The environment plays a prominent role in overall health. Many facets of the environment can affect how well a person’s body functions and whether or not they experience chronic disease. Air pollution, external toxins, and even mold in the air can make or break one’s health. Mold is a significant contributor to adverse health effects in many people, especially if they’re experiencing mold exposure regularly. But what about psychiatric symptoms of mold toxicity?
While long-term mold exposure can compromise bodily health, the health of the brain and the mind can also be negatively affected. That is because a person can eventually experience mold toxicity when they have been around mold for extended periods. But what is mold toxicity, exactly? And how can it affect mental and neurological health? Read on to learn more.
What is mold toxicity?
Mold toxicity is a form of illness caused by inhaling or being around mold regularly. A type of toxic chemical found in some mold (black mold, for example) is known as a mycotoxin.
When black mold or other harmful mold grows in a person’s environment, such as behind the walls of their home, spores are released into the air. These contain mycotoxins that negatively affect the body. When a person breathes in these spores, and thus the chemical within them, they infiltrate the body and cause an immune reaction.
The immune system attempts to fight off the mold spores, but as they grow within lung cavities and other parts of the body, it becomes harder and harder to do so. When the body cannot get rid of the mold, is function can be disrupted – and when that occurs, damage to cells, DNA, tissues, and organs can ensue.
How does inflammation caused by mold toxicity lead to health issues?
The immune system targets pathogens and eliminates them from the body. In the case of mold exposure, its inflammatory response acts as the first responder to the toxic chemicals in the body, and the area the mold has infiltrated becomes inflamed.
This sets off the rest of the immune system to do its job in fighting off the pathogen. Immune cells are sent to the area that has become inflamed in order to begin the fight. In many cases of mold exposure, the area most affected is the lungs. However, inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body due to mold toxicity, such as the brain.
How does mold affect the brain?
Mycotoxins infiltrate the body in various ways. The most common is inhalation, but they can also be consumed through contaminated food and get in through the skin. Mold gets into the brain through inhalation, typically through the nose and sinuses. Once they are in the body, the toxins can travel to many different areas, wreaking havoc on healthy cells, tissues, and organs.
While not all mycotoxins can get into the brain, several have been shown to be able to cross through the blood-brain barrier. An immunological feature, the blood-brain barrier is part of the central nervous system. It blocks the passage of pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi such as mold from getting into the brain and causing damage. However, the blood-brain barrier cannot block everything from getting through. When a mycotoxin does make its way in, it causes damage to various brain regions.
It’s easy for mycotoxins to cause damage to the brain when they have made it through the blood-brain barrier because of their lipophilic nature. Lipophilic substances combine with or have an easier time moving through fatty tissues – and the brain is primarily composed of fatty materials. This spells disaster for anyone who has experienced prolonged exposure to mold.
What neurological symptoms does mold cause?
When mycotoxins end up within the brain, they cause inflammation. Brain inflammation can lead to various neurological issues because it hinders the brain’s general health and function. The type of neurological symptoms experienced may vary because mold can damage different brain regions responsible for various things.
For example, when the hippocampus becomes damaged by mycotoxins, a person’s learning and memory can be severely compromised. The cerebellum, ventral mesencephalon, and striatum can also all be affected. When the cerebellum becomes damaged, a person may experience issues with balance and movement.
Other neurological symptoms that can develop because of mold toxicity include:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating and problem-solving
- Having a hard time following along in conversation
- Delayed reaction time
- Feelings of internal vibration
- Numbness and tingling in the limbs
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Sharp pain
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Changes to smell or taste
- Ringing in the ears
While all of these symptoms can occur, people with mold toxicity may experience only some of them.
Can mold mess with your mind?
Mental health and brain health are similar, but they are not the same. Mental health deals with psychiatric changes, whereas brain health changes can affect many aspects of the body’s functions.
Along with neurological complaints, people experiencing mold toxicity affecting the brain can also deal with symptoms that affect their mental health. The effects of mold toxicity on psychiatric health stem from the changes the chemical can make to signaling within the brain and the levels of other substances.
Some common psychiatric symptoms that can occur with mold toxicity include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or OCD-like behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Severe psychosis
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Toxic agoraphobia
These symptoms can arise completely anew, or if a person already suffers from one of the conditions, their symptoms can worsen over time due to mold toxicity.
Because of the widespread effects of mold toxicity on neurological and mental health, it’s essential to watch for symptoms of mold exposure. If you notice any, speak to your health care provider to ensure treatment begins promptly.
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