Is There a Fungus Among Us?



Many people enjoy various meals that are prepared with the unique umami flavor provided by mushrooms. However, not all mushrooms are edible…or safe for that matter.

Mushrooms and other fungi thrive in dark places, and many of us are also in the dark about the negative health effects that can be caused by them.

Fungi also play an important role in health maintenance, as mold can be thanked for the antibiotic Penicillin. In addition, various mushrooms have exhibited health and longevity-associated properties.

Not all Fungi are Friendly

Some fungi and their mycotoxin byproducts are at the root of adverse and often unidentified health conditions. Symptoms such as fatigue, pain, nausea, lack of ability to concentrate, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer have been attributed to fungal mycotoxins.

Mold is a potential culprit of nasal congestion, sinus pain, and headaches (also known as chronic rhinosinusitis if the symptoms are long-term). In some individuals, mold stimulates an inflammatory response that can make them more susceptible to sinus infections.

Fungus: Near and Far

While fungi are found in the nasal mucus of most people, it is only among those with chronic rhinosinusitis that the dangerous cascade leading to infection occurs. With the presence of fungi in our environment, what makes some individuals vulnerable to these health consequences while other people appear to be immune?

Other than the increased risk experienced by people with low functioning immune systems,1 it appears that there may be a genetic factor that causes an estimated 24% of the population to be more susceptible to illness triggered by mold mycotoxins.2

Are Genes to Blame?

Some individuals have gene variations that affect the immune system’s ability to recognize foreign bodies (antigens) and make antibodies against them, resulting in chronic inflammation.

Fortunately, there is a blood test called the HLA-DR genetic test that concerned individuals can have done so that they can start taking action as soon as possible.

Other Mold-Related Measures

In addition to genetic testing, there are a few other tests that may be beneficial for those who suspect they have a mold-related illness.

Tests that measure matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9), transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1), melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and osmolality are used by medical providers to evaluate factors in the cascade of events that occur via inflammatory pathways elicited by mold biotoxin exposure.

Moving Away from Fungus

Although mold spores are everywhere, individuals that work or live in water-damaged environments can be particularly affected by mold toxins. In her book, TOX-Sick: From Toxic to Not Sick, author and wellness spokesperson Suzanne Somers includes a first hand account by her husband, Alan Hamel, of the effects of mold acquired by moving to a home that had an unfinished section below the house that contained standing water. The problem required consultation with and treatment by two progressive physicians and eventual relocation.

Other than moving, environmental solutions include air quality testing, detecting and repairing leaks and dripping spouts, dehumidification, disinfection of areas in which mold can grow such as bathroom surfaces, and installation of air purifiers.

Flushing the nasal passages with distilled water, saline, or a nasal wash enhanced with such beneficial ingredients as wild indigo, grapefruit seed extract, or oregano is helpful to remove potential irritants and lower the fungal load. This therapy has improved the lives of many individuals who have found little in the way of effective, readily available treatment for the condition.

The Bottom Line

The fungus may be among us for good, but progress has been made in the detection of one's own susceptibility to fungal-related illness and in symptomatic therapy.

Next time you or a loved one is faced with unexplained symptoms, the possibility of mold-related illness might be worth investigating as one of many possible contributing factors.

References:

  1. Maertens J et al. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2001 Mar;10(1):56-62.
  2. Available at: http://www.survivingmold.com/diagnosis/lab-tests. Accessed May 5, 2016.

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