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Addressing and Overcoming Mold Sensitivities

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Mold is very recognizable when it occurs in our living environments, and something we curse as it is hard to completely clean away, often leaving a black or darkened stain on surfaces.  It keeps returning no matter how diligent we may be in our household cleaning practices.  So what exactly is mold, why does it live with us and plague us, what harm does it create to our health, and how do we get rid of it?

Phyllis A. Balch, CNC  and James F. Balch, M.D. define molds very well in their book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd Edition:

“Molds are microscopic living organisms, neither animal nor insect, that thrive where no other life form can.  Molds live throughout the house—under the sink and in the bathroom, basement, refrigerator, and any other damp, dark place.  They also flourish in the air, in soil, on dead leaves, and on other organic material.” (153).

Mold can become insidious and pervasive triggering several types of physical symptoms mimicking various ailments requiring medical intervention.  Most common complaints center on respiratory conditions such as upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, coughing, wheezing, asthmatic challenges, itching, skin rashes, weight loss, dizziness, headaches, various aches and pains, etc.  Often these require medical treatment focused on providing antibiotics to abate symptoms and may not address actual causes.

We are all familiar with mold, the kind we see around our bathtubs and sinks, infiltrating grout, living as a dark discoloration on window sills, deck railings, fences, or finding residence in damp basements, moist attic spaces, and hidden in closets seeping in from foundation walls to those closed dark spaces, especially where condensation reactions occur from the warm house air meeting the colder outside air.  Even our clothes and shoes that have not been properly dried and aired can grow mold and mildew.

Molds grow in many conditions we daily encounter.  As we garden, mold can exist in soils and decaying matter.  Molds emit spores into the air we don’t see yet we breathe in.  Broken skin surfaces become receptors of undetected mold residues that enter our bodies setting off an inflammatory response by our immune system.

Pets traipsing over lawns and in our gardens can pick up mold in their fur and paws and bring it into us while we lovingly caress and snuggle them, brush their coats, and even sleep with them allowing molds to infiltrate our bedding and furniture.  Draperies long overdue for cleaning can harbor mold on their linings, between layers of fabric, and go long undetected.

Food products such as grains, cereals, seeds, and nuts can harbor mold even when we believe we have purchased them fresh from the market.  We are encouraged to buy in bulk to save money believing these products, being “dry goods” have long shelf lives in our cupboards.

Sensitivity to molds can lead to chronic discomforts if not properly addressed and eradicated.  Doug A. Kaufman, in his book, The Fungus Link, Volume 3, provides the following discomforting statistics:  “ . . . estimates place the probable, final total [of recognized fungi species] at a whopping 1.5 million species!  Of those pinpointed thus far, about 400 have been diagnosed as the cause of human disease.” (44).   As we look around our homes and yards and search for evidence of mold, and understand that molds are everywhere emitting their spores, it becomes easier to recognize the potential of mold sensitivities as the trigger for nagging symptoms.  Just leave a piece of bread out on the kitchen counter and see what happens in a day or two!

Just as important, mold is an outside invader to the body.  This begins a cascade of events triggering our immune system to send out its specialized cells to surround the “enemy invaders.”  Oftentimes what happens is the creation of byproducts known as “free radicals.”  These molecules are highly unstable having lost an electron and seeking a new one, and in this destabilized state, cellular damage often occurs.  Neutralizing free radicals becomes a strong focus of attention and can be accomplished by many positive interventions such as eating a whole foods diet, specifically directed nutritional supplementation, exercise, adequate fluids, and rest.

Mold clean-up usually begins by our cleaning with bleach, wiping and scrubbing it off that can distribute spores into the air to begin growing elsewhere.  Mold loves moist warmth to begin its life cycle.  Stagnant air in homes contributes to its ongoing efforts to colonize.  Heat, dryness, and good air circulation inhibit the growth of molds.

If someone suspects mold exposure as the cause of their symptoms, it becomes important to undertake a comprehensive program to eradicate mold from the environment, detoxify the mold families from the body, support the body detoxification systems with a diet restricting mold susceptible foods and beverages, increase exercise patterns to support a more rapid release of toxic components to improve the immune system and general health, and to become committed to these diligent efforts as new and lifelong behaviors to remain symptom free.

The purpose of a mold sensitivity/eradication program is to eliminate sources of irritation and to cleanse the body of the toxic byproducts produced by mold through inhalation or physical contact through supporting the organs of detoxification.  Education on dietary do’s and don’ts for getting rid of mold reactions will provide strong support for digestion and organ detoxification by having the daily load reduced.  Nutritional supplementation and herbs will be included to support repair, healing, and recovery. Beginning or stepping up an appropriate exercise plan that can become sustaining and fun will not only support detoxification, but strengthen cardiac and pulmonary functions often the most stressed with allergic reactions.  Finally, the program provides an avenue for addressing any barriers to commitment for keeping mold and its triggering spores out of one’s environment, remaining on the dietary plan until symptoms have abated prior to reintroducing foods on the “avoid” list, assessing health progress, and sustaining new behaviors.   I have created handouts as referenced in this article I would be happy to share for anyone interested in addressing this challenge they experience.

Step 1:  Environment Clean Up

The first step is to clean up the environment.  This includes home, garage, basements and attic spaces, yard, pet areas, and includes all work environment spaces you can control.  If mold infestation is quite severe, a professional service company would be a good beginning to properly identify and completely eradicate existing mold.

