Various factors play a role in human health and wellness. What a person consumes, what they’re exposed to, and how they handle illnesses all determine their overall level of health.
In many cases, people contend with several infections throughout their lives that are mild and leave no lasting impression. In other instances, however, those infections can be severe and cause long-term consequences.
In the case of Lyme disease and mold toxicity, both outcomes are possible. The two conditions, although caused by pathogens, are not the same – but are they connected in any way? Can Lyme cause mold sensitivity? Let’s investigate.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Ticks live in wooded areas, and though not all harbor the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, many do. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease gets into the bloodstream via tick bite and can travel to various areas of the body. The bacteria is also hard to eliminate because it can camp out in tissues and evade detection during antibiotic treatment.
During infection with Lyme disease, a person can experience a wide array of symptoms depending on the area of the body that’s affected. For example, if the bacteria manage to infiltrate joint tissue, a person may experience joint pain and swelling that can last for months or even years following infection. However, early treatment can hinder any permanent damage, so in some cases, a Lyme disease infection can be mild.
What is mold sensitivity?
Mold sensitivity, otherwise known as mold allergy, is an immune response triggered by the presence of mold in the body. When mold spores enter the body, the immune system triggers an allergy response. With this comes symptoms such as asthma, shortness of breath, itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose, and sinus issues.
Typically speaking, mold sensitivity is not an infection but an allergy. It’s similar to allergic reactions to other environmental substances, such as pollen, and not everyone will have a mold sensitivity.
What is mold toxicity?
Mold toxicity isn’t the same as a mold allergy – it’s more of an infection caused by mold spores in the body. The difference is the way the body reacts. An allergy response in the body sets off mold sensitivity symptoms as described above. In contrast, the symptoms of mold toxicity are set off by an inflammatory infection-fighting response in the body. Both conditions are caused by the same fungus, but do not present in the same way.
Mold toxicity can affect the body negatively in the same way that Lyme disease can. The fungus sets up in one part of the body (such as the lungs, the brain, or other organs), then begins causing damage to the cells and tissues in that area. Toxic chemicals within the spores, known as mycotoxins, are the cause of the infection and the symptoms that go along with it.
Is mold toxicity an autoimmune disease?
Mold toxicity is not considered an autoimmune disease. That said, it can trigger the same sort of reaction in the body if exposure occurs over a long period of time. That is because the immune system continually tries to fight off the mold but doesn’t always succeed.
The immune system responds more aggressively when it cannot get rid of the mold, leading to a change in the way the system regulates itself against other types of pathogens. In the process, immune cells tasked with fighting off foreign toxins could end up causing damage to healthy cells and tissues within the body.
Is there a connection between mold sensitivity and Lyme disease?
While mold sensitivity and Lyme disease aren’t obviously connected, the two can correlate more than one might think. Lyme disease cannot cause mold exposure any more than mold exposure can cause Lyme disease. However, when a person experiences both at the same time, it can cause severe health consequences.
There are also similarities present between the two illnesses. For example, mold illness can cause a chronic inflammatory response within the body, leading to a dysregulated immune system. In the same way, Lyme disease symptoms are caused by immune dysregulation. An overabundance of proteins known as pro-inflammatory cytokines also leads to inflammation-driven symptoms.
The two conditions can also trigger the same pathways that cause inflammation, leading to an overactive immune system and health issues stemming from faulty immunity. Lyme disease bacteria and the mycotoxins from mold can stay in the body for prolonged periods, causing chronic inflammation and possibly permanent damage.
Does mold affect Lyme disease?
Since a person with Lyme disease is already suffering from many symptoms and a dysregulated immune system, experiencing mold toxicity at the same time can further hinder their body’s ability to work as it should. Exposure to mold causes the weakening of many vital systems already struggling to perform. The same can be said for those who are experiencing mold toxicity and then get exposed to Lyme disease.
Having either mold toxicity or Lyme disease can also make a person more susceptible to the effects of the other infection. For example, suppose a person is coping with Lyme disease while being constantly exposed to mold. In that case, they are much more likely to experience mold toxicity than those without Lyme disease. The opposite is also true. That is because certain areas, such as the gut, can be severely impacted by Lyme disease, making it easier for mycotoxins to cause damage.
What is the symptom difference between mold and Lyme disease?
Many of the symptoms of Lyme disease and mold toxicity are similar. Both conditions can cause brain fog, digestive issues, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and mental health changes. However, there are some differences in how the symptoms present in both conditions. For example, people with Lyme disease often experience a gradual regression of symptoms after experiencing a mild improvement throughout the illness. On the other hand, mold toxicity is more constant and typically doesn’t improve until treatment is sought.
It can be challenging to tell the difference between exposure to mold and Lyme disease, and one can make the other worse or cause a person to be more susceptible to the other. Seeing a health care provider for any symptoms of mold toxicity and Lyme disease should be done promptly to avoid long-term health consequences.
Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash