Understanding Mold Illness and Mold Toxicity?
Over the last several years within the health care community, there’s been a growing awareness of mold illness, otherwise known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you yourself may have wondered if mold toxins or mold biotoxicity is contributing to your chronic fatigue, brain fog, weakness, and a host of other chronic symptoms. You may have even stumbled upon my website and taken my Mold toxicity quiz. Upon receiving you results you were told that there was a high probability that your symptoms put you at high risk for CIRS you are now looking for more information.
In this article were going to review what mold toxicity is, the difference between mold toxicity and mold allergies, how to check for mold in the house, what Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is and how we test for mold in house
Mold Toxicity and Mycotoxins
Mycotoxins are the toxic chemicals present on mold spores and fragments of mold and fungus. These mycotoxins are released into the air and travel around easily.
Mycotoxins can enter the body with every breath we take, they can enter our body through the skin, or from eating foods that are contaminated with spores.(1).
Mycotoxins influence the immune system by pro-inflammatory cytokines (2).
Cytokines are small proteins that are important for cell signaling that aid cell-to-cell communication in immune responses. They also stimulate and direct immune system cells toward sites of inflammation, infection, and trauma.
Not all mold or the mycotoxins they create are equal. Some molds toxins are more dangerous than others. Nevertheless, due to the toxic nature of certain molds, they quicky stimulate production of these pro-inflammatory cytokines.
It is this cyclical Chronic inflammatory response known as CIRS also known as mold illness
Water Damaged Buildings, Basements and Flooding
CIRS is an illness that often occurs after exposure to a water-damaged building. For some people it’s a short-term exposure or repeat exposure that brings upon symptoms, while others have may have ongoing continuous exposure and have no clue that there living environment is contributing to their symptoms.
Exposure is cumulative meaning that for those genetically predisposed, small exposures over time can build up in the body and cause symptoms.
Why Are some People More susceptible and get sicker than others?
The short, simple explanation to this is that some people have better clearance or mold detoxification than others. Upon exposure to mold or mold biotoxins, the body flags these toxins an unfriendly antigen.
Once the immune system has identified the antigen, it begins creating antibodies for future subsequent exposures.
However, about 25% of the population has the HLA-DR gene and is genetically susceptible to mold. For these people, the foreign substances, or antigens, have defenses that are ineffective at clearing the mold. This causes widespread inflammation throughout the body. This constant fight and inflammatory response can then lead to chronic illness. (3)
Mold Biotoxins vs Mold Allergies
We have been talking a lot about CIRS and mold biotoxins but is this the same as a mold allergy? It’s easy to get all these terms mixed up so let’s clear up some of the confusion.
Mold Biotoxins and mold allergies are two separate illnesses that can bring about different reactions in the body.
Mold allergies are caused by mold spores that become inhaled and stimulate symptoms like those of hay fever (4).
Mold Allergy Symptoms May include.
- frequent sneezing.
- runny or blocked nose.
- itchy, red, or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- an itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears.
- cough, caused by postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose)
Mold biotoxicity, in comparison to mold allergies, is caused by the volatile toxic vapors that are dispersed by mold that in turn elicits a chronic inflammatory response (CIRS).
Diagnosing this condition is challenging, especially for medical professionals who often misdiagnose it because of the wide variation of possible symptoms.
Reported symptoms (5) associated with CIRS include combinations of:
- Muscle cramps
- Sharp pain
- Light sensitivity
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sinus problems
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pain
- Morning stiffness
- Memory issues
- Difficulty with focus/concentration
- Word finding difficulties
- Decreased assimilation of new knowledge
- Skin sensitivity
- Mood swings
- Sweats (especially night sweats)
- Temperature regulation or dysregulation problems
- Excessive thirst despite frequent water intake
- Static shocks
- Metallic taste
- Abdominal pain
- Unusual pain
- Migraine/facial pain
- Appetite swings
- Increased urination/nocturia
The first step in diagnosing mold toxicity, CIRS or Mycotoxin illness starts with identifying mold within your home or work environment. It’s very important to check BOTH.
How to Check for Mold in a House/ Work Space
If you suspect a mold source in your home or work space the first thing you will want to do is test/check for mold in the environment you spend time in.
When checking for mold growth you should look for these three characteristics: mold growth, moisture/water leaks, and health symptoms.
Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
Mold can initially appear as just “surface dirt” on your wall, ceiling, ceiling tile (office) air conditioning units, Car vents, etc.
Look for changes in color on any of your home’s surfaces. If identified, immediate action needs to be implemented. The scary reality is that the dangerous molds that grow in your home are often the molds that you cannot visibly see!
Once mold as taken root, it spreads very easily into the air and can be redistributed throughout your house, thanks to fans and air condition units.
Moisture, heat, and humidity are mold’s three best friends. Anywhere in your home where moisture is present can produce mold. Moisture and warm environments are desirable conditions in which mold is happy to make a home and reproduce (6).
Therefore, any area in your home where there is a lot of moisture such as in a bathroom, laundry room, or under kitchen sink can potentially be great growth habitats for mold.
If I suspect a patient is suffering from Biotoxins illness or Mold Toxicity Exposure there are several tests, we can use to help identify what we are dealing with.
Testing For Mold
- Traditional Lab Testing: VEGF, Transforming Growth Factor Beta -1, VIP, HLA-DR, C4a, Alpha-MSH, cortisol, Leptin, ADH, DHEA-S, and Testosterone MMP9 blood level. These are blood tests
- Genetic Test: We share a lot with our family, including what makes us sick. That’s because we all inherit genes from our parents that function as instructions inside each of our cells. HLA-DR genes tell your body to make antibodies to fight toxins. Without them, your body could not remove toxins. Some people get extremely sick from exposure to toxic molds while others don’t. Once you’re exposed to harmful mold you may get sick and stay sick until you begin appropriate interventions and remove yourself from the offending mold exposure. This HLA-DR Mold Genetic Test measures the genes necessary for you to know if you might be susceptible to mold biotoxin illness- CIRS
- ERMI Testing– ERMI is Environmental Relative Moldiness index and it was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development (ORD). ERMI uses the analysis of settled dust in homes and buildings to determine the molds’ situation. The methodology is based on using a mold-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (MSQPCR) to quantify 36 molds and calculate an index number for comparison with a database of reference homes.
- Mycotox Profile– is another invaluable tool to assess mold exposure. The GPL-MycoTox Profile is an easy and safe at-home testing that helps detect fungal toxins and assess mycotoxin exposures. It screens for eleven different mycotoxins, from 40 species of mold, in one urine sample. It can also be used to make sure that the mold detoxification has worked and your health is improving and because the test uses advanced mass spectrometry (MS/MS), it can detect lower levels of these fungal toxins.