Mold is a type of fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. When the spores make their way into the air, they can be ingested. For some people, inhaling mold spores won’t elicit any sort of response. It’s unclear why mold affects some more than others, but those living with a weakened immune system, respiratory illness, allergies, or asthma can all experience negative health effects from exposure to mold spores.
The health effects caused by mold growth occur because of the organic compounds it releases into the air, including allergens, irritants and mycotoxins. In areas where excessive moisture and dampness is an issue, the number of irritants released through an overgrowth of mold can increase, leading to further exposure and possible side effects.
So, what are the ways mold can influence immune response? Immune function is compromised by overexposure to mold in several ways:
- The disruption of proper cytokine production
- Mast cell activation
- Eliciting an allergic reaction within the body, leading to further illness
How does mold affect your immune system?
When mold spores enter the body as pathogens, they can play a direct role in how well the immune system functions. A specific type of mycotoxin, macrocyclic trichothecenes, has been shown to elicit changes in both the inflammatory and immune responses.
In cases of chronic or prolonged exposure to mold, studies have shown that changes in cytokine production can occur. Cytokines are responsible for certain cell signaling functions and are vital when it comes to immune cell growth. When the production of these small proteins is thrown off, the immune system will not function as it should.
Mold and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
Mast cells are found in bone marrow and around blood vessels. They play a key role in the function of the immune system. When the cells become activated at the wrong times and release improper amounts of the substances inside them, it can lead to mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS).
When mold is present in the body, mast cells release chemicals designed to attack and eliminate the pathogen. This can lead to extended inflammation if exposure is continuous. When the body is inflamed in response to mold exposure, unwanted symptoms and side effects can occur, and the immune system can be weakened.
What are the symptoms of aspergillosis (allergic reaction to mold)?
The symptoms of an aspergillosis infection will vary depending on the type and the severity of the infection. In the case of a mild pulmonary infection, symptoms include:
- Coughing with mucus or blood
- Chest pain and difficulty breathing
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis will present with similar symptoms, along with increased mucus levels and a new or worsening case of asthma.
In invasive aspergillosis, the symptoms are more severe and may require prompt medical attention. They include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Kidney or liver failure
- Bloody cough
- Bleeding from the lungs
During this type of infection, the immune system is tasked to work harder even while production of cytokines is disrupted, making it harder for the body to fight off the infection.
Can mold weaken your immune system?
In some instances, mold can lead to the body’s decreased ability to fight off infection by causing a disruption in the proper cytokine production. This can lead to a weakened immune system overall, especially if there is chronic exposure.
In people with already compromised immune function, mold has been shown to have an even more detrimental effect, leading to:
- Allergic reactions with itchy eyes, nose, and throat
- Respiratory illness
- Fungal infections
Not all people who are at risk of exposure to mold will develop symptoms of mold toxicity. In fact, some people won’t develop any adverse effects at all. It’s thought that people who already suffer from a related condition will feel the effects more heavily than those who do not.
Can you grow mold in your lungs?
In people with healthy lungs, the risk of mold growth is low. When a person suffers from lung disorders or damage, though, it can be the perfect breeding ground for inhaled mold spores to colonize, or grow, inside pockets or other abnormal spaces inside the lungs.
Diseases leading to cavities that are perfect breeding grounds for mold spores include:
When they reach the lungs, fibers from mold spores can combine themselves with other cells in the body, including white blood cells and blood clots. If this does happen to occur, the fungal ball is referred to as pulmonary aspergillosis.
There are other types of aspergillosis that affect different parts of the body. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis affects the lungs and elicits an allergic reaction within the body. Invasive aspergillosis is a serious medical condition that occurs when a mold infection makes its way into the bloodstream and infects other organs.
How to detox your body from mold
There are products you can use to detox your body and help return yourself to optimal health after overgrowth of or exposure to mold. They include:
- Probiotics. Probiotics can attack mycotoxins created by mold.
- Activated charcoal. Studies have shown that capsules of activated charcoal have a detoxification effect and can help flush toxins out of the body.
- Bentonite clay. Bentonite clay has the ability to bind mold toxins and flush them from the body.
Not everyone exposed to mold will experience negative health effects, but if you are experiencing symptoms and suspect that you have been exposed to mold, it’s best to call your doctor to be sure.