Estimates report that at least 50% of American homes have mold in them. This is due to high indoor humidity, water damage and spills: things that are hard to entirely prevent.
So it’s safe to assume that your home may have mold.
Other than an icky appearance, this is a problem because of the health risks associated with mold.
Some mold species are considered toxic. They produce mycotoxins that affect neurologic function and cause respiratory problems. Even mold varieties that are not toxic are still dangerous because they can cause allergic reactions, headaches, skin rashes, hair loss — and even digestive issues.
How Does Mold Lead to Digestive Problems?
Most people are aware that mold exposure affects the respiratory system because the most common way of coming in contact with mold is by inhaling mold spores. You breathe in microscopic mold spores that are carried throughout the air, and they can irritate the nose, sinuses, throat and lungs.
However, a lot of people don’t realize that ingesting mold spores can be just as reactive as breathing it.
When mold spores are ingested, they affect the digestive system by disrupting the delicate balance of enzymes in the stomach and intestines. Ingesting mold can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and an unhealthy gut.
How to Avoid Ingesting Mold?
You would think this is simple enough: don’t eat food that has mold on it. But there’s a little more to it than that.
Yes, moldy foods should be thrown out. You probably need to inspect the rest of your fridge if one food is carry mold, because there’s a good chance that others are, too. Refrigerators are small areas with no ventilation, so mold can spread easily despite the cooler temperatures.
Cooking foods that have mold on them at high heat does kill the mold, but it is still isn’t safe to eat them. Removing the moldy spot is equally risky, as there could be mold on other parts of the food that just isn’t visible yet.
Some foods like cheeses and dried, cured meats are made with mold. These foods generally do not make people sick because the food is produced in a controlled process. You should monitor foods that are made with mold carefully and throw them out if they start to spoil (aka develop unwanted mold).
Dishes and silverware can also carry mold. Monitor your dishes for cracks and chips. These are common areas for mold to grow, and they are nearly impossible to clean. Wooden spoons are also notorious for developing mold because wood is porous and a great food source for mold. Throw out dishes that could harbor mold.
A final — yet less common — way that you may ingest mold is breathing through your mouth. During the day and especially while sleeping, many people breath through their open mouth. This allows dirt, pollen, and even mold spores to get inside your mouth, where they will eventually make it into the digestive tract.
There isn’t a lot you can do stop this, other than making a conscious effort to breathe through your nose while awake and seek treatment for snoring to combat nighttime mouth breathing.
Diagnosing Mold Ingestion
People with healthy immune systems are not at risk of death from eating moldy food, but it can make you sick. Expect symptoms similar to food poisoning, like nausea and vomiting. If you only ingested small amounts of mold, the symptoms may be much milder. The cause of your symptoms may be hard to pinpoint in this case.
To determine if you have accidentally eaten mold, your doctor may do the following things:
- Take a patient history and do a physical examination
- Do blood tests that would reveal a mold infection
- Perform and endoscopy or colonoscopy
For immunocompromised individuals, ingesting mold can be deadly, but for the majority of individuals, mold usually cannot grow in the digestive tract due to the strong enzymes. But it can still make these individuals very ill during the digestion process.
Once it is established that a mold infection is to blame for your illness, the doctor can prescribe the following treatments to get you feeling better faster and reestablish a healthy gut.
Antibiotics – Mold can lead to an infection in the intestinal tract. Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that are causing an infection.
Probiotics – Probiotics are found in foods like yogurt, buttermilk, and sauerkraut. They contain live bacteria (the good ones) that improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the gut. This restores the healthy balance in your digestive system.
Enzymes – Digestive enzymes break down food in your stomach. If the enzyme balance is thrown off due to sickness, disease, or infection, it can prevent proper digestion and absorption of necessary vitamins and minerals.
Mold Inspections Reduce Risk
The purpose of a mold inspection is to ensure that there are safe levels of mold in your home. Some mold is normal because there are so many ways it can enter your home, but when mold levels get out of control, you will start seeing mold colonies form all over your home…and probably in areas you can’t see as well, like the attic, crawl space and under the carpet.
A mold expert from Pure Maintenance of St. Louis will perform an on-site mold inspection to determine if there are harmful or excessive levels of mold in your home.
The inspector will also evaluate your home for ideal mold conditions and help you cultivate an atmosphere that is less inviting for mold throughout your home.