Written by Dr. Diane Mueller When dealing with black mold in homes the most common question we get from our patients is: Can I clean my moldy house?
In this blog we will answer that question and these below.
Black mold (aka Stachybotrys) is one of many molds that secrete toxins that are very harmful to many humans. For a list of symptoms that are commonly seen with mold issues go to our blog: BLACK MOLD SYMPTOMS.
Approximately 24% of people have a genetic polymorphism (abnormality in a gene), which prevents them from properly breaking down the toxins that mold create. Different types of molds will produce different toxins. Different toxins will cause unique changes in our body and therefore, unique symptoms. As we live in moldy environments, genetically susceptible individuals do not have the opportunity to break down the toxins.
This is why some people can live in a moldy house and not have symptoms, while other people have a lot of problems.
We have helped thousands of people restore their health and quality of life by diagnosing and treating their Mold Illness.
Black mold in homes (as well as many other molds) causes a variety of symptoms in part due to its ability to impact the nervous system cells. It can cause the nerve cells to die. While this is scary, remember that nerve cells can regenerate. We want to make sure we are addressing mold toxins as early as possible to prevent damage and encourage repair.
In addition, mold toxins will effect the ability of the white blood cells to function properly. Therefore, it is easier to begin to pick up other infections when one has mold illness. It is not uncommon to see mold illness occur with Lyme Disease, Chronic Viral Infections and gastrointestinal infections. This is one reason why at My Lyme Doc, we work so hard to test and treat for many different root causes. We want to figure out all the areas that are impacted by mold and work to repair the entire body.
In addition, mycotoxins can lower a hormone known as melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH). Since MSH is a signal for other hormones, mycotoxin illness can cause lowering of adrenal hormones, thyroid hormones and female/male sex hormones. This is one of the reasons why people feel so bad with mycotoxin illness. We have seen KPV peptide help immensely with supporting MSH levels. To read about KPV go to our blog HERE.
Many different mold toxins can cause problems for people. Some people can react to mold toxins due to an IgE inflammatory condition. Others may have an IgG response to mycotoxins. Other people respond due to a genetic predisposition, which prevents them from breaking down the toxins well. Some of the toxins that impact people include: ochratoxin A, aflatoxins, gliotoxins and trichothecenes.
We cover these toxins and more in our book: “It’s Not In Your Mind” By Dr. Diane Mueller. It is being released in March of 2023 and if you are reading this prior, it is available for preorder. To get a copy go HERE.
Aflatoxins are produced by certain fungus. They are typically found in some food products such as peanuts and corn. However even though these foods have mold in them, there is not enought mold in them to create super high levels of mold toxins in the urine. If you test for mycotoxins in your body and you have high alfatoxins, while you may find that you feel better in avoiding these foods, the toxins are likely coming from the enviroment. Aflatoxins can be cytotoxic to the liver cells and have been shown to cause liver cancer.
Gliotoxins are produced both from candida and the fungus aspergillus. Gliotoxins have the capacity of inactivating our white blood cells. In addition gliotoxins attack astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, our nerve cells. Therefore, nervous system symptoms are likely to be produced in individuals having a difficult time detoxing this. One study found that gliotoxins were completely broken with the use of N-Acetyl Cysteine. Gliotoxins are composed of disulfide bonds and NAC is capable of breaking disulfide bonds. Thus, this is likely the mechanism behind the ability of NAC to break down these toxins. Gliotoxin cytotoxicity has been shown to be reduced by vitamin C. You can find more information about the mechanism of gliotoxins in our book!
Ochratoxin A toxins are produced by aspergillus and penicillum genus of fungus. Ochratoxin A has been found in contaminated wine, beer, dried fruit, pork, poultry, dairy, spices, grape juice and chocolate. Ochratoxin A binds to albumin, which serves as a mobile reserve of the toxin. In addition the intestinal microbiota break down ochratoxin A into the less toxic ochratoxin alpha. Therefore, any disruption to the gut microbiome could contribute to higher ochratoxin A levels. Research has also found that treatment with Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Vitamin A significantly reduce the effects of ochratoxin A. Ochratoxin A was also found to be more toxic when given with an NSAID in animals studies.
Ochratoxin is toxic to the kidneys. It can also easily cross the blood-brain barrier. When it does this, it creates free radical stress in the brain.
We can detox ochratoxin in our gut as well as through our skin. Melatonin and licorice can help reduce toxicities associated with ochratoxin.