Mold Eradication Guidelines including Health Cleaning Products/Procedures handout will enable participants to safely and effectively cleanse their environments of molds without further challenging or compromising the immune system with harsh cleaning chemicals.

Mold plates may be considered if specific exposures need to be identified.

Step 2:  Detoxification/Dietary Do’s and Don’ts

Once the environment is free of the cause of symptom triggers, the body can begin to heal itself.  Detoxification Program Basic Information provides an overview of the importance of physical detoxification to lessen and/or eliminate symptoms.  All our body systems participate together to eliminate toxic substances.  Supporting these functions through dietary control, adequate supplementation, exercise, and rest will reflect in speedy recovery.

A.  How each system participates in detoxification. This is an important handout helping us learn that our body systems act together for maximum effect.  Supporting these systems with diet, supplements, herbs, exercise, and rest insures success in a mold eradication program.  Our detoxification systems include skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys.

B.  Elimination of mold susceptible foods. Follow Yeast/Fungi Eradication Diet Guidelines and Yeast/Fungi Eradication Diet Food Alternatives for supporting the immune functions by lowering toxic load of moldy foods.  Maintain a food journal noting menu items ingested and any reactions experienced.  It may become necessary to also address food sensitivities should symptoms continue to occur even on the mold/yeast eradication diet.  Emphasis will be the elimination of sugary foods, moldy food sources, and to increase protein intake, lower simple carbohydrate intake, maintain complex carbohydrates in the forms of lots of fresh vegetables rather than fruits, and maintain adequate healthy fat intake by ingesting nuts, seeds, and oils from suggested list.  With molds/yeasts not having access to their fuel source, die off of their toxic residues will begin quickly.

C.  Supplementation. Along with an appropriate dietary protocol, the body can be assisted in its fight against mold infestations by the addition of specific supplements supporting healing and antifungal ingredients.  I have prepared a list of basic supplements supporting immune function, gastrointestinal health, the cardiovascular system which in turn improves mental clarity, and antioxidant support suppressing free radicals and their damage.  Several herbs also support healing and detoxification.  Some of these ingredients are easily added to smoothies and in general cooking recipes, such as garlic and onions in nearly everything.  The goal with supplementation is to support our body’s processes to obtain the most from our nutritional sources and to heal any damage experienced from toxic exposures.

Step 3:  Exercise for health and well being.

As toxins begin mobilizing out of the body by the support of an appropriate diet and removal of sources of exposure, the body will benefit from routine exercising to support strong functioning of all involved detoxification systems, all cells, and tissues with the increase of oxygenation and movement of bodily fluids toward the elimination destinations.  Improved cardiovascular and pulmonary functions strengthen with regular exercise, and nutrients necessary for healthy cell functions arrive in a more timely fashion and toxins move out more quickly when movement and activity occur.  Exercise should be fun and engaging, easy to adapt into one’s busy schedule with family and work, and something looked forward to every day.   Walking, jogging, and yoga are easy to begin and attach to the benefits of feeling better, clarity of thinking, and feeling more alert and alive.  Advanced workouts could be incorporated as healing occurs including weight training, kick boxing, and “hot yoga.”   Exercise provides a great daily tool for managing stress, important in itself to reduce toxic byproducts from stress hormones, that can have an accumulating effect on the body.

Step 4:  Recognition for adequate rest.

The body accomplishes most of its repair work at night when stressors are not present and the body and mind are quiet.  Adequate time for rest is important to maintain health and vibrancy. It is generally recognized that eight hours of sleep is most essential; however, everyone’s needs vary, whether genetically or from levels of physical exertion.  When illness occurs, more hours of rest are needed. Undergoing a detoxification program with toxic die-off may require more rest time until nutrition begins to incorporate into cells from available receptors now free of toxic interlopers.

Step 5:  Barriers to Commitment/Accomplishment of Goal

I recognize two main barriers to following through with a program to eradicate mold and its attendant symptomology.  The first barrier comes from the physical eradication in home, yard and office.  This may take time and it is hard work.  Incorporating the appropriate food choices can begin as clean up efforts begin, but a sense of recovery may not be recognized while exposures are occurring.  Barrier 2:  People tend to want “instant” results to stay motivated.  It will be important to provide support and information that while “nothing” appears to be happening, in fact much is going on as cells and tissues shuffle out mold/allergy contaminants and begin receiving nutrients and repairing damage from toxins and free radicals. Barrier 3:  Once success is experienced with the reduction/elimination of stressing symptoms, mold will still be ever present as a predator in the home.  Diligent efforts will have to be maintained to keep up with it to not experience a recurrence of symptoms.  This is ongoing, tedious, and frustrating.  But the long term results will be a healthier life experience.  Suggestions for upkeep may be to share cleaning tasks with friends who have the same problem.  We women always seem to enjoy cleaning someone else’s house—so sharing the tasks together is a lot more fun, supportive, and gets positive results as everyone benefits from a clean environment and improved health.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, is owner of Touchstone Massage Therapies and Nutrition Plus!  She is founding member of The Sandpoint Wellness Council and is presently completing her Masters of Science in Holistic Nutrition.  She can be reached at 208/290-6760.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

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