(This is a dynamic document that I will be updating periodically. Normally I would keep this offline and publish when complete but this info is too important to keep from you. Please bear with grammar/spelling/organizational issues. )
Back in 2016 it was reported that researchers may have figured out the cause of Crohn’s disease. According to a recent study out of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, they found that fungus is a key factor when it comes to developing the disease. It was a miraculous feeling headline when compared to the small sample set. The study looked at Crohn’s disease and their Crohn’s-free first-degree relatives in nine families in northern France and Belgium, and in Crohn’s-free individuals from four families living in the same geographic area. They analyzed fecal samples of 20 Crohn’s and 28 Crohn’s-free patients from nine families and of 21 Crohn’s-free patients of four families. They found strong fungal-bacterial interactions in those with Crohn’s disease: two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens) and one fungus (Candida tropicalis) moved in lockstep. What was reported significant about this study is that it was said to be the first time that any fungus had been linked to Crohn’s in humans; previously it was only found in mice with the disease.
In the same year, 2016, I had just recovered from a mold detoxification journey myself. I know first-hand that mold and mycotoxins are one of the root causes of IBD, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis, along with a slew of other diseases that make it challenging for practitioners and patients to navigate.
Mold is a growing problem that often stumps conventional medicine doctors as Dr. Mark Roth, an internal medicine physician with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center wrote about in Cleveland Jewish News. Could your home or workplace be making you ill?
In this post, I will educate you about the connection, along with practical and often cost-effective solutions to hopefully help you fix the problem.
Many if not all of these suggestions will fall outside the conventional medicine spectrum. During one hospital stay due to a Crohn’s Flare, knowing the mold was the reason I landed there, I asked for mold testing. The closest test they were able to run was a MRSA Surveillance which found no Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolated. Thankfully UCSD was able to offer a clean environment, delicious food, excellent in-patient services like Osteopathic/Manual Medicine, acupuncture and therapeutic massage, and bodywork through the hands of Dr. Alice Chen DO, Dr. Caitlin MacMillen DO, Dr. Ariel Portera DO, and Dr.Erin Raskin, DACM, LAc.
Yes, I said delicious food, and dare-I-say even healthy – if you know what to order. Executive Chef Rodney Fry does his best to offer locally sourced, plant-based, antibiotic-free, and sustainable dishes. Their burger is even grass-fed and they offer Organic Mint tea which has the ability to heal an upset stomach, cure bloating, indigestion, and flatulence.
The GI team again offered me surgery.
As a recent study found a negative association between invasive care(surgery) and microbiome and metabolome changes, I thanked them and chose an alternative route.
No additional mold testing or treatments were available.
This post will attempt to bridge the gap.
One study found that Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may be influenced by specific HLA-DR alleles; in particular, in ulcerative colitis some alleles appear to segregate with more aggressive disease. An allele is one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome. Essentially a genetic mutation. More on the HLA-DR shortly.
The symptoms of mold toxicity and that of Crohn’s and Colitis are often the same. You may even notice some of these symptoms may mimic the adverse effects of some of the pharmaceutical medications for IBD. This is why proper testing and treatment is important. Some symptoms of mold toxicity include fatigue or weakness, headache, light sensitivity, poor memory, difficulty finding words, difficulty concentrating, morning stiffness, joint pain, unusual skin sensations, tingling, or numbness, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, or chronic cough, appetite swings, body temperature regulation issues, increased urinary frequency or increased thirst, red eyes, blurred vision, or tearing, sweats, mood swings, sharp pains, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bloating, disorientation, metallic taste in the mouth, static shocks, vertigo, feeling lightheaded.
Seemingly randomly or after eating my eyes would start tearing and my nose would run. The eye tearing may have been known as allergic conjunctivitis. I didn’t have the other symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis such as redness, itching, swelling, or stringy discharge. Just tearing
Exposure to various biotoxins including mold and mold spores for too long could lead to mold biotoxin illness, also known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, or CIRS is an illness that’s caused by prolonged exposure to various biotoxins including mold and mold spores.
What I found helpful was to find gratitude in every breathing moment, prayer, taking tasks one by one, celebrating checking off an item from the to-do list, and reaching out to help from your trusted friends, family, and community. Don’t take it personally if they don’t understand, believe you, drop the ball, or do not respond, trying to explain invisible mold and invisible symptoms to someone is who has no issues in the same environment can be challenging.
