If you suffer from ongoing allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, fatigue, and trouble breathing, there’s a chance you may be dealing with mold symptoms rather than seasonal allergies.
May is Allergies Awareness Month, and most people experience seasonal allergies when pollen counts are highest in the springtime. Others may suffer from perennial allergies, which occur year round. If you are prone to seasonal or perennial allergies, it might be worth considering the possibility that you are experiencing mold symptoms rather than allergies.
“Molds can trigger a list of symptoms that are quite similar to those caused by environmental allergies, such as sneezing, redness, coughing, itchy skin, digestive upset, and hives,” says Lisa Richards, Certified Nutritionist and founder of the Candida Diet.
“I’ve reacted to mold on many occasions in different parts of the world, and it could have been confused for an allergy, which in a way it was,” says Maryam Henein, functional medicine consultant and founder of HoneyColony.
When I had walking pneumonia and was hospitalized, I realized it was from working in an editing suite with an old air conditioning unit that likely hadn’t been cleaned in ages, and was full of mold. It’s so common to be treated with antibiotics when in reality, it’s mold. When I told my doctor at the time, he thought I was crazy and brought in a shrink while I was in the emergency room with a fever of 103. Luckily, I set the record straight, but I wasn’t treated for mold toxicity until recently.
Mold are fungi that can grow virtually everywhere, and to date, the CDC estimates that there are tens of thousands of different fungi species in the world. Mold is most prevalent indoors in buildings that have sustained water damage and outdoors in decaying or damp leaves, grass, and hay. Mold is part of nature and is dangerous when it feels threatened, usually when it comes into contact with toxic building materials. Mold is just as dangerous when it’s dead.
A mold allergy is triggered by exposure to mold spores — tiny, microscopic “seeds” that are released by the parent fungi for the purpose of reproduction. These spores travel through the air and can be unwittingly inhaled or absorbed through the skin, causing a host of unpleasant reactions in the body like asthma and itchy, red eyes.
Some molds also produce potentially lethal compounds called mycotoxins and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC). Mycotoxins are dangerous poisons that often grow on food crops like peanuts and grains, as well as indoors where water damage has occurred. Diagnosing a mold allergy or mold toxicity can be challenging because the symptoms often mirror other common health issues.
Catherine Fruechtenicht founder of Mold Free Living, shares a surprising list of effects that mold can have on the body:
Mycotoxins cause damage to the immune system, cancer (e.g., lymphoma, leukemia, kidney cancer), gut inflammation, multiple neurological symptoms like ataxia ( inability to walk properly), ear ringing, deafness, blindness, vertigo, muscle weakness and paralysis of any muscle including gut motility, and severe cognitive impairment to name a few.
In a 2016 article published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, Joseph Pizzorno and Dr. Anne Shippy discuss the prevalence and seriousness of mold toxicity.
As we look at the research on mold toxicity and toxins in general, we propose that the medical community (by all its names) has focused too much on the “yellow canaries” and missed the big picture that toxins have now become a primary driver of disease in the general population, not only among those most susceptible.
Urine and blood testing are two reliable ways to show if certain mycotoxins are present in the body, but even if results come back negative, mold may still be an issue, especially if there are many seemingly unrelated health symptoms present. According to an article in Acupuncture Today, “Individuals actually suffering from toxic mold exposure routinely are misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.”
Misdiagnosis is a serious issue as prolonged exposure to mold can wreak havoc on the systems of the body and may take many months or even years to eradicate. Some people may even become permanently disabled.
Treatment Of Mold Symptoms And Toxicity
Diagnosing mold toxicity or allergies is only half the battle. Once a person suspects mold may be causing their health issues there are a number of treatment options available.
1. Overall Body Detox
Mold manifests in the body in a variety of ways, often affecting the functioning of the gut and brain. Stopping consumption of unhealthy foods, going on a mold free diet and cleansing the system with an overall body detox is a good first step in eliminating mold from the body. According to Fruechtenicht, it is important to incorporate dietary changes that include a “modified keto or paleo diet with increased vegetables. .. no dairy or gluten … as little sugar or simple carbs as humanly possible.” She goes on to say, “It is also extremely important to only drink purified or spring water. Not reverse osmosis or tap. [We] need extra minerals and osmolality. Fluoride and chlorine in municipal water supply also activates yeast.”
2. Start Taking Silver
In addition to its power as an antiviral and natural antibiotic, colloidal silver has shown promise in treating mold by boosting the immune system and combating allergy and asthma symptoms that manifest as a result of mold in the body. Made up of tiny particles of silver suspended in a water solution, colloidal silver is one of the oldest antibacterial medicines, though its use greatly decreased with the discovery of modern antibiotics. In recent years, driven in large part by the prevalence of superbugs and increased antibiotic resistance, it has gained popularity once again, and is useful for a variety of health ailments. Chelated silver that is 4000 ppm can be an even more powerful choice.
3. Introduce More Probiotics Into Your Diet
The health of our gut can affect every part of our body, from digestion to brain function. The trillions of bacteria living in our gut are there to keep us healthy and functioning at our optimum potential. Unfortunately, due to poor diet, overuse of antibiotics and toxicity buildup from mold or other environmental toxins, our gut bacteria is seriously impacted and unable to function at its full potential. Incorporating fermented foods like kimchi and kefir into your diet is a good way to increase healthy bacteria, as is taking probiotic supplements. It is worth noting, however, that some people with mold illness have high histamine levels and cannot consume certain probiotic-rich foods. To find out what your own personal microbiome, consider a gut intelligence test called VIOME.
4. Consider Taking Natural Antihistamines
When the body is presented with an irritant like pollen, spores, or dust it produces a chemical called histamine which often manifests as congestion, runny nose, severe itching or sneezing. This is the body’s way of fighting off the irritant, and while it is an important function it can also cause a great deal of discomfort. There are a variety of highly effective herbal antihistamines, such as nettles, reishi mushrooms, and bromelain. Nettles can be made into a tea or taken as a tincture and can be used both preventively and as needed when an attack occurs. Nettles are also packed with nutrition and can be a good overall wellness and cleansing tonic. Reshi mushroom is a powerful healer that is best taken in tincture form when allergic symptoms are present. Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is another potent antihistamine that has proven effective in both preventing and treating allergic symptoms.
Diagnosing and treating mold allergy and toxicity, and ensuring that our homes and workspaces are free of mold, can be a challenging but important step in addressing lingering health issues.
Rosanna Keyes is a freelance writer, editor and non-profit office administrator living in the Asheville, NC area. She has a B.S.S. from Ohio University with concentrations in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Geography. She is a passionate advocate for sustainable food production, herbalism and the preservation of wild spaces for plant and animal habitat.
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