The medical community is just beginning to understand the health consequences of chronic mold exposures. For example, the toxins released by an indoor mold called Stachybotrys chartarum are extremely toxic to nerve cells. In addition to being neurotoxins, they suppress the immune system, leading to decreased levels of antibodies and lymphocytes. Stachybotrys, a black and slimy mold, requires an extremely damp environment to proliferate. While spores of wet mold do not easily enter the air, disturbing dry, mold-contaminated material can release spores into the air, resulting in the possibility of human exposure.
Other health effects reported by individuals living in moldy homes include recurring cold-like and flu-like symptoms, coughing, chronic bronchitis, sore throat, diarrhea, fever, headache, chronic fatigue, dermatitis, rhinitis, bleeding in the lungs, tightness in the chest, intermittent difficulty in focusing the eyes, neurological symptoms, and general malaise.
In all but the most severe cases of exposure to the most toxic molds, symptoms typically resolve after the source of mold exposure is removed, although the very young and frail have been known to die from such incidents. Even healthy, young people have been known to succumb to Stachybotrys.
|Symptoms:||fatigue, intermittent numbness in extremities, wide array of gastrointestinal symptoms|
Carol, a physician and colleague, sought my help with her own case. Carol had not felt well for more than five years. She experienced extreme fatigue, neurological symptoms such as intermittent numbness in her extremities, and a wide array of gastrointestinal symptoms. The parasites C. parvum and H. pylori were recurring infections. She treated these bugs and any other issues we diagnosed, but the problems would return within a short period.
Carol was clearly immunocompromised, but no obvious cause was apparent. I put her on a supplement regimen designed to support and strengthen her immune system. The thought of mold exposure crossed my mind because molds are immune-suppressive, but Carol lived in the desert, where the environment is hot and dry. She repeatedly assured me she didn’t have mold exposures in her environment. Carol felt ﾓbetterﾔ on her supplement program, but most of her symptoms were unresolved. I finally insisted that she run a mold antibodies test to look for an elevated immune response to common indoor molds.
The testing revealed that Carol had severely elevated antibodies to all of the molds on the profile, including Stachybotrys chartarum. I recommended that she call an environmental testing service and instruct the company to test the air in her home and adjacent office. The environmental tests showed dangerously high levels of the molds to which Carol had elevated antibodies.
Carol and her husband relocated while environmental contractors determined the source of the mold in her home and office, and performed the necessary remodeling to remedy the problem. Damaged plumbing was the culprit, setting up the ideal environment for mold to flourish.
To help speed Carol’s recovery, I suggested that she purchase a high-quality air filter for her apartment and avoid any dietary sources of mold-loving foods, such as chocolate, mushrooms, cheeses, leftovers, tepid water, fruits and fruit juices (especially citrus), dried fruits, soy sauce, vinegar, and any other foods that may easily become moldy. Inhaled molds, as well as those contained in foods, can colonize in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.
Carol’s case verifies how important it is to remove all potential sources of mold exposure. Even so, elevated antibodies to molds can persist for up to a year after the sources of exposure have been removed.