Mold is one of those invisible villains that enters our bodies through our senses, particularly our fingertips, mouths, and nose. It is a type of fungi that can grow inside and out on wet or moist surfaces, and is reproduced by way of tiny microscopic spores. Normally, these spores are not much of an issue until they make contact with a wet surface like a bathtub or wall. If the mold spores contact the sensitive mucous membranes of our respiratory system, it can cause or aggravate severe allergies.

If you feel mold may be invading your home, there are several ways of detecting it. Mold is easily recognizable once it is spotted, because its textures range from velvety, to granular, fuzzy, or leathery. It is also found in many colors- red, black, green, blue, red, yellow, orange as well as white. If you do not immediately recognize it or have it in a place you cannot visibly see it, know that it can have a distinct, musty smell. Mold will often crop up in warm or humid areas of your house, like the bathroom, closets, basements, leaky roofs, pipes, or even in a pot of over watered houseplant. Home Depot sells inexpensive mold plates, each to be used to expose in suspected rooms. Send them to a lab to determine the concentration of mold in each room.

You might be surprised to learn how much mold is in the food we eat as well, in common foods like peanuts, cashews, greens and rooted vegetables, and fruit especially berries and grapes. Peanuts and cashews are especially victims of mold because they are legumes which start out moist and go through a drying process, increasing the likelihood of mold development. Fruits like bananas tend to form brown spots (fermentation), best to only eat yellow bananas free of bruises and wash the outer peel first. Berries are notorious for getting moldy quickly, as evidenced by the number of blueberries you can find at the market with mold on the bottom! Once you find one moldy berry, the entire box is contaminated. Better to buy organic frozen berries, they are free of mold! Additionally, when you purchase fruits like grapes from the market, coated with a white filmy substance, that is also a form of mold and can be remedied by placing them in a bowl of water with a teaspoon of Vitamin C crystals or powder, neutralizing and killing the mold. After 15 minutes of the Vitamin C soak give a final rinse under running water and the grapes will look beautifully clean and shiny where as the water will look dirty and murky! By the way, the Vitamin C soak can be used to wash any fruit, vegetable or grain, much better and safer than any veggie wash product available. Also do not forget to throw out or compost vegetables that has been stored in the refrigerator for more than one week and please do not attempt to smell the bag!

When my patients complain of a sore throat, the firstthing I ask is if they have eaten any food that may have been contaminated with mold, “did you by any chance eaten a restaurant salad recently or peanut butter sandwich, drink any wine or beer or munch on some trail mix”? Restaurants are notorious for not washing the greens and vegetables. The same goes for juicing cafes. Better to eat lightly cooked veggies in restaurants rather than a salad. If you are craving raw, then ask for romaine or butter lettuce rather than the field of baby greens- less mold growth.

Some of the more common inhalant symptoms of mold exposure include runny nose, coughing, wheezing, itchy or red eyes, and increased respiratory issues for people with asthma. The best thing to mitigate mold spread is to scrub the point of contact where the mold is growing with an organic vinegar solution (50% organic white vinegar and 50% water). Reduce the level of moisture surrounding the area by ventilating, reduce the number of potted plants in your home, regularly leave closet doors open to air out clothes, and fix any water leaks immediately. Try to keep the humidity level in the house below 40% by opening windows after a shower, wipe down water droplets on shower walls into drain or by turning on a de-humidifier. You can find some really good inexpensive ones at Sears in their online store. I use mine every time I take a shower to prevent mold growth!

If you are experiencing any chronic respiratory or digestive symptoms talk to your healthcare provider to determine if mold may be part of the problem. If you suspect mold to be an issue at home, start your detective work immediately and possibly invest in hiring a mold specialist.