If you’ve been battling with mould exposure or a mould-related illness, here are the foods to eat – and the ones to avoid – to speed up your recovery process.
Your typical damp Aussie home is no stranger to mould inhabitation, with some of us struggling year-round with this toxic stuff. But with spring well under way, we’re now moving into the warmer months – and more humidity means more mould. While most of the time, our immune systems can protect us from serious illness, excess exposure to mould – especially black mould – can cause serious illness.
Mould is a fungus which flourishes in damp environments, with the World Health Organisation estimating that nearly 50% of Aussie homes are populated by it. A parliamentary inquiry into mould illness in Australia found that this toxin can cause symptoms like sinus issues, congestion, headaches and a weakened immune system.
But even just a little bit of black mould exposure can cause a range of disconcerting symptoms – take a look at some of the common ones to look out for:
- Sinus congestion
- Skin irritation and rashes
- Watery eyes
- Chest pain and tightness
Nutrition and mould illness
High levels of exposure to mould can deplete our glutathione antioxidant, which is essential to defend against free radicals in the body, along with pollutants and poisons, meaning our immune system is left vulnerable. One of the other major issues with mould is the negative effect it has on our microbiome when we're exposed to it through our walls, floorboards and even in our beds – that’s right, your mattress, bed frame and blankets could be harbouring mould due to the near-constant mingling of humidity and bacteria.
If you’re inhaling a hefty dose of this stuff on the regular, your immunity and microbiome could be taking a hit, and if you’ve recently been unwell due to mould exposure, you’re likely well aware of the gut and mood issues that come with this system dysregulation. Our gut microbiome is a complex structure made up of trillions of bacteria which are essential for our physical and mental health. Research shows a direct connection between our gut health and how often we pick up infections, with one study revealing the gut microbiome regulates the immune response to pathogens – including mould. So here are the foods to avoid and the ones to prioritise if you’re recovering from a mould-related illness or exposure that’s left you feeling under the weather.
Foods to avoid
Peanuts: These are rich in mycotoxins known as aflatoxins and cyclopiazonic acid, which infect peanuts before, and sometimes after, they’re harvested. While most of us can safely digest these in small doses, after a bout of mould illness it’s best to avoid peanuts and peanut products altogether while your immunity is down. Tree nuts like walnuts are the safer choice for recovery. Other mouldy foods to steer clear of:
- Wine: This popular beverage may be full of antioxidants, but if you’re recovering from a mould-related illness, it might be a good idea to steer clear of the red stuff. This is because many commercial brands end up promoting mould populations in their wine during the fermentation process, which can aggravate your symptoms.
- Coffee: This household staple happens to be one of the mouldiest beverages, and while most of us can handle it when we’re in good health, a bout of mould illness can leave our immune system more sensitive than usual. If you’re not you without your coffee, there are a few mould-tested brands that tend to be safer options like Bulletproof coffee, Isagenix and Kicking Horse Coffee.
- Grain-fed meat: A lot of grains that are fed to cattle are contaminated by mould, so for the time being, you may want to take a grain and grain-fed meat hiatus.
Fried foods and sugar: Inflammatory foods like these are best avoided when recovering from mould illness – and just in general! – and this is because these foods further aggravate our already haywire microbiome and immune system. Sugar is an especially insidious offender when it comes to gut dysfunction because excess consumption leads to dangerous changes to the gut bacteria. In fact, research has found that high-sugar diets lower microbial diversity, which then affects our immune response, leaving us open to further issues with mould, along with a whole host of viral and bacterial infections. This is because it creates higher levels of Proteobacteria, which is an indicator of an unbalanced microbiome. So, if you’re gut’s already out of whack, these are the last foods you want to be eating.
Foods to eat instead
Blueberries: Blueberries are excellent sources of antioxidants and they also happen to be rich in immune-boosting nutrients. One of the antioxidants found in blueberries, known as polyphenols, help protect our brain from the damage that the neurotoxins in mould bring – mycotoxins are one of the more common neurotoxins responsible for those brain-fog symptoms like:
- A lack of mental clarity
Plus, these berries also have been proven to increase our lifespans and slow the process of age-related decline in mental and physical health.
Ginger and garlic: These antiviral, antibacterial root vegetables also happen to have antifungal properties – and they also help make a mean stir fry. If you’ve recently suffered from a mould-related illness or are still battling respiratory issues associated with exposure, these are the powerhouses to add to your weekly meal plan. Ginger has been found to be a powerful combatant to a toxic mould known as Fusarium oxysporum – with research showing the root veggie inhibited to growth of this fungus. Plus, ginger is known for its congestion-reducing properties, so if household mould has got your sinuses playing up, gently boil up some ginger tea for some relief. The anti-inflammatory benefits of garlic will also play a role in reducing the swelling around your sinus area, so don’t forget to add some of this stuff to your dinner – or if you can handle it, just go ahead and eat it raw!
Probiotics: Fermented foods will be an integral element of healing an unbalanced microbiome which mould illness causes. One way to get your microbiome back on track is by loading up on probiotics which promote healthy digestion, a strong gut lining and a balanced ratio of good and bad bacteria. This is where fermented foods come in – they are some of the most reliable sources of probiotics, and they happen to be delicious too.
Try getting some of the following into your diet:
- Yoghurt, kefir
- Sauerkraut, kimchi
- Tempeh, miso
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