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The Reason a Tent Smells Musty – and How to Fix it!

With social distancing protocols and travel bans in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are opting for a more traditional getaway: camping. Immersed in nature, sunlight and aromatic campfires, spending time in the great outdoors is a great way to boost your immune system, brain health, and nervous system. With that said, camping is primarily a summer activity, and anytime you combine moisture with a warm, enclosed environment, you are more susceptible to musty odors and mold. It might not be immediately visible, but they can sure put a dent in your relaxing vacation. In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why your tent might have a funky smell, how to get rid of it, and how to properly store your tent to help prevent this problem in the future.

What causes a tent to smell musty?

Regardless of how you describe the smell — musty, dank, damp, or just plain BAD — there are many reasons why a tent might smell unpleasant. The most likely reason is because tents provide campers with protection from the [outdoor] elements. As a result of direct exposure, the tents are more likely to get wet from rain or condensation from the damp ground. If you’ve got the whole family snuggled in a tent, breathing the same air and/or sipping hot cocoa, the tent is likely to become damp from excess moisture.

Just like at home, if you’ve got moisture, you can get mold. This is the most common reason a tent can have a musty odor, but it takes a bit to get to that point. Tents are designed to repel water (they wouldn’t be very useful as shelters otherwise!) but the problem arises when the tent remains wet for too long. This can cause mold to grow, either on the tent surface itself, or on any dust or debris that may be trapped on the surface.

With that said, it might not be mold! Tents can also develop an unpleasant odor from build up of dirt and grime, sweat/body odor from the occupants, or even from a chemical breakdown of the tent’s material itself, but we won’t get into that issue here today.

How to Clean a Tent That Has a Musty Odor

If your tent’s odor seems stale rather than musty, it may just need to be aired out prior to use. This is a good first step in any case. You can set the tent up, or just hang it from a clothesline. The important part is getting every surface exposed to airflow. Fans can help if there’s no natural breeze. The offending smell may waft away on its own after a day or so.

If the odor persists, or if there is any visible soiling on any surface, the next step is to wash the tent. Tent fabric is usually treated with various coatings, so take caution when cleaning. Gentle dish soap or castile soap is recommended, but the use of stronger spray cleansers is not recommended as they could strip away any protective coatings. Spray the affected areas and gently scrub with a cloth or soft-bristled brush to remove any visible grime.

After all visible grime and/or spots have been removed, mist the tent surfaces with Homebiotic spray to help eliminate musty odors at the source. Then let the tent dry fully, preferably on a sunny day.
If your tent has pockets, pouches or flaps, prop them up to encourage better airflow. If necessary, you can also use an ordinary box fan to speed up the drying process.

Keep airing out the tent for at least a day after it has fully dried to ensure there is no odor left. Then you can safely pack it up for storage or to go on your next camping adventure.

How to Pack Up a Tent

Once your adventures are over and you’re ready to pack up, be sure to air out your tent as best as you can. If you’re packing up quickly due to bad weather (which many campers often face at one point or another), do your best to keep it as dry as possible. If this isn’t an option, you’ll need to dry it out as soon as you get to your destination by following the previous cleaning steps.

If you’re just packing it away for storage, there are a few steps you can take to ensure it stays fresh and free of musty odors:
1. If your tent already has a musty odor, clean it and air it out prior to packing it away to prevent this issue from becoming worse.
2. Lightly spray the tent with Homebiotic if you have not already done so . This probiotic spray helps eliminate the causes of musty-smelling odors and keeps your tent fresher, longer.
3. Always make sure that your tent is completely dry before packing it away.

How to Properly Store Your Tent to Avoid Musty Odors

When it comes to storing your tent, there are two primary methods that work best: seal it up or keep it in a climate-controlled environment.

1. Seal it up – This method involves packing your tent into a sealed container, like a snap lid storage tote, to keep moisture or pests out. This is a good idea if you’re storing your tent in an area that might not be well climate-controlled, like a garage or basement. If you are storing your tent this way, be sure to pack a moisture and odor absorbing object in with the tent. Good examples include a bamboo charcoal bag, some rice in a cloth bag, or a box of baking soda that is opened or has side vents.
2. Airy but protected – In this alternative method, you’d leave the tent in its original bag and store it in a space that is climate-controlled. This could be a storage closet, or anywhere else it will maintain relatively stable temperature and humidity conditions. You may still want to add a charcoal bag or other moisture control device just for peace of mind.
In either case, proactively check on your tent every few months to ensure that it hasn’t accidentally gotten wet or developed an odor. It’s also a good idea to check it out at least a week before you intend to use it, as that will give you enough time to clean and dry it before camping if necessary.

