Funky Fungi: The World We Live In

Funky Fungi: The World We Live In

Asia Muhammad, ND Asia Muhammad, ND
4 minute read

We often turn our nose up at moldy things: your food, walls, or clothes. But what if I told you that mold has been present in our environment for millions of years! Molds are a type of fungus, and fungi are ubiquitous in indoor and outdoor environments.

Did you know that all mold is a fungus but not every fungus is mold?

Fungus includes the following:

  • Yeasts

  • Molds

  • Mildew

  • Mushrooms

  • Plant Rust

  • Truffles

Fungus Is Prevalent in Our Homes, on Our Food, and Within Our Bodies

The word ‘fungi’ itself sounds pungent and funky! But fungi serve a vital role in our environment. Research reveals that fungi have been present on Earth for over 500 million years! The antibiotic penicillin is actually sourced from mold. It was used to save many lives during World War II, and it’s still used to this day for bacterial-related infections.

Yeasts are a common fungus that affects humans. Anyone can suffer from yeast infections due to the overgrowth of Candida. There’s also athlete’s foot, a fungal infection of the feet, and ringworm, a common fungal infection of the skin. Other sources of fungus can be found in food, such as mushrooms. Some mushrooms confer health benefits, some can be deadly, and others are currently being studied for psychedelic properties. Cheeses such as blue cheese and gorgonzola cheese have specific molds to create a unique flavor profile.

While fungi can serve a purpose in our environment or our cuisine, an excess of certain fungi in the body or our environment is problematic. Mold toxicity, in particular, has been associated with disease in humans. So what do we need to watch out for?

Mold and Mycotoxins

Molds are a type of fungus, and mycotoxins are compounds produced by mold. One of the main ways mycotoxins affects our body is through our lungs, if and when we breathe in moldy air.

Many of us have seen mold in our own homes, school, or work. Mold typically grows in moist and damp environments such as basements, bathrooms, attics, roofs, improperly maintained air conditioning units, near windows, and areas of leaking plumbing.

A common saying in the world of mycotoxins is that if you can see the mold, you’re already inhaling the mold. It has a very particular smell, and we can often see black mold in our environments! Excessive exposure to mycotoxins has been associated with lung diseases such as asthma, chronic lung infections, and lung inflammation.

How Much Do Mycotoxins Matter?

Molds and their mycotoxins are very insidious. Toxicologists continually find it challenging to properly classify the relationship between mycotoxin exposure and correlate it to a specific disease, but the correlations are many.

Mycotoxins are typically classified by the organ system they affect. There are liver toxins, kidney toxins, lung toxins, immune toxins, and brain toxins from mold. Studies reveal that mold exposure is associated with lung symptoms such as runny nose, sinus tenderness, and wheezing. Other studies discuss symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, and hoarseness in those chronically exposed to mold environments. Mycotoxins are also associated with cancers of the lung and the liver.

In short: mycotoxins matter a lot. As with many environmental exposures, prevention is key.

Ways to Mitigate Mold and Reduce Exposure

The best way to prevent disease is to reduce exposure. Mold can be so pervasive that I typically recommend working with local remediation experts. Other ways to reduce exposure include:

  • Keep damp areas such as bathrooms and basements dry and clean

  • Consider a humidifier and air purifier for the home

  • Avoid consumption of foods with noticeable molds. Don’t scrape the moldy layer off; discard the entire item.

  • Ensure optimal gut health as some literature demonstrates the role of probiotic strains in binding mycotoxins.

  • Consider working with a practitioner to help you more specifically target mycotoxins.

Bonus: You can also support your gut, lung, and immune health from within. resB Lung Support provides targeted support with a blend of probiotic bacteria strains and herbal extracts. You can learn more at www.resbiotic.com.

This post is part of a four-part series centered around environmental air pollutants and ways to protect your respiratory system. Our next installment will focus on other common and not-so-common environmental pollutants that can affect your lungs. Stay tuned, and stay well!

About the Author

Asia Muhammad, ND, is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and an expert in functional medicine and personalized health. She specializes in gastroenterology, mind-body medicine, and stress management and has received additional training in mind-body therapies. Learn more at asiamuhammad.com or follow Dr. Asia on Instagram.

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