The Threat of Mold to your Health and Well Being: Part II
Click here to read Part I of this article. In Part One of this article, I discussed the problems of mold infestation and its potential impact to one’s health. I pointed out that in Chinese Medicine, dampness is considered to be the cause of many illnesses such as high cholesterol, cancer, metabolic disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, allergies, environmental illness and as a progenitor of mold which may lead to diseases such as candidiasis and in extreme cases, mycotoxic syndrome, which in some cases can be fatal. This article will focus on prevention and treatment options.
Initial symptoms of mold infestation may begin as common allergic reactions of sneezing, runny nose, sinus congestion, itchy eyes and skin, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and fatigue. Over time however, these allergic symptoms may lessen or worsen depending on your individual immunity. Often, long-term exposure may create serious consequences such as breakdown in digestive, immune and neurological functions leading to the following symptoms:
- food sensitivity
- gastric esophygeal reflux disorder (GERD)
- abdominal bloating
- abdominal pain
- excess gas
- thrush or thick, white tongue coating
- mucus or blood in the stool
- frequent colds/flu
- constant sore throat
- swollen lymph nodes
- recurring sinus problems
- yeast infections (women)
- dizziness or vertigo
- joint or muscle pain
- general stiffness
- heaviness or weakness of body and/or limbs
- malaise or extreme fatigue
- “Brain fog” or confusion
- decreased concentration
- memory loss
- numbness & tingling sensations
- sleep problems
- increased PMS (women)
Currently, there is no standard testing for mold’s impact on human health. Often when there is evidence of systemic fungal/yeast infection, it can be serious or potentially fatal. There is, however, technical testing for structural mold infestation in buildings by collecting air samples for spore concentration.
Since mold requires moisture to thrive, keeping the relative humidity low within your living and working quarters is essential. If you live in an area that gets much rain and is humid, then a dehumidifier is a must. It constantly keeps the humidity optimal for your health and prevents excess mold spores from being released into the air. Also since the bathroom is usually the room with the most moisture, it’s a good idea to either keep a dehumidifier in the bathroom or hang a moisture absorbing material such as volcanic rock in a bag (sold in many hardware stores). Don’t forget to empty the water tray from the dehumidifier on a daily basis so that water doesn’t collect and feed the mold organisms.
Clean Humidifiers Regularly
Many people use humidifiers at night to help them breath due to respiratory disease. However, one must take care and clean the humidifier regularly to avoid contributing to bacterial or mold infestation. Generally, weekly soaking and washing with a solution of hydrogen peroxide or bleach is sufficient. Or you can put solution of apple cider vinegar (one cup vinegar to one gallon water) in the humidifier weekly to kill any bacterial or mold that may collect in the machine.
Bake Your House Seasonally
During and after a rainy season, I suggest that you spend a weekend away from your home, seal all doors and windows, turn up your thermostat to maximum temperature and allow the heat do the job of drying out the air for a 48 hour period. This will effectively kill off any active mold infestation and spores, albeit, temporarily. Most mold species require a temperature between 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit, so heating up your house to over 100 degrees, virtually wipes out the current mold population that may have been residing in your house or workplace. Be sure to unplug any appliances, including computers, that are prone to overheating.
Repair Water Leaks Immediately
If you discover any leaks or flooding, fix it right away so that you don’t allow mold to grow and multiply. Make sure you thoroughly dry out the affected area, whether it’s a carpet or drywall. Unfortunately, with drywall construction, the moisture is absorbed into the walls and becomes nearly impossible to dry out. Water damage on drywall requires cutting out the bottom of the drywall (minimally one foot from the floor), disinfecting the affected area, drying the wall with a commercial blower for 3 full days and replacing it with new drywall. Ventilating the affected area properly eliminates the dampness and mold spores. A water damage company can help you with this process.
Inspect For Poor Drainage and Water Pooling Outside
Mold infestation doesn’t have to be inside your resident or workplace to make you sick. A high concentration of mold spores around a building can find its way inside. Check sprinkler heads to make sure that they are not spraying the house wall. Inspect the crawl space underneath your house to make sure no pipe are leaking or water pooling. Put in appropriate drains to move water away from the building.
Let the Sun Shine in
Since mold prefers damp and dark environments, opening blinds and windows during the day and letting the sunlight into your house or work is the single best thing you can do to counter the unhealthy build up of mold in your immediate environment. Furthermore, the UV rays from the sun can kill most mold species. Of course, protect any furniture or appliances from the damage of the UV rays.
Maintain Good Health and Immune Function
There is no better prevention of mold-induced illness than to maintain good health. Healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate rest and sleep, and avoiding emotional and physical extremes is the best ways to protect yourself. Since the immune system protects you from infection or invasion of radicals, the following herbs are what you can use regularly to help strengthen your immune functions:
Much research in recent years has revealed this herb’s immune boosting functions, to increase white blood cell production, phagocytosis and T-lymphocyte help cell activities
Traditionally used to protect body from external pathogens by its astringent properties. It is also one of the highest natural sources of vitamin C.
A natural anti-microbial herb used for centuries to increase resistance and fight against bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
*The above-mentioned herbs are found in a Traditions of Tao formula called “Perpetual Shield.”
