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mycotoxins

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mold

We’ve written in the past about the manmade toxins that litter our homes: toxic furniture, bedding, clothing, cleaning products, and more. Environmental air pollution gets a lot of attention, but according to the EPA, the air inside our homes is two to five times more polluted on average—and in some cases up to 100 times more polluted. [1]

Toxic home syndrome is worth worrying about—especially given that we spend as much as 90% of our time indoors. Indoor pollution has been correlated with a rise in the incidence of many diseases, including cancer, autism, and many other degenerative conditions caused by an increased toxin load. [2]

A lot of this pollution comes from the sources mentioned above, but some household toxins are naturally occurring…and potentially just as dangerous as the industrial poisons with which our bodies have to content. One prominent example is mold.

What you must know about mold

Mold has been on this planet for a lot longer than we have, and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a highly evolved, highly adaptable fungal organism that makes up 25% of the Earth’s biomass—so it’s safe to say that mold is a fact of life.

This is not to say that mold should be viewed lightly, though. It can grow very quickly on almost any surface, provided that there’s enough moisture to support it. This means that bathrooms, kitchens, areas with leaky pipes, or areas prone to flooding are at highest risk. Once mold colonies grow to a critical mass, their spores become airborne, and they can travel throughout your entire home.

And all molds that produce mycotoxins, when present in high enough quantities, can be harmful to your health (with “black mold” being the worst of all). The effects of mold exposure are most often referred to as “allergic reactions,” but the truth is that it’s a slippery slope from mold allergies to mold illness (especially if mold is proliferating in unseen places around your home, like behind drywall or in small bathroom nooks).

Mold exposure can cause a wide range of symptoms, including irritation of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat, dermatitis, rashes, and other skin issues, asthma and other respiratory issues, fever, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and diarrhea.

Mold can radically suppress immune function (especially in people who already have a compromised immune system), and can even cause flu-like symptoms and liver damage. Animal studies suggest that excessive mold exposure can lead to kidney damage, infertility and other reproductive issues, and neurotoxicity. One human study even strongly linked household mold exposure to depression. [3]

Check out this video from the National Mold Resource Center to see if you have any symptoms of mold sickness:

Take action to protect yourself

While molds can be incredibly virulent and persistent, you don’t have to feel powerless against them. Small mold colonies are common, and usually pose relatively little risk to your health, so don’t feel like the sight of any mold whatsoever is cause for panic.

Also, because most of the ill effects of mold exposure come from mycotoxicity-induced immune dysfunction, you can protect yourself by boosting your immune system. Turmeric, vitamin C, vitamin D, and adaptogenic herbs are always a good choice. Low oral doses of activated charcoal or healing clays (like bentonite and zeolite) are also great for cleansing your body of mycotoxins.

Keep Your Home “Mold-Free”

If your home appears mold-free (or contains only small visible colonies), great! You can keep it that way by cleaning up spills or flooded areas immediately, fixing water leaks within 1-2 days, keeping your house well-ventilated (especially the bathroom and kitchen), and scrubbing away mold as soon as it appears.

If you become aware of large mold colonies in your home, though, taking supplements is not going to cut it. Mold infestations need to be dealt with swiftly and properly. There are home test kits available which measure the level of mold spores in the air, but they’re often quite inaccurate. If you can see any decent quantity of mold in your home, don’t wait to test…start removing it immediately!

Scrub off any visible mold with baking soda, distilled water, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and borax, and be sure to wear gloves and a protecting mask during clean-up. Avoid using toxic homecare products—the point is to remove toxins from your home, right?

Keep in mind that mold colonies can form well out of sight (if you have any of the symptoms listed above, and can’t link them to other causes, you might be suffering from mold exposure). Full mold remediation often requires the removal and replacement and walls, ceilings, and carpets. Unfortunately, these processes can be quite costly, but they’re well worth it.

If you’re a renter, talk to your landlord about any mold in your home. Only some states hold homeowners liable for mold remediation, but many landlords are willing to take care of the issue in order to preserve the future integrity of the house. If your landlord is not willing to take action, and you’re unable to afford the mold cleanup, you should strongly consider moving into a mold-free home.

By being aware of mold (and other toxins) in your home, and being willing to take action, you can ensure that your home remains a health-promoting oasis in an otherwise polluted world.

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References

[1] http://draxe.com/indoor-air-pollution-worse-than-outdoor/

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829162815.htm

sneaky_toxin_sources

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world free of manmade toxins? A world in which clean water, pure air, and optimal health is more important than profit margins and short-term schemes?

A world in which everyone holds themselves to the same high standard of accountability? A world in which you can trust that you’re not constantly surrounded by hidden sources of toxins?  

I’d like to think we’re on our way there. Unfortunately, though, that’s just not the way things are at present.

Staying healthy is a full-time job these days—mostly because we always have to be on the lookout for unwitting toxin sources.

Personal care, diet, and fitness obviously play an essential role, but even if you’re playing all your cards right, your health can still suffer considerably because of environmental toxins.

Below, you’ll find a list of unexpected toxin sources to avoid at all costs.

Don’t be overwhelmed; just take action, one step at a time. Start by removing just one toxin source from your life, and build up from there. This process should be empowering, not paranoia-inducing.

Let’s start with the basics…

Processed foods. It’s hard to take three steps in a grocery store without bumping into processed foods. Any product that is even a single step removed from its natural form should be considered processed.

Processed foods are designed to be overstimulating and addictive.[1] Creating such “designer junk foods” destroys nearly all the nutrients its ingredients may have contained. Synthetic vitamins and nutrients are sometimes added after the fact, but these are a poor replacement at best, and toxic at worst.

