The Impact of Mold: 5 Steps to Regaining Health
The impact of mold on health is far reaching, and the occurrence of mold might be higher than you might think. Symptoms of mold exposure go beyond an allergic response and can include a vast range from achy joints to dysregulated hormones, cognitive issues or sapping fatigue.
To complicate matters, you could be exposed to it, and simply not know. Mold could be hidden behind walls or be disguised as a fine powder instead of the striking black spots you might expect.
Curious if mold is playing a role in your mysterious symptoms? Have a hunch you need to address it to achieve optimal wellness but overwhelmed with where to start? Here are 5 steps worth investigating if you’re concerned about how a moldy environment might be affecting your health and wellbeing.
The Journey from Outdoor Mold Spore to Indoor Mold Problem
Whether out enjoying a hike or inside examining the grocery store’s produce section, we are constantly transporting and breathing in tiny mold spores. An open window, a family pet or even your sneakers can bring outdoor spores to a new home—your home or workplace. (1)
These mold spores can be harmless. However, problems arise if the spores come in contact with a moisture source. Moisture lets the spores grow into mold that could affect health.
How does mold grow?
Mold often grows on wet cellulose like particleboard, wood, dust, fabric, cardboard or paper. Think of these as mold food.
In a house or workplace, mold can oftentimes be found on or behind walls, on ceiling tiles and under carpets. It loves damp, warm and humid environments. (2)
What is black mold?
Penicillin, Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus and Stachybotrys are sometimes referred to as “black mold” and are commonly found indoors. (3) However, other molds can affect health, as well.
Hints There Could Be Mold
It can be helpful to know some signs of water damage that could indicate mold growth:
- A musty, earthy smell
- Staining on ceiling tiles
- Bubbling paint
- Peeling wallpaper
- Soft walls
- History of leaks or flooding
The root cause of mold problems
Here are common sources of mold growth in an indoor space:
Moist air makes it easier for mold to multiply. A damp basement or a humid bathroom can create spores that spread to the rest of the house. (4) Purchasing a dehumidifier and keeping levels around 30-50 percent may be helpful in preventing mold growth. A poorly ventilated bathroom can be a source of high humidity. Using a ventilation fan during showering and for at least 30 minutes may be helpful.
Poorly sealed windows, gaps in walls, improper flashing
Doors windows and walls will all need to be sealed properly to prevent water intrusion.
Common places include under bathroom and kitchen sinks. Wet carpeted areas may need to be removed to prevent mold and bacteria growth. (5)
All leaks need to be fixed as soon as possible. It only takes 24-48 hours for mold to begin to grow from a water source.
Keep a regular maintenance and cleaning schedule for air conditioning and heating. They can be a source of spreading spores.
During winter, the warm indoor air can hit the cold window and create condensation. This in turn can cause mold growth on wooden window sills.
And other sources
This list isn’t exhaustive. Mold can commonly be seen throughout a home: in fireplaces, mattresses and bathtubs, just to name a few.
Symptoms of Mold
When you think of poor air quality, outdoor air may come to mind; however, it is estimated that indoor air pollutants like mold are two to five times higher inside than outdoors. Also, indoor air quality may contribute to more than 50% of illness. (6)
Generally, when thinking of mold symptoms, people think of allergic reactions. This might include itchy and watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, runny nose or a rash. A greater reaction can occur in those with respiratory issues.
However, many people do not realize that mold can also affect the immune and nervous systems. (7) Symptoms can be physical, emotional and cognitive and can show up as multiple symptoms in multiple systems of the body. Symptoms may include:
- Changes in memory, concentration and word-finding (8)
- Metallic taste (9)
- Vertigo (10)
- Increased thirst and urination
- Sensitivity to light
- Joint pain and muscle cramps
- Tingling and numbness in hands and feet (11)
- Anxiety, depression or rage
- Appetite swings and sudden weight gain
- Changes in thyroid and adrenal hormones
A study using neuropsychological testing in mold-exposed individuals revealed impairments similar to mild traumatic brain injury. (12)
5 Steps to Regaining Health after Mold
1. Test Your Environment For Mold
Testing your environment—home or workplace—for mold can be very beneficial since the symptoms of mold-related illness can be similar to other chronic inflammatory conditions such as Lyme.
There are different avenues you may take to address mold testing. Options exist for both professional testing and for self-testing.
DIY Mold Testing
There are pro’s and con’s to each so a combination of these may be used:
- Visual inspection outside and inside the home: You can do this yourself; however, bringing in a qualified indoor air professional can more extensive information. Check the flashing, gutters and any pooling of rain water around the outside of the house. Inside, check the conditions of walls, HVAC system and pipes.
- Mold plates: While it’s true you can buy fairly inexpensive varieties at the home improvement store, specialized plates can provide more solid data. To avoid the false negative and false positives often seen from standard mold plates, consider ones developed by companies specializing in environmental illness. Plates can be put in each room as well as in typical problem areas such as under sinks. A tap test can be used to test furniture and even your dog or cat. However, it’s worth noting that some molds such as Stachybotrus and Chaeteomium won’t be able to grow on many of these plates.
- ERMI (Environmental Relative Mold Index): This is a DNA test to see what molds have been present in dust. You can use a Swiffer cloth to collect the dust. There are a few companies that offer this. The pro’s of ERMI testing is that it will pick up on molds that won’t grow on mold plates. The main drawback is the price tag which can limit separate testing of individual rooms of a house.
- Moisture and Humidity Meter: Available at home improvement stores, this resource won’t be able to tell you if you have mold, but it will be able to help determine if moisture and humidity levels are right for mold growth. In the air, you want less than 50% humidity in each room. When testing drywall, you want much lower readings—5-12%. Outside, check the areas around windows and doors and anywhere you might be concerned about watering entering the building.