Conclusion

When a tent is properly taken care of, it should provide years of use. Whether you’re escaping busy city life for a weekend, or you’re traveling cross country, these simple tent care tips can help you enjoy your next camping trip without worrying about musty odors.

Happy camping!

 

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Mold Exposure and Lyme Disease: The Hidden Link

Mold Exposure Can Make You More Susceptible to Lyme Disease

There is a clear connection between mold exposure and Lyme disease. Disruptions to your immune system resulting from exposure to mold can make you more likely to both contract Lyme disease and have medical complications with it. Beyond the typical precautions against tick bites, you can also help avoid it with simple household actions: Prevent mold exposure and Lyme disease risks are reduced.

May is National Lyme Disease month, which means that many clinicians, advocates, and researchers will be sharing facts to help increase awareness. Lyme disease affects approximately 30,000 Americans each year. Although it’s a highly treatable disease, it has a high potential to become chronic for many people 1.

Also, Lyme disease often occurs in combination with other immune compromising conditions such as autoimmune disorders, allergies, celiac disease, Epstein Barr virus, and other infections 2.

However, did you know that mold toxicity is also an important issue for people with Lyme disease? Unfortunately, the immune-compromising effects of mold toxicity can make you more susceptible to contracting Lyme disease. Also, once infected with the Lyme bacteria, mold illness can make you more likely to have chronic issues with Lyme disease.

How Mold Affects the Immune System

The most common household mold species are Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Cladosporium. But there are thousands of other different kinds of mold species. Although many of them are not harmful in most situations, some can cause serious illness 3.

The problem with certain mold species is that they produce substances called mycotoxins which are harmful to human health. The symptoms of mold illness range from mild to severe depending on the health status, immune system, and genetic factors of different people.

At the very least, the effects of mycotoxins on human tissues can cause mild allergic symptoms. But sometimes it can lead to more severe respiratory or other systemic problems that can cause chronic illness and even death 3,4,5.

The main problem with mold and human health is that it causes severe disruptions in the immune system resulting in either an over-reaction or under-reaction 6.

What this means is that mold may be a factor in the development of autoimmune issues as well as immune-deficiency problems. Either of these conditions can make it difficult for a human body to deal with other infections, such as Lyme disease 4,5,6.

Several studies have shown that people living in damp and moldy environments are more prone to inflammatory illnesses or infections that result from immune deficiency. This is especially true if their living environments lack surrounding biodiversity that is void of other helpful microbes 5,6,7,8,9.

This is the reason why people with mysterious inflammatory issues and other chronic health problems often test with high levels of mycotoxins. Further tests often reveal other infections such as Lyme disease. This is no coincidence. Instead, it reveals immune systems that are unable to cope, and mold toxicity may be a massive piece of the puzzle.

How Lyme Disease Affects the Human Body

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacteria that is transmitted through tick bites. A tick needs to be attached to the human body for at least 24 hours to transmit the disease. This is why most health education is aimed at early prevention by instructing people how to quickly and adequately remove a tick 1,2.

The problem is that many people are under the impression that they can prevent Lyme disease since a tick is easy to find. Tick bites are relatively irritating to the skin. Also, the tick swells, which may make it easy to detect. Therefore, people feel that they can remove it before 24 hours are up.

Unfortunately, most people don’t remove ticks properly. Instead, they pull it out and leave the mouthparts behind. The problem is that those mouthparts stay embedded in the skin where they can continue to transmit the Lyme spirochete 1,2.

Lyme disease initially causes fever, skin rash, joint pain, muscle pain, and headaches. If treated rapidly, a person can make a full recovery. However, Lyme disease has been known to turn chronic, especially if early treatment wasn’t initiated. And even with early treatment, many people still go on to develop chronic Lyme disease symptoms 1,2,10.

What’s interesting is that chronic Lyme disease symptoms are very similar to the signs of mold toxicity. Also, chronic Lyme symptoms are similar to many diseases of the immune system. When this occurs, the clinical picture can become confusing to both the patient and doctors 4,10,11.

Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease range from digestive issues, neurological problems, heart damage, and severe musculoskeletal pain 1,2.

Indeed, many people who present with multiple and chronic health issues are often investigated for co-morbid and related conditions such as mold illness and Lyme disease.

The Connection Between Mold and Lyme Disease

As discussed above, the main problem with mold is that it renders our immune system less capable of coping with other infections.

Indeed, many people exposed to tick bites don’t actually get sick. And if they do, the illness is short-lived and doesn’t turn chronic. However, the problem lies when a person gets bit by a Lyme infected tick, and their immune system is already preoccupied with fighting off mold toxicity. Unfortunately, they may be unable to fight off this new infection 11,12,13,14.

