The Chronic Inflammatory Response Caused by Mold and Mycotoxins
In this Part 3 of articles about inflammation, I would like to address mold exposure as a cause of inflammation, as well as what far-reaching impacts it can have on the mind and body. Bottom line… mold illness is more than an “allergy to mold.”
In previous discussions, we touched on the mechanics of inflammation, how certain substances, chemicals, even hormones, can set off a chain reaction in the body’s defense system. This results in the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, referred to as cytokines. Mycotoxins, the chemicals produced by mold spores in their reproduction, are notorious for setting this defense reaction into motion when inhaled or ingested by humans and animals. While the degree of immune reactivity is governed by both genetics and the degree to which the body is already overloaded by toxins, inflammation from mycotoxin exposure happens to some extent in everyone; therefore, the need to keep indoor air as mold-free as possible is critically important to ensuring good health.
Mold Illness and Chronic Inflammation
When a patient is diagnosed with mold illness or mold toxicity, the term often used to describe their condition is “chronic inflammatory response syndrome,” or CIRS. Why the acronym CIRS? Here is a simplified explanation: Part of the immune system is made up of T-cells—these cells are necessary to guard and protect the immune system. In the case of mold exposure in susceptible individuals, these T-cells become sensitized and dysregulated, because they identify the mold as an immune system irritant. They start doing their job by releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines to attack the mold. But, because the body is both continuously in the exposure (think living in a moldy home or working in a moldy office building), the “high-alert” and inflammation never ceases. Additionally, detoxification is impeded and mold toxins begin to accumulate in tissues, making the person sicker and sicker. Multiple organ systems in the body are usually affected and symptoms morph and become compounded and more severe.
Another thing occurring in the body of mold patients is the inflammation of capillaries. Capillaries are the tiny arteries that deliver oxygen to tissues. When capillaries become inflamed, essentially tissues then become oxygen-deprived. This results in cognitive decline, headaches, muscle aches (myalgia), and overall fatigue. Because certain areas of the brain are affected, then the entire nervous system may become imbalanced, affecting regulation of heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory drive. Furthermore, the abnormal release of regulatory hormones affects sleep, mood, urinary frequency, metabolism, libido, and energy. A very far-reaching set of issues indeed! The kicker is that once this has begun happening, the amount of mold spores necessary to create activation of T-cells is quite small. So, not only are mold patients often becoming sicker and sicker, but they are also becoming more and more sensitive to mold. In my opinion, this is why many folks have to completely leave the moldy environment and take nothing with them in the beginning in order to fully recover. This is also why, even after recovering, mold-sensitized patients must be diligent about mold hygiene and maintenance of their indoor environments to stay well.
Diagnosing Mold-Induced Inflammation
Some of the lab tests that we use to determine this, as there is always the burden of proof for diagnosis, are these inflammatory cytokines. One of these is Human Transforming Growth Factor beta-1 (TGF b-1). (Note: TGF b-1 is a peptide found in blood-forming tissue that plays an important role in tissue regeneration and healing, cell differentiation, embryonic development, and regulation of the immune system.) When TGF b-1 is elevated (over 2500), we typically see a very pro-inflammatory state, and this can manifest as autoimmunity (arthritis, autoimmune thyroiditis, Lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, for example). It is interesting to see, with treatment, these levels come down and correlate with overall improvement in symptoms.
Another measurable cytokine is Complement C4a. (Note: C4 is a part of the “complement” group of activation proteins, which means that they are able to kill bacteria and aid in immune defenses. When activated, C4 activates other complement proteins to also increase in level. If C4a remains elevated, tissue damage and allergic reactions can occur.) High levels of C4a may also be associated with cognitive impairment. It is quite the norm to find both TGF b-1 and C4a elevated in mold-toxic patients.
Due to the lack of oxygen flow to the pituitary gland, we commonly will see low levels of Melanocyte Stimulating hormone (MSH) as well, which can impact sleep and overall immunity. This also impacts the secretion of growth hormone from the pituitary. Although we have stopped growing as adults, we still need adequate amounts of this hormone to regulate all the “downstream hormones” which include thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormone production.