Mold and the Microbiome
Mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi). Mycotoxins can increase the levels of harmful bacteria in the gut. For example, research shows that exposure to deoxynivalenol (DON) significantly increases Bacteroides levels in the gut. High levels of Bacteroides are associated with IBD. Deoxynivalenol is a mycotoxin that occurs mostly grains such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, and corn, and less often in rice, sorghum, and triticale.
Severity and Genetics
You are not alone. It is estimated that indoor air pollutants, including mold and mycotoxins may be contributing to more than 50% of our illnesses. As I mentioned in my TEDx talk, it’s estimated that more than 25% of the population is susceptible to mold more than the average bear. Those who carry the HLA-DR gene are more susceptible. That is more than 80 million individuals in the United States. The vast majority of those experiencing Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) have the HLA DR/DQ genetic mutation. Hereditary investigations on specific populations currently propose that the genuine number could be anywhere in the range of 40% and 60% around the world, plus with the estimate that 50% of the buildings and homes in the U.S. are water damaged enough to cause illness, this is a widespread problem. Other studies show that more than 50% of homes and more than 85% of commercial buildings in the U.S. have water damage and mold. Many experts say every home has some detectable amount of mold. So again, know that you are not alone and that there are solutions now that did not exist just a few short years ago.
To learn if you are susceptible to mold sensitivity order this test. It will reveal if you have the HLA gene combinations that are implicated in mold hypersensitivity. In addition, some HLA genes are known to be associated with an increased risk of developing inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Another test you may want to have done is called MARCoNS(Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci). Since breathing is a primary pathway for environmental toxins to enter our body, I highly recommend this specialized test if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above. The average person takes over 20,000 breathes per day. That’s 7.3 Million breathes a year. Depending on the cleanliness of your environment, your mitigation of the air, and of course the quality of the air where you live and work will impact these results. You may live or work in a home that had a water leak at some point in the past. Most remediation companies do not properly clean the spill to the satisfaction one with the HLA gene mutations would require. Your nose will try to act as a filter, so this test is critical to learn what is in your body. Though a nasal swab, I’ve had this test administered twice and it wasn’t that bad. It was actually easier than the covid19 nasal swab tests required at the hospital.
A specialized test called TGF-beta1(Transforming growth factor β1) should also be run. Here in San Diego only one lab, Quest Diagnostics, was able to test for this, and I had to drive an hour to their Temecula office as that is the only location that has the required specialized equipment. Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is an immunosuppressive cytokine that can induce immunoglobulin A (IgA) switch and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) replication. TGF B-1 is often chronically high in disease states, including cancer, fibrosis, and inflammation like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. TGF B-1 is moderately to extremely high in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome due to water-damaged buildings (CIRS). Optimal results are between 344 – 2382 pg/mL. My testing showed I was at 13,780.
Test, don’t guess!
Lastly, know that genes are not everything. Dr. Neil Nathan MD, a mold specialist found that he observes little to no difference in treating patients with HLA SNPs as those who do not carry the mutations.
My personal experience, having evaluated hundreds of patients with this test, is that I have not noted much correlation between clinical improvement and this test. This means that those with the so called “dreaded” genes have often done as well, or better, than those without those genes. Accordingly, I have not found this test to be useful in determining who will respond to treatment from those who won’t. – Dr. Nathan MD
An affordable way to test for elevated mold in your indoor air, on your belongings, or even if you wanted to do a home nasal swab is through Micro Balance Health Products EC3 Mold Screening Test Kit. This company was founded by Dr. Donald Dennis MD FACS who has been a practicing ENT surgeon for almost four decades and has treated over 36,000 patients. He noticed an increase in chronic sinusitis symptoms that were brought on by their exposure to environmental mold and decided to create products that can help test and offer solutions.
Getting Well Again
Physical, Emotional and Mental suggestions will be listed below
Mold, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis often cause depression. Here is something simple and scientifically proven you can do to help.
Gratitude can improve not just your happiness, but also your overall health. It also strengthens relationships. A simple thank you is often not received fully, nor fully explains the depth and reason for the thanks. Try this. Think of someone who did something for you that you are extremely grateful for that you may never have expressed the depth of your gratitude. Set aside time to sit down and write them a letter. Yes, an actual letter. Not an email, text, or Facebook/Instagram DM, but a letter.
