Have you ever had the feeling your home is making you ill? Do some of your most persistent symptoms – like fatigue, headaches, brain fog and frequent colds – seem to magically clear up when you’re on holiday?
If you’ve ever had a suspicion that your house is causing some of your health issues… you’re probably correct. And the most likely culprit for your misery is mould.
Mould is made up of living organisms, and all living organisms have the internal drive to grow and expand. They produce toxins both as protection, and as a means to weaken the environment around them making it easier for them to spread. Similar to a skunk’s odour, nature has given mould a powerful tool that’s necessary for its survival, but toxic to everyone around it.
I myself have been helping patients fight this formidable health-destroying opponent for the last decade now. I’ve even locked horns with toxic mould in my own personal battle.
In 2001 we had an addition put on to our house, with a master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. My Parkinson’s symptoms first surfaced in early 2005 – and two years after that, we finally realised the bathroom shower had been installed incorrectly and had been leaking water into the walls.
When we opened the walls, to our horror we discovered that dreaded black mould had obviously been growing in them for years. I firmly believe that this insidious substance – and the toxins it produced – are responsible for triggering my illness.
And I’ve committed myself to helping patients better understand the risks of mould exposure and to heal them of mould-related sicknesses that may have gone undiagnosed for years.
The sickening fungus among us
Mould is the true definition of a hidden killer. It’s growing unseen in walls, lofts and basements. In fact, an estimated 40 per cent of households are contaminated with some form of fungus. And this is way more than just a little bit of mould in the bath that we’re talking about here.
Mould toxins irritate your brain and central nervous system causing a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms including (but not limited to)…
- brain fog
- muscle pains
- abdominal pain, and
- frequent illnesses or colds
While mould is not good for anyone, and some people are allergic to it, it can also cause severe symptoms in certain people with a specific genetic susceptibility. For these individuals, mould is incredibly toxic and continual mould exposure at home, work or school can cause severe neurological symptoms and even trigger devastating neurological diseases like my own Parkinson’s.
Most people, many of my own patients included, believe that the mould in their homes is no big deal if it isn’t the ‘black mould’ variety. The truth is ALL mould is toxic regardless if it’s green, brown or black. Some people are able to excrete the mould toxins once they’re breathed in, and have little long-term consequences from their exposure. But those of us who are genetically handicapped can’t rid our bodies of them, and the toxins continue to build up leading to those health-shattering symptoms.
Unfortunately, most people who are genetically handicapped to be susceptible to mould toxins have no idea, and very few ever get a correct diagnosis even after their health is destroyed by the creeping crud. But the good news is that you don’t have to remain in the dark. You can find out if you are genetically susceptible by having an Integrative Medicine practitioner run an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genetic test which looks specifically at the HLA or immune response gene.
Simple tests for toxicity
If you’re experiencing troubling symptoms and suspect mould toxicity may be to blame, there are several different blood tests that could help with a diagnosis. I routinely order these tests in my own surgery (as do many other toxin-literate doctors) and find that the results are consistently abnormal in patients who suffer from the persistent and disabling symptoms that are often linked with mould exposure.
Although the tests – which go by acronym-laden names including the VIP, MSH, C4a and TGFbeta 1 tests – can be ordered from laboratories, many conventional medicine doctors will not be familiar with them. But if you can’t find a mould-literate doctor in your area to order the tests for you, there’s a vision test that you can take on your own computer that can help clue you in to whether mould toxins are at the root of your own health challenges.
In the genetically susceptible individual, the mould toxin irritates the central nervous system and one of the most sensitive parts of the central nervous system is a nerve that controls how your eyes distinguish between shades of grey, black and white. The VCS test (visual contrast sensitivity test), sometimes known as FACT (functional acuity contrast test), evaluates how well your eyes distinguish contrast (black vs. white and especially your night vision).
I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen over the years with this condition that continuously complain to their eye doctors that their glasses or vision are ‘off’, but are told that the vision is fine and their glasses don’t need to be altered. It’s these very same patients who fail horribly at the VCS test. The test (there’s a small fee for the VCS), and a wealth of mould toxicity information, can be found on the website www.SurvivingMold.com. This site was set up by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a pioneer in the field of mould toxicity.
There are also laboratories that specialise in urinary testing for mould toxins.
Detecting mould in your home and in YOU
If you’re unsure if there’s mould in your home but you fail the VCS test or have other symptoms, then you should attempt some form of mould detection. The tell-tale sign that there’s mould in your home is a musty smell, especially if the house has experienced moderate to significant flood or water damage.
The cheapest first step (but not totally 100 per cent fool proof) is to get mould test kits from your local hardware store. Leave them for the required time in the areas of your home where you suspect there might be mould and where you spend the most time.
For a more scientific and complete examination, you might want to consider using a special mould DNA test called the ERMI (www.mycometrics.com). And it may be worth the investment to have a mould remediation specialist come to your home for an inspection, or even to hire a mould-sniffing dog (I’m not kidding!) for a more thorough job.
If you’re sure you have mould in your home, either from the results of testing or symptoms of mould toxicity, then you should start some form of mould remediation. I won’t claim this is an easy task, but it’s a necessary one and well worth the effort to get rid of the fungal intrusion. The first steps, which you can do on your own, are cleansing away of any of the obvious mould (be sure to wear a breathing mask and avoid tackling black mould on your own), stopping any water leaks and de-humidification. Try to keep the house at 50 per cent humidity. If your symptoms are severe and the mould issue in your home is a more serious case, you should consider employing the help of a mould-remediation specialist.
Simple 3-step mould detox plan
Now that you’re getting the mould out of your home it’s time to think about getting the mould out of YOU. There are both nutraceutical and lifestyle changes that can rid your body of the mould toxins. In the genetically susceptible individual these toxins need some extra prodding to be fully excreted. Without this extra help the toxins will continuously recirculate, wreaking havoc on your central nervous system.
While some of my sickest patients need much more sophisticated and intense regimens, there are three steps that anyone can do on their own to help rid their body of these toxins.
Step 1: Purge toxins with binders – The most important part of the regimen is to use something that can ‘bind’ with the toxin – sopping it up like a sponge so it can be shuttled out of the body. My favourite ‘sponge’ is edible bentonite clay (taken on an empty stomach), but you could also use any good source of fibre because of fibre’s wonderful natural binding properties. For example, chlorella (a green sea vegetable in capsule or powdered form) is a good binder for neurotoxins. And activated charcoal tablets, available in most health food stores, can also be helpful.
Step 2: Support your liver and detox with supplements – Milk thistle and NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) will support your liver and raise your glutathione (your body’s natural detoxifier) levels. This helps your body rid itself of the toxic invaders.
Step 3: Sweat it out – Last but not least, one of the best ways to get these toxins out of your body is to simply sweat them out. If your liver is overwhelmed by the toxins and unable to process them all, then you can force some of them to exit right through your skin. Exercise and saunas can raise your body temperature and help you sweat those toxins out once and for all.
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 8, August 2015