Tricothecenes are toxins produced by the fungus Stachybotrys, fusarium, myrothecium. Stachybotrys is the name for the dreaded black mold that people talk about. Note that many molds are technically the color black.
This toxin is very powerful. It has been used as a biological warfare agent. Trichothecenes have the ability to inhibit impact our DNA regeneration and our mitochondrial function. Common symptoms include brain fog, dissociation, dementia, pain, neuropathies, diarrhea, multiple, weight loss, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular abnormalities, skin disorders, and immunological dysfunction.
Detoxing from trichothecenes is essential. Vitamin C has been shown to help with cell survival, increasing cell survival by 62%. In cells treated with vitamin E, survival increased to 97%. Glutathione has also been shown to provide some defense against this toxin.
The NRF2 gene is a gene that codes for the NRF2 protein. The NRF2 protein works by binding to something known as the antioxidant response element. The antioxidant response element is responsible for anti-inflammatory reactions in the body. In addition, it is responsible for creation of glutathione. Glutathione is necessary for the detoxification of mycotoxins. Part of why mycotoxins can be so pathogenic is that they will bind to the NRF2 gene and prevent it from creating the corresponding protein. When this occurs, detoxification is greatly altered.
Glucuronidation is a liver detoxification pathway. The NRF2 gene is part of what regulates it. It does many differing things including helping us break down and recycle estrogen. Therefore, when glucuronidation is not working well, we can get higher levels of estrogen. This could lead to symptoms such as PMS, PMDD and endometriosis. This is one of several mechanisms through which mold can create female hormone imbalances.
The MRP2 and BSEP proteins are located in the liver and help to stimulate bile flow. We see that certain metals, mycotoxins as well as certain infections can alter these proteins and therefore impact bile flow. Bile flow is essential for getting toxins out and working with these proteins is necessary for treatment. Therefore, in addition to treating the mycotoxins, we should work to eliminated any toxic metals allowing this pathway to work correctly.
Looking for a Mold Literate Doctor? Book a Free Health Evaluation Call at our Clinic HERE.
(and how to fix the internal damage from black mold in homes)
There are several routes of detoxification that will help to eliminate mold. The biggest one is by upregulating (increasing) liver detoxification. Toxins are fat soluble. The liver’s job is to make the water soluble. When it does this, we can excrete the toxins in the urine and stool.
The overall pathway involves the liver breaking down toxins and then putting the toxins in the bile and the gallbladder. When we eat a fatty meal, the gallbladder contracts, essentially releasing the bile into the small intestine. Once this happens, the toxins will make their way out of the body through the stool. If the gallbladder is not contracting correctly and there is bile stasis, we will not detoxify correctly. In addition, if we are constipated, toxins can sit in our intestinal tract and be reabsorbed in which case we will also not detoxify correctly. In situations such as leaky gut, there are wide “gaps” between our intestinal cells. This will cause toxins to absorb from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood stream instead of leaving through our stool. Therefore, to detoxify correctly, we should make sure we are working with any causes of leaky gut such as gluten, parasites, bacteria or fungal infections. In addition, we should help the gallbladder to contract correctly and proper bile flow to occur.
What is interesting is that often times the molecule that is created at the end of phase I detoxification is more toxic that the original molecule. Therefore, proper phase II and III functioning is essential in order to lower the toxic load. This is where things can get hairy if we do not know what we are doing. Many natural products will increase phase I without increasing phase II. This can cause that intermediate toxin to buildup and not get out of the body. This will be MORE inflammatory than the original toxin. It is important that we are working to increase phase II and III before phase one. It is also important that we are increasing activity of the MRP2 and the NRF2 proteins. Therefore, we strongly recommend working with a practitioner that understands mycotoxin illness and how to work with the toxins and detoxification pathways.
Once phase I and II have had a chance to work, phase III and the MRP2 pathways do their job. The MRP2 pathway increases the bile flow. Phase III involves the release of toxins from the cells. Once we move through Phase I, II, III and the MRP2 pathways, toxins can be excreted from the body via the stool and skin.
