Spring Cleaning Inside and Out: Mold and Dampness

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health & Fitness, holistic remedies, Immune System, Nutritional

A few weeks ago, I discovered black mold in the back of my closet. The radiator in my apartment had been generating a lot of steam that seemed to collect on the walls- almost a humidifier effect. The dark closet had trapped the moisture with no ventilation. By the time I discovered it, it was too late to salvage some of my belongings, which were corroded. Thankfully, I had it taken care of with bleach, mold inhibiting primer, a fresh coat of paint and a dehumidifier that will be running constantly from now on.

The climate had been just right for breeding mold spores: damp and dark, with poor air circulation. As so many Hurricane Sandy victims know, an infested environment quickly becomes nasty- the moist air and the musty odor left on everything around it is pervasive. Mold is a fungus that can grow on almost anything, and it needs water to survive. Once it finds a moist environment, it can live on many types of materials (drywall, bathroom tile grout, fabric, etc.) and can reproduce very easily through its spores.

I noticed once I began excavating the closet that the dust combined with the mold spores stung my lungs and nasal passages. While I wasn’t wheezing, my lungs felt sore when I took a deep breath. The cold damp weather outside didn’t help either and the fact that allergy season is upon us prompted me to share this topic. Mold is classified as a damp-type pathogen in Chinese medicine and has heavy, viscous, turbid, and stagnant properties and is of yin nature. If the conditions are right, it will invade the environment. Many people (myself included) are allergic to mold, which means it sets off an immune reaction in our bodies when we are around it. Some molds are toxic, causing potentially very serious health risks. Symptoms typical of mold exposure include: itchy skin, asthma, nasal or sinus irritation, headaches, etc., and these might worsen if a person has allergies.  Energetically, any damp invasion can cause major upset in the body, leading to further problems such as yeast overgrowth, fatigue, digestive issues, joint pains, rashes, sore throat, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, dizziness and so on.

Acupuncture, herbs and lifestyle changes can alleviate these symptoms and help combat the mold’s effect on health, although the external source of it must be dealt with (fixing leaky pipes, cleaning out humidifiers, ventilating your home, etc). You can have your apartment tested for high mold spore levels if you are concerned about an infestation. But even if you don’t have mold in your home, it is still in the air from outdoor mold spores. Spring brings with it pollen and when combined with outdoor mold spores can exacerbate seasonal allergies. People with weak immune systems are especially susceptible to mold’s harmful effects. In Chinese medicine, clearing dampness and toxins and tonifying the spleen and kidneys are essential when combating the effects of this type of damp invasion. Adopting a detoxifying diet helps- I usually advise patients to avoid sugar, dairy, white flour, processed foods, greasy/fatty foods, alcohol, cold drinks, raw and fermented foods while combating mold and dampness. Barley, amaranth, brown rice, lean protein such as chicken or fish, legumes, and cooked vegetables are just some of the foods that can help.

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