June 24, 2021
In Part I of this mold series, we discussed some of the issues with mold illness and how to identify a potential mold problem in your home. In Part ll, we will discuss the health implications of mold illness and where it might show up in our food sources.
Mold in the environment can range from being helpful to harmful. This is true in the food world as well. Mold can help to create an array of food products like aged cheeses and fermented foods like buttermilk and yogurt. Mold is also a sign that a food is past its prime. Because mold is nature’s recycler, it will cause food to break down and decay, causing spoilage. Bread, strawberries, tomatoes, and citrus fruits are some of the many foods that are more prone to mold growth. Though this type of mold is typically harmless, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection recommends discarding foods with visible signs of mold growth.
There are hundreds of thousands of different types of mold, of which the vast majority are harmless. The danger from mold mostly occurs with mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins that are produced by certain molds. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that as many as 25% of the world’s crops are affected by mold and mycotoxins. These mycotoxins are associated with molds that grow on specific foods like dried fruits, nuts, grains and coffee. These molds can grow either before or after harvest, while the food is being stored or even after the food has been packaged and is on the shelf. Mold creates multicellular “arms”, or “roots”, called hypha that spread deeply into organic matter, which makes them difficult to eradicate. The most commonly seen mycotoxins in food are aflatoxin, ochratoxin, trichothecene, and zearalenone.
If you are experiencing symptoms of mold illness, like cognitive impairment, poor word finding, confusion, poor concentration, sensitivities to foods and to the environment, a metallic taste in your mouth or excessive thirst, try a mold-free diet and see if it makes you feel any better. Eating mold-free includes avoiding foods that might ‘feed’ the mold like sugar and processed foods (think white bread and packaged foods) as well as the foods that might contain mold and mycotoxins as those listed below:
MOLDS and MYCOTOXINS are found of these foods:
The goal with a mold-free diet is to eat mostly fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and lean meats. Stay grain-free, avoid aged cheese, cured meats like salami, dried fruit and fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. Ensure your coffee is mold-free and take care to rinse and then dehydrate and nuts or seeds. If you feel significantly better on this diet, it might be a sign that mold is an issue for you.
Watch out for our Mold Part III - How to test and treat mold issues!