Treatment for Mold Illness
Once determined that mold inflammation is, indeed, present, then proceeding to treatment as soon as possible is necessary. The first order of business, ALWAYS, is to–
1.) Get out of the mold. No matter what the treatment plan is, it will not work if the body is continually being bombarded by pro-inflammatory cytokines from mycotoxin stimulation.
2.) Remove residual mold spores from the nasal passages, sinuses, and airways. This is most often through nasal irrigation using a safe, non-toxic antifungal substance, such as CitriDrops Dietary Supplement.
3.) Therapeutic oxygen use is one of the most valuable treatments to help deliver oxygen through the inflamed capillary beds to the tissues. Use of relatively high-dose oxygen (8 liters per minute with a mask delivery) for 2 hours daily can make a huge difference in fatigue, brain function, and the resetting of the nervous system to regulate the heart, blood pressure and respiratory processes. This should be continued until the measured cytokines (TGF b-1 and C4a) return to normal levels. Procuring oxygen for this purpose can be difficult as many oxygen companies do not understand the use of oxygen for anything other than a specific lung or heart condition. Purchasing an oxygen generator may be the best route to take.
4.) Binding mycotoxins from the system using either the medication cholestyramine or the natural product, charcoal, helps to get the excess toxins out of the body and prevent recirculation into the bloodstream. Both products can cause constipation and must be used with care under the monitoring of a physician knowledgeable about mold/mycotoxin treatment.
5.) Use of CellTropin can help in re-regulating pituitary function. Homeopathic hormone stimulation and immune support helps overall hormonal balance and the body’s ability to fight off fungal invaders.
6.) Overall body detox with proper diet, supplementation, and sauna are all helpful and part of the individualized protocols that are set up depending on the patient’s presentation and needs.
There is not a single “one-size-fits-all” treatment plan, but it is hoped that by explaining how the body reacts to mold that some of the treatment methods will begin to make sense!
In essence, inflammation must be controlled to spare increasing dysfunction of the body systems. If chronic inflammation occurs, then disease states follow. The longer inflammation is allowed to go on unchecked, the harder it is to turn the body around. Testing and intervening at the first sign of symptoms is always best.
Treat your environment (clean air, clean clothes, clean belongings). Then, get treatment for yourself (clean nose, detox, clean food, clean water, supplements, and medications as needed). It is worth the effort, because you deserve good health!
Thank you for the helpful info…….Please keep it on.
I’m speaking with a committee in NY Senate tomorrow. I’m a mold victim and I would appreciate any bullet points to explain the neurological problems I am experiencing? I keep blacking out without any warning.
Here are links to some great neurological-focused articles on mold:
I think you will find many bulletpoints there. Also Dr. Neil Breseden and his work on inhalational Alzheimer’s as it relates to fungus in the brain and its role in cognitive decline would be helpful. Additionally, Dr. Dennis will be publishing a paper soon on his surgical process with mold patients. The fungus that has been cultured from inside the sinuses of mold patients emits a halo of neurotoxin in the culture media. This presumably shows that the mycotoxins, when inside the sinus (which sits directly below the brain, so is crossing the blood-brain barrier) are actively secreting neurotoxins in the bodies of the patients. This would explain the cognitive issues, depression, ticks, etc. that some mold patients suffer from, even when they have left the moldy environment. Depending upon extent and seriousness of exposure, this must be addressed for some patients to make a full recovery.
Yes this is a very helpful resource. Can you suggest air cleaners for killing mold in the house? There are so many on the market
and it is hard to choose.
Air purifiers cannot be used as a solution to a mold issue. They are wonderful helpers to keep an indoor environment safe and clean, though. We recommend IQ Air, Blue Air, Air Oasis, and Austin Airs.
I had a severe toxic black mold exposure in 2013 moved never really fully recovered still have chronic sinus infections a black pc of gel substance still comes up in my mouth at times never feel good had CT scan they don’t see mold they say but tired always sick
Can mold be living in Y body from that exposure yrs ago I also had a brain tumor that was remedied by proton radiation 2015 post exposure they found mild fungus in my lungs in 2014
How can I get better ?
