Mold Allergy vs. Mold Illness: Why Ruling Out An Allergy to Mold Does NOT Rule Out Mold Toxicity Mold Allergy, Mold Illness, Mold Toxicity

By Dr. Susan Tanner

Often patients seeking my clinical help for their puzzling and debilitating health symptoms are dismayed to find that the mold in their homes is the cause of their illness.  Many are in disbelief initially, as they had already been through traditional allergy testing and told that they had either no allergy to mold or very mild reactions to mold on skin testing.  In addition, the extreme, allergy-like symptoms that some of these patients experienced when exposed to fragrances and chemicals were explained away as “vasomotor rhinitis,” (when an irritant causes the blood vessels in the nose to dilate and expand, producing swelling and congestion) which is not an allergy. Thus, before coming to me, these patients were typically treated with steroid nasal sprays to treat the inflammation and sent on their way. The symptoms were “handled,” but the cause of those symptoms was never addressed. What wasn’t being explored or understood was that their mold-exposure-related symptoms were far more than allergy! These patients were being poisoned by a toxin, not reacting to an allergen.

How Mold Makes Us Sick

Molds emit chemicals when they are threatened and as they reproduce. These chemicals are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), called mycotoxins, and are very potent. How potent are they?  To put it into perspective, Agent Orange and LSD are both mycotoxins, and we all know how toxic those substances are!   But it is important to recognize that not ALL molds produce mycotoxins. Those that do are particularly dangerous to our health, though, because, even after the mold spore is dead, it remains toxic. Thus, dormant mold spores in high concentrations in an indoor space can STILL make people very sick.

All toxins can accumulate in the body.  If the body is being bombarded and overloaded with toxins, like if you are living day-after-day in a moldy environment, your body’s toxic load increases to the point where your natural detoxification abilities can no longer keep up and remove the toxins sufficiently. It is at this point that the toxins begin being stored in the body—typically in your fat cells. As toxins accumulate, so do symptoms and these symptoms may present just like an allergy, or they may be more systemic, such as brain fog, confusion, alteration in heart rate and breathing patterns, etc..  Many people fail to recognize the culprit…mold… because they are told, “you are not allergic to mold.”

Inflammation Caused by Mold Exposure is Not an Allergic Reaction

When someone is exposed to mycotoxins, either in a large “hit,” or over a period of time, a complex series of events involving the immune system and then the autonomic nervous system occurs. This immune response is much more complex than an allergy, though, because it is not purely a histamine reaction. In the inflammatory response to mold, the immune system reacts to the invader and the autonomic nervous system goes into “flight or fight” mode. Unfortunately, though, since the invader (aka mold) is constantly present, the threat never goes away. Thus, the immune response and the “cell danger” response never subsides. Inflammation persists and becomes widespread, and, since the “flight or fight” response is perpetuated, some of the body’s sympathetic functions, like digestion and sleep also become impaired.  The person’s symptoms then become more widespread and autoimmune issues often set in.

Once this process has started, it takes less and less exposure to mold or chemicals to set off and continue this process.  Individuals become increasingly unable to tolerate even faint odors or small amounts of mold spores. The systemic nature of the symptoms and the medical communities’ inability to use conventional diagnostics to come up with answers, leads patients to multiple doctors across many different specialties. This why mold-related illness is so poorly understood in traditional medicine settings.

What Can Patients Do to Get Better From Mold Illness?

The good news is that you can get better!  The longer and more severe the mold exposure, the harder the work required and the longer it may take to turn things around, but it can be done.

Foundational Principles of Mold Illness Recovery:

If you are not new to this site, some of what I am telling you is not news. You have seen this before, but my hope is that explaining specifics more clearly will bring the necessity of following this protocol into the forefront of the to-do list.

In my many years of treating mold patients, and in recovering from mold illness myself, it is my experience that If you take the following steps, it will put you in the best position to recover:

  1. You must identify and remove the sources of the mold and mycotoxins from your immediate environments. Nothing else will work if you continue to live or surround yourself with mold-infected items either.
  2. You must keep your internal biological processes working optimally, so that the mycotoxins can be removed from the tissues. There are a number of nutritional supplements that can help with this process, which will be listed below.  A program of deep tissue sweating in a far infrared sauna will also help immensely with this effort, but there are definite guidelines to follow. If you are extremely ill, do not do this without medical supervision.  You could mobilize the mold toxins too quickly and cause a dangerous reaction.
  3. Use of supplemental oxygen helps to “reset” the autonomic nervous system.   I have been asked frequently, “Why do I need oxygen if I am breathing just fine, and my lungs are not diseased?”  The fact is that the use of oxygen for mold-exposed patients has absolutely nothing to do with the heart or lungs.  The oxygen in this case is used in fairly high doses for limited periods of time to push more oxygen into the cells and inflamed tissues, which have become oxygen starved due to the mold toxins.
  4. You must adhere to a diet that calms the inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and thus keeps overall inflammation in the body lowered.  An anti-inflammatory diet is a good place to begin as things start to heal.

My Clinical Guidelines for Success:

  • Test your environment for mold and don’t take your doctor’s word for it that you are “not allergic to mold.” An easy, inexpensive way to test is by using mold plates obtained from MicroBalance Health Products.  Diagnostic mold plates can also be used if you would a lab to analyze your results and give you a report of their findings. Test your car as well as your home.  Countless of my patients were being exposed to mold in their cars. Some cars can be cleaned effectively, but some cannot. If you find mold, hire a competent and trustworthy mold inspector and remediator to help you with your remediation plans.
  • Get out of your house if you find high mold counts.  Even if you are going to remediate your home, get into a safe environment temporarily while you do so.  This is the best and fastest way to get better.
  • Get a prescription for oxygen, and begin utilizing oxygen therapy as soon as you can.  It is remarkable how much better this can make you feel.  You need to use a mask. Do NOT use the nasal prongs as they cannot deliver the higher dose of oxygen that you need.  The beneficial dose is 8 liters per minute for two hours per day.  This should be continued for at least 2 months, longer if you have been sick for a longer period of time.
  • Irrigate and spray your nose in the manner described in the Sinus Protocol. This will treat mold spores the enter through the nasal passages.
  • Start using Sinus Defense to help improve your immune resistance to mold. Sinus Defense also addresses inflammation, because continued use turns-down the immune response to mold exposure. Doing so allows the body the reprieve required to start healing.

Once the foundational steps are in place, I recommend the following supplements:

    • Liposomal GlutathioneGlutathione is one of the body’s most potent antioxidants. It helps the liver process and release toxins.
    • Thorne MediClear SG5– This is a medical food that provides needed protein and a host of nutrients to help detoxify the system.
    • GI Detox– (2 capsules mid-afternoon)When toxins are released from the liver this blend of charcoal and clay acts like a sponge to wipe them up and carry them out.
    • Magnesium Threonate– Magnesium is one of the most universally deficient minerals in the body, and yet so important! It allows muscle energy and relaxation as well as enhances all cell processes. This particular form of magnesium crosses the blood brain barrier and may help with sleep and relaxation as well. Take 2 capsules at bedtime
    • Ortho Biotic – A powerful capsule to keep healthy bacteria in the lining of the “gut” (small intestine).  This is the basis of building a stronger immune system.
    • 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut oil daily

Susan Tanner, MD, has practiced medicine for over 33 years, concentrating primarily on chronic illness and the impacts on the individual, the family and the community. She now has a fitness and health website, where she writes articles and shares education on utilizing the various body systems into improve overall health.

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