Once you’re complete, call this person and tell them you’d like to visit and have something for them. Though they may want to know what it is, don’t tell them. When you visit with them, ask them not to interrupt and read the letter aloud to them. Ideally, the letter is a page long and goes into detail not just what they did, but the impact on your life that their action(s) have had. Take the time to read the letter. Allow your receiver to bask in this. While you are reading the letter pay attention to both yours and their reactions. Once you have finished reading your letter consider being open to chatting about their reaction and both of your feelings.
If physical distance keeps you two apart, video chat could be used instead.
Researchers tested five different positive psychology exercises and found that the gratitude visit had the greatest effect on happiness one month later! However, six months after the visit their happiness dropped back down to where it was before. Consider repeating this exercise every few weeks for maximum benefit.
Another study found that adolescents who don’t typically experience positive emotions showed a significant boost in positive emotions two months after the gratitude visit.
Give it a try! Let me know in the comments below how it goes.
I’ve found that mold can not only cause but aggravate rectal fistulas. Two products that I’ve found to help and have so far(knock on wood) allowed me to avoid surgery include Ozonated Oil Suppositories and Ozonated Skin rescue gels. The suppositories come in Olive, Hemp, Olive/Castor and Coconut with Vitamin E. The skin oils come in Ozonated Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Hemp Oil, Jojoba Oil, Avocado Oil, Castor, and Sunflower oil. I haven’t found one to work particularly better than the others, though I do generally lean on the hemp, olive, and coconut oils.
Remembering that Coconut Oil enemas alone can help someone avoid surgery, maybe the coconut oil suppositories and skin rescue gels are a good one to start with. A few years ago I was able to full stop rectal bleeding simply from Vitamin E enemas, maybe Vitamin E would be another one to try and rotate. Fistula’s are persistent so it may take time, but for me the possibility to avoid surgery is worth it, especially when the last surgeon I had a consult with left me feeling hopeless and train wreck as he violated my body as a complete train wreck, but that’s a story for another day.
Depending on the severity of your IBD and mold exposure the safest food intake may be the physician’s elemental diet dextrose free from Integrative Therapeutics. You can purchase that here in our dispensary. Depending on your caloric needs, one bag should last a few days. Consider trying this for a few days to see if it calms your gut.
Research shows that that elemental diets can be effective in inducing remission of Crohn’s disease. In one study clinical remission was reached in over 70% of participants. Testing not only showed inflammatory cytokine reduction but also a corrected balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels from the elemental diet. Other studies show that the elemental diet showed that it was as or more effective than the corticosteroid prednisolone.
According to Dr. Jill Crista, a leading mold expert and author of Break The Mold: 5 Tools to Conquer Mold and Take Back Your Health. Here are the top 10 best and worst foods for those sensitive to mold
10 BEST FOODS
The foods that made this list are potent protectors from the damaging effects of mold
exposure. Being that mold sickness is primarily a toxin sickness, these foods protect our
organs of detoxification – the liver, kidneys, and digestive tract. They also protect critical
systems from toxin invasions, such as the brain and nervous system. Many have been
shown to restore immune system function after exposure to mold. Eat these foods on a
Vital Choice is a nice option for home delivery for wild organic sustainable seafood fast home delivery – backed by their 100% satisfaction guarantee. Fish are harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and farms.
10 WORST FOODS
Foods on this list either promote fungal overgrowth inside our bodies or are in the fungus
family themselves. By avoiding these foods, you’re reducing your total body burden of
things in the fungal family. This powerful advantage helps to restore balance in your body.
Many underestimate the power of food. Avoid these foods to help conquer mold.
Aged & moldy cheeses
Sweets of any kind
and some beverages to avoid, plus some that are helpful
These beverages either contain fungal elements, are fermented, or feed the fungus sugars to help them grow. This makes mold symptoms worse. As a general rule of thumb, if it tastes sweet, it’s best to avoid it. And remember, this is just temporary as you are detoxing from mold. Remember your goals.
ANY sweetened beverage
Oolong, Roobios, black tea
Any water, except spring water
According to Dr. Jill, “Spring water contains naturally occurring elements that help hold water in your tissues. Spring water takes the long path through the body, whereas other types of water take the shortcut, especially for moldies.” – which is straight from her book Break The Mold: 5 Tools to Conquer Mold and Take Back Your Health.
