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Four Ways Mold Can Affect Your Health

An overview of the kinds of issues that mold can cause.
Nafysa Parpia, ND with input from Jamie Kunkle, ND

Mold illness symptoms manifest in multiple different ways that need to be addressed. In every case, removal from the exposure is critical. 

We find that diagnosis and appropriate treatment for mycotoxins and other environmental toxicants needs to precede and be concurrent with treatment for other chronic illnesses. 

The Mycotoxin and Chronic Illness Summit is over. There was so much important information, it can be hard to know where to start.

Following are the ways in which mold exposure can manifest clinically: 

  • Mold Allergy – Immune system reaction to mold exposure. Usually, removal of the mold exposure source will also remove symptoms.
  • Mold Toxicity – Many molds generate mycotoxins and biotoxins that impact several of the body’s systems. Simply removing the source of the mold exposure may not be sufficient to remove symptoms, as the toxicity has already started the process of inflammation and can continue in the body even after exposure has been discontinued.
  • Mold Colonization – Beyond the initial exposure comes a possibility of colonization, where mold becomes a resident within the living system, colonizing the surfaces of the body in the sinuses, lungs, GI system, and/or on the skin. Colonization does not reach into the deeper tissues, but now becomes an ongoing exposure to allergens, mycotoxins, and biotoxins and will complicate the impact. Even if the environmental source has been removed, exposure continues inside the body. 
  • Mold Infection – In very rare cases, when a patient’s immune system has been damaged by chemotherapy, AIDS, or other immunosuppressive factors, mold may infect tissues deeper in the body than what is seen with colonization, causing severe acute infectious disease.

Symptoms of mold exposures are many and can mimic and exacerbate those from other complex chronic illnesses such as Tick-Borne illness and other chronic infections, environmental toxicity, cognitive decline and neurological disorders.

Common Mold Exposure Symptoms

  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Difficulty in word finding
  • Impaired concentration
  • Difficulty assimilating new information
  • Reduced task completion
  • Hypersensitivity to bright light
  • Night blindness
  • Tearing, redness of the eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Chronic aching muscles
  • Joint pain, morning joint stiffness, pain in weight bearing joints
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight gain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic sinus congestion
  • Chronic cough that mimics asthma
  • Shortness of breath
  • Ice-pick like pain, or shooting electrical pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Metallic taste or other unusual taste
  • Vertigo, dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Rage or inappropriate anger, mood swings
  • Increased sensitivity to touch

  • Difficulty with sleep: getting to sleep difficulties, difficulty staying asleep
  • Excessive thirst, or frequent urination
  • Impotence
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Low body temperature
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Chronic yeast infections
  • Early onset of menopause
  • Panic attacks or anxiety, depression
  • Tingling, “needles and pins” sensations

Every generation has accumulated but often unseen toxic burdens that can affect their health and wellness. We have survived and adapted under substantial duress and adversity as a species. However, there are limitations on an individual’s health and functioning as these burdens continue to accumulate. Unfortunately, few of these toxicants are routinely tested for or identified until disease develops, and a syndrome diagnosis (based on signs/symptoms) is established. You may receive a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition, chronic fatigue syndrome or even Lyme disease (among others).

Mold is one of the most commonly missed and/or understated toxins of our lifetime. Many of us have had, or are currently experiencing an exposure to mold and its toxins (mycotoxins), and it may not be obvious. Identification is often challenging, and exposure can harm your system for years without a clear diagnosis.

Mold exposure can cause inflammation and toxicity in the body which further complicates symptoms from existing chronic illnesses. For example – many of our patients who already have chronic Lyme disease, neurological issues, cognitive decline, fibromyalgia and ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) also have exposure to mold and the toxins that it creates – mycotoxins. In our clinical experience, treating the patient for mold exposure, and mycotoxins if it is also an issue, helps allow for their other multiple diagnoses to resolve faster.

It is said, if one works with Lyme, they will often find toxicity. The presence of such can be a predisposing factor or a relative result of the chronic illness itself. Many have developed increased sensitivities and poor detoxification responses after developing Lyme illness. Some were already exposed to the toxins themselves, suppressing and dysregulating their immune system response and allowing for a less favorable terrain and resilience to illness. Toxicity can be responsible for relapsing symptoms and can easily affect multiple different organ systems.

Other toxicants exist and should be evaluated for health/wellness and success of treatment are not to be understated either. This includes heavy metals, glyphosate, industrial, agricultural and water contaminants to name a few. These are also easily hidden from view as many are consumed or inhaled often with little immediate response.

Depending on each individual patient’s manifestation of symptoms and concurrent diagnoses, treatment may include oral, intravenous and physical therapies. Treatments are highly personalized to each patient.

There are many ways to support detoxification, some gentle and some more aggressive. The level of intervention is typically dependent on the overall toxic burden and constitution of the individual. This process is often gradual but has the potential to reestablish a more positive momentum of healing in the living system.

