Getting Mold and Mycotoxins Out of the Body Both Successfully and Safely

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

One of the questions I am commonly asked by patients impacted by mold and mycotoxins is, “ How do I get this out of my body?” More specifically, “How do I detox my system from mold exposure?”  I obviously cannot give a one-size-fits-all answer, because every patient is different and has needs based upon their history and unique mold situation, but, for all patients, a basic understanding of the mechanisms of detoxification is helpful, as there are many processes going on simultaneously, ranging from the simple to the very complex.

First, understand that detoxification is going on in everyone’s body all the time; it’s a very important step in removing waste products. On a more “macro” level, detoxification involves excretion through the bowels, kidneys, skin, and breath.  A good visual representation is to picture things physically leaving the body and lightening the load as this demonstrates our goals without getting into the more complicated functions. On a more “ micro” level, detoxification involves numerous chemical, hormonal, and biochemical reactions taking place in our organs, and these are rooted in cell function. Simplistically stated, these reactions remove wastes from the cells which are then carried by blood or lymph through the liver, kidneys, or skin to be excreted outside of the body.

Mold and Mycotoxins

When one becomes ill from mold and mycotoxins, it is due to a tipping point being reached in which the mechanisms to remove these substances have been damaged or overwhelmed and thus cannot work effectively or efficiently.  Sometimes, this damage may occur as a combination of genetics (the factors a person is born with that impact just how the biochemical processes of detoxification can work) and the amount of mold exposure that an individual has had. Bioaccumulation of toxins can occur over time and may have also resulted from different types of exposures, not just to mold. Other examples of possible exposures include chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, petrochemicals, heavy metals, and chronic infections.  Even certain medications may have a cumulative toxic effect.  In other words, the statement, “Genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger,” is spot-on when it comes to how mold and mycotoxins impact the body–it is never just the mold.

Detoxing from Mold Exposure

Now to begin to answer the question of how to detox the body of mold and mycotoxins. (Note: Remember that there may be some specific recommendations for different patients depending on their genetics and biochemistry. There are  also times when the order in which things are added or done may be amended both to enhance effectiveness and tolerance for a patient.) With certainty, the influx of toxic exposure must be stopped FIRST. You can’t remove and retrain systems if all of your efforts are being taken up with continual or recurrent exposure. In other words, mold must be thought of the same as any other toxicity-triggered illness in that the poison or toxin really does need to be removed from the patient’s surroundings as much as possible in order to get them better.

Then, I like to address the “macros” or functions of excretion. If these are not open and going well, then it is harder to gain traction as the “micros” are addressed.  Assuring that bowels are moving at least once daily, kidneys are eliminating clearly with plenty of purified water intake, and some sweating is occurring are great first steps.  Then a binder can be introduced and carefully adjusted so as not to induce constipation. A binder is used to absorb mycotoxins dumped by the liver via bile into the intestines and can make a rather dramatic difference in some patients. There are recommendations for different binders for specific mycotoxins but I usually use a combination product containing zeolite, charcoal, and bentonite clay. Prescription Cholestyramine or Welchol, normally given to lower cholesterol, has been used with great success in some patients. Binders should always be taken well away from any medications or other supplements so that nutrients and medicines are not also bound up and carried out of the body. Along with the bowels, kidney function is primarily helped by adequate mineralization and hydration, and this may involve the use of specific supplemental minerals and electrolytes. With electrolytes and minerals on board, sweating may then be accomplished superficially by exercise, Epsom salts baths, or simply by summertime heat.  A deeper and more cleansing sweat occurs with sauna bathing.

When excretion pathways are open and functioning then the things we do on a micro level can be more effective.  Again, the specifics of this are unique to the patient but are geared toward helping the liver do its multiple jobs in a very effective manner. There are several phases of liver cell detoxification but nearly every person impacted by mold does need the support of an antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione has more functions than I can possibly list here, and it is worthy of an article entirely devoted to it, but suffice to say that it is extremely important in mycotoxin elimination.  Glutathione impacts the liver, first and foremost, but also can cross the blood-brain barrier making it very effective in the neurological impacts of toxicity.

Many of you may have heard of the process of methylation in detoxification, and the specific genetic anomalies which render this process less effective.  While methylation is most commonly thought of as being made up of Vitamin B12, B 6, and methyl folate, there are quite a few other impacts and glutathione is one.  For example, mycotoxins and candida can impair the ability of glutathione to assist folate in the methylation process. Quality absolutely matters when it comes to glutathione, however, so don’t try to cut corners here. All glutathione supplements work better when the body pH is a bit alkaline. I recommend taking glutathione with a little magnesium citrate to accomplish this.

Other detoxification supplements that I use frequently for mold patients are N-acetyl cysteine and lipoic acid to help the body both manufacture and recirculate glutathione. Additionally, certain formulas are tonics and protective for the liver, such as milk thistle, and may be used in combination with individual and specific needs to help up-regulate and optimize liver cell function for detoxification. MycoDetox by Micro Balance is a very nice formula for this and a great accompaniment to glutathione.

In conclusion, I want you to remember that in no way is this article meant to be a comprehensive detox program. Rather, it is hoped that this article gives you an overview of what key must happen to recover from mycotoxin-related illness. Additionally, some patients will require more–for example, antifungals and/or mitochondrial and hormonal support products to harness and optimize detoxification of mold and mycotoxins. This is where the art of medicine comes in and is why working with a skilled, knowledgable, mold-literate practitioner is extremely important.

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