If you have been missing sunshine, you are not alone! Australia’s La Nina event of the last two years is about to enter its third year, according to reports. That means wet conditions will persist. As if it wasn’t enough dealing with unprecedented record-breaking flood events this year, we may have to deal with more – and in colder temperatures. So brace yourself and prepare.
During rainy monsoon-like conditions where humidity is high, mould, (or ‘mold’ as Americans like to spell it), can become a big problem. Mould loves wet, damp and dark conditions. Commonly it grows in bathrooms and other damp areas that aren’t regularly cleaned and aired, but most of the time we are not used to seeing it in other areas of the home – unless there are unusual wet weather conditions producing the humidity in more places than your bathroom!
This means you could be finding mould growing in places you’ve never seen it before. If the humidity level in your home is higher than 60 percent, mould will grow commonly on your walls, in your carpet, in your lounge, in your curtains and clothing – even in your wooden furniture.
If you have rain or ground water that infiltrates the walls you can have rising damp and mould inside the walls that you can’t see, but that can still impact your health silently (or invisibly). The under-roof cavity of your house can also breed mould if there is a slow roof leak that you don’t notice and that leads to dampness in the dark areas. As mould spores can get through the plaster, you could be breathing it in without noticing. If it gets very bad the air starts to smell musty and stale.
Sick Building Syndrome, commonly known as SBS, is a term applied to building structures which promote symptoms like fatigue, respiratory problems, dry coughing, and dermatitis. These structures usually exhibit poor ventilation and/or chemical contamination, which can frequently lead to the growth and spread of black mould.
Mould is a fungus. Some moulds like penicillium (white mould) can be used beneficially to ripen cheeses like brie and camembert, whilst other moulds can be pathogenic. As well as looking horrible, even in small quantities, they can present significant health hazards, especially species like aspergillus flavus or stachybotrys (black mould).
Some people are more sensitive to it than others, such as those that are immunosuppressed and have weaker immune systems. In some cases, the effects of breathing in mould can even lead to death, depending on the severity of the allergic reaction.
How does mould affect your immune system?
In some instances, mould can lead to a decrease in the body’s ability to fight off infection by causing a disruption in white blood cell count with inadequate cytokine production. This can lead to a weakened immune system overall, especially if there is chronic exposure. It may feel like you are just catching every bug that’s going around, or that you are not fully recovering from a long cold or flu.
Mould can affect people in different ways. As the spread of symptoms can be quite general, it’s not easily detected at first. Exposures have been shown to cause symptoms like:
- Allergic reactions with itchy eyes, nose and throat
- Brain fog and lack of concentration
- Sleep disorders
- Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Inflammation and excess mucus
- Respiratory illness
- Fungal infections in toenails and other body parts.
- Persistent skin disorders and rashes
Not all people who are exposed to mould will develop symptoms of mould toxicity. Your ability to deal with and fight off mould spore effects in the body depend on the strength of your immune system and overall health.
Mould spores are invaders that infiltrate organic life forms looking for new food to munch on. If the organism is weak, it’s easy to succumb. Moulds show up more often when an organism is sick, dying, weak, nutritionally deficient – or already dead and needing recycling back into the earth. They are attracted by a lower pH which means there is less life force and the immune system is weak.
Interestingly, moulds and bacteria in the body usually compete. If you have a healthy gut you will have microbial diversity in the bowel which provides competitive balance so that one type of colony doesn’t dominate and grow prolifically. Notice that after you have a course of antibiotics (which kill bacteria), you can have a flare-up in candida overgrowth, as candida is a common fungus found in the body – but it needs to be kept in check by probiotics (beneficial bacteria).
How to clean up and detox from mould exposure
Firstly, if you know you have been exposed to black mould, then clean it up (with gloves and a face mask), or if you have allergies remove yourself from that environment and get a professional cleaner in. Make sure also to clean your air conditioner after every season or if not used for a long period of time. Mould on curtains and furniture can be removed with non-toxic natural cleaners. White vinegar is a cheap and popular choice. Studies have shown it kills over 80% of mould spores. Some people mix in some essential oils that have anti-fungal properties such as tea tree oil, neem oil, clove oil or citric seed oil diluted in water. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or borax diluted in water also work a treat. You will find recipes online.
It may take some time for your body to gradually flush out the remnants of the mould spores and their mycotoxins.
You can flush out some of the mycotoxins produced by mould by taking activated charcoal or Bentonite clay. Studies have shown both of these products are able to attract and bind with the mould toxins, thereby trapping them, and helping the body to flush them out. The clay also donates beneficial trace minerals along the way.
Certain essential oils like oregano, tea tree, melaleuca and clove, or spices like cinnamon, inhibit fungal growth. Raw garlic, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice do the same. Teas like pau d’arco, ginger, olive leaf, tulsi (holy basil), peppermint, lavender, rosemary and turmeric also help to detoxify.
Helping your body to adjust pH upwards out of the acidic and into the alkaline zone will also help to provide more oxygen and electrolyte energy conduction. This gives the immune system a boost. You can add a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (small pinch per litre) to your magnesium drinking water to give it a pH lift. If you have reflux you can add a higher amount of sodium bicarbonate (eg. Half a teaspoon in a glass of water).
