Mould sensitivity or allergy is apparent if you suffer from allergic-type inflammatory symptoms after exposure to mould, mildew spores (like microscopic seeds) or mycotoxins (the toxins that remain in many everyday food sources even if they do not have the original mould still present.) Not everybody has a mould sensitivity so don’t discard your symptoms just because those around you don’t share your reactions to environmental or food based mould.
Mould and mildew is often visible in a building that is prone to damp and to built up condensation. That black stuff around windows, the washing machine or on damp walls? If you breathe that in and instantly feel bad, then that’ll probably be from the spores you’ve just inhaled. But many people are also sensitive to the residual toxins left on foodstuffs even after processing. If you’ve had a cup of coffee and instantly felt both jittery and fatigued then that may well be the mycotoxins at play rather than the caffeine. Roasting the beans at a high heat should kill off any mould that developed during storage or fermentation; but the mycotoxins are rather more resistant.
Exposure to mould or to mycotoxins may cause you to display obvious physical histamine-type responses which are similar to hay-fever symptoms and include:
- congested sinuses, sneezing, nasal drip or blocked ears
- itching, streaming, irritated, twitching or dry eyes
- asthma, painful lungs, wheezing, sore throat
- itching skin or hives
You may also notice sudden but long lasting physiological responses after exposure to mould or mycotoxins:
- brain fog or headaches
- feeling anxious, jittery or wired
- feeling depressed
- fatigue, feeling hungover, and having extreme cravings for sugar or caffeine
- abnormal cortisol response
- inflamed and painful joints that feel rather like arthritis
Mould is often implicated in many long term illnesses such as:
- thyroid, lung, heart or liver disease
- kidney disease and adrenal dysfunction
- neurological degradation
- autoimmune conditions
It is important to remember that not everybody develops the above conditions in response to mould or mycotoxin exposure, but that some people may do as a result of either inherited sensitivity or after prolonged exposure – particularly during childhood or adolescence.
If I feel that mould sensitivity may be an issue for you then we will be tackling this as part of your treatment programme but the following tips are worth trying both in the family home and, where practical, in the work environment.
Please also note that if you suspect a mould allergy you may need to inform your GP if they intend to prescribe you certain antibiotics such as penicillin.
Ways to reduce your exposure to mould spores and mould toxins include:
- Improving air flow through your home or work by opening windows for at least a few minutes every day, and, if possible, through the night. Air conditioning will not fix the problem, and if the unit itself contains mould it will actually make the air quality worse.
- Getting any plumbing leaks fixed immediately.
- Ensuring that soft furnishings such as carpets or curtains are never allowed to remain damp.
- Regularly washing and thoroughly airing out bedding.
- Regularly wiping over any hard surfaces prone to condensation or damp (such as windows, walls, tiles, fridge interiors and washing machine seals) with either a hydrogen peroxide solution or a vinegar/water spray with added clove oil.
- Airing and drying damp clothes immediately after washing.
- Using a dehumidifier if necessary.
- Avoiding underground and damp places such as cellars, caves and the London underground.
- Avoiding some of the prime suspects in your diet: coffee (particularly cheap or decaffeinated), peanut butter, cheap chocolate, grain foods, meat from grain-fed animals; wine and grain based alcohols.
- Temporarily avoiding some of the factors that may be implicated in an elevated mould sensitivity: sugar, grain foods, fermented foods, yeasted foods, nuts and dairy.
- Considering using a probiotic (such as Bulletproof Homebiotic) solution in your home which supports the natural balance of healthy bacteria and fungi in your immediate environment.
Ways to support your own system following mould exposure include:
- Taking activated charcoal capsules immediately after mould or mycotoxin exposure – we can talk about this in your next appointment.
- Showering yourself and washing your clothes immediately following airborne mould contamination.
- Supporting your immune system (including: reducing inflammatory foods, reducing exposure to toxins in skin care and household cleaning products; dry skin brushing and any other naturopathic techniques we may have covered in your appointments; supplementation – particularly vitamin C and cod liver oil supplements and the careful use of targeted herbs and/or essential oils.)
- Using a salt pipe inhaler for 20 minutes daily if your lungs are affected.
- Taking care to treat your body gently – you will likely have an increased need for sleep, highly nutritious foods. Note that you may have high sugar cravings and try to work through these – make sure to let me know if this is a particular problem for you currently.
If you have any questions about mould sensitivity please do not hesitate to ask me, either via email or in your next appointment.