It is rare I recommend a book I have not even read yet. Because the subject is so important and the author a respected authority on the topic, as well as having cover endorsements by two of the most cutting edge Naturopathic Physicians I know, I am suggesting you immediately purchase this book.

Endorsements came from Dr.Paul Anderson and Dr. Ben Lynch.  Dr.Paul Anderson, N.M.D. is truly a physician-scientist, teacher and best-selling author who has multiple decades of both clinical and research experience in the areas of cancer care and complex diseases.  He felt strongly enough about the quality of this book as a resource for both patients and physicians that he promoted it at his last Advanced Applications in Medical Practice Conference that I attended in Portland, OR in September.  Dr.Ben Lynch, N.D. is best known for his work in genomic medicine and his recent book, Dirty Genes.  What is less well known is that the beginning of his clinical career was centered on environmental medicine – such as industrial chemicals, heavy metals, mold and more.  He said about this book – “It’s not a matter of IF – it’s a matter of WHEN you will get sick…..[this book] is the guide to get so [it] doesn’t get you”.

The book is: Break the Mold by Dr. Jill Crista, ND.  I’m getting the book, because last month mold almost got me.

Those of us who have grown up in Alaska or are living there now (or really anywhere in the Pacific Northwest) know that with the rain and damp comes not only the lush beauty of our temperate rainforest, but the never ending battle to keep mold and mildew out of our homes.  To be honest, I never thought the adverse impacts people talk about with mold exposure applied to me or anyone else I was living with.  We always did a pretty good job of keeping our home environment such that mold did not find it easy to infiltrate.  If we did find any, we had it cleaned up before it had a chance to really grow.  I know this may not be the case for many of the homes in Southeast Alaska, either due to age, construction, or how the home has been maintained.  This is certainly the case for many public buildings.  Ironically, it was exposure to mold at my alma mater last month that made me acutely aware of how susceptible we all are to the toxic effects of some molds.  I was lecturing at Bastyr University last September and then stayed to complete the entire ten day Klinghardt Immersion Week.  Everyone seemed to be keenly bothered by the mold in the building.  They brought in air purifiers that ran in the lecture hall all day and night.  The stains of previous water damage were visible on the ceiling panels where there must have been roofing leaks at some time.  To be honest, I did not “smell” the mold many other people were complaining of.  Then my nose started to bleed.   I have not had a nose bleed other than maybe twice in my life and to best recollection (because, yes, it was that long ago!) it was the result of a good bump to the nose, not because of cold dry air dehydrating my mucous membranes and certainly not as the result of anything I was breathing.  It’s ironic really.  To start having symptoms of toxic mold exposure at a medical school! Nose bleeds are actually a common sign of toxic mold exposure.

Critical Care Pulmonologist, Lamia Ibrahim, MD explains in Health Essentials, the Cleveland Clinic newsletter that the mycotoxins produced by mold spores can become lodged in the mucus membranes of the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, and lungs where they can cause a burning sensation and bleeding.  In this newsletter, she echoes the same warnings published by the CDC: “In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children…” and in 2009 the World Health Organization released a guide to managing indoor air quality in regards to dampness and mold.

While respiratory symptoms are certainly the most common, mold exposure may cause or contribute to a very wide range of issues with symptoms often seen in other conditions as well – which means mold is often missed. These symptoms include things such as  skin rashes, fatigue, mood swings, headaches and light sensitivity, brain fog, joint pain, urinary urgency, GI dysfunctions, tinnitus, vertigo, hormone disruption, insomnia and more.  The mold alone may not be the only cause, but it can often be the final burden that overwhelms the body or the one thing presenting an obstacle to cure.

Discovering you have a mold related illness may not be easy.  Recognizing, evaluating and treating mold effectively may require seeing a physician who specializes in environmental medicine.  Many commonly recommended treatments and methods of removing mold from your home may actually cause more harm!  There will likely be recommendations to “treat the gut”.  It’s practically a rule of Naturopathic Medicine to start here and Functional Medicine practitioners have often adopted the same starting point.  Research is validating that our microbiome and our digestive system are perhaps one of the most important systems in the body and if that part of healing is neglected, healing doesn’t really happen.  Yet we are all so resistant to being told that what we eat or do not eat is having such a profound impact on our health and seem to stubbornly refuse to make real or lasting changes to our diet.  There will likely be other therapies and they should be tailored specifically to the patient.  The other thing that has to happen immediately is removing the source of exposure.   It can be difficult to discover hidden mold and expensive to remediate a building.  It has to be done if you are going to continue to work, attend school or live in that building.  The best thing to do first is start learning about mold in the environment and how it impacts your health and the health of those you love….. this book is very likely and excellent place to start.

Below are just 10 ways to start preventing mold from building up in your home.

  1. Keep your home dry – but this includes having good ventilation so your home does not sweat and using dehumidifiers in necessary areas.
  2. Regularly clean areas where mold might more easily grow such as window sills, bathroom tiles and shower curtains
  3. Replace vinyl shower curtains (which aren’t healthy for you or the environment anyway) with a cloth one that can be regularly washed and dried with laundry
  4. Use fans in rooms where moisture is more often introduced – bathroom and kitchen
  5. Carpets can act as a sponge in damp rooms – maybe consider removing wall-to-wall carpeting, but for sure keep all floor coverings clean and dry
  6. Make sure wet clothing is not left in the laundry and all clothes put away in closets are completely dry
  7. Fix all water leaks quickly and thoroughly
  8. Let sunshine into your home with fresh air as often as possible
  9. Do not have too many house plants or very wet soil in the pots as they can harbor mold
  10. Clean mold with non-toxic cleaners – common household ones would include vinegar and vodka; for serious mold infestations it is best to hire a professional.