to mold toxicity. And as we’re finding out, that population may be fairly high. Furthermore, water-damaged buildings are an increasing problem; and other compounding factors, including heavy metal exposure or bacterial infections, can make symptoms much worse.
There are thousands of diverse species of this type of fungus, and mold spores can be found just about everywhere — even in dry desert areas. But they are especially prevalent in damp, humid and warm environments. Ravaging floodwaters caused by storms such as Superstorm Sandy subside; but in their wake, they leave devastating water damage. As summer approaches, these post-flood areas become susceptible to serious mold toxicity. Black molds (Stachybotrys chartarum and Stachybotrys chlorohalonata) are the most dangerous to human health, and they are commonly found in wet basements and other water-damaged areas of a building. Physical exposure occurs mainly through the lungs and/or digestive tract.
Symptoms of mold toxicity can resemble other illnesses such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Neurotoxicity is a significant issue, since mold — particularly black mold — produces neurotoxins that can cause serious, long-term health damage. The list of symptoms is long and many are general. Here are some of the primary ones that can eventually progress to serious debilities if exposure continues:
- Chronic sinus infection
- Respiratory symptoms
- Sensitivity to light
- Muscle and joint pain
- Confusion and memory loss/brain fog
- Blurred vision
- Skin rash
- Numbness and tingling
Over the past decade, genetic testing advancements have been able to identify people who are genetically predisposed to mold sickness. It is now estimated that up to 24 percent of the population falls into this category. These tests, called HLA (human leukocyte antigen) DR tests, identify patients who lack the specific genetic factors that allow their immune system to identify and remove mold, mold toxins, neurotoxins like heavy metals, Lyme bacterium and its by-products.
HLA DR tests can tell if a person is susceptible to mold toxins or Lyme disease or vulnerable to a wide variety of identified neurotoxins.
Interestingly, many of the symptoms of mold poisoning, Lyme disease and even gluten sensitivity appear to overlap. In correlation with this similar symptomology, the genetic subtypes of people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity appear to coincide significantly with the genetic subtypes for mold sensitivity.
Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D., a leading mold-toxicity expert and author of several authoritative books on the subject, suggests that it’s not necessarily a mold or related fungal infection that aggravates symptoms, but rather, the biotoxins these organisms produce. The biotoxins are able to travel throughout the body and wreak havoc on the nervous system, joints, immunity and other parts of the body.
In addition to HLA DR testing, Shoemaker advises a number of other tests to evaluate mold poisoning and the level of damage in the body that has occurred as a result of these toxins. These additional tests include specific immune, inflammatory, hormonal and other markers that can indicate various aspects of biotoxin poisoning and help guide treatment.
Addressing Mold Toxicity
Even if you don’t believe yourself to be mold-sensitive, these harmful invaders need to be avoided as much as possible. But if you do have mold poisoning, avoidance is priority No. 1 — even if it means you have to move. Avoidance is the hardest aspect of mold treatment and the main reason that people can’t recover from chronic mold toxicity. No matter how much treatment you undergo, without eradicating the fungus from your living and work environments, symptoms continue to progress. And because mold can hide undetected, it sometimes takes a mold-remediation expert to test your home. But here’s a tip: If there is any water damage, it’s almost certain that mold is growing there.
Chronic mold toxicity requires a complex and multifaceted protocol for healing. It’s important to work with a mold-literate health practitioner who knows how to test for mold sensitivity and treat patients with appropriate therapies. As a pioneer in this field, Shoemaker offers a number of important resources for patients and physicians to address mold poisoning and related neurological problems from co-infections, including Lyme disease.
In my clinic, one of the therapies we use to address mold biotoxins is a blend of modified citrus pectin (MCP) from citrus peels and modified alginates from seaweed. This formula helps the body safely remove heavy metals and neurotoxins, including mold biotoxins. These benefits make the MCP/alginate formula an important supplement for the significant portion of people who may lack the appropriate genes to identify and remove these biotoxins. Another therapy recommended by Shoemaker is a medication called cholestyramine, which binds to mold biotoxins and other toxins in the digestive tract, preventing them from being absorbed into the body.
Chronic mold toxicity is commonly misdiagnosed: Many conventional doctors are not familiar with or sensitive to what is considered by many to be a fringe body of research. However, in my practice, we’ve been able to identify and address numerous cases of mold susceptibility and toxicity, helping patients — over time — balance and restore their health with targeted, integrative protocols.
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