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That dank smell in a water-damaged basement isn't just unpleasant, it could also lead to major health problems. Toxic mold in your environment can be at the root of all kinds of health issues, from anxiety to arthritis, says Dave Asprey, author of The Bulletproof Diet and producer of the documentary MOLDY.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
We sat down with Asprey to learn why dealing with a mold problem could solve your unexplained health problems.
Rodale News: What diseases or symptoms are associated with mold exposure?
Dave Asprey: People experience symptoms of mold exposure quickly. These symptoms include unexplained weight gain or weight loss, loss of balance, inability to control anger, fatigue, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, rashes, respiratory symptoms, asthma, rashes, joint pain, irregular menstruation, cognitive decline and permanent auto immune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Multiple Sclerosis and even some cases of autism. It is the sheer number of symptoms that confuses people because not everyone gets every symptom. There are studies backing up every one of these.
RN: What is the most surprising health consequence of mold exposure that most people don't know about?
DA: Weight gain and brain fog can happen very quickly after exposure to a water-damaged building, but most people assume these are because they are tired or they ate too much. It's actually inflammation in the brain and the body caused by breathing the mold.
RN: Why haven't we heard more about the negative health effects of mold?
DA: We are only now beginning to understand that mold in the environment can cause your immune system to begin attacking your body, resulting in chronic inflammation with dozens of symptoms. More than one in four people has genes that make them extra susceptible. At the same time, changes in our agricultural practices have caused fungus to create more toxins, and our building practices have caused more mold to grow in our homes.
RN: Is there a difference between food mold and mold in your environment in terms of your health?
DA: Environmental mold is far more dangerous than food mold because inhaling mold gets it much farther into your body, although food molds are also a major cause of illness throughout the world. Different countries regulate food molds differently, and the U.S. has lower standards than many other countries. However, most countries have no standards for interior mold and mycotoxin (mold toxin) levels, even though these cause more symptoms more quickly.
RN: Are doctors good at diagnosing mold exposure?
DA: Physicians are not trained to understand the complex interaction between environmental mold and our genetics. Most doctors are trained to believe that patients exhibiting many symptoms at one time are usually hypochondriacs, yet now we know that mold can trigger dozens of symptoms.
The symptoms are different for different people. It's common for people severely affected by mold to have seen more than a dozen physicians without getting relief. Even greater numbers of people are affected by mold but do not experience symptoms. The toxins from these molds cause cumulative damage and are linked to cancer and other degenerative diseases.
RN: What should people do if they think their symptoms are caused by mold?
DA: If you think your symptoms are caused by mold, find a doctor who treats it in your area (we list some of them on Moldymovie.com) and get tested. You can also get a professional air test of your home to see if it’s in the air. The problem is often invisible, like radon or lead paint, but the symptoms are bigger. You can also run a "free test" by going camping or on vacation for a few days. If you always feel better and your symptoms always improve, that’s a good sign that your home environment (or work environment) is causing problems.
RN: How can people avoid exposure?
DA: Stay away from places that have been flooded, have funny smelling air or visible water damage. Dark spots on ceiling tiles are a sign of a real problem, for instance. And avoid eating foods that are always higher in mold toxins, like peanuts and corn.
RN: What inspired you to create this documentary?
DA: As a young child, I lived in a house with a water-damaged basement and experienced many of the symptoms listed here, including weight gain that led me to be about 300 pounds as a young man and gave me arthritis in my knees when I was 14. It took years for me to understand why sometimes my body worked well and sometimes I felt like a zombie.
I struggled greatly as a child and a young man, and it was because this knowledge about water damage to buildings and toxic mold was simply unavailable. Now the science is solid, but few people know about it. Mold in our environment increases our healthcare costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is largely unheard of in mainstream.
This documentary will help medical professionals recognize the extent of the problem that is far more important than lead paint or asbestos, and it will help parents keep their children safe, and it will help others impacted by mold learn what happened and how to fix it.
Everyone benefits when we make homes, schools and businesses with clean air free of toxic mold, and when we learn the symptoms of exposure so that we can help people who are affected instead of telling them they are crazy, which is what usually happens today.
Watch the trailer for MOLDY:
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