What do a loaf of bread, a cheese plate and a glass of wine have in common (besides being the appetizer at your favorite French bistro)? Mold. From the yeast that leavens your bread, to fermented fruit juice to hairy dried milk curds (in Europe eating hairy cheese is a show of culinary prowess) – we are surrounded by mold.
While most molds are harmless and sometimes delicious certain molds can make us sick. Gluten sensitivity, for example, might actually be an overgrowth of yeast called candida. Most people who are allergic to peanuts are actually allergic to aflatoxin, a mold that grows on peanuts. Unfortunately, mold is extremely resilient – able to withstand extremes of temperature and moisture, and once it has found an ideal environment it is nearly impossible to eradicate.
Since the record flooding last September, residents along the Peak to Peak and across Boulder County have been suffering from a mold that is far more insidious and even downright dangerous: Stachybotrys Chartarum. Stachybotrys produces extremely toxic spores called mycotoxins which, once the spores have become airborne, can be inhaled by people and animals. A stable, warm and moist environment is all it takes for the spores to reproduce and rapidly colonize the sinuses, throat, lungs, digestive tract and even the blood. This is where the real trouble begins.
Symptoms of chronic systemic mold poisoning depend on a person’s susceptibility. This means the mold will go after your weakest spot, the point of least resistance. If you have a history of recurring hay-fever or if you suffer from asthma, you are more susceptible to airway colonization affecting the sinuses and lungs. Symptoms can include wheezing, watery, itchy eyes, headaches, rashes and fatigue. Others with weak or disordered digestion may experience cramping, indigestion or flu-like symptoms that don’t seem to go away.
Left untreated, mold can become deeply entrenched in the system. Unfortunately, the prognosis for those suffering from mold is not cut and dry. Doctors usually rely on invasive tests leading to treatments that include steroids, antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs. Steroids only temporarily reduce inflammation. Antibiotics make it easier for mold to proliferate by killing off the healthy flora in the GI tract, the body’s first line of defense against fungus. Anti-fungal drugs are extremely toxic in and of themselves and have proven especially damaging to the liver. These treatments only address the symptoms leaving many people with the prospect of a lifetime of suffering.
Conventional treatment does not cure the underlying susceptibility to mold. If you suspect you are suffering from a chronic sensitivity to mold, the best and most reliable way to regain your health is to make some sincere and committed changes in your lifestyle. (As always, consult your physician first!)
- Completely cut out all sugar from your diet. If you want to get rid of mold, this is not a polite suggestion. All molds require sugar to survive. Fructose, sucrose and lactose are mold food. Any sugar in your system will be co-opted by the mold, perpetuating the colonization in your body. Simple carbohydrates including refined flours, fruit and all sweeteners must be avoided.
- Avoid exposure to mold. Once a susceptibility to mold has been exploited by Stachybotrys, other molds can take advantage of your increased sensitivity. Besides growing in flood damaged buildings, mold is present in many common household foods: alcohol, soy sauce and salami are all made with mold, while wheat and corn are universally contaminated with many different kinds of mold. There is no amount of cooking, washing, processing or freezing that you can do to get rid of all mold on certain foods. However, with some research and mindfulness, you can significantly reduce potential exposure to mold in the places you go and the foods you eat.
- So, what can you eat? Start with a good probiotic. Maintaining a proper balance of intestinal flora is the body’s first line of defense to keep mold at bay. Add garlic and ginger to your food as these spices are natural anti-fungals (if you can’t stand the taste, garlic and ginger supplements are readily available at the Mountain People’s Co-Op). Many people have successfully treated mold by paying attention to the pH of the body, as mold will not thrive in an alkaline environment. Add one tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar to a glass of water and drink up to three times a day. Juicing fresh vegetables is an easy way to bring your overall pH into balance and increases vitamin and nutrient bio-availability.
These lifestyle modifications may seem daunting, or even impossible. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to experience the benefits and you don’t have to stay on an anti-mold diet forever. If you have been exposed to toxic mold it is crucial to take care of it before it grows out of control. Stachybotrys is a seriously toxic mold, and can cause severe chronic conditions. Even if you have not been diagnosed with mold related illness, these guidelines are effective ways to safeguard yourself from potential infection. Know your mold!
Thanks for reading and here’s to your health!