Strengthen your immune defence against mould with magnesium
Remember that stress causes excessive excretion of magnesium, so the more stress, the lower the magnesium reserves go. As mould attack is a great stress to the body, it will need a lot more magnesium than normal in order to detox, defend and rebalance.
Magnesium is required for more than 300 essential biochemical reactions in our body, including vital functioning of our immune system. This is because of its essential integration in metabolism and the production of our electrical energy currency – ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – by mitochondria. Magnesium is a virtual power plug you cannot afford to unplug!
Magnesium also supports brain functioning and prevents brain inflammation. It’s been shown to reduce excitotoxicity by protecting neural pathways in the brain, which can help prevent neural disorders. It is the calming mineral that helps us recover from stress, and energises the immune system.
When paired with Vitamin D, magnesium decreases the number of inflammatory proteins and increases anti-inflammatory proteins in the body. It also strengthens the virility of white blood cells, as well as the body’s ability to detect foreign, disease-causing pathogens. This means that you would be less prone to allergic responses or hypersensitivity if magnesium levels are adequate.
One of the quickest ways you can boost your magnesium levels is to apply magnesium in a cream or spray on your skin and massage in. Transdermal magnesium is a powerful way to boost your magnesium levels because it works faster than oral supplements, and is more effective. The most bio-available form of magnesium, which is easily taken up by cell membranes, is magnesium chloride salt. It is already in the right form for cellular uptake when dissolved in water, and requires no further work to digest. Epidermal cells love it even more when lipds are present, which is why Magnesium Cream and Magnesium Charge Lotion are so popular.
As the digestive system can only cope with low concentrations of magnesium, such as what would be in mineral water and foods, higher concentrations, such as the amount you get in an oral magnesium tablet or powder supplement, tend to be mostly excreted, without much passing through the gut wall. They also work like laxatives and can irritate the bowel. They cannot therefore adequately cater for high-end magnesium needs. However transdermal magnesium absorption via the skin is gentler and more potent. As the skin can act as a large reservoir, it can provide a sustained supply over several hours after application. Effects are felt more quickly too.
Soaking in a hot magnesium bath or footsoak does of course stimulate circulation and helps your skin to open up more to magnesium ion absorption too. The skin also excretes toxins in the hot water, which lifts some workload from the liver. But if you don’t have time for a daily soak, you can just massage magnesium into your skin using Elektra Magnesium Cream or Charge Lotion. The better moisturised your skin is, the easier the absorption of magnesium. In other words, the presence of plant lipids greatly enhances the uptake of magnesium salt into the epidermal layer.
Prevention is better than cure
There’s a lot you can do to make sure mould doesn’t grow in your home. The first thing you need to check is the humidity level using a humidity meter. They are available online for as little as $20, ranging up to the hundreds. If the level is over 60 degrees then mould will grow for sure.
Humidity meters can be found online for under $20.
Of course, the humidity level in your bathroom will be higher at times because of the steamy environment, but as long as you put on the exhaust fan in your bathroom for at least 20 minutes after your shower or bath, this will ensure the bathroom dries out. Weather permitting, you could also open the windows to allow cross-draft and airing.
However – it is a good idea to have a squeegee in your shower at all times and use this to wipe down the walls of the shower after each use as this will lower the humidity level much faster. Keep bathroom surfaces as dry as possible.
Dehumidifiers and air purifiers that remove excess moisture and mould spores
If your humidity meter shows that your home has high levels of humidity for extended periods of time, it would be a concern due to a higher risk of having some mould in the carpet, curtains, lounge or walls. Even if the presence of mould is not obvious to your naked eye yet, if the meter is showing high humidity levels, there’s every chance there’s some mould contamination in your home.
The first thing you can do to prevent mould growth is to get a dehumidifier to bring the humidity levels down. Keep in mind that all along the eastern seaboard of Australia there are quite a few months in the summer of high humidity – especially during the monsoon months of February to April. If your home has high humidity levels, getting a dehumidifier will be worth it. It’s therefore best to buy one which is durable and can last the distance.
As well as a dehumidifier, if you have high levels of humidity, it’s probably a good idea to get an air purifier – or two! To start with, you’ll need to clean up any dust on surfaces, windows and walls. It’s worth it to invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which cleans up the mould spores from your floors and carpet.
Once you’ve finished cleaning up, putting on your air purifier for a few hours afterwards can get rid of any extra mould spores and dust you may have stirred up! There are many air purifiers on the market ranging in cost from very little up to in the thousands of dollars. Look for an air purifier which can filter out the mould spores. Not all products have the right filters to do this, so research your options carefully.
Remember that it’s not a perfect world and some amount of mould will keep trying to make its home in your home in order to get a free lunch. Just be persistent with the cleaning, de-humidifying and air purifying strategies, and most especially, arm your immune system with strong nutritional defences such as transdermal magnesium.
Sandy Sanderson © 2022