Is There a Link Between Mold and Mental Health?
Although we have made great strides in designing more energy-efficient buildings, this new airtight construction has led to a significant rise in indoor mold exposure across the U.S. While most of us are aware of threats mold poses to our physical health, the mental health symptoms are often overlooked. So, is there a link between mold and mental health? Well, the team at RestoPros is here to explore this question further and tell you about some treatment options.
Mold Illness vs Mold Allergies
With the new energy-efficient, airtight construction of our buildings, mold is more of a threat than ever before. That being said, there is an important distinction between those suffering from mold allergies and those who suffer from mold illness. To illustrate the distinction, here are the main differences between the two afflictions:
Who it affects
One of the most important differences between mold allergies and mold illness is who each illness tends to affect. While mold allergy sufferers make up about 25% of the U.S. population and usually have a genetic sensitivity to mold, anyone is vulnerable to mold illness. That is to say that anyone who is exposed to toxic mold over a period of time is vulnerable to the effects of mold illness.
Another important distinction between mold allergies and mold illness is what the symptoms look like. Similar to to hay fever, mold allergies usually bring about sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, and sniffling. Contrary to mold allergies, mold illness manifests in more serious symptoms. Among these symptoms are chronic fatigue, weakness, aches, headaches, light sensitivity, respiratory problems, abdominal pain, and sinus infections. Moreover, there are negative effects on mental health, manifesting in memory issues, concentration problems, word recollection issues, confusion, disorientation, mood swings, vertigo, anxiety, and depression. In addition to these symptoms, you can experience a metallic taste, tingling, numbness, tremors, static shock, excessive thirst, appetite swings, and the inability to regulate your own temperature.
Because the symptoms of mold allergies are similar to hay fever, the treatment is often an over-the-counter antihistamine or decongestant. However, mold illness is not so easily diagnosed, much less treated. Because the symptoms of mold illness tend to be long-term, the corresponding treatment is gradual and complex. Once you’ve been diagnosed with mold illness, for first step will be to trap the mycotoxins and help your body excrete them from your system. With this in mind, your treatment will usually begin with the use of natural binders, such as clay and charcoal. Also, used in conjunction with these binders, probiotics like Saccromyces Boulardi will be used to help you excrete these mycotoxins. When it comes to the next steps in treatment, there are differing methods in addressing direct fungal infection within the body and mold exposure. If you are treating a mold infection, you will likely be given an antifungal drug or natural agent to eradicate it. However, treating an illness due to mycotoxin exposure is a whole different ballgame that we will expound upon next.
Toxic Mold and Your Brain
Before understanding the symptoms and treatment of toxic mold syndrome, you must first understand how exposure to this mold impacts your brain. According to a recent study conducted by Cheryl Harding, a psychologist at the City University of New York, mold toxins can be linked to many mental health issues. In this experiment, Harding and colleagues dripped low doses of toxic mold spores into the noses of mice three times a week for three weeks.
Over the course of the three weeks, Harding and colleagues noticed the mice had trouble remembering fearful places and grew more anxious each day. To sum up their findings, the anxiety and memory problems were due to a decrease in new brain sells in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that retains memories.) Furthermore, Harding found a link between the anxiety and inflammatory proteins in the hippocampus, which triggered an immune response in the brain. Therefore, we are to believe that exposure to toxic mold can leave anyone vulnerable to a number of negative mental and neurological side effects.
Mental Health Problems Associated with Toxic Mold Syndrome
As previously discussed, the symptoms of toxic mold syndrome or mold illness can affect your mental health. However, symptoms can also mimic side effects of neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders. In fact, the effects of mold illness are eerily similar to symptoms in sufferers of traumatic brain injuries and Lyme disease. Some common mental health issues linked to mold illness are mental fog or memory loss, anxiety, depression, chronic exhaustion, insomnia, and vertigo. In addition to these mental effects, the neurological symptoms can include pain syndromes, movement disorders, dementia, delirium, as well as coordination and balance problems.
Treatment of Toxic Mold Syndrome
After discussing the science and symptoms of toxic mold syndrome, we are finally brought to the treatment of this illness. As previously explained, mold illness requires a gradual and long-term treatment plan. Once you’ve been diagnosed with mold illness, the first step will be to trap the mycotoxins and help your body excrete them from your system. With this in mind, your treatment will usually begin with the use of natural binders, such as clay and charcoal. Also, used in conjunction with these binders, probiotics like Saccromyces Boulardi will be used to help you excrete these mycotoxins. When it comes to the next steps in treatment, there are differing methods in addressing direct fungal infection within the body and mold exposure.
Treating a Direct Fungal Infection
If you are treating a mold infection, you will likely be given an antifungal drug or natural agent to eradicate it. That being said, it is typically much safer to treat infections with natural agents, as antifungal drugs can be quite toxic, particularly to your liver.
Treating Toxic Mold Exposure
While treating an infection can be simple, treating mycotoxin exposure is a whole different ballgame. Once you’ve undergone the initial step of using the regimen of binders and probiotics, the real work begins.
Firstly, you will have to decrease your exposure to other toxic chemicals like heavy metals, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds and fragrances. By decreasing your exposure to these toxins, you can begin to strengthen your ability to detoxify your system.
Also, you will likely be given a mold-free diet to follow and laundry list of supplements to take daily that will help you defend your immune system against toxic mold.
Provocation Neutralization (PN) Treatments
Another little-known method that was recently developed by mold exposure specialists is provocation neutralization. Simply put, this treatment involves injecting a small amount of the allergen under the skin to “provoke a reaction.” If you present a reaction such as a visible wheal or fatigue and headaches, the doctor will neutralize the reaction by having you orally take diluted injections of the same allergen. Although this is a relatively new treatment method, you can find a list of physicians who are trained in this technique at the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM).
Is There a Link Between Mold and Mental Health?
In short, yes, there is a link between mold and mental health, as demonstrated by recent studies and development of new treatment plans. That being said, there are plenty of measures you can take in your home to reduce the risk of exposure, and RestoPros are here to help! For the most comprehensive service in mold removal and remediation, give us a call today at 855-587-3786 or fill out a service request form on our website!