Another way of understanding detoxification is through a mug analogy. Imagine that you have a mug and each toxin is one drop of water in the mug. As long as you are able to safely empty the water from the mug before the water gets to the top, it will not spill. Our body’s detoxification processes are essentially working to remove the drops from the mug. We can have toxins come in, but as long as they do not come in faster than we can eliminate, we do not generally see symptoms. With mycotoxin illness, the body has more toxins than it can safely eliminate. Therefore, we should consider all areas of toxicity with mold illness. If there are toxic metals, accumulation of pesticides or toxins produced by infections (which occurs in about the case of any infection), there will be additional drops of water in that mug. We should also work to lower the overall toxic load by decreasing any non-mold toxins.
Goodness no! Think of fungus like bacteria. We have bad bacteria, yet we have our microbiome and all of the amazing bacteria that largely make up our immune system. Fungus is no different. Take the medicinal mushroom family for example. A component in the cell wall of mushrooms such as shiitake, lion’s mane, cordyceps and other mushrooms, known as beta glucans, have been shown to help fight cancer as well as chronic viral infections such as epstein-barr (mono). Good fungi have been shown to greatly improve the immune system function and even support the adrenal/stress system.
Mycotoxin illness and CIRS occur due to the genetic predisposition to the inability to break down the mold toxins. The toxins therefore buildup in the body and symptoms occur. An allergy to mold can create symptoms, but in this case, symptoms occur due to a different mechanism. Allergies are created by the body creating a protein known as an IgE (immunoglobulin E). This protein will activate the immune system to release histamine. Often with histamine types of symptoms we can have difficulty breathing or rashes occur. An individual can have a reaction to mold due to this histamine mechanism, the genetic mycotoxin mechanism or both. Many times people run mold allergy tests only. This is a big problem as it will miss mycotoxins that have built up in the body.
Depending upon how long you were in the environment and how many cause of your symptoms are involved, will directly impact your recovery. Most people begin to feel at least some improvements within a week of being out of the moldy environment. If you are not feeling well after starting treatment, you may likely still be in a moldy environment. This is the number one thing that needs to be determined in order to get someone well.
Mycotoxin illness has not been studied as much as many other diseases. There has been recent research that has correlated mycotoxin illness with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and parkinson’s disease. As there is more research showing that there is a link between mycotoxins and these diseases, there will likely be more money invested in research. Most physicians are not trained in mycotoxin illness, therefore, they are likely not aware of the recent research that shows the many symptoms that are caused by this illness.
REMEDIATION for Black Mold in homes (other molds too!)
If you suspect mold is in your house, do not go with just any home inspector. Most home inspectors are not trained in the biological impacts of mold. Get a HERTSMI, ERMI or Panel 7 test done. Panel 7 is the best test (and unfortunately the most pricey) because it also looks for bacteria overgrowth. We are now seeing that not only fungi, but bacteria will overgrow in water damaged buildings and can also cause people problems.
Do I need to remediate?
It is pretty impossible if you are in the 24% of the population to get well when you are in a moldy home. Moving and remediation are both challenging options, but getting your health back is worth it!
Can I remediate myself?
Oh my gosh, please do not!
Substances such as bleach can cause the mold spores to actually spread as the mold is dying. This can make the problem worse. Professionals use methods to prevent spreading and find hidden mold behind drywall that you may not notice. Doing it yourself can worsen the problem much of the time.
Sometimes the sticky residues from mold stay around post remediation. This can continue to make people sick. It is a good idea to wear an N95 or P100 mask and get a dry swifter to wipe down all surfaces (floors, ceilings, cabinets). The dry swifter has been shown to help pick up the sticky residues that may be still there and making people sick.
Certainly there are some cases where moving is the best option. This may be due to landlords that are unwilling to fix the situation. It may be that the mold remediation expert you are working with has informed you that the mold levels in your home are unrepairable to the level that a mold sensitive person need for healthy living. Whatever the reason for the move, the financial investment, the chaos of moving are worth it. This is perhaps the MOST important piece of getting you well. We cannot get you well while you are in that environment. It is therefore also important that you test any potential places that you will be moving into for mold prior to making the commitment.
Can you do the move yourself?
Obviously if you can have help, this is best. The more time in the house, the more exposure you have. Masks with the label P100 will filter out 99% of particulate matter. N95 masks are also great choices.
How to find a safe house:
If you have to move, it is important to make sure your new house is safe. For that reason before you purchase or rent a house please do a HERTSMI or ERMI before moving into that space. When you are looking into homes you can watch out for signs of current or potential future water damage such as:
*Any discoloration on walls or pealing of paint should be an automatic no
*Look into where where bathroom vents lead to. If they do not lead outside, do not move in.
