By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas
Mycotoxins are the toxins produced by some species of mold, and they are some of the most toxic substances in existence, and health problems due to exposure to mold are far more common than most people realize. In this article, I will explain why mycotoxin contamination, and mold-related illnesses have become an epidemic health crisis and why glutathione is the essential agent for the prevention and treatment of mold-related diseases.
Mold-The Silent Epidemic: According to mold expert Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, illnesses resulting from exposure to mold and mycotoxins have become a “silent epidemic.”i In an interview for the documentary film MOLDY, pediatrician Scott McMahon, MD, who specializes in treating patients with mold-related illnesses, stated, “Possibly every doctor in the United States is treating mold illness, and they just don’t realize it.”ii
History: Molds, and mold growth occur naturally throughout the world. They are an important part of nature’s recycling process as they decompose organic matter such as leaves and dead trees. However, over the past century, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of health problems due to mold exposure. The unprecedented growth in the rate of mold-related illnesses is primarily due to the following two conditions: a) mold-contaminated food, which negatively affects human health due to inferior methods of food handling and storage and b) mold exposure in water-damaged buildings.
Ingestion of Mycotoxins: One of the most common modes of mycotoxin exposure is ingestion of mold-contaminated food due to improper procedures during harvest or storage, causing adverse health effects. The foods that most commonly contain mycotoxins are grains (wheat, barley, rye, and rice), peanuts and pistachios, corn, dried fruits, hard cheeses, spices, coffee beans, and alcohol. Food contaminated with mold is a huge global health problem. It has been estimated that 25% of the world’s food crops are affected by mold.iii
Water-Damaged Buildings (WDB): Leaks in faucets, drains, pipes, toilets, and water heaters and damp places like shower stalls and leaky roofs are common causes of water damage in residential and commercial buildings and schools cause fungal growth. Mold also often exists in the vents and ducts of ventilation systems in homes, schools, offices, and commercial buildings. Thus, inhalation of mold spores and mycotoxins in water-damaged buildings is one of the primary ways people develop mold-related illnesses.iv
Superstorms: In addition to property damage, natural disasters like floods, tornados, and hurricanes cause serious health problems. Superstorms such as Katrina (New Orleans, 2005), Sandy (New Jersey, 2012), and Harvey (Houston, 2017) cause extensive water damage to homes, schools, and workplaces, which result in millions of people being exposed to mold. For example, a post-Katrina study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH) found that 68% of inspected homes had roof damage with water leakage. In comparison, 45.5% of inspected homes had visible mold growth.v
Mold in Schools: Several studies have reported that mold is commonly found in schools. It is alarming to realize that millions of children and their teachers have been regularly exposed to mold just by attending school. A study titled Sick Schools 2009: America’s Continuing Environmental Health Crisis for Children reported that mold spores and mycotoxin contamination in K-12 schools haved had a devastating impact on the health and the ability to learn for tens of millions of American schoolchildren.vi,vii
Invisible Nightmare: Mold spores are microscopic, measuring about 10 to 30 microns. To put this in perspective, about 250,000 mold spores can fit on the head of a pin. They are so light that they can easily float into the air and be transported on air currents or in ventilation systems to other rooms in a house or other offices or rooms in buildings. Even a small patch of mold can release millions of spores, which can easily be inhaled and cause mold-related illnesses.
Mystery Illness: Mycotoxins are brutally toxic. They can cause a wide variety of human and animal health problems at very low levels of exposure (parts per billion/ppb). They cause massive inflammation, oxidative stress, and production of free radicals, which damage cellular DNA, the immune and nervous systems, multiple organs, especially the liver and kidneys. Because mold-related illnesses can cause so many different symptoms, patients often see multiple doctors. They have been misdiagnosed numerous times before finding a physician who is experienced in diagnosing and treating mold-related illnesses.
Glutathione, which is produced in the cells of all living organisms, works in several ways to reduce the harmful effects from exposure to mold and mycotoxins.
Free Radicals: Exposure to mycotoxins causes oxidative stress and the generation of free radicals. Glutathione, which is the most abundant antioxidant in the body, plays an important role in limiting the toxicity from mycotoxins. However, exposure to mold can cause two serious problems with the body’s glutathione system. The free radicals generated by mycotoxins can deplete glutathione levels causing adverse health effects in the body. Simultaneously, the excess oxidative stress and resulting in free radicals inhibit the body’s ability to produce glutathione. Thus, exposure to mold and mycotoxins can virtually annihilate the body’s glutathione defense system, which accelerates damage to tissues and organs throughout the body.viii
Detoxifying Mycotoxins: Glutathione also plays a critical role in detoxifying mycotoxins. This is accomplished by glutathione S-transferases, which are a “superfamily” of glutathione-dependent detoxification enzymes.ix These enzymes play critical roles in the metabolism, detoxification, and excretion of mycotoxins.x Thus, the availability of reduced (active) glutathione and glutathione S-transferase enzymes are critically important in the prevention and treatment of mycotoxin-related illnesses.xi
Glutathione in Mold-Related Illnesses: Clinicians frequently find glutathione deficiency in patients who have been exposed to water-damaged buildings. Consequently, glutathione and glutathione precursors play a central role in treatment protocols for mold-related illnesses.
Reduced glutathione can be administered in several forms, including intravenous, nebulized, transdermal, oral liposomal, and nasal. However, a method rapidly gaining popularity is using a strain of probiotic bacteria named Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, which actively synthesizes glutathione.
Increasing Glutathione Levels: Human clinical trials have shown that individuals ingesting Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 daily for three weeks gained a remarkable 49% increase in the ratio between reduced to oxidized glutathione.xii This research supports a new frontier for patients who are suffering from illnesses due to mold.
Essential Formulas®, Inc. markets lactobacillus fermentum ME-3-containing products under the brand name Reg’Activ®. There are four Reg’Activ products. CardioWellness™, Immune & Vitality™, and Detox & Liver Health™ each contain ME-3 plus supplemental ingredients that support either the immune system, heart health, or liver function. Essential ME-3™ is a newly launched product that only contains Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, without other supplemental ingredients.
Reg’Activ products with ME-3 are available from health food and vitamin stores and online at Amazon.com. Additional information on Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 is available at: https://essentialformulas.com/products/