Allergies and The Impact of Mould on our Health

Written March 2018 by Phoebe Wynne-Lewis, BHSc, Dip Nat Med, Dip Herb Med – FxMed Technical Support

Allergic reactions are hyperactive responses of the immune system to generally innocuous substances – such as plant pollen, dust mites, moulds, insect stings or food.

Food Allergies

A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to food. This typically occurs within minutes to several hours of exposure. Symptoms may include red eyes, an itchy rash, sneezing, a runny nose, shortness of breath, or swelling. When the symptoms are severe, it is known as anaphylaxis. Food intolerances and food poisoning are separate conditions. While any food can cause an adverse reaction, eight types of food account for about ninety percent of all reactions: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.

IgE

IgE antibody production is an ‘immediate’, hypersensitivity reaction to specific foods. These reactions generally occur within minutes of eating a reactive food. Symptoms may include swelling or itching of the throat, eyelids, face, mouth or tongue; hives, atopic dermatitis, nasal congestion, wheezing or asthma, bloating, stomach, abdominal pain or abrupt diarrhoea.

IgG

IgG antibody responses are a ‘delayed’ reaction and produced after a secondary response to an antigen. It may take several hours or days for a reaction to occur and it can persist for weeks. IgG is the most common cause of an adverse reaction to food and may be implicated in many conditions including arthritis, asthma, eczema, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, headaches, sinus conditions and low energy.

IgA

IgA is the immunoglobulin found in mucous membranes. IgA antibodies to specific foods may form when the mucous membranes of the GI tract become inflamed or damaged due to stress, alcohol, medications or inflammatory conditions. IgA levels are often involved in autoimmune pathology. People with IBD (such as crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) or those with suspected leaky gut may benefit from testing IgA food reactions.

Food allergies involve two features of the human immune response.
One is the production of immunoglobulins IgE, IgG and IgA- types of proteins called antibodies that circulate through the blood.
The other is the mast cell, a specific cell that occurs in all body tissues but is especially common in areas of the body that are typical sites of allergic reactions, including the nose and throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract.

The ability to form anti bodies against something as benign as food may be due to an inherited predisposition. Often, people who experience allergies come from families in which allergies are common – not necessarily food allergies but maybe hay fever, asthma, or hives. Someone with two allergic parents is more likely to develop food allergies than someone with one allergic parent.

Before an allergic reaction can occur, a person who is predisposed to form IgE antibodies, for example to foods, first has to be exposed to the food. As this food is digested, it triggers certain cells to produce IgE in large amounts. The IgE is then released and attaches to the surface of mast cells. The next time the person eats that food, it interacts with specific IgE on the surface of the mast cells and triggers the cells to release chemicals such as histamine.

Depending upon the tissue in which they are released, these chemicals will cause a person to have various food allergy symptoms. If the mast cells release chemicals in the ears, nose, and throat, a person may feel an itching in the mouth and may have trouble breathing or swallowing. If the affected mast cells are in the GI tract, the person may have abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhoea. The chemicals released by skin mast cells can prompt hives.

How to avoid Food Allergens

Eliminating or reducing offending foods from the diet is harder than it sounds- food rotation may be suitable for foods that cause a milder response

  • Read all product labels carefully before purchasing and consuming any item.
  • Home cooking is best – you know what you’re putting in.
  • Be aware of unexpected sources of allergens, such as the ingredients.
  • If you are FxMed Practitioner account holder we have Patient handouts for Dairy Allergy / Egg Allergy / Wheat Allergy – Available on request.

ENVIRONMENTAL ALLERGIES

  • Common sources of allergens include pollution, pollens, dust, mould spores, animal dander and perfumes.
  • Inhalant allergies generally result in symptoms that affect the respiratory system.
  • Symptoms can range from very mild to debilitating, depending on an individuals’ health, the number and volume of allergens a person is exposed to, and other factors that affect the severity of a reaction.
  • A mild environmental allergic reaction might include sneezing or a runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, headache, hives, diarrhoea or nausea.
  • A more severe reaction could include extreme difficulty in breathing, with compromised lung function or intense pressure causing significant pain and inability to function normally.

Reduce exposure to Allergy Triggers

Pollen/Grasses

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
  • Check pollen forecasts and current pollen levels for your region on metservice.com
  • If high pollen counts are forecast, begin allergy support supplements before your symptoms start.
    Avoid hanging laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
  • Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
  • If you use a heat pump / air conditioner, regularly clean the filters.
  • Drive with the windows up and the air conditioning on ‘recycle’.

Dust

  • Consider replacing carpets with flooring options such as linoleum or tiles.
  • In bedrooms, make sure that all bedding is washed at least weekly and put allergy-grade covers on mattresses and pillows.
  • Use a high-quality vacuum cleaner with a filter. Furnishings such as couches or curtains need to be vacuumed in addition to your floors.

Animal Dander

  • Keep pets away from the bedroom of the affected individual.
  • Regularly vacuum of the environment.
  • Frequent bathing of the pet (if appropriate for the type of animal) may improve the environment.

