Illness related to mold exposure is something that I had heard of, but did not take to heart until recently. This fall I started Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training which required a daily home practice. I set up my yoga props in a cozy corner of the carpeted finished basement and practiced there for at least an hour every day. Kundalini Yoga often involves long deep breathing as well as a rapid breath pattern called Breath of Fire. After about two weeks of inhaling the basement air, I began to feel an overwhelmingly heightened sense of anxiety, profound depression and began to wake up multiple times throughout the night. There were no other symptoms. I was baffled as I could identify no obvious precipitant.
During this same time period, one of the readers of my blog wrote to me and mentioned that she had been diagnosed with toxic mold and thought that I might be interested in the topic. She wrote “I am going to bet that many of your psych pt’s have this mold based illness, and that you will love this info and find it very useful in your practice…” I wrote her back, thanked her, said that it sounded really interesting and that I looked forward to learning more about it.
I don’t know why I stopped going down the basement to do yoga. I must have been feeling too miserable to practice. But a few days later, my anxiety started to melt away, the depression lifted, and I started sleeping through the night. After three days I felt completely fine again. Suddenly I remembered the e-mail, reread it and began to wonder if toxic mold had been causing me to feel so awful. The growth of toxic mold is initiated by water damage, and there had been flooding in my basement several years ago. Testing the basement revealed very high levels of mold. I am now in the process of contracting for remediation and trying to minimize going down there until it’s safe again.
The more I learn about toxic mold the more grateful I am that avoiding the moldy basement was all I needed to do to recover. This is not the case for many people. Mold toxins can accumulate in the body, continuing to wreak havoc long after exposure ceases and require an extensive and often arduous course of treatment. But for everyone, the first and most crucial step in treatment is to identify where the mold is located and to get away from it.
Toxic mold is apparently a more prevalent and a more serious problem than ever before. Due to common building practices of using Drywall or Sheetrock, which was not a material used in construction in the past, more people are now being exposed to toxic mold, as Drywall is a great medium for mold growth. The current practice of making homes more energy efficient, means that there is less ventilation with outside air and the toxic mold gasses can be trapped inside, potentiating their effect. There is also research that electromagnetic frequencies cause molds to release their toxins in self defense. The routers that are so common in our homes may be causing mold to become more virulent. In addition, in the 1970’s anti-fungals were added to paint which stimulated the mold to mutate and become more dangerous.
Mold allergies and mold toxicity are not the same illness. Mold allergies are due to mold spores that are inhaled and cause hay fever like symptoms. It is different than Toxic Mold, which is due to the volatile toxic vapors produced by mold that can cause a chronic inflammatory response, (CIRS), an auto-immune reaction caused by poor clearance of bio toxins. It can manifest with so many different and diverse symptoms, that it is frequently misdiagnosed. It is likely that many cases of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, mast cell activation disorder and histamine intolerance, irritable bowel and leaky guy, multiple sclerosis and post treatment Lyme syndrome, which do not respond to treatment, are due to toxic mold causing a chronic inflammatory response. Unfortunately most conventional practitioners and even alternative practitioners do not include it as a possibility. It should definitely be on the list of possible treatable causes of medical and psychiatric symptoms.
Some of the common symptoms of toxic mold and CIRS are:
4. Muscle Cramps
5. Unusual Pain
6. Ice Pick Pain
8. Light Sensitivity
9. Red Eyes
10. Blurred Vision
12. Sinus Problems
14. Shortness of Breath
15. Abdominal Pain
17. Joint Pain
18. Morning Stiffness
19. Memory Issues
20. Focus/Concentration Issues
21. Word Recollection Issues
22. Decreased Learning of New Knowledge
25. Skin Sensitivity
26. Mood Swings
27. Appetite Swings
28. Sweats (especially night sweats)
29. Temperature Regulation or Dysregulation Problems
30. Excessive Thirst
31. Increased Urination
32. Static Shocks
36. Metallic Taste
Toxic Mold is not recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by conventional medicine. Part of the reason for this is that vulnerability to mold toxicity is only present in 25% of the population, who in most cases, have a genetic predisposition. A family can all be living in the same house but only one family member will become ill. This is because that person is the only one with the genetic vulnerability. The conventional perspective of mold deniers is that if mold were really a problem, then everyone in the house would get sick, and thus it is discounted.
The person who has done the most research about Toxic Mold is a retired family physician named Ritchie Shoemaker, MD. He has written several exhaustive tomes about this topic including Mold Warriors and Surviving Mold. His website contains a wealth of information, as well as a list of a of practitioners trained by him in his protocol to treat Toxic Mold. A more accessible, very concise and excellent e-book on the subject is by Neil Nathan, MD, who was also trained by Dr. Shoemaker. It is titled Mold and Mycotoxins, Diagnosis and Treatment 2016.
Once the diagnosis is made, this is a very treatable condition, though it can take a long time. The treatment recommended by Dr. Shoemaker makes use of a pharmaceutical binder named Cholestyramine, an old cholesterol lowering drug, which can be quite hard on patients, though effective. It is unpalatable and must be taken four times a day away from meals and causes side effects of heartburn, constipation and bloating. Jill Carnahan, MD, a functional medicine doctor in Boulder, who had her own personal saga with toxic mold illness, uses natural binders such as charcoal and clay, in combination with high doses of Vitamin C and glutathione, and reports good results. There is a fascinating interview with her at the bottom of this page entitled “Mold Testing and Mold Toxins.”
So many buildings in this country are water damaged, that it is very likely that many of the patients coming to psychiatrists with anxiety, depression, attentional problems, insomnia and brain fog are suffering from toxic mold. The appropriate treatment is not Prozac. In addition, many schools have sustained water damage and kids are being exposed to bio toxins in the environment which degrade cognition, attention and memory. It’s sobering to think about New Orleans after Katrina and the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, and what the health consequences for the population must be from mold illness.
My awakening to the huge problem of toxic mold is an example of synchronicity, evidence of a non random meaningful universe. Had I not begun Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, I would not have been breathing deeply in the basement daily for an hour and fallen ill. Had that generous reader not written to me at that particular moment to share her discovery, I would not have connected the dots about toxic mold causing my debilitating psychiatric symptoms. And had I not connected the dots, I would not be able to share this information with you and raise your consciousness about this potentially very important cause of illness.
The universe provides all of us with endless opportunities to help one another, if we are open to allowing the Mystery to work through us. We are now in a time of enormous change and transition. Something new is being born and we are all being called upon to contribute, each in our own unique way. As we approach this darkest time of the year, the Winter Solstice, be a light to your community, and you will uplift yourself. Blessings and love to all my readers for the New Year.