The body’s immune system is a highly integrated and influential regulator of wellness. As such, disruption of the immune system can result in widespread dysfunction and the development of serious health issues. One of particular note is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. There are many contributing factors of Hashimoto’s but a frequently overlooked one is exposure to molds.
Experts state that exposure to molds can disrupt immune function thereby increasing the risk of Hashimoto’s. Being familiar with the connection between mold and Hashimoto’s may help you better identify and resolve autoimmune thyroid issues.
Understanding Toxic and Non-toxic Molds
Mold has earned a certain reputation. Many believe mold is entirely harmful with no redeeming qualities. However, it is important to note that not every member in the mold family is dangerous. Many molds are beneficial as nutrient-rich foods and for use in various pharmaceutical applications. That being said, some molds are highly damaging and toxic.
Toxigenic molds produce harmful metabolites called mycotoxins. Exposure to these toxins is associated with neurological dysfunction, immune malfunction, chronic inflammation, and even life-threatening conditions. Unfortunately, many individuals unwittingly come into contact with these toxins on a daily basis. Worse still, studies suggest that exposure to mycotoxins may increase the risk of autoimmune disorders including Hashimoto’s.
An Introduction to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune thyroid disorder wherein the body’s immune system wrongfully identifies healthy thyroid tissue as a threat. It then releases antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. The result of this misguided assault is irreparable thyroid damage that facilitates the development of hypothyroidism. This is accompanied by symptoms such as weight gain, depression, difficulty thinking clearly, endless fatigue, and others – get a full list of thyroid disease symptoms here.
Hashimoto’s may also trigger symptoms more consistent with hyperthyroidism. When thyroid tissue is destroyed it releases the thyroid hormones it previously contained all at once. This surge of thyroid hormone triggers a temporary hastening of bodily function that may cause symptoms such as anxiety, jitteriness, sweating, and difficulty focusing. The occurrence of these inconsistent hyperthyroid-like symptoms is known as Hashitoxicosis.
The Connection Between Mold and Hashimoto’s
Exposure to substances that the body is not equipped to manage can put stress on the gastrointestinal tract and immune system. If sustained, this stress can trigger dysfunction and subsequent autoimmune disorders. A common but often overlooked autoimmune stressor is mold. However, mold does more than place strain on the immune system. Studies suggest that exposure to mold can contribute to the development of Hashimoto’s through multiple mechanisms.
Exposure to common molds such as Aspergillus may encourage thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) in those suffering from immunosuppression. One study found that as much as 20 percent of the test participants affected by mold-related illness had thyroids infected with Aspergillus mold. Chronic inflammation of the thyroid facilitated by such an infection encourages Hashimoto’s development.
Encouraging Leaky Gut
Mold infections of the sinus may contribute to leaky gut and subsequent Hashimoto’s. Sinus infections often travel to the gut where they may contribute to intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut generated from mold exposure is recognized as a powerful contributor to autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s.
Increasing Immune Sensitivity
Mycotoxins, such as those released by toxigenic molds, are able to pass through and damage the blood-brain barrier. This can disrupt neurological function while also encouraging the development of new sensitivities and allergies. Greater sensitivity means increased immune activity and stress. As the immune system becomes increasingly taxed, the risk of autoimmune disease also increases.
Testing for Mold in Your Environment and Body
Resolving mold-related autoimmune dysfunction requires thorough examination of both your environment and your body.
Molds and their spores can be difficult or virtually impossible to identify with the naked eye. Therefore, it may be beneficial to enlist the aid of an expert who is equipped to test air quality and common mold habitats. You may also consider a home testing kit. This method allows you to gather and send out samples and receive results directly.
Comprehensive testing for mold in the body requires multiple tests. Ideally, testing includes areas prone to mold infection such as the intestines, sinuses, and thyroid. Depending on the type of test, stool, urine, or blood samples may be screened for signs of mold. Regardless of the test results, treatment of mold in the body should always involve reducing exposure to it.
Limiting Mold Exposure
Even if you don’t identify a mold issue in your immediate environment, it may be worthwhile to employ healthy mold managing techniques. Below are some effective ways of reducing your mold exposure in your home and elsewhere:
- Eliminate uncontrolled sources of moisture such as leaks
- Facilitate better airflow by eliminating clutter and giving enough space for air to pass around furniture
- Invest in a high-quality air filter to eliminate airborne molds and allergens
- Regularly clean duct work, at minimum every two years
- Replace cardboard boxes with plastic containers
- Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below 40 percent
If mold is present in your home or workplace it is almost assured that you are exposed to mold on a regular basis. You can help reduce your exposure to molds by removing or cleaning the following mold-prone areas:
- Cardboard boxes
- HVAC filters
- Under sinks
- Washing machines
- Water pipes
- Any moist or poorly ventilated areas
Although mold in our environment is a major source of exposure, a great deal of mold is actually introduced to the body via the foods we eat. Therefore, making dietary improvements can significantly reduce mold exposure. Many commonly consumed foods can carry difficult-to-sense molds that can be mistakenly consumed. If you want to limit your mold exposure, consider reducing intake or entirely eliminating the following foods from your diet:
- Aged cheeses
- Dried fruits
- Over-ripened produce
- Processed meats
- Tomato products
- Wine vinegar
Combat Thyroid Disease by Doing Away with Mold
Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s can have a long-lasting and potentially devastating effect on your health. Although there are many factors involved in the development of this autoimmune thyroid disorder, perhaps one of the most insidious is mold.
Studies suggest that regular exposure to even common molds can contribute to immune dysregulation and the development of Hashimoto’s. Fortunately, by employing mold-managing techniques and appreciating the influence of mold on immune function we can better protect ourselves from potential autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s.
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5. Winzelberg GG, Gore J, Yu D, Vagenakis AG, Braverman LE. “Aspergillus flavus as a cause of thyroiditis in an immunosuppressed host.” Johns Hopkins Med J. 1979 Mar;144(3):90-3.
6. Brewer JH, Thrasher JD, Hooper D. “Chronic illness associated with mold and mycotoxins: is naso-sinus fungal biofilm the culprit?” Toxins (Basel). 2013 Dec 24;6(1):66-80.