Mould Illness: A UK Functional Medicine Approach

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This article summarises mould illness and provides strategies for healing from it, with links to UK-based (and many US) testing and cleaning companies. It forms a ‘master blog’ on mould illness and includes links to many other blogs I have written on specific elements of testing and treatment. You can check out all my blogs on mycotoxins here, and you may be particularly interested in:

What Is Mould Illness?

Mould illness is when someone is exposed to mycotoxins.

The world health organisation defines mycotoxins as “naturally occurring toxins produced by certain moulds (fungi) and can be found in food. The moulds grow on a variety of different crops and foodstuffs including cereals, nuts, spices, dried fruits, apples and coffee beans, often under warm and humid conditions”.

For a more in depth article read The Ultimate Guide to Mycotoxins and for more specific information on specific mycotoxins check out these blogs:

You may also like to check out my blog on the lymphatic system (blog here).

Listen to Dr. Crista Discuss Mould Illness

Click Here For The Alex Manos Podcast

Types Of Mould And Mycotoxins

There are three main genera usually tested: Aspergillus, Fusarium, Stachybotrys – there are hundreds of known mycotoxins within these genera.

  • Aspergillus is the most prevalent mold group in the environment. Two of the most common Aspergillus mycotoxins are aflatoxin and ochratoxin. The main target of these toxins is the liver.
  • Fusarium’s major mycotoxins are zearalenone (ZEN) and fumonisin. Exposure to mycotoxins from Fusarium can lead to both acute and chronic effects.
  • Stachybotrys is a greenish-black mold. Two of the more frequently produced by Stachybotrys are roridin E and verrucarin.

What Are The Symptoms Of Mould Illness And Mycotoxins?

The symptoms of mycotoxins are extensive.

Mycotoxins are neurotoxic, immune toxic, gut toxic, skin toxic, liver and kidney toxic, and gene toxic.

So symptoms can range from insomnia to irritable bowel syndrome (and thus chronic SIBO), chronic fatigue, liver dysfunction, and leaky gut, skin conditions such as rashes, red eyes, coughing, headaches, and autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Crista has an online quiz to help you establish the likelihood of suffering with mycotoxis: click here.

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How Do You Test For Mould And Mycotoxins In The UK?

To look specifically at mycotoxins there is a urinary mycotoxin test available.

In a great paper by Dr. Pizzorno he explains how genetic testing may help to identify those most susceptible to mold toxins and other environmental toxins. I’m a big fan of Lifecode GX who offer genetic testing.

It is also recommended to assess for potential nutritional deficiencies and levels of other environmental toxins that may help identify those with increased individual susceptibility. A sample of a urine mycotoxin profile can be found below:

Read my blog post Mycotoxin Testing: Everything You Need To Know to learn what other tests may be considered also.

Common Sources of Mould Exposure In The Home

According to Great Plains Laboratory, a US based lab which offer the above mycotoxin test, common exposures may include:

  • Window sills and doors
  • Plumbing
  • Bathrooms
  • Closets
  • Fireplaces and chimneys
  • Laundry rooms
  • Basements
  • Air conditioning systems
  • Roofs
  • Refrigerators

What Foods Contain Mycotoxins?

Milk, cheese, eggs, spices, tree nuts, peanuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, chilies, oilseeds, corn, spices, black pepper, dried fruit, figs, dried coconut, cereals, wheat, corn, oats, coffee (unless low stated as low in mytotoxins), dried fruit, wine, beer, cocoa, nuts, beans, peas, bread, rice, cheese, dried and smoked fish, soybeans, garbanzo beans, barley, oats, corn, rye, durum, soybeans, potatoes, sunflower seeds.

How Do You Treat Mould Illness?

There are numerous layers to treatment – it really does need to be tailored to the individual based on their unique health state. I will highlight a few common interventions today.

The first step is you must remove yourself from the environment if you are currently being exposed to mould/mycotoxins.

There is a saying in Functional Medicine which is: “you can’t get well in the environment that made you sick”. Nowhere is this more true than with mould illness.

Once we are no longer being exposed the key theme within mycotoxin treatment is detoxification.

Bitters: Bitters support detoxification and digestion. Bitters support bile flow, a kay aspect on optimal detoxification, and bile is anti-bacterial and thus protective against conditions such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth. They also stimulate the production of digestive enzymes/juices.

Phosphatidylcholine: Dr. Crista says if there was one edit she could make to her book Break The Mold it would be to add phosphatidylcholine to her recommendations. It aids the detox of mycotoxins as it helps stimulate and thin bile. It also supports cellular health.

Sequestering Agent (Binders): Sequestering agents refer to non-absorbable materials capable of binding toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing enterohepatic recirculation and ultimately the body burden of toxins. These agents are not absorbed into systemic circulation; therefore, side effects are typically limited to gastrointestinal symptoms and potential malabsorption of medications and nutrients, especially if the dose is poorly timed. Sequestering agents have a large surface area to volume ratio, giving large absorptive capacity. Several agents have shown specific efficacy in lowering mycotoxin and endotoxin levels including cholestyramine (a medication), activated carbons (charcoal), and chlorella. Additionally, these agents are nonspecific and can bind additional toxins, helping to lower ‘total body burden’ of toxins. Options include activated charcoal. Dr. Nathan in his work has found specific mycotoxins have an affinity for specific binders and thus if you know what mycotoxins you have been exposed to, you may be able to personalise treatment in regards to which binder is most appropriate.

Probiotics: The ability of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GAF01 to degrade or bind aflatoxin M1. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Lactobacillus casei have a significant hepatoprotective effect against aflatoxin B1. Mycotoxins have also been shown to disrupt the integrity of the gut lining (i.e cause leaky gut) – another reason why probiotics might be helpful.

Omega 3 Fats: Omega 3 fats are helpful at ‘diluting’ the toxins which build up in the fatty parts of our mitochondria, cells, organs and body. This tip came from my conversation with Dr. Jill Crista, a specialist in mycotoxins.

Liposmal Glutathione: Glutathione is frequently recommended to support detoxification of mycotoxins. Research has shown how we need an ‘on demand’ source of glutathione to help detoxification of mycotoxins. The issue is that mycotoxins have been found to inhibit the enzymes which regulate the endogenous production of glutathione!!

Other anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidant compounds such as resveratrol, curcumin, NAC and alpha-lipoic acid.

Sweating: Sauna therapy, hot baths or/and exercise are all appropriate for this. Human sweat has found to contain mycotoxins!

Interested In Microbiome Testing?

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Resources

A great book on mycotoxins is Break The Mood by Dr. Jill Crista. Click here. Check out other books on mycotoxins in my library.

You may also like to listen to the episode of The Alex Manos Podcast, where I speak with Dr. Jill Crista.

References

  • Mycotoxin: Its Impact on Gut Health and Microbiota: click here.
  • Occurrence and Human-Health Impacts of Mycotoxins in Somalia: click here.
  • Biomonitoring in Human Breast Milk: click here.
  • Detection of mycotoxins in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: click here.
  • Is Mold Toxicity Really a Problem for Our Patients? Part 2—Nonrespiratory Conditions: click here.
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