And to top things off, processed foods are filled with destructive substances like high-fructose corn syrup,[2] preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, and texturants.

Many chemicals like this that have been deemed “safe” by the FDA in the past were later found to have deleterious effects on the body. The FDA will only ever investigate chemicals that they believe pose a serious danger—so just know that you’re rolling the dice by consuming any of them.

Non-organic produce. Organic products have been all the rage for years now, but because of the high price that they command, it can be tempting to justify the purchase of more affordable, non-organic food.

How bad could it possibly be?

Pretty bad, unfortunately.

Evidence is mounting that the pesticides and other various chemicals that are sprayed on conventional produce are adversely toxic. A widely published study claiming that there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of organic and non-organic produce is now being harshly criticized and overturned.[3]

And don’t think that you can just wash off these noxious chemicals either—many of them are absorbed by the plant’s internal structures. In the case of GMO foods, toxicity is incorporated into the plant at a genetic level.

Unwashed produce. Even some organic produce is contaminated with pesticides and other toxic chemicals, so be sure to wash everything before eating it.

The most effective method is to submerge your produce completely in room temperature water, and then lightly scrub each item.

Avoiding dietary toxins

This probably isn’t anything you haven’t heard before.

If you’re already avoiding non-organic and processed food, excellent. Here’s some dietary toxin sources with which you may be less familiar, though…

Mycotoxins in wheat and corn. Here’s a shocking statistic of which very few people are aware: a large percentage of the grains available in the U.S. has been exposed to toxic mold (because it’s nearly always stored in commercial silos for long periods of time).[4]

When wheat and corn is exposed to mold, dangerous byproducts called mycotoxins are developed. Even though cooking will normally destroy any mold that’s present, the mycotoxins will remain intact.

Mycotoxins sap your energy, suppress the immune system, interfere with nutrient absorption, and disrupt metabolic and hormonal functioning in the body.[5]

While reducing (or even eliminating) your consumption of wheat and corn can be a difficult task, it’s really the only surefire way to protect yourself from mycotoxins.

And in case you still need some convincing, there’s a whole host of other reasons why you should banish wheat from your diet.

Damaged fats. Fats have gotten a bad rap in the past. Recent dietary fads (like the Paleo Diet) are starting to get the right idea, though—that the right kind of fat is incredibly healthful.

While whole books could be (and have been) written on this subject, here’s the basic gist that you should keep in mind: a fat becomes toxic when it is unstable, and thus becomes damaged and oxidized by the heat of cooking. The fats that are prone to this damage are called unsaturated.

The unsaturated fats that you’ll want to avoid (usually in the form of cooking oils) are as follows: corn oil (which can also contain mycotoxins, as explained above), canola oil, sesame oil, and anything else generically labeled as “vegetable oil.”

Stick with oils that contain lots of saturated fat, like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and ghee.

Avoiding household toxins

And then there’s the myriad of toxin sources that surround us within our own homes. Here’s some of the biggest offenders, as well as some suggestions for how to neutralize them…

Plasticware. By now, you’re probably aware of the pitfalls of plastic.Even plastic products that are marketed as “non-toxic” are a gamble. Plastic contains many other chemicals besides those that are now considered toxic. Just because a company labels a given chemical as “non-toxic,” it doesn’t mean that future research won’t reveal the contrary.

So play it safe, and use as few plastic products as possible.

If you can’t eliminate plastic entirely, at least minimize your risk by not heating or freezing any plasticware (which accelerates the process of chemical leaching).

Never put plasticware in the dishwasher. Doing so will leach all those nasty chemicals and then redeposit them on all your other dishes!  

Furniture. A staggering percentage of mattresses, couches, and pillows contain flame retardants that have been shown to cause cancer and birth defects.[6]

High levels of these ridiculously toxic chemicals have been detected in people’s blood, which confirms that they easily enter the body when our skin is in contact with these household items, and even when we breathe the dust in our houses.

The process of “detoxifying” your house by replacing all your toxic furniture is certainly a daunting (and expensive) one. Just be aware of these dangers, and take one step at a time to clear your living space.

Start small: at least replace your pillows, then tackle the larger, more expensive pieces of furniture when it’s possible to do so. Isn’t your health worth the time and the cost?

Cleaning supplies. Taking one whiff of most cleaning supplies on the market is enough to confirm that they’re full of toxins. After years of coating our counters and tables, washing our clothes, and “freshening” the air in our house, these toxins accumulate to very dangerous levels.

And don’t believe everything you hear about “green cleaning products” either. Some of the top eco-products on the market still contain chemicals with demonstrable adverse effects.[7]  

Even seemingly inoffensive dryer sheets are bad news. Nearly all of them contain a whole host of terrible chemicals that cause burning skin, respiratory irritation, anxiety attacks, and irritability—like formaldehyde and chloroform, just to name a few that you’ve probably heard of.[8]

So always do your homework before purchasing any cleaning product. Better yet, read this article to learn how to make your own (it’s easy, I promise).

Creating your own sanctuary

Avoiding these toxin sources will have a huge effect on your health.

We may live in a toxin-laden world, but we shouldn’t just sit back and let ourselves be bombarded. Awareness is always the first step. Let the information that’s been presented sink in, and then start to take measures to protect yourself, bit by bit.

 


References  

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22016109

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23594708

[3] http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a458

[4] http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/321551/aer828h_1_.pdf

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12857779

[6] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es303471d

[7] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/simply-green-washing-are-you-using-toxic-cleaner

[8] http://www.lifenatural.com/dangers_of_laundry_dryer_sheets.htm

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