Also, even with antibiotic treatment, an immunocompromised host may still go on to develop chronic Lyme-related health issues.

Many people with co-occurring Lyme and mold issues develop something called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). This syndrome is difficult to treat and can wreak havoc on the health, finances, and quality of life of those affected.

Furthermore, people with Lyme disease are less likely to clear toxins from their bodies. Likewise, mold toxicity makes Lyme disease treatment less likely to work. Thus it becomes a vicious cycle causing crippling symptoms that are difficult to treat 11,12,13,14.

Conclusion

Since these two conditions create a perfect storm for inflammatory illness, the obvious solution is to work on both prevention and proper diagnosis for both.

Preventing mold illness by properly cleaning and treating moldy environments is paramount. By doing so, the people living in those environments will maintain a healthy immune system. And as we know, a healthy and balanced immune system can fight off other infections like Lyme disease.

However, many people don’t even know they have mold illness until they become sick with Lyme disease, which then becomes chronic. Often, it takes a long time with much frustration before a person learns that they’re actually dealing with two chronic illnesses that are exacerbating each other.

Since we know that mold illness increases susceptibility to other infections, it makes sense to raise awareness so that people can take action to prevent mold now.

By taking steps to decrease mold problems, people will have a more robust immune system, which will prevent chronic Lyme disease from taking hold. More so, a stronger immune system means fewer chances of developing Lyme disease in the first place.

 

 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/datasurveillance/index.html
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3542482/
3. https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
4. https://www.prohealth.com/library/overview-lyme-disease-mold-illness-91639
5. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5377931/
7. http://robdunnlab.com/science-portfolio/never-home-alone/
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5108756/
9. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_lookup?journal=Arch+Environ+Health&title=Mixed+mold+mycotoxicosis:+immunological+changes+in+humans+following+exposure+in+water-damaged+buildings&author=MR+Gray&author=JD+Thrasher&author=R+Crago&author=RA+Madison&author=L+Arnold&volume=58&publication_year=2003&pages=410-20&pmid=15143854&
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986024/
11. http://www.gordonmedical.com/unravelling-complex-chronic-illness/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Townsend-Letter-Mold-Article-1.pdf
12. https://www.betterhealthguy.com/topics/mold
13. https://drjaydavidson.com/toxic-mold-lyme/
14. http://www.lymecompass.net/mold-intolerence.html

 

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Over-Cleaning Causes Increased Mold Growth

Over-Cleaning Causes Increased Fungal Growth in Urban Homes

A recent University of Oklahoma study reveals that instead of the intended effect, over-cleaning a home actually leads to increased mold growth due to a lack of natural competition.

For many years, those who live in urban homes have believed that keeping our homes squeaky clean will protect us from harmful pathogens such as bacteria and fungus.

Indeed, we’ve developed chemicals that kill off harmful bacteria such as salmonella, e-coli, and staphylococcus aureus. But we know now that these chemicals are causing resistant bacteria as well as killing off good bacteria too.

However, in the past decade, more discussion has taken place around microbial resistance and destruction of the helpful human and environmental biomes due to our cleaning practices. Some of us are unsure about how seriously we should take this issue.

With the rise of dangerous and resistant bacteria, many of us are feeling confused. Do we want to decrease our cleaning frequency? Should we switch to other products that create microbial balance rather than killing them off?

The findings from a new study by Laura-Isobel McCall, a biochemist from the University of Oklahoma, may help us make some decisions 1. These study results not only back up existing knowledge around the role bacteria and fungus in the home biome, but they give us some new information to consider.

Study results: Over-cleaning causes increased mold growth

The study compared fungal diversity between urban and rural settings in the Amazonia region of Peru and Brazil. Fungal diversity refers to the number of different species of fungus found in a specific area.

The urban settings studied were apartments and homes in city environments, whereas the rural settings were in remote villages where people lived amongst nature. The study also looked at the fungal diversity for both the feet and guts of inhabitants in both locations.

The results showed an increase of fungus in urban settings compared to rural ones. Urban environments have much higher quantities of harmful fungal microbes, such as aspergillus and candida. Whereas, they have much lower amounts of helpful fungal microbes.

Conversely, helpful bacteria are found in much lower numbers in urban homes compared to rural settings. And while there are more harmful bacteria found in rural settings, they live in better balance and harmony with other diverse bacteria and fungus.

The researchers also found that the human feet and guts of those who lived in these urban settings showed the same distribution of harmful versus helpful fungal quantities. These results also show that the environmental microbiome has a significant influence on the microbiome of our bodies.

