The Mold Microbiome Connection — How to Create a Healthy Home

The Mold Microbiome Connection -- A Guide to Creating a Healthy Home

Learn about the mold microbiome connection: Chronic exposure to mold and mycotoxins can cause fatigue, depression, brain fog, sugar cravings, and muscle weakness.

What Is the Mold Microbiome Connection?

Let’s talk about the mold microbiome connection. But first, I want to point out that a recurring theme of our blogs is the idea that to get healthy we should stop chasing sickness and start pursuing health. This idea can be extended to our environment. Before I dive too deep into a discussion of the mold microbiome connection, I want to explain what I mean.

For one thing, we would all do well to take active steps to spend more time in natural environments. Humans evolved to live in nature, not in closed buildings. Today, most people spend more than 90% of their time inside buildings and cars. We’ve replaced trees, singing birds, and rivers with asphalt, sun-blotting office buildings, and pollution-spewing vehicles.

This modern-day reality is problematic for a number of reasons, one of which is that we’ve lost contact with some microorganisms that co-evolved with humans for millions of years. Getting back to nature doesn’t require major expeditions into the wild. Try going for a jog in the park, doing some gardening, or visiting an arboretum. Spending more time in natural environments will clear your head and improve your mood. It may also help you reconnect with some old microbial friends.

The Mold Microbiome in Your Home

Think about all the time you spend indoors. Like you, your home also has a microbiome. The microbial communities found in modern buildings (and the microbially produced compounds that result) have an impact on your health. This impact can be adverse, as in the case of mold and mycotoxins. Some experts have argued that as many as 50% of buildings may be contaminated with toxic mold.

This mold microbiome connection can be pretty serious. Chronic exposure to mold-produced mycotoxins can lead to a number of health issues, including chronic fatigue, depression, brain fog, sugar cravings, low libido, and muscle weakness. Mold isn’t the only problem. Modern buildings have become habitats for unusual strains of bacteria, some of which synthesize toxic molecules that we can’t inactivate.

Sick Building Syndrome

Many people spend a lot of money and time trying to remediate houses with sick building syndrome, which involves a feeling of ill health that people can experience in a building. In chasing the sickness in their environment, it’s no surprise that people often try to create a clean, sterile condition. Such an environment is not only impossible on a practical basis, but it may also be wrongheaded for optimal health.

A healthy environment includes microbial diversity that our systems can cope with through evolution. (That means you don’t necessarily have to sell your city apartment and move to a farm.) Some ways to improve your home’s microbiome are to situate plants around your house, replace harsh cleaning products with natural alternatives, and open your windows to bring natural light and fresh air inside.

Houseplants and Your Home’s Microbiome

Houseplants can make your house healthier. And like humans, all plants have their own unique microbial cloud. Plants help detoxify harmful substances found in the air in your home. Plants may also add diversity to your home’s microbiome.

A paper published in Frontiers in Microbiology had the following to say about the beneficial effects of plant-associated microbes on indoor microbiomes and human health: “A reduction in microbial diversity is well known to facilitate dominant proliferations of certain strains, which might bear the risk to have a negative effect toward our health. To increase microbial diversity in an indoor environment we could … use potted houseplants in built environments as a source of microbial biodiversity and possibly beneficial microorganisms.” So which houseplants should you welcome into your home? NASA did a landmark study 25 years ago on the best plants for clean air. NASA’s list is a good start.

So should you remediate mold? Absolutely. But in this discussion of the mold microbiome connection, I’d rather that you focused on your home’s microbiome. Go beyond focusing on eliminating the sickness, strive to create a full-spectrum healthy environment. Promote a healthy microbiome. Design your environment to include good fresh air circulation and natural light. Incorporate natural air filters like plants into your plan.

You’ll be doing more than focusing on your home’s microbiome — you’ll be optimizing your health and the health of your home.

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