Four Sigmatic is one company that I recommend as they test for test all their ingredients and final batches in third party laboratories for heavy metals, microbial quality, aflatoxins, mycotoxins, mold, yeast, and pesticides. If you do test positive for mycostins in your body, I’d recommend staying away from sweeteners. One time I had
Dr. Jill Carnhan advises strictly avoiding foods that are chock-full of sugar and additives. Those foods feed fungal growth and would increase systems. She also advises avoiding foods well known for being containing with mold.
Sugar-Loaded Foods. Since sugar is one of the primary sources to fuel candida or mold, she recommends following a low-mold diet which includes avoiding:
Fructose (Bonus reasons to avoid fructose. A 2020 study revealed that it makes IBD worse)
For some, even the tiniest bit of caffeine or sugar would increase negative symptoms significantly. Symptoms could be any of the ones listed above. One person told me that even the slightest bit of caffeine and/or sugar would cause gnarly full or multi-day migraine headaches and continual frequent urination. For him, it just wasn’t worth the pain and she chose to eliminate caffeine and sugar for an easier time getting through the mold detox.
Additionally, some fruits are known to be high in sugar content and should be avoided during the detoxing process.
Dried fruits and fruit juices
Packaged and Processed Foods
She recommends staying away from
Canned foods: Baked beans, soups, ready-made sauces
Pre-packaged meals: Ready-made meals, breakfast cereals, frozen foods
Processed drinks: Soft drinks, fruit juices, flavored water, energy drinks
Bottled condiments: Vinegar, mayonnaise, pickles, soy sauce, mustard, relish
Become your own ingredient detective and look at the rear of every label. Research like your health depends on it.
Lastly, to prevent additional mold from entering your body or making it more difficult to kill of what is already inside, consider staying away from products that are known to have mold or fugal growth contamination. This includes:
- Cheese and sour milk products: Buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese, aged cheese, sliced or block cheese
- Nuts: Peanuts, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts
- Dried fruit: Raisins, apricots, prunes, figs, dates, etc.
- Grains: Wheat, rice, oats
- Packaged and smoked meats: Sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, pastrami, smoked fish, ham, bacon
- Edible fungi: Mushrooms and truffles
- Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine, cider, liqueur, whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, etc.
- Fermented foods should be avoided if you have histamine intolerance.I know it seems counter-intuitive to avoid fermented foods like sauerkraut. I love fermented foods more than most humans, even made and batched them myself at home, but during my detox, I found that eating even a little sauerkraut would cause stiffness and body pain. It took me months to figure this out, partially because I didn’t want to believe it, and mostly because I hadn’t yet done the comprehensive research you’re reading in this post. I was surprised but after a few days of experimenting, and painful days with limited mobility, I was convinced. It’s just not worth it and will hinder your progress.To increase microbiome diversity, consider probiotics like Equilibrium, Bifido Maximus formulated by my friend Dr. Garce Liu from The Gut Institute, and order the Thryve Microbiome test to determine strains you are missing and then follow-on with their specialized personalized probiotics specific for your test results. Rotate a “probiotic parade switching them up weekly.
Note: Dry Farms Wine only sources from organic farming ensuring mold, sugar, gluten, and chemical-free wine. You may consider trying them to see how your body feels.
Black Seed Oil – Black Seed oil has three key natural phytonutrients: thymoquinone (TQ), thymohydroquinone (THQ) and thymol. These incredible phytochemicals lead to all kinds of amazing black seed oil benefits. These properties have been analyzed for their antifungal properties. Scientists tested thymol, TQ and THQ against 30 human pathogens. They found thymoquinone was the best antifungal compound against all of the tested dermatophytes and yeasts, followed by thymohydroquinone and thymol. They also found that thymol was the best antifungal against molds followed by TQ and THQ. It seems that fungus and molds cannot exist in the presence of these phytochemicals
Plants can be amazing air cleaners.
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Studies have shown that this plant could be effective at reducing mold, formaldehyde, benzene and even indoor airborne fecal particles!
Can improve your indoor air quality by as much as 60 percent.
Mold can grow in the soil of plants. Houseplant mold is typically a Saprophytic mold. There are several types of Saprophytic molds. The most common types of Saprophytic mold found on houseplant soil are mucor, Penicillium sp., Aspergillus sp. and Trichoderma sp. Mold in houseplant soil is either active or dormant. Active mold in soil will be fluffy / fuzzy, soft, and smears easily. Dormant mold will be more powdery. Mold can also grow on the leaves of plants. My thumb is not very green so I recommend doing your own research and learning how to prevent mold in the very plants that you’re using the cleanse your enviornment.