While we strive to decrease harmful pathogens in our home environments, we may be doing more harm than good by wiping out the balance between the microbes. And this appears to have a direct effect on our physical health and well-being.

The researchers also isolated several chemical compounds in high diversity in urban homes. So not only do our homes contain more fungal diversity and less helpful bacteria, but they also have more harmful chemicals than ever before 1.

Why do fungal microbes like to grow in urban environments?

The researchers noted several reasons why fungus grows more abundant in urban environments, to begin with. Our homes are more closed off, which increases internal temperature and limits natural light and air. These are all issues known to worsen fungal growth. Also, urban homes contain more CO2 and more surfaces that aid the growth of fungal microbes 1,2.

However, the study also looked at cleaning compounds which are used in higher amounts in urban settings. The study results showed that these fungal organisms are likely resistant to the cleaning products. Also, once bacteria were killed off, fungal microbes are allowed to grow in more significant numbers 1.

What we do know is that fungal microbes have stronger cell walls than bacteria, so they are more apt to become resistant. Also, bacteria and fungal microbes are known to live in balance (or competition, depending on how you look at it!) together, keeping each population in check 3.

Some bacteria have special enzymes, such as chitinase, that can break through the sturdy cell walls of fungus, lowering their numbers and creating a balance between bacteria and fungus 3. But what happens when those bacteria aren’t present in the local environment anymore?

Is killing bacteria creating more opportunities for fungal growth?

Indeed, the study results obtained by Dr. McCall shows that once we kill off all the bacteria, it provides more opportunities for fungal microbes to grow. And since urban homes already have optimal conditions, this helps explain why fungal organisms are found in greater diversity there 1,2.

These results leave us with some challenges for sure, but they’re also promising and give us more food for thought as we work to create a more balanced microbiome in our homes. In turn, this will also help improve the microbiome in our bodies.

Interestingly, while we’ve managed to largely eliminate the threat of harmful bacteria that cause various infections and gastrointestinal illness, fungal-related diseases such as allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune issues are on the rise. So, it appears we may have swapped one group of illnesses for another 4,5,6.

Reconsidering How We Clean

For those of us in urban settings, these new facts present some challenges and opportunities. Most importantly, we need to consider our cleaning practices. Because even though there’s not much that can be easily done to change the structure of our homes, we can do something about our cleaning practices.

Decreasing our use of harsh chemical cleaners is an important place to start. We can ease up on how often we clean and choose less chemical-based cleaners. Natural cleaners like vinegar and essential oils would make better choices.

But we also need to reconsider our ideas and biases around living with microbes in our homes. We now understand that disrupting the balance of microbes has adverse effects on overall microbial diversity in our homes, and on our health 1,6.

 

REFERENCES:

 

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0593-4.epdf
2. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
3. https://escholarship.org/content/qt68c2j665/qt68c2j665.pdf
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28608416
5. https://www.fortressbiotech.com/pdfs/bach%20nejm%202002.pdf
6. https://letthemeatdirt.com
7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966842X1630021X

 

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What Can I Learn by Testing My Home Biome?

What Can I Learn by Testing My Home Biome?

In the past several decades, modern life has revolved around a shared understanding of our homes. We see our homes as safe sanctuaries for living, relaxing, and raising our families. And as such, we’ve developed codes of conduct around keeping our homes clean, tidy, and void of anything unsafe or unsanitary.

However, in recent years we’ve seen a rise in new health issues, which has sparked questions around the safety and health of our homes. We realize that our closed-in living spaces no longer include a relationship with our outdoor environment.

More importantly, researchers and experts are beginning to see that the lack of biodiversity inside our homes is problematic.

This has prompted some crucial discussions and research about what’s living and not living in our homes. Indeed, this may be the start of a new era of modern life where we change our ideas about what safe and healthy actually means for our home environments.

What is a home biome, and why does it matter?

The home biome refers to everything that lives in our homes. It may be surprising to hear that humans are the minority inside our own homes. In the book “Never Home Alone,” author and biologist Rob Dunn recounts the myriad of life that resides in our living spaces 1.

Not only do we live with other creatures like spiders and crickets, but we also share a home with thousands of tiny microbes, most of which are beneficial to us. The home biome matters as much to our health and wellbeing as does a healthy diet or whether we get enough sleep each night 1.

Most of us have heard about the importance of a balanced gut biome. Yet, few understand that a balanced home biome is also essential. And that balance includes having many diverse microbes living in harmony with us 1,2.