Find a Qualified Indoor Environmental Professionals for Inspection
An indoor environmental professional (IEP) knowledgeable about the effects of mold on sensitive populations can be helpful. Their trained eyes and tools can be helpful in identifying the source of your mold. Here are tips for finding a qualified mold inspector:
- Be sure the professional offers just inspection, not inspection with remediation to avoid conflicts of interest.
- Consider a virtual or phone consultation with indoor professionals aligned with the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI) and their standards for indoor health.
- Look for a local IEP through ACAC.org
2. Remove Yourself From Moldy Environments and Possessions
Porous items like paper, clothes and wood are prone to contamination. Other items may be cleaned. (Get more details in the download below.)
3. Follow an Individualized Mold Treatment Plan from a Knowledgeable Practitioner
Most of conventionally trained medical practitioners have a narrow view on the effects of mold on the human body. It’s important to work with an integrative practitioner familiar with the latest research regarding mycotoxins and mold.
While the exact components and duration each person’s mold protocol can differ, here are some key possible steps for treatment:
- Use binders: These are used to bind up mycotoxins in the body. Cholestyramine, (13) a prescription binder, may be used as well as natural binders such as charcoal.
- Address candida overgrowth: These could be yeast infections, thrush and digestive issues
- Treat colonized molds and bacterial infections: The gut, lungs and sinuses may be affected. (14)
- Incorporate antifungals if needed.
- Support detoxification: This includes targeted supplements like glutathione to enhance detox pathways, ozone sauna and sweating through exercise as tolerated. (Note, mold may affect oxygenation so you may need to take it easy when exercising.)
- Clean your air: Look for a high quality air purifier that utilizes HEPA, carbon, and zeolite filters. The Healthmate Plus from Austin Air does this and also filters VOCs.
- Clean your water: Stand alone filers like the countertop Berkey models or whole-house systems such as AquaTru can remove unwanted contaminants.
4. Consider How Food Affects Recovery from Mold Illness
A low inflammatory diet that eliminates added sugars and processed foods is a good first step. Also, it could be wise to skip foods that may be contaminated with mold:
- Dried spices
- Dried fruit
Enjoy foods that are rich in fiber, antioxidants and that support detoxification. Eating an organic diet as much as possible means lowering the total body burden by reducing pesticide exposure. Increasing your intake of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts) may be helpful. Also, embracing food with antifungal properties such as olive oil, garlic, ginger, onion, coconut and lemon may be beneficial.
5. Seek Social Support, Restorative Resources and Adjunct Therapies
Recovering from illness caused by mold exposure can be exhausting, isolating and incredibly stressful. Social support is essential for your overall wellbeing and for a return to optimal health. Additionally, specific tools may also be beneficial in bringing your body back into balance after an overactive stress response.
- Support your immune system with ozone sauna: Both infrared sauna and ozone can be beneficial for recovery from mold illness. Our office offers HOCATT sauna that combines the power of each.
- Maintain a strong support system: Isolation raises the risk for disease. (15) Mold illness is not widely understood which can put a strain on social relationships. Make a mental note of who is on your side. Who can you ask for help when you’re symptoms get in the way of everyday life? Who will be a voice of encouragement, cheering you on to the mold-recovery finish line?
- Calm an overactive stress response: Consider activities you can do at home on a regular basis, such as yoga, breath work, prayer, meditation or even just gentle stretching.
- Leverage neuroplasticity for healing: A chronic stress response and overactive limbic system may contribute to chronic illness. The Dynamic Neural Retaining System uses neuroplasticity strategies to rewire the brain in hopes shifting a state of fight or flight to that of growth and repair.
- Build resilience with positive emotions: Centering thoughts of gratitude, spending time in nature or chatting with a friend can build positive emotions that can carry someone through trying times. (16)
Find Optimal Health and Wellness
If you’re dealing with mysterious symptoms that you think could be related to mold exposure, don’t lose hope. Contact us for an appointment and an individualized treatment plan to help you regain optimal health and wellness.
1. “Mold – General Information: Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum … – CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
2. “Mold – General Information: Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum … – CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
3. “Molds, Mycotoxins and More | Surviving Mold.” https://www.survivingmold.com/mold-symptoms/molds-mycotoxins-more. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
4. “The role and abatement of fungal allergens in allergic diseases ….” https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(01)80908-8/fulltext. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
5. “Bacterial amplification and in-place carpet drying: implications … – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22590846. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
6. “Indoor Air Quality Explained | Welcome to Austin Air.” https://austinair.com/indoor-air-quality-explained/. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
7. “Mixed mold mycotoxicosis: immunological changes in humans – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15143854. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
8. “Structural brain abnormalities in patients with inflammatory … – NCBI.” 17 Jun. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24946038. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
9. “Structural brain abnormalities in patients with inflammatory … – NCBI.” 17 Jun. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24946038. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
10. “Structural brain abnormalities in patients with inflammatory … – NCBI.” 17 Jun. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24946038. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
11. “Neural Autoantibodies and Neurophysiologic Abnormalities in ….” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/AEOH.58.8.464-474. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
12. “Neural Autoantibodies and Neurophysiologic Abnormalities in ….” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/AEOH.58.8.464-474. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
13. “Sick building syndrome (SBS) and exposure to water-damaged … – NCBI.” 7 Aug. 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17010568. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
14. “Mayo Clinic Study Implicates Fungus As Cause Of … – ScienceDaily.” 10 Sep. 1999, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990910080344.htm. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
15. “Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A ….” 27 Jul. 2010, https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.
16. “What Good Are Positive Emotions in Crises? A Prospective … – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755263/. Accessed 7 Aug. 2019.