Sweating in a sauna is very effective at removing not just mycotoxins but also toxins you are likely accumulating on a daily basis.
Depending on your budget and preference, here are a few options
Sauna Space offers a few different options and 0% APR financing so you can get started asap. They use incandescent lamps that provide red, near-infrared and therapy infrared light wavelengths. They have a portable version called The Luminati, a EMF-Free Faraday Cage Sauna, and a creative way for homes that do not have space to allow you to convert your standard shower stall into a sexy SaunaSpace sauna using their Tungston four light panel. Sauna Space is made in the USA.
Mold Illness Made Simple Course by Dr. Sandeep Gupta MD.
Dr. Gupta is a Certified Surviving Mold Physician and was awarded a Fellowship of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM). This flagship online course called Mold Illness Made Simple was originally launched in October 2016. The second version launches in October 2020. He is a founding board member for the Australian Chronic Infectious & Inflammatory Disease Society and a founding diplomate member for the International Society of Environmentally Acquired Illness.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Gastrointestinal Surgery for Inflammatory Bowel Disease Persistently Lowers Microbiome and Metabolome Diversity
American Psychologist: Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions: Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C.
The Journal of Positive Psychology: Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention in children and adolescents? Examining positive affect as a moderator. Jeffrey J. Froh, Todd B. Kashdan, Kathleen M. Ozimkowski, and Norman Miller
Dietary fructose heightens inflammatory bowel disease September 29, 2020; Stony Brook, NY.
Diseases of the Colon & Rectum: HLA-DRB1 alleles may influence disease phenotype in patients with inflammatory bowel disease: a critical reappraisal with review of the literature: V Annese , A Piepoli, A Latiano, G Lombardi, G Napolitano, N Caruso, E Cocchiara, L Accadia, F Perri, A Andriulli
Frontiers in Immunology: Clinical Diagnosis of the Dampness and Mold Hypersensitivity Syndrome: Review of the Literature and Suggested Diagnostic Criteria: Ville Valtonen
Allergy: Mold-sensitivity in children with moderate-severe asthma is associated with HLA-DR and HLA-DQ: A P Knutsen, H M Vijay, V Kumar, B Kariuki, L A Santiago, R Graff, J D Wofford, M R Shah
Tissue Antigens: New HLA haplotype frequency reference standards: high-resolution and large sample typing of HLA DR-DQ haplotypes in a sample of European Americans: W Klitz, M Maiers, S Spellman, L A Baxter-Lowe, B Schmeckpeper, T M Williams, M Fernandez-Viña
Oxford Academic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Impact of elemental diet on mucosal inflammation in patients with active Crohn’s disease: Cytokine production and endoscopic and histological findings: Yamamoto, T., Nakahigashi, M., Umegae, S., Kitagawa, T. and Matsumoto, K. (2005) Yokkaichi Social Insurance Hospital
Cleveland Jewish News: Is your home or workplace making you sick? Dr. Mark Roth MD
Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench: Elemental diet and the nutritional treatment of Crohn’s disease: John Hunter (2015) Honorary Consultant Physician Addenbrookes Hospital Cambridge, UK
British Medical Journal: Gut: Initial response and subsequent course of Crohn’s disease treated with elemental diet or prednisone. D A Gorard, J B Hunt, J J Payne-James, K R Palmer, R G Rees, M L Clark, M J Farthing, J J Misiewicz, D B Silk (1993) Gut. 1198-202. Department of Gastroenterology, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.
BMJ: Elemental diet as primary treatment of acute Crohn’s disease: a controlled trial.: O’Morain, C., Segal, AW., Levi, AJ. (1984) 1859-62.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: LP-192 Unraveling the Functional Role of Dysbiosis in Crohn’s Disease: Nobuhiko Kamada
Environmental Risk Factors for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Researchers Discover New Cause Of Crohn’s Disease
Bacteriome and Mycobiome Interactions Underscore Microbial Dysbiosis in Familial Crohn’s Disease
Case Western Reserve-Led International Team Identifies Fungus in Humans for First Time as Key Factor in Crohn’s Disease
Egyptian Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Antifungal effect of thymol, thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone against yeasts, dermatophytes and non-dermatophyte molds isolated from skin and nails fungal infections: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ejbmb/article/view/60802
Note: Originally published in September 2020, this article has been revised and updated for accuracy and thoroughness.