MOULD

Mould spores are a common inhaled allergen for many. Mould is a part of the fungus family and the spores can easily become airborne, unfortunately leading them to our nasal passages. Mould spores produce toxic chemicals called Mycotoxins, which are released into the environment and can infest buildings, vehicles and foodstuffs.

Moulds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, provided moisture and oxygen are present. There is no way to eliminate all mould and mould spores from your indoor environment; the only way to control indoor mould growth is to control moisture.

The most common indoor places for mould to take hold are damp areas, such as:

  • Bathrooms and kitchens, especially under sinks—particularly leaky ones.
  • Behind or under appliances that hide slow plumbing leaks (refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.).
  • Roof leaks.
  • Around windows where condensation collects.
  • High humidity areas of your home.

Disorders and Symptoms Associated with Exposure to Mycotoxins

Toxic mould releases biotoxins into the body that can alter the entire functionality of body systems including immune, endocrine, dermal, nervous and respiratory. Most mycotoxins are actually classified as Immune suppressors and nervous system inhibitors. When the above systems are weakened it opens the door to opportunisitc pathogens like: candida, bacteria (eg SIBO), parasites and viruses.

Diseases and symptoms linked to mycotoxin exposure include fever, pneumonia-like symptoms, heart disease, rheumatic disease, asthma, sinusitis, cancer, memory loss, vision loss, chronic fatigue, skin rashes, depression, ADHD, anxiety, and liver damage.

Recommendations for Treatment of Mycotoxins

Recovering from a mould-induced illness requires a holistic approach. Many primary care practitioners are restricted to using steroids and antifungal medications, which may have an impact on the liver. If you or a patient has done a mould test and the results show moderate to high levels of mycotoxins there are steps you can take to help the body eliminate the toxins and prevent future exposures.

Eliminate or Reduce exposure to Mould

  • The source of the toxin must be determined and the mould eliminated. Mould spores will not grow in the absence of moisture, so controlling moisture is the key to preventing mould growth recurring.

Bind the toxins and prepare elimination from the body

  • Specific nutrients including plant fibers have the ability to collect toxins and escort them out of the body via the stool. Fiber increases the transit time of toxins through the intestines, binding these substances and lessening their contact time with the intestinal wall.

Liver Support/Detoxification

  • Detoxification of mycotoxins occurs through the liver, gall bladder and kidneys. Botanical and nutrient support will assist and strengthen both phases of liver detoxification.

Reset/Rebalance the immune system

  • Mould toxins have a tendency to inhibit the immune system in an effort to prevent detection. Over time, those with chronic mould exposure have inefficient immune systems and low grade bacterial and/or viral infections that remain undetected, contributing to chronic fatigue and other symptoms.
Recommendations for Treatment of Mycotoxins

HPA Axis Support

  • Those with chronic mould exposure may have inefficient immune systems and impaired HPA Axis function contributing to chronic fatigue and other symptoms.

Energy Production/Mitochondrial Function

  • Mycotoxins have the ability to bind to DNA and RNA, alter protein synthesis and act as potent mitochondrial toxins, affecting mitochondrial function and ATP production.

Gastro Intestinal Support

  • GI support is required to help repair the damaged intestinal lining and leaky cell membranes that may result from mycotoxin exposure. Nutrients such as glutamine will improve GI health by providing fuel to the intestines to rebuild and repair and improve cellular detoxification. Probiotics aid repopulating your GI tract with beneficial bacteria and help keep other organisms (like mould and yeast) in check.

Anti Inflammatory Support

  • Chronic inflammation is the underlying commonality in diseases caused by mould and other fungi. The toxins produced by these microorganisms cause our innate immune system to respond to the foreign antigens, resulting in inflammation.

Anti Viral/Bacterial Support

  • Microbes exist in communities. Bacterial infections/viruses may surround themselves with other microbes including mould.

Cognitive Support

  • Neurological symptoms are commonly seen with mould toxicity as fungal toxins can affect our brain. There are specific nutrients to reduce the free radical inflammation in the cells that surround and support the brain cells.

Antioxidant/Nrf2 Restorative

  • Mycotoxins create oxidative stress. A major mechanism in the cellular defense against oxidative stress is activation of the Nrf2-antioxidant signalling pathway, involved in detoxification.
Dietary recommendations (short-term to support elimination and recovery)
  • Follow a strict ‘Mould Detox Diet’ and avoid foods that fuel fungal growth—i.e. junk foods, processed foods, takeaways, left overs, foods containing sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, grains and yeast, edible fungi such as mushrooms, peanuts, beans, cheese, fruit (high in sugar), processed meat, starchy vegetables (corn and root vegetables) coffee, tea, alcohol, fruit juices and soft drinks. Be careful with fermented foods (i.e. tofu, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, miso, coconut kefir).
  • Do eat: high fibre / low starch vegetables, un-processed meat, fish, eggs.
  • Increase antioxidant and anti inflammatory rich foods.
  • Increase water intake (filtered/mineralized) – to help flush out organs and prevent dehydration.
  • Support the liver, kidneys, gall bladder, lymph system to detox with raw vegetable juices (fruit juices may be too high in sugar), herb teas.
  • Avoid smoking, drinking or drug use.