Last week I talked a little about Lyme disease and at the end of the post I mentioned toxic mold illness. Today I want to explore that a bit further because many people are sick and demonstrate Lyme symptoms, which are actually reactions to mold. Mold can also complicate the illness of Lyme patients. There are thousands of different types of mold and some people are more sensitive to it than others. As we know, MTHFR gene mutations make it more difficult for the body to clear toxins, which include mold, mycotoxins and other types of fungus. Things become even more complicated when there are multiple pathogens for the immune system to deal with. The issues can arrive in the form of mold allergies or mold illness, the latter being much more serious.
I live in a moldy area. In the above photo, the scary looking petri dish is from the outside air – we did an indoor mold test last year after I became aware of how common the mold issue is. I’m in a southern state so that’s par for the course. But mold can be found even in areas that aren’t traditionally considered to be humid. Dangerous air alerts were issued across the Midwest in both 2013 and 2012 because of high mold counts. And remember that the most dangerous mold situations are often found indoors. If your home has had any sort of water exposure or damage, mold could be an issue. If someone didn’t install a fixture in the bathroom of a new home correctly, you could have toxic mold growing. One of my relatives found it growing behind the walls of her kitchen and never had any idea it was there for decades. You just never know.
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), a situation where people become ill because of something in their indoor environment, isn’t always the obvious cause of their problems. But toxic mold might very well be the culprit if you face pervasive, unexplained symptoms like weakness, fatigue, aches and pains, cramps, headaches, eye and vision problems, coughing, sinusitis, diarrhea, cognitive problems, skin sensitivities, numbness and other symptoms that you can’t attribute to anything else (visit the link for many more symptoms and an online test). In this interview with a woman who is surviving from toxic mold exposure you can read about her battles with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), which is another name for SBS. She went to doctor after doctor and none could figure out what was going on with her (sound familiar?) If you’ve been struggling with your digestion, tried all the most common tips to heal your gut and are still getting nowhere, mold allergies or illness could be to blame. Thyroid issues are often the first sign of Lyme disease and mold illness. And mold doesn’t always emit an odor and isn’t always visible. So please don’t think that just because you can’t see or smell mold in your home or workplace, it isn’t there.
Aside from MTHFR, other genetic mutations can also predispose a person to struggle with toxins like Lyme and mold. According to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker of the excellent website, Surviving Mold, the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) 4-3-53 genotype makes it very difficult to get rid of these pathogens. And one in four people have it. The genes for celiac disease (gluten intolerance) also overlap. So if you have chronic illness, finding out your HLA type should be a priority (you can do this through Labcorp). This can be the difference between people who contract Lyme disease or a mold-related illness and cannot get better, and those who contract an illness and bounce back from it very quickly. Find out if you have mold in your environment. Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) testing can tell you whether it’s safe (he recommends using Mycometrics). Dr. Shoemaker also recommends these biomarker tests.
If you do find mold it is imperative that you either get away from it completely or clean it up. Find a professional to do this or contact the owner of the premises if you rent. Landlords and employers will have a legal obligation to make the environment safe for you. Dr. Shoemaker offers advice in the forms of “15 Things You Need to Know” and a step-by-step treatment guide. Please do not delay confronting a toxic mold situation. Your recovery depends on it.
Mycotoxins are another cause of disease and complicate chronic illness, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems. They can cause as many problems as inorganic toxins like pesticides and heavy metals. These include aflatoxin, fumonisins, ochratoxin A, mold and patulin. You can test for these with a few different labs. When dealing with chronic illness and unexplained symptoms, it’s important to evaluate and even just be aware of all the potential hidden toxins that could be stressing your body. I worry that so many people visit their doctors or even uninformed practitioners and don’t question them enough when relief isn’t provided. Don’t think that you are falling through the cracks or you have some strange illness that nobody else has or that is unsolvable. I hope I am communicating this enough on this blog. Most diseases are multifactorial in cause. Every thing aggravates everything else. Chances are you just haven’t gotten to the bottom of your own personal mystery, haven’t solved your personal puzzle. The answer is out there and there is always a root cause.