Mold Exposure Symptoms | What You Need To Know Right Away
What Is Mold?
Mold is a term that, in our American culture, tends to evoke negative images. While mold exposure symptoms can have devastating health consequences, it is important to establish that not all mold is hazardous. In fact, there are many types of mold that exist. When a mold is purposefully grown under the proper conditions, it can be beneficial. The delicious array of cheeses available around the world, as well as the creation of life-saving antibiotics, are due to “good” forms of mold.
However, the types of mold that are most frequently discussed are “bad” types of mold. Harmful mold releases toxic chemicals into our living and work spaces that produce symptoms of mold exposure. As discussed later in this article, mold exposure symptoms can occur in nearly all systems of the body. For the purpose of this article, the focus will be solely on the forms of mold that yield mold symptom.
What Is The Cause Of Indoor Mold Growth?
Unwanted mold growth occurs due to high indoor moisture levels. There are two major ways that excess moisture can appear in your home or workplace: 1) High humidity (humidity levels >50%), and 2) Water damage.
It is a common misconception that major water damage is required to produce mold significant enough to result in symptoms of mold exposure. However, if left untreated, minor water damage can be enough to cause mold symptoms. Another common myth is that mold takes weeks, months, or even years to develop and become hazardous. While mold formation from high humidity levels can take a little extra time to develop, mold caused by any amount of water damage can appear in as little as 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms of mold exposure can manifest soon after the mold has developed.
Why Is Mold Bad?
Mild to severe symptoms of mold exposure arise due to the toxic chemicals produced by mold. These toxins are known as mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can have a harmful effect on both humans and animals and have been shown to suppress immune function by affecting mitochondrial function (the source of energy for our cells). There is no safe level of mycotoxin exposure. These toxins should be avoided as much as possible to achieve optimal health.
As mycotoxins begin to impact mitochondrial function, the body’s immunity, energy, sinuses, and gut function become impaired. A domino effect begins when the toxins are first inhaled through the nose, weakening the sinuses. Once sinus function has been compromised, the body’s airways become impaired, followed by the weakening of gut and immune function. Major problems start to occur when the resulting fatigue and increasing inflammation cause cell dysfunction throughout the body.
Mold Symptoms And The HLA 27 Gene
While mold exposure symptoms can arise in almost anyone, some individuals are genetically susceptible to the symptoms of mold exposure. Approximately 25% of the population have what is known as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene. The HLA gene causes the body to be unable to recognize mold as a toxin. Therefore, the body does not eliminate mold toxins as it should. The accumulated toxins can cause moderate to severe mold symptoms (as listed below in “Mold Exposure Symptoms”).
Foods Containing Mold
Mold found in the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home or workplace is not the only cause of mold exposure symptoms. There are numerous foods that we consume every day that are high in mycotoxins. This applies to foods that appear fresh, without any signs of visible mold. As stated earlier, there are no safe levels of mycotoxins in the body (even when ingested rather than inhaled). Mycotoxins in foods such as wheat and barley have also been shown to cause mitochondrial dysfunction.
One specific mycotoxin found in food is known as ochratoxin A (OTA). Current research findings have linked OTA to chronic kidney disease (including kidney cancer). OTA is most often found in high-polyphenol foods such as coffee, chocolate, wine, grains (especially in imported grains), and beer. Additionally, it is advisable to limit or avoid consumption of peanuts, rice, and any products containing gluten or corn to reduce mycotoxin exposure.
Mold Exposure Symptoms
Because mycotoxins have the ability to impact numerous functions in the body, there are many symptoms of mold exposure. It has been suggested that certain health conditions may be related to mycotoxin exposure. In one study, 93% of chronic fatigue patients tested positive for at least one mycotoxin. While research is still emerging on the link between various health conditions and mycotoxins, mold exposure symptoms have been well-documented.
Common mold exposure symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Respiratory issues
- Cognitive impairment
- Immune suppression
- Digestive problems
- Poor sleep
- Thyroid issues
- Joint pain
Ways To Prevent Mold Exposure Symptoms
Prevention is the easiest (and least expensive) way to eliminate the risk of mold symptoms. Keeping unwanted moisture out of your home is the number one way to prevent mold and symptoms of mold exposure. Be sure to keep indoor humidity levels between 30%-50%. You can easily track indoor humidity levels by purchasing a humidity monitor.
The second way to prevent the growth of mold is to be highly cognizant of potential water leaks and water damage. Mold exposure symptoms can appear soon after any amount of water damage. If you discover a water leak, have the issue repaired immediately, and be sure to thoroughly clean and dry the affected areas. If carpet, tiles, or other materials have become moldy as a result of a water leak, it is best to completely replace those materials.
Ways To Recover From Mold Symptoms
If you are part of the 75% of the population that does not have the HLA gene, your body can better eliminate mold toxins on its own. Shortly after reducing your exposure, mold symptoms can persist if the body is not strong enough to handle the toxin . Depending on the length and severity of your exposure (as well as individual variables), the time it takes to recover from mold exposure symptoms can vary greatly.
However, for the 25% of people with the HLA gene, recovering from mold symptoms can be an uphill battle. Mold toxins can be built up in the body without having a way to escape. Thankfully, there are quite a few supplements available to reduce mold symptoms. Whether you have the HLA gene or not, these products can help you recover from the symptoms of mold exposure(this list is not extensive but a good place to start):
- Systemic enzymes (helps with the autoimmune response).
- Products that increase intracellular glutathione.
- Charcoal (to bind the biotoxins in the gut and through the bile complex).
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy to oxygenate the blood (mold tends to suffocate the blood).
- B-vitamins (to support the stress response of the body).
- Coconut and MCT oil (help prevent Candida overgrowth)
Want To Learn More?
In 2015, MOLDY became the first documentary to expose the dangers of mold. Dave Asprey the founder and CEO of Bulletproof produced this film. Dave has had his own struggles with mold exposure symptoms and this film helps viewers understand how mold impacts our own lives and provides actionable ways to reduce mold symptoms. Watch the full documentary here.