Chinese Medicine Approach
Chinese Medicine’s main focus in mold-induced conditions is to eliminate the dampness. However, if one has good health to begin with, it would be hard for dampness or mold to take hold of the body in the first place. Therefore, besides dampness being the culprit in many cases, there are other predisposing factors that allow the body to get sick with the opportunistic illnesses. These factors include low immune function, weak Spleen and digestion, dwindling metabolic and Kidney fire.
The reader will find the following useful to incorporate into their treatment strategy.
- Eliminate Dampness and Detoxify
- Strengthen Spleen and Digestive Function
- Re-Kindle the Metabolic and Kidney Fire
Diet and Nutrition
Avoiding foods that cause dampness in your body: Milk products (except yogurt), sugar and sweets, white flour, refined starch and highly processed starch products, alcohol, excess raw fruits (sugar) and vegetables (mold from the soil), excess mushrooms and fungi, icy and cold beverages (which immobilize immune cells on the walls of digestive track), fatty, greasy and deep fried foods, excess fermented, yeast containing foods and excess vinegar.
Eat More Cooked Foods and Less Raw Foods
Eat more spices that contain yeast/fungus-inhibiting properties such as garlic, onion, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, scallion, cayenne, basil, rosemary, dill, oregano, sage, parsley, cardamon, fennel, anise, clove, coriander, leek and chives.
The harmful impact of stress on normal functions especially the immune function is well documented by many studies. A daily stress management program is essential to maintaining healthy immune and other functions.
A daily 15-minute meditation, such as the Stress Release Meditation (available at Tao of Wellness), has been shown to be effective in reducing the stressful effects in the body.
Tuina Body Therapy
By employing bodywork techniques to adjust structural alignment, open up energy channels, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, Tuina can help breakup the accumulated damp toxin and help the body eliminate it.
Moxibustion Heat Therapy
This ancient treatment technique involves burning the herb Mugwort to heat and warm the joints and the abdomen, dry dampness and remove blockages from the body. Good for digestive, reproductive and arthritic conditions.
Effective in restoring and supporting healthy functions in the immune system, digestive system, spleen and kidney system functions.
There are herbs that eliminate damp toxins. The following herbs can be found in the formula “B-Slim” which can also be made into a tea.
White Mulberry known for its property to reduce excess accumulation of dampness and fluids in the body, it also detoxifies and improves respiration.
Traditionally used during humid summer weather to eliminate dampness, detoxify, improve digestion and reduce excess weight.
Pearl Barley Eaten throughout Asia as part of one’s diet, it has been prized for its property to strengthen the Spleen and improve digestion, eliminate dampness and detoxify. It also possesses anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties.
Dampness produces toxins in the body.
The following herbs are effective detoxifiers and can be found in the formula “Internal Cleanse”.
Dandelion highly regarded for its liver cleansing and detoxification actions, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Dandelion also eliminates dampness.
Hawthorn, better known for its cardiovascular strengthening properties, it also improves fat metabolism, digestion and elimination of dampness.
Cocklebur improves sinus function and reduces excess mucus production, it also helps to open pores and eliminate dampness.
When Dampness accumulates in the body, it tends to affect the muscles and joints. The following herbs are useful to clear the damp toxins from the muscles and joints. It can be found in the formula “Healthy Joint Elixir”.
An herb that is traditionally used to relieve muscle and joint pain due to damp toxins accumulating in tissue.
One of the earliest used herbs, it is prized for its circulation improving properties that also relieves pain from damp toxins in the muscles and joints.
Particularly know for its positive results for problems of the joints of lower extremities. Eliminates damp toxin accumulation.
Dampness weakens one’s digestion. A weak digestion allows Dampness to form. The following herbs improve spleen and digestive functions and re-energizes, they can be found in the formula “Abundant Energy”.
One of the most commonly used herbs in Asia, it is known to strengthen Spleen function, improve digestion, increase energy and relieve fatigue.
Traditionally used to harmonize the stomach, aid digestion, relieve abdominal bloating and decrease gas.
An herb that regulates appetite, strengthens spleen function, stimulates gastric juices and improves bowel functioning.
Dampness diminishes the metabolic and Kidney Fire. The following herbs are used to re-kindle metabolic fire and Kidney function and can be found in the formula “Enduring Youth”.
A tonic herb that strengthens kidney functions, and increases metabolic fire.
Much research has shown this herb to be an effective adaptogen that helps boost the immune system. It is also used to strengthen kidney functions.
A mushroom that grows on pine tree rhizomes that strengthen spleen and kidney functions, eliminates damp toxins, and counters the activities of fungus.
Another way one can prevent accumulating dampness from seasonal changes is with the “Four Season Teas”.
Helps to enliven the body, shake off the winter malaise in the body, eliminates stale energy and damp toxins from the body.
Helps to warm the body and keep fluids circulating unimpeded, thereby prevent-ing dampness from accumulating.
All the herbal products mentioned above are available at Tao of Wellness.
The problem with mold is increasing due to heightened awareness and better understanding of how excess exposure can create harm to the body. It is up to each individual to become sensitive to one’s environment, to identify possible causal factors and be proactive to prevent mold infestation. More importantly, it is each individual’s responsibility to maintain his or her health and well being through steps outlined in this article and other advice. By being proactive, no one needs to fall victim to mold problems and the ensuing health devastation afflicting many Americans today.