It initially produces vertigo and vestibular damage from breathing it in
I have asthma and reacted to the mold spores on was living in an apt tbatbhad toxic mold for over a yr not aware until 1 day residents moved out and left their storage unit open and seen mold growing all over the walls going up to my apt it was tested and found to have mold toxins that I was inhaling which invaded my whole body by breathing it all in …never really fully recovered .
Any suggestions for improved health?
Was it a sinus CT? Not all docs know how to identify a fungal mass on a sinus CT. They must be trained to do so. The first step is making sure your current environment is as mold free as possible. DO some plate testing and go from there. If your home is safe, then you can start working with a doc trained in environmental medicine (www.aaemonline.org is a good resource). Dr. Dennis also works with patients using sinus irrigation with antifungals. You can do things to support your liver, like using Milk Thistle, while detoxing one step at a time with glutathione, and gentle binders, like Zeobind, GI Detox, or coconut charcoal. You should also try boosting bile production prior to binder use with a bitters supplement. Additionally, saline nasal washes 2-3 times daily with an antifungal, a good nutritional supplement, like Complete Thymic formula, and a whole body antifungal, like Candida Rid will work to cleanse your GI tract and system of fungus. You will need to follow with a high-quality probiotic. We recommend ION or Megasporbiotic. A functional medicine doc can help to guide you through all of this to make sure you are getting better and charting your progress. I hope that helps.
Oh, and nebulizing with Silver Sol can be very helpful as well.
Catherine, I have a nebulizer and haven’t used it yet because it was prescribed with albuterol, which I won’t use. I was wondering about Silver Sol myself, but don’t know the amount to use, can you help with that? I use NOW brand. Thanks!
In a “traditional” physician-prescribed nebulizer, you would use approx. 2ml of saline to 1ml silver sol. That will give you about 5 minutes of continuous treatment. Go slow, see how one treatment feels, and you can do it ever 3 hours or so as needed. Also, the CitriDrops Dietary Supplement can be used very effectively in a nebulizer. In about 3 ml saline, use 2-3 drops.
Could the mold contribute to COPD?
My home had black mold, and we couldn’t get rid of it! Had to throw stuff out! Had the bottom of my boxspring for bed covered!
Yes! Mold can definitely contribute to COPD and other respiratory diseases. Breathing clean air is more important to your health and longevity than your genetics are.
Hi Diane Hensley. I’m a 49yr old female in Sacramento, Ca. In March 2016 I was hospitalized with “acute bronchitis ” then in Dec 2016 to Jan 2017, I was hospitalized with “Chronic Bronchitis ” witch is a form of COPD. So now I officially have COPD. I have NEVER smoked a cigarette a day in my life. I lived in an apartment with mold between the walls(and had no idea) when I figured it out and had the apt tested. When I got the results I left everything behind. Since then I did a sputum culture in approx. Oct.of 2017 and I was positive for 2 molds a d 1 type of fungus in my lungs. About 2 months later I saw a ENT dr. He found fungus on my larynx and my esophagus. A week and a half ago I had my dr. Do a nasal swab test on me and I found out 2 days ago I have 2 different types of mold in my nose. Also I still have COPD so yes it causes it for sure.
I am so sorry you are going through this, but happy you found the cause. Thank you for writing and sharing your story.
Hi there, thank you for this information. I’m 6 months into treating and having difficulties moving forward. Is there a oxygen generator that you recommend I purchase? Any links or additional information would be helpful. Thank you greatly
Drive Medical DeVilbiss 10L Compact 10 Liter Oxygen Concentrator, but there are many about the same size and capacity that would be sufficient.
Informative article but it s a pity not to be able to buy the Microbalance products. There are bugs in the system and it can be impossible to change the delivery address, or even to create another account with your name but a new address, so I have not managed to pass an order. When I contacted the customer service they have not been helpful – I have seldom seen a customer service that is not more keen to sell their products and help solve problems for the customers.
Please email me directly at email@example.com and I will help you to place your order. I’m sorry you have had this trouble. I hope to solve the problem ASAP.