Next Steps and Helpful Interventions When You Suspect Mold is Damaging Your Health
In publishing our weekly articles about environmental medicine and mold-triggered health concerns, we receive quite a lot of questions and comments from readers about their specific situations and symptoms. Over the years, we have noticed that while no two questions are alike, many are woven with common and similar themes. In other words, we get many unique renditions of the same questions. Thus, we thought it might be helpful to address some of these more common questions as individual article topics in a more public forum. We feel that while every person’s situation is different and obviously has its nuances, there are some basic rules when it comes to mold, like looking at indoor air quality, addressing diet, and considering other contributing environmental factors, that can help anyone whose health may be suffering.
Is it Mold?
Recently, in response to my article on mold and hormones, a reader wrote to ask the following question:
“I have had some visible mold in my bathroom and since quarantine, I have felt unusually fatigued. I have thyroid eye disease now and sinusitis. I am exhausted all the time as I’m still stuck at home. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism and have been put on medication for that as well. I have always had a strong immune system, and have not previously had these kinds of health issues. I’m going to make an appointment with an ENT doctor for guidance. Does this sound like this all could be caused by consistent exposure to mold? If so, what should my next steps be?”
Sussing Out The Cause of Your Symptoms
During this pandemic, one thing that is particularly concerning for me as a practitioner is that some individuals who have been quarantining at home may be getting much more of a mold hit than before if the home has unhealthy levels of mold. Certainly, the stress impacts of a completely changed social structure and way of conducting business cannot be ignored, but if the home air quality is not good, then it is quite reasonable to see how illness, fatigue, and hormonal disorders may evolve. Before the pandemic began, depending on a person’s line of work, many people actually spent more time at their workplace than they did at home. Now, because some of us are confined to the home for 90% or more of our time, a mold issue could impact health a lot faster and more noticeably.
This particular individual mentions mold in the bathroom. Bathrooms are notorious for getting mold growth just by nature of the fact that they are humid, moist environments. Thus, mold on tile grout or in toilets is not necessarily indicative of a whole-house mold problem, although its presence is not pretty and disconcerting. There can be a deeper problem, like water getting behind the grout and penetrating building materials, or exhaust fans not routing moist air outside of the home, but, for the most part, drying of surfaces after use and using the exhaust fan whenever showering or bathing (and for 30 minutes after to fully dry out the air), can help decrease mold here. If these interventions are not stopping continual mold growth, a careful look at air conditioning vents and returns can yield information about whether or not there is a whole house problem. This article from Mold Free Living will also help you to dig deeper and troubleshoot the problem.
Because of the visible mold in the bathroom and the obvious correlation between the reader’s being at home more and her increase in symptoms, it is absolutely possible that her failing health can be attributed to indoor mold, but we never “diagnose by newsletter”. Much more information is needed. Documenting a chronologic health history and in-depth questions about the home are of huge importance for sussing out just how much mold could be contributing. In fact, in my personal response to this reader, I advised her to consider looking for a doctor in the directory provided by aaem.com or icimed.com as members in each of these organizations are trained and familiar with this root-cause way of addressing health issues. Additionally, tests for mycotoxins in the body (blood and urine tests are available) can be ordered if this seems the correct path to go.
Addressing Specific Health Concerns
In her email, this reader also mentions making an appointment to see an ENT doctor for her sinusitis symptoms. A specialist appointment can be most helpful IF the proper tests are done, including a culture for mold from the deep sinuses. Since last week’s article by Dr. Dennis reviews this quite well, I will refer you to that for a deeper and more thorough dive into getting more out of your ENT appointments when you think mold is the cause of your sinusitis.
The thyroid issues the reader describes can be driven by mycotoxins from mold, but more information is needed. Grave’s disease, which does affect the eyes, is a form of a hyperactive thyroid, and treatment for this is quite different than hypo (or low) thyroid; therefore, since the reader is experiencing a combination of eye issues and hypothyroid, additional testing before any intervention is advised. It is important to note, though, that many thyroid conditions can be induced and worsened by mold and mycotoxin exposure and are usually indicative of the hormonal system going a bit haywire. Thus, sometimes focusing too much on just the thyroid misses the bigger picture. A complete hormone panel done by a good endocrinologist can be helpful here and can identify pituitary damage (also caused by mycotoxin exposure) that may be the bigger symptom driver.
When wanting to take the next steps towards “taking mold off the table”, or truly figuring out if it is the cause of the symptoms, I offer much the same advice to ANYONE out there that I am going to outline below. My go-tos involve assessing the home, so that you can have some clear answers on whether or not mold is a problem, and addressing your diet because food can be the most powerful and helpful medicine as the first line of defense when you are suffering.
When screening the house for mold contamination, you can start by using the DIY mold plate technique discussed on this site in previous articles. This is a good place to start, if you are strapped financially, or are renting and just want to see if there is a problem. However, nothing takes the place of an experienced mold inspector or environmental hygienist evaluating the house as a potential source. These evaluations are much more than air sampling. Looking at the outside of the home, how it is situated on the lot, and looking for water accumulation near the foundation are some first steps. They also ask questions like, “How is the roof integrity? Do gutters take water away from the base of the house? Is there evidence of leaks in the attic? Is there a basement or crawlspace and are they water-free and dry? Has there been an abundance of humidity that is not being controlled within the home?” These are just examples of starter questions without even getting into the situation of the HVAC system; you can see how involved it can be! Once those questions are answered and you know if you have a mold problem and what is causing it, you can then go about hiring professionals to fix and remediate it. If the issue is small and just a matter of humidity control and mold maintenance, you can use the EC3 products to clean and treat the home to get mold counts down to acceptable levels.
Now to address the diet. The first question to ask is, “What kind of diet has been consumed during this pandemic? ”
Being quarantined does not always lead to the healthiest of food and drink choices. If there is an abundance of candida in the digestive system, induced by mold in the home or by the use of antibiotics for traditional treatment of sinus infections, then this yeast overgrowth can contribute tremendously to fatigue and many other symptoms. Following a nutritional plan that avoids feeding into this situation can make a huge difference in overall wellbeing. There are also some natural antifungals, like CitriDrops Dietary Supplement and Candida Rid that can prove helpful ONLY if the diet is also addressed. You do not want to “kill” yeast with a supplement, while “feeding” it with a bad diet. This will create antifungal resistance and make things more difficult down the road.
There are also immune-boosting supplements, like Beta Glucans and Sinus Defense, that can be used to help the body weather the mold storm while you find a mold-literate doctor and get your home tested. In other words, the health decline does not have to continue while you wait for answers. Sometimes being proactive can help you to get over the hump enough to give you the energy required to take action.
So, Is it Mold???
The short answer is, “Yes.” The symptoms the reader describes, circumstances, and visible mold in the home are all clues that mold is a cause. BUT, as you can see, without taking some steps towards diagnosis (home inspection and testing, mycotoxin testing, hormonal testing, etc.), it is impossible and irresponsible to answer for sure. The good news is there are tools you can use right now, like the FREE Mold Evaluation, or the protocols on the Micro Balance site that will yield answers without the immediate need to pursue a thorough medical evaluation. In fact, if you do some of the protocols and notice a positive change in symptoms, you know that mold is at least one of the key players in your health issues.
All advice aside, this topic truly takes us back to our adage we repeat over and over, “clean air, clean food, clean water”, which are the cornerstones of health restoration, regardless of cause.