Are you concerned about mold in your home?
For today’s discussion, I want to key in on the link between mold, autoimmunity, and your thyroid.
Let’s discuss what we know about mold, how it relates to your overall thyroid health, and some of the most safe and effective strategies to protect yourself from its effects.
What Is Mold?
Mold is what we call a “unicellular organism.” It lives in the same family as yeast.
So, when we use terms like mold or mildew, they are interchangeable with one another.
That is all to say that they are related compounds. They enter our environments through the air itself — pets carrying them in, on our shoes, but they are all around us.
Key Insight: We cannot avoid mold, because it is airborne.
Mold propagates when it has adequate warmth and moisture. This means it has the potential to grow in all kinds of environments, as long as these elements exist.
In fact, there are hundreds and hundreds of species of mold living in our homes at any given point in time. Almost all are harmless, but a small number of them can present issues.
The Effects of Mold on Human Health
There are two main ways that mold can affect your health:
A third scenario does exist, but it is quite rare. This is where mold can exist as an infection. It’s only found in immunocompromised hosts, something like immunosuppression from chemotherapy, medications after organ transplantation, or HIV.
This is not the same as having an autoimmune disease. Because having an autoimmune disease is not the same as being immunocompromised, so mold does not act like an infection — except for these rare occasions where patients are hospitalized.
Mold As An Allergen
Did you know? When it comes to mold as an allergen, once you have gotten sensitized to it, it takes a smaller amount of mold to keep you reactive.
Compared to many other allergens, the amount that makes you symptomatic is similar to the amount that sensitizes you.
What that all means is that if you need a high amount of mold to where it becomes an irritant, even a small amount can keep those symptoms alive and well (or potentially worse).
Key Insight: This is where things get tricky and where mold can become a real problem. Even the smallest amounts can keep your symptoms around for a long time.
This is where things get tricky and where mold can become a real problem. Even the smallest amounts can keep your symptoms around for a long time.
Mold, Mold Exposure, and Autoimmunity
Is there a link between mold, autoimmunity, and your thyroid? The expert consensus is that there is, quite simply, no tie at all.1
Thankfully, mold does not cause autoimmunity and does not relate to that at all. The same is true for thyroid disease (Read More: Top Myths Concerning Thyroid Disease), where there is no direct connection between its exposure and thyroid disease (Read More: The Complete Guide To Testing Your Thyroid).
In the early 90’s, there were some ideas about what we called sick building syndrome or toxic mold, and this concept ended up being refuted by later analysis.
While it was a legitimate thought during the research phase, it was one that did not persist over time and was eventually dismissed.
Bottom Line: There are still some very strong proponents of these ideas, but for the most part it is an idea that has been dismissed by the research.
Properly Diagnosing Mold Reactions
I’m sure you have heard it before, but there is a long list of somewhat vague symptoms that some use to determine or asset that they are having a reaction to mold:
- Static shocks
- Muscle cramps
- Unusual pain
- Morning stiffness
While each of these is certainly digging in to understand the root cause, it might be too early to chalk them up to mold. In fact, there is really one major way to determine if you are reacting to mold. Let’s talk a bit about it.
There really are a few key ways to assess your mold exposure and to determine whether or not mold is affecting you negatively. The most relevant ones are indoor air mold counts, via environmental engineers, and allergy assays.
Nowadays, the best allergy assays come from blood markers. Skin markers are still used quite a bit, but the data has come and gone on them, as well (they have a high rate of false positives and are not an enjoyable experience for patients).
Key Insight: Blood tests are much more accurate, and much easier when it comes to determining your reaction to mold.
When someone does have mold appear as an allergen, then it can be worth seeing if there is house-born mold exposure present.
Mold and Markers of Inflammation
There are those that argue that mold can cause a lot of generalized markers of inflammation, which includes:
- Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide
- Melanocyte stimulating hormone
- Transforming growth factor-beta
- Human leukocyte antigens
- Antigliadin antibodies
- Altered ACTH/cortisol
- Vascular endothelial growth factor
My answer to this is yes, to a mold infection in an immunocompromised host could cause changes in markers like the ones listed above. That does not mean that these markers are sensitive tools to monitor day-to-day mold exposure in other people.
In fact, so many things can affect those markers that they are not specific or diagnostic.
The VCS Test
There is also something called the Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VSC) test. This is kind of intriguing, and it has been used and recommended even in conventional toxicology.
The basic idea here is based on how your eyes discern patterns between lines (and how it can be altered by general neurotoxicity).
There is a drawback. Some studies in those who have had exposure to mold, is that too many other things skew your VSC score, such as:
- Blood pressure
- Generalized inflammation
- Visual acuity
So, mold can change the way your eyes behave, but so can many other things. There, the CDC has stated that it is no longer a valid diagnostic tool for that reason.2
How Would You Suspect You’re Reacting to Mold?
The first thing you might notice is water damage, specifically in your home, or dark spots/areas of visible mold. Mold odors may also play a part here, too.
You should also suspect mold for anyone that has chronic allergic symptoms. This can include symptoms such as:
- Irritated eyes
- Runny nose
- Unexplained persistent cough
- Asthmatic issues
What can happen with allergies is that the more you are exposed, and the closer you are to the source, the worse your symptoms become.
For those reasons, we always tend to think about seasonal allergens, but indoor allergens are much more relevant (because you are exposed to them on a near-constant basis).
How Do You Treat Mold Exposure?
So, what do you do if you feel like you have been exposed to mold? Here are two words I want to start you with: hydration and irrigation.
It is important to ensure that we are staying hydrated and irrigating your sinuses. Basically, we want to keep an optimal level of humidity at all times.
There is a range between 20-40% humidity that seems optimal for human health, and overall reduces mold growth. In many areas, humidity can be much higher.
In instances like these, we first tend to think of dehumidifiers and generalized air filtration. Both of these can help a lot, because these irritants are concentrated in the air.
There are other therapies that exist, too. They are antihistamines, both natural and conventional, which can be helpful but are ultimately stop-gap measures.
The real goal at hand is really lowering your mold burden. And, while you may not be able to get it to zero, you can get it below a threshold of irritation.
Another potential step involves desensitization.
This could include traditional allergy treatments, like shots, or newer methods of sublingual immunotherapy. Both can be done to desensitize against mold.
For these indoor air types, it’s not that they are dangerous, it is that your immune system overreacts to them.
So, if you can lower the level of mold while calming your immune system’s reaction, you will likely end up feeling much, much better.
The True Story About Mold
Yes, mold is real, and it can affect you.
But, mold is not an infection, except for in rare cases that we discussed today.
That said, the way you will typically experience reactions from mold can be managed (much like allergies in general).
If you feel like mold may be an issue in your home, please get it checked out. If needed, ask a professional for help, and then make the proper investment in tools that can help handle it.
From there, not only should you end up feeling better, but you can rest easy knowing that mold has no relation to causing autoimmune disease or issues for your thyroid.
Have you been curious about the health of your thyroid? Please, I hope you will consider taking the Thyroid Quiz right now (Click Here: Take The Quiz Today).
If you are unsure about the state of your thyroid, it can act as your introduction and roadmap to getting things in order.
1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28299723
2 – https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2005-0135-3116.pdf
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.