*Crawlspaces are notorious for mold. If there is a crawlspace, make sure it is encapsulated or has another means of not sharing airflow with the house.
*Look at the slope around the foundation. Make sure the angle points away from the house so moisture does not seep into the foundation.
*How big is the awning that hangs off the roof? Ideally, you want this at least 1.5 feet away from the house for proper drainage.
What happens after I move?
When you move, you will find that your body begins to naturally detox the mycotoxins more (as long as you are in a safe place). You will also want to do a proper detox protocol and work with a mold literate clinician for this.
What to do about the items in your house?
This is a complicated question. You will see many different opinions in the field. This is because it is not clear in research yet what needs to happen to our personal items in this situation. Your bed and pillows absolutely need to be trashed.
Whether items can be saved or not largely depends on the type of material they are as well as how sensitive you are. We find that most people can save a great majority of their belongings. Below is more specific information:
If you have leather furniture, this can be wiped down with a leather cleaner. It is also good to run a HEPA filter vacuum. Make sure you do not bring the HEPA filter into your new house.
WOOD (including things like wooden instruments)
Wood should be wiped down with vinegar or a quaternary cleaner. You can find quaternary cleaners on the internet. Absolutely do not bring a porous wood such as particle board to your new place.
Anything that can be washed, should be washed. We have found some evidence that some mycotoxins break down at 160 degrees. Many washers have sanitary cycles that will get the water temperature close to this. Add vinegar and tea tree to help with killing things. Dry cleaning we have seen work in some situations but not in all cases. If you are extremely sensitive, dry cleaning may not get the toxins out enough.
Paper such as books is questionable. Some people recommend getting rid of all books due to their porous nature. We find that it depends upon how close to the mold source they are. Also, if they have not been opened in the moldy place or if they are hardback, they are less likely to be problematic.
OTHER RANDOM ITEMS
We typically find that people do not need to throw away other household items such as non-perishable foods, beauty products, computers, dishes, etc. Wipe all of these things down with a vinegar and tea tree solution.
FILTERS AND FANS
This is something that many people do not think about. Items with with a filter or fan such as a vacuum will ideally have its filter changed and its fan cleaned in order to avoid contamination
Do not save anything with visible mold on it.
WHAT TO DO WITH CLEAN ITEMS
The best case scenario involves cleaning items as they leave the moldy house and go into a moving van. You can do this by cleaning items and putting them into the garage (if you have one and if it is mold free) until the items can get into a moving van. Another solution is to pack up and have movers unload the truck into the front yard of the house or apartment that you are moving into. Clean the items one by one as you bring them inside. Alternatively, you can clean things such as clothes, put them into plastic bins to keep them safe until you move into a mold free zone.
A Few Things You Need to Keep Your Future House Safe
Buy a squeegee for every shower. Use is every time you take a shower and run the fan for 10-30 minutes.
Buy a propolis vaporizer. Propolis has been estimated to kill about 70% of mold and mycotoxins. The other options here include fogging or using an atomizer. Run the vaporizer initially in every room of the house for 12 hours after moving in (or remediation). After this, run it once a week for 12 hours (does not have to be exact), rotating the room it is in every week. We recommend writing this on the calendar to make sure you remember to do so. When you purchase the vaporizer, you should also purchase refill cartridges. There are five cartridges in each refill box. They will each last 21 hours. Please go to this website to order: https://beehealthyfarms.com
Buy a hepa air filter. We strongly recommend an Air Doctor. It removes mold and many other toxins from the air.
Top most high pesticide sprayed foods: Dirty Dozen: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php
Cleanest foods to eat non-organic: Clean Fifteen: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php
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“Dr. Mueller’s approach to medicine is refreshing! There is only so much you can do with western medicine and in my life I was needing a new approach. By addressing the whole body, nutritional diet factors, environmental factors, blood work, and incorporating ideas I had not previously known, I was able to break through with my conditions. I am not only experiencing less pain in my life, but through the process of healing guided by Dr. Diane Mueller, I am now happy to say I have more consciousness surrounding how I eat, what to eat and when things are appropriate. Living by example Dr. Mueller has a vibrancy that makes you want to learn and know more about your body and overall health. I highly recommend her to anyone looking for new answers, a new approach to health, or in need of freedom from pain and limitations.”
We have helped thousands of people restore their health and quality of life by diagnosing and treating their Mold Illness, Lyme Disease and other root causes.