Allergies, Biotoxin Issues, Complex Chronic Illness, Detox + Toxins, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Immune Issues, Jamie Kunkle ND, Mold + Mycotoxin Illness, Nafysa Parpia ND

They Can’t Find Anything Wrong

So Why Do I Feel So Bad?

Diagnosis at its best implies finding the cause of the disease. Thinking in linear cause and effect mode was reinforced by advances in surgery for traumatic injuries, and in the discovery of antibiotics for infectious disease. The ingrained habit for doctor and patient is to find the right diagnosis and then the correct treatment will be straight forward and hopefully effective.

Chronic complex illness does not follow this pattern. The problem is not just the inciting event or the viral or bacterial trigger. In chronic illness it is the variety of the person’s genetics and environmental experience that often matter more than the triggering event. Environmental experience includes the totality of our life experience: our physical environment, our chemical and electronic exposures, our socio-economic cultural group, and our psychological and spiritual issues and beliefs.

Thanks to metabolomics, we are now starting to see testing that reveals what is happening in the body NOW, as a result of the past and the present coming together.

Find out more at our page on Complex Chronic Illness

 

Hope for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Image by engin akyurt from PixabayIn medicine doctors usually work toward a diagnosis. Diagnosis at its best implies finding the cause of the disease. Thinking in linear cause and effect mode was reinforced by advances in surgery for traumatic injuries, and in the discovery of antibiotics for infectious disease. The ingrained habit for doctor and patient is to find the right diagnosis and then the correct treatment will be straight forward and hopefully effective.

Chronic complex illness does not follow this pattern. The problem is not just the inciting event or the viral or bacterial trigger. In chronic illness it is the variety of the person’s genetics and environmental experience that often matter more than the triggering event. Environmental experience includes the totality of our life experience: our physical environment, our chemical and electronic exposures, our socio-economic cultural group, and our psychological and spiritual issues and beliefs.

The problem with all symptoms is that they are internal experiences we all struggle to express in ways that another person can understand. This is difficult even when we agree on basic definitions, but doctors are trained to think about symptoms in very specific ways, while patients are not. So often, a stomach ache means one thing to your doctor – a pain somewhere in the area just below your ribs in the midline, or a bit to the left, or maybe to the right of midline of your abdomen. To the patient it could mean a pain below the belly button, or a generalized ache in the entire abdominal area. Maybe the word ache itself doesn’t mean the same thing to patient and doctor, as there are so many types of pain, each indicating something different could be wrong.

How does the diagnostic thinking proceed when you complain of stomach pain? The doctor’s first priority is to rule out, as we say in medical jargon, whether the cause of the pain is life threatening in origin. The appropriate questions and physical exam usually deal with this issue 90% of the time, and depending on your age and sex, may or may not require more in depth investigation. The problem we face with chronic illness is that the stomach pain that you have is usually not the mild gastritis seen on endoscopy, usually attributed to excess acid or H. Pylori infection. For people with chronic illness there may be multiple small stressors to the stomach that can add up to severe stomach problems, but often fail to show up when our focus is ruling out “serious “ problems.

Things that may contribute or even cause severe stomach pain include mild forms of Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) or (MCAS), intestinal dysbiosis, elevated but “normal” porphyrins, vagal nerve irritation from tight muscles or fascia along the vagal nerve’s course, and musculoskeletal problems – especially of the mid thoracic area, fascial strain patterns in the chest and abdomen or pelvis which affects proper blood and lymph flow to and from the involved organ. Infectious contributors can include low grade infections with Lyme or Bartonella, which would be missed if all you are looking for is H. Pylori. Viral infections, or gall bladder and pancreatic dysfunction can also be missed if you are not looking deeper.

Notice I refer to dysfunction. This includes the mild decrease in function from age and toxins that most of us take in stride. When another mild low grade problem is also present, let’s say a tendency to hypercoagulability, along with being chronically dehydrated, maybe a little low in calcium, and a tendency for your mast cells to over react and release chemicals that cause a bit of swelling, and all come together with a low grade infection, then suddenly the blood supply and lymph drainage hits a tipping point and you have stomach pain. You may also begin to react to foods that never bothered you before, or even to inhaled irritants that end up affecting your stomach.

What is the diagnosis here? All your tests are within normal limits, but you are at the high end of normal in some of these, and the low end in others, or just a bit out of range for normal, but not quite showing a disease. Symptomatic, but all tests “normal.

We tend to blame the immune system, but there is only the body system. We made artificial groupings of bodily functions in order to study and learn how it works. The problem is, we keep forgetting the whole body is a system. We investigate its parts, but it works as a whole.

Our job as medical practitioners isn’t just to look for the inciting cause, the bullet if you will. With chronic complex illness we have to peel back the layers of over and under function of your whole body. We have to find what imbalances in you allowed an insult, whether infection, toxin exposure, physical or emotional trauma, to have caused persistent ongoing symptoms rather than the usual short term illness and recovery.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Complex Chronic Illness, Detox + Toxins, Eric Gordon MD, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Lyme Disease + Coinfections, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), Mold + Mycotoxin Illness, Tick Borne Illness