Urine and Testing for Mold Toxins
By: BioDesign Wellness Center Staff
March 24, 2020 | Category: MoldRequest A Call From Us
While there’s little doubt about what takes priority right now — the virus named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — there are other threats to your health to be aware of and diligent about. Here in Tampa, it’s just a fact of life that mold is very common in our homes and commercial buildings. And as many of us know by now, exposure to moldy and damp environments can cause a variety of health problems.
If you’ve researched toxic mold, you know it can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or bloating
- Chronic burning in the throat and nasal passages
- Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disorientation and/or dizziness
- Eye irritation or tearing of the eyes
- Fatigue and weakness
- Headache and/or light sensitivity
- Hearing loss
- Heightened sensitivity to chemicals and foods
- Increased urinary frequency or increased thirst
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of balance
- Morning stiffness and/or joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Poor memory, difficulty finding words
- Skin rashes
- Sleep problems
- Slower reaction time
- Static shocks or metallic taste in the mouth
- Unusual skin sensations, tingling, and numbness
- Vision changes
Unfortunately, these same symptoms can be attributed to a host of underlying health conditions and are commonly used to support vague, unhelpful diagnoses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and depression — what we refer to as “waste-basket diagnoses.”
Taking a Test-First Approach
At BioDesign Wellness Center, we take a functional medicine approach to diagnosing and treating patients — we test first. When someone comes to us exhibiting a cluster of symptoms and a medical history that leads us to suspect the possibility of toxic mold, we order a lab test to confirm or rule out mold and to identify other factors that may be causing or contributing to symptoms. We want to know the root cause, so we can go beyond chasing symptoms or illnesses to restore optimum health.
When we suspect toxic mold, the test we order is the MycoTOX Profile, which checks for the presence and concentrations of mycotoxins in urine. Mycotoxins are harmful substances produced and released by certain fungi, which commonly infest homes, commercial buildings, vehicles, and foods. Most mycotoxin exposures are airborne or foodborne, and most of the cases we see here in Tampa can be traced to airborne mycotoxins in water-damaged buildings (WDBs), where fungi grow on walls (including inner walls), wallpaper, insulation, ceiling tiles, drywall, and other building materials.
Identifying the Main Culprits
The four mold (fungi) that produce the mycotoxins we are most concerned about are Aspergillus (ass-per-jill-us), Penicillium (pen-ih-sill-ee-um), Stachybotrys (stack-ih-bah-tris), and Fusarium (fyoo-zair-ee-um).
A short introduction and overview of each of these main culprits appears below:
Aspergillus is the most prevalent of the four main culprits and is responsible for billions of dollars of damage each year to crops and livestock. Aflatoxin and ochratoxin are two of the most common aspergillus mycotoxins — they primarily target the liver. These mycotoxins are commonly found in certain crops, including corn, cotton, millet, peanuts, rice, sunflower seeds, wheat, and various spices, and in eggs, milk, and meat from animals fed contaminated grains.
Aspergillus fumigatus, a species of this mold, is very common in WDBs. In addition to other mycotoxins, it produces gliotoxin, which suppresses the immune system, allowing the fungi to thrive in the body. Diseases caused by Aspergillus are called aspergillosis (ass-per-jill-oh-sis). The most common route of infection is through the respiratory system. When the mold colonizes in the lung, it can cause severe asthma.
Patients with compromised immune systems, for example from chemotherapy, are at greater risk of developing aspergillosis. It is most common in people with underlying lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or tuberculosis. For more about Aspergillus and aspergillosis, see our previous post “Living with Mold in Tampa: Part 1 — Recognizing the Warning Signs.”
Over 200 species of Penicillium have been discovered, with Penicillium Chrysogenum being the most common. It is a known contaminant in many different food items, especially citrus fruits but also seeds and grains.
Penicillium is often found in indoor environments (in wallpaper, carpet, furniture, and fiberglass insulation), where it can thrive in low humidity, unlike other molds. Sadly, it is responsible for many allergic reactions.
The most common mycotoxin produced by Penicillium is ochratoxin (OTA), which is nephrotoxic, meaning it damages the kidneys. It is also carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
Stachybotrys is a greenish-black mold that commonly grows on materials with high cellulose and low nitrogen content such as gypsum board, paper, fiberboard, and ceiling tiles. It requires constant moisture to grow.
This mold is known for producing the highly toxic macrocyclic trichothecene mycotoxins, including roridin E and verrucarin. Trichothecenes kill olfactory neurons and may be at least partially responsible for “brain fog” and other cognitive impairments related to mold exposure. (See our previous post “Psychiatric Illness or Moldy Brain” for more information.)
In addition, Stachybotrys produces nine phenylspirodrimanes, as well as cyclosporine, which are potent immunosuppressors. The one-two punch of immunosuppression and toxicity may be why this fungus poses such a formidable threat to human health.
Fusarium is a soil fungus that grows best in temperate climates and is found on many different grains including wheat and corn.
Fusarium’s major mycotoxins are zearalenone (ZEN) and fumonisin, which can cause abdominal distress, malaise, diarrhea, vomiting, and even death. Fumonisin induces neuronal degeneration in the cerebral cortex — the part of the brain responsible for executive function. People who experience signs of cerebral cortex degeneration may ask the same or similar questions repeatedly, utter whatever it is that they are thinking, have difficulties making decisions and solving problems, and may even regularly appear to be irritable of angry. ZEN possesses estrogenic effects and has been implicated in reproductive disorders. Fusarium also releases the mycotoxin T-2, which indiscriminately kills normal brain cells.
A Simple Test
If you or someone in your family is experiencing any of the symptoms described at the beginning of the post and has not yet received a satisfactory explanation and effective treatment, we strongly encourage you to get tested. The MycoTOX Profile is a simple, non-invasive urine test for adults and children that can quickly identify and gauge the level of any mycotoxin exposure.
After reviewing the results, you will know for certain whether mold is or is not the root cause of symptoms. If the root cause is mold, we can refer you to a reputable mold remediation service to have your home or building tested and help you decide the best course of action to reduce or eliminate your exposure moving forward. We can also order additional lab tests to identify any dysfunction or deficiencies in your body that need to be addressed to help your body detox, so you can start to feel better as soon as possible.
Urine’s role in testing for mold
You may be wondering, “If mold is everywhere, won’t everyone have mold in their urine?” While it turns out that mold is in fact everywhere — inside and outside; in homes, schools, and workplaces; and even in and on many foods. However, if your exposure to mold is from outside, the concentration of mold in your system isn’t likely to be an issue. On the other hand, if you’re living and breathing in an enclosed home, school, or workplace where mold is growing, you’re likely to have elevated levels of mold toxins that may be negatively impacting your health. (Some people also have a genetic inability to detox mold toxins, which we can test for and treat.)
While we are all exposed to mold and mold toxins — and are likely to test positive for the presence of mycotoxins in our urine — the MycoTOX Profile accounts for “normal” levels of exposure. If concentrations exceed the expected or “normal” levels, and you have symptoms of mold-related illness, mycotoxins are the likely cause, and treatment is recommended.
To read a case study of one of our patients who is successfully recovering from mold toxicity, check out “Meet the Patient: Case Study on Migraines and Environmental Acquired Illness.” To schedule an appointment or to consult with one of our physicians about your symptoms and get tested for mold toxicity, call Lori, our customer experience manager, at (813) 445-7770.
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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about testing for mold toxins is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.