Last week I wrote about mold-related illness, yet another commonly overlooked diagnosis. It’s surprising how regularly mold issues fly under the radar of conventional physicians. When you consider how often homes and workplaces have a leaky roof, unless something smells moldy or we discover creeping black stains somewhere we often don’t think of mold.
Moreover, because just 25% of us are genetically susceptible to mold allergies or mold inflammation, doctors incorrectly think, “Well, if it were environmental, everyone would be sick.”
If you remember, mold can affect you in two ways (click through to my previous Health Tip for details) :
- You can be allergic to any of several species of mold, with symptoms primarily those of an inhaled allergy (tree, weed, etc.). However, when you’re near the source (for example, a moldy basement in your home) symptoms are year-round rather than seasonal and they’re worse. Diagnosis is confirmed by scratch or blood tests. Any doctor can order an IgE Mold Panel. If you have a positive test result your doc will likely recommend antihistamines or send you to an allergist for desensitization (allergy shots).
- You can develop mold toxicity with widespread chronic inflammation because the mold has entered your body and is releasing low-level poisons called mycotoxins.
Last week’s Health Tip also listed the most common symptoms of mold toxicity and the most frequently used blood tests to determine if this state of chronic inflammation is present. I also referred you to a local company that can actually come to your home and determine how serious a mold problem you have (or don’t have).
Treating yourself for mold is straightforward. Remove the mold from your environment—or yourself from the moldy environment–and you’ll get better. It sounds easier than it can be. Removing the mold can require the help of a mold remediation company with its attendant costs. You could also move into a different space that has been certified mold-free.
Still have symptoms?
But if after taking these steps you’re still feeling ill—and if you’ve still got many of the symptoms on last week’s list–there are three issues that merit your attention:
- Most likely from all that exposure you continue have mold in your body. For most people, this is nothing of any consequence and doesn’t require treatment. If, however, you’re in that susceptible 25%, the toxic mold can continue to generate toxins that are making you feel terrible.
- You are so mold-sensitive that even tiny amounts of mold increase your toxic load. Unfortunately, it’s a big world out there and 100% avoidance of mold is virtually impossible, though there are steps you can take. I’ll address building up your mold defenses later in this Health Tip.
- Your body actually keeps reabsorbing the mold toxins it’s trying to clear out. This is a little tricky to understand. Remember, your liver is your body’s major detoxifier. Mold toxins pass through your liver, are mixed with liver’s bile, move from your liver into your small intestine, become part of your fecal material, and out they go. Sounds good, except for one thing. Instead of exiting into your toilet where they belong, the toxins are sometimes absorbed back into your body. The term for this is enterohepatic circulation, “entero” meaning intestines, “hepatic” your liver. Enterohepatic circulation is why some drugs seem to remain in your body a long time (they are said to have a long half-life) or why a strong cup of coffee in the morning might keep you awake that night. The recycled mold toxins, with more added every day, mean that getting well requires more than getting the mold out of your house.
Here are the steps to get well
If you go online, it seems that virtually every health care provider has his or her own “clinically tested protocol.” The Brits, Canadians, and Aussies all spell it “mould” and have their protocols as well. Some of these are so complicated and so time consuming that you want to throw your hands up in despair and shout, “All right, mold, you win!” as you picture yourself being dragged into a pond of throbbing black moldy sludge in the manner of a Stephen King novel.
Such drama is unnecessary. By following these steps, you should feel considerably better in a few weeks. It will help if you can find a medical or chiropractic physician, nutritionist, or naturopath who has access to ordering blood tests to track your progress. It’s no deal breaker, though, if you do it alone.
—If you suspect mold, get your home tested. You can do it yourself with an ERMI or HERTSMI test or contact an inspector to do it for you. If results are positive for mold, hire a mold remediation company.
—Get blood tests (I described them in last week’s Health Tip) to see if you have chronic inflammation or use your own tracking system. If you test positive, choose one or two of the tests that you’ll occasionally repeat to track your progress. The C4a inflammatory marker is especially good and will drop as toxins leave your body. But the very best way to track your progress is to make a list of your major symptoms, grade them 0-5 (0=no symptom, 5=very severe), and keep track of them numerically.
—Kill off as much internal mold as possible. Doing this is the same as ridding yourself of chronic candida (yeast). You can get a prescription from your doctor (like Diflucan) or take herbs for mold (garlic, grapefruit seed extract, berberine). Starve your mold to death by eliminating to the extent humanly possible all sugars and refined white-flour products.
—You need to take a binding agent to trap the mycotoxin when it’s released into your intestine so that you don’t reabsorb it. Many mold-savvy physicians prescribe cholestyramine for this. Cholestyramine has been around for decades as a cholesterol-lowering medication (because it binds to cholesterol) and is quite safe. The main side effects are gastrointestinal (nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea). Other effective binding agents include activated charcoal, chlorella, and bentonite clay.
—You’ll want a good detoxification protocol to clear any other chemical/toxins that are interfering with your mold program. There are dozens of these, but an easy-to-use, reasonably priced one is the Metagenics Clear Change 10 Day Program with Ultra Clear Renew (available in our apothecary, though not on our website). After the detox, keep your liver steadily tuned up with Detoxication Factors.
—Deal with the oxidative stress brought on by the mycotoxins. Any high-potency antioxidant blend can be effective, though Liposomal Glutathione is widely used by many mold-oriented practitioners.
—If you are not responding to clearing mold and binding mycotoxins, get checked for a nasal infection called MARCONS (multiple antibiotic-resistant coagulase-negative staphylococcus) deep in your nasal cavities. A hint that this might be present are chronic nasal infections plus low blood levels of MSH (melanocyte-stimulating hormone), a test readily available from LabCorp or Quest. You can get a MARCONS test kit by calling Microbiology Dx at 1-781-276-4956. The prescription treatment for a MARCONS infection is BEG Nasal Spray (Bactroban/mupirocin + EDTA + gentamycin), available from compounding pharmacies. Argentyn 23, one of several natural treatment alternatives, uses colloidal silver.
–Use your battle against mold illness as a reset for taking good care of yourself. Eat a high-nutrition, chemical-free diet and commit to exercising/moving your body every day.
–After you’ve cleared both the mold and mycotoxins, discontinue all your mold meds and supplements and switch to a maintenance program consisting of a high-potency multiple vitamin, a good probiotic, and a natural anti-inflammatory herb.
We do see a lot of mold-related illness at WholeHealth Chicago and we try to keep the protocols fairly simple and straightforward. Usually everything will clear up in eight to 12 weeks. You should be able to see this yourself on your symptom-tracking scorecard.
What’s truly unfortunate is how often this diagnosis is overlooked by conventional physicians.
David Edelberg, MD