Jini was a 39-year-old patient who visited me complaining about numerous symptoms including headaches, mood swings, muscle cramps, and bloating, all of which left her feeling lethargic and drained. These symptoms had baffled numerous practitioners, and she arrived in my office understandably frustrated. But after a thorough history, one massive clue revealed itself: Jini's home had flooded several years ago and still suffered minor leaks. Subsequent testing confirmed what I suspected. Jini suffered from chronic mold exposure.
Mold is more common than you might think.
What happened to Jini and her home was not an isolated case. In fact, 50 percent of all American buildings suffer1 water damage and become potential mold magnets. Mold also clings to building materials like cellulose, particleboard, and drywall. This invisible toxin finds damp, dark recesses to hide in and thrive. And once it forms, getting rid of mold becomes a serious challenge. And it isn't just your home that is at risk. For people sensitive to mold, antigens will keep your immune system fired up, creating2 inflammation and numerous symptoms.
Mold can cause a lot of damage to your health and it's not an easy problem to fix.
As a medical doctor who specializes in fatigue, I've found that this invisible invader can become a serious challenge to eliminate. Mold becomes problematic because it produces potent mycotoxins, which are organic poisons that attach to mitochondrial DNA and can cause3 neurological and other types of damage. That damage becomes cumulative from past and present exposure, so even if you don't currently live in a mold-infested home, exposure to a moldy building can create4 buildup that persists and creates an overworked immune system.
Because mold presents an enormous strain on your immune system, I find when I treat most patients for mold toxins, their immune systems kick back into gear. And in many cases, other immune-related issues like Lyme disease also improve. While challenging to treat, I've found these five strategies provide my patients with the power to successfully eliminate mold from their environments and their bodies:
1. Find the source.
2. Realize that mold is often invisible.
3. "Unmold" your environment.
Once you are safely removed, the building itself needs to be cleaned, or "remediated." You need to hire a professional mold remediator to remove the mold and to find the cause of the mold and remove that as well. You can clean surfaces and clothes yourself using special products and always purchase an IQair filter to get any lingering mycotoxins. Never use bleach, which will release7 and spread mold spores.
4. Visit a functional medicine practitioner.
Beyond your environment, you want to treat your body. A urine test can detect mycotoxins and then the key becomes removing that buildup and restoring your immune system. Removing mold and mycotoxins requires breaking up mold's hideouts, killing it off with antifungals, and binding it up with activated charcoal while supporting8 your detoxification pathways.
5. Find a smart way to detox.
Once your practitioner has effectively treated mold infection, you'll want to do everything possible to avoid re-exposure and continue detoxifying. One of my favorite ways to detoxify is a sauna—especially far infrared saunas—which detox at the cellular level to free toxins from your body's tissues so they can then be excreted. I recommend8 sauna sessions as often as you can, but once or twice a week minimum.
Now that you understand how significant mold can be, you can form an action plan, reduce suffering, and shorten recovery time. Please don't underestimate the damage this invisible invader can create in your home and body, and take these five steps to establish a healthier environment.
Evan Hirsch, M.D., is a family medicine doctor based in Olympia, WA. He received his degree from the University of Toledo College of Medicine. Hirsch has lectured nationally and internationally on topics in Integrative and Functional Medicine and is Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine. He authored "Fix Your Fatigue," his four-step process to relieve chronic fatigue and restore energy.