One of my chief tasks as the Director of Integrative Medicine at Amen Clinics is to work up what we call a “toxic brain” as seen on SPECT imaging. Amen Clinics currently has the largest database of brain SPECT scans in the world, and it affords us a unique view into the functions of the brain. When working up a toxic, or “encephalopathic,” SPECT scan finding, many etiologies need to be considered including toxins, infections, allergies, medications, and head trauma. Near the top of my list of possible culprits of abnormal SPECT scans are infections and toxins, especially Lyme disease and toxic mold exposure.
Mold Could Thrive in Your Home
It is estimated that half of the buildings in the United States may be “WDB”, meaning water damaged buildings. Construction techniques in the United States turn out to be a feast and buffet for mold and fungal organisms. Our homes here are often built of wood and drywall rather than stone or brick as in Europe. Mold and fungi thrive on drywall, wood and other soft materials. Mold thrives in dark and moist environments and doesn’t take much water to get the process going. A small drip from a leaky toilet, shower, or sink is all it takes. Small roof leaks are also common causes. If you see a stain on the ceiling or the wall there is very likely an associated hidden mold growth. This is not the type of mold that you see on the shower wall, but rather it is lurking behind the walls and in air ducts, crawl spaces, and attics, etc.
Mold Exposure Symptoms
The toxin-producing “black mold” Stachybotrys, as well as and other neurotoxic molds, including Aspergillus, Chaetonium, and Wallemia can have a dramatic effect on the brain and behavior. There are 2 main effects of mold exposure: the physical airway irritating effects like allergies, cough and fatigue, and the more concerning effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain. CNS symptoms can include brain fog, inability to concentrate, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, irritability, headache, and confusion. Unfortunately, there is about a 99.9% chance that anyone presenting with these symptoms will never have mold considered as part of the differential diagnosis. It is simply not on the radar screen of the vast majority of physicians. When was the last time your doctor asked you if your home had a water leak? Point made.
Issues in the home are not the only problem; many workplaces are also contaminated with mold, especially older buildings. Schools have been condemned because of mold contamination, office buildings, hotels, and industrial complexes can all be a source of the problem. Many of the government buildings in Washington, DC have been found to have significant mold contamination issues. Our lawmakers in Washington seem to have enough trouble getting things done; the last thing we need is for them to have poorly functioning brains due to toxic mold exposure!