In his book, Dunn refers to several studies looking at the differences between the home biome of modern people versus those who live surrounded by more biodiversity. For example, one study compared the microbes in modern homes with those of homes that were more open and connected with nature.

It turns out that the children raised in homes that contained more biodiverse soil-based microbes did not suffer from allergies, asthma, or other inflammatory conditions 1,3.

Dunn also discusses other expert findings that reveal a relationship between our modern lives and inflammatory disease. It turns out that when the biodiversity around us decreases, human inflammation increases 1,3,4,5.

The presence of microbes in our home biome are required for our immune system to develop appropriately. A balanced home biome makes for a balanced immune system that neither under- or over-reacts. The exact evolutionary reason for this health benefit isn’t completely understood yet. However, we do know that a closer connection to outdoor biodiversity is what brings balance to the home biome 1,3,4,5.

In short, our physical and environmental health depends on living with diverse microbes. And these microbes must include those found in the soil and natural environment.

We also know that a balanced home biome is a strong defense against the few harmful pathogens that can live with us. It’s interesting to note that out of thousands of microbes, only a few are actually harmful to us 1. Microbes such as mold, salmonella, and e.coli are the main ones that we try to avoid in our homes.

We now understand that a balanced home biome that includes soil-based microbes is what keeps these harmful pathogens from becoming a problem. We just need to figure out how to nurture a healthy home biome in this modern age.

What is home biome testing?

The first step in fostering a healthy home biome is to know what’s growing within its borders in the first place.

We know a musty smell points to mold growth. Or if we prepare food and someone gets sick, this may point to salmonella growing on our cutting boards or countertops. Our first reaction is to get rid of harmful microbes, but we rarely think about how to bring in good microbes that may be of help to us.

But really, if we don’t know what’s growing in our homes, then we can’t do anything about it. So testing our home biome gives us an incredible tool for understanding the health of our home.

Many of us have used the ERMI test, which covers about 36 species of mold, while the HERTSMI test includes about 5 species 6. However, the Home Biome Test by Homebiotic covers over 30,000 species of mold and other microbes. This test gives a much more complete and detailed view of what’s actually growing in our homes.

In this way, we no longer have to guess what’s happening with our home biome. Instead, we can understand the health of our home by identifying any potential dysbiosis.

What is environmental dysbiosis?

Again, we are beginning to understand what happens to us when our gut biome is out of balance. By now, many people have heard of dysbiosis in our gut and the accompanying health issues. Now, we need to look at dysbiosis in our home environments.

Dysbiosis refers to a biome that is out of balance. This means that certain harmful microbes are growing unchecked, while other good microbes are not growing enough 7.

The reasons why we have dysbiosis in our gut are actually similar to why we might have it in our homes. In essence, we kill off too many good microbes, which allow the bad ones to grow. In the case of our homes, this often happens by over-cleaning with harsh antimicrobial solutions 8,9,10.

Research shows that mold can indeed be much more common in household areas that are “too clean”. And in the regions that are less cleaned, there is a higher diversity of microbes and less mold 8,10.

What can I learn from the results of my home biome test?

By testing the home biome, not only can we learn which harmful microbes may be growing in our homes, but we can actively do something about it. Also, we can understand more about the levels of beneficial microbes as well.

Through a home biome test, we can see if we have a mold problem or not. Mold growth says a lot about the dysbiosis of our homes because we know that rampant mold growth means a lack of diverse microbes 8,9,10.

Through a home biome test, we’ll know the exact species growing in our homes, which means we can take the necessary steps to improve balance. Some of these steps include bringing in more soil-based microbes while easing up on our cleaning practices.

Where we were once obsessed with getting rid of dirt, perhaps now we need to relax more. Because having a bit of outside dirt in our homes, is quite frankly, exactly what we need.

While it may sound like a radical idea to bring in more dirt and clean less, the research is clearly showing that this is necessary for reducing environmental dysbiosis 1,7,8. In turn, this improves our own health too 1,4,5,7.

As our modern homes are less connected to the natural environment, this means soil-based microbes are no longer living with us the way they once did. And as mentioned above, without this balance, we’re seeing a rise in inflammatory disease.

Conclusion

Indeed, new developments in home biome research are making us pay attention to what’s living or not living in our homes. An increase in mold likely means we don’t have enough beneficial microbes. And this means that our homes may be in a state of dysbiosis.

By testing our home biome, we can arm ourselves with the knowledge we need to prevent or fix dysbiosis. And since we now understand the connection between home dysbiosis and the rise of inflammatory conditions, we must take steps to prevent this.

As our modern dwellings continue to change and evolve, we’ll need to figure out how we can maintain healthy homes that somehow include a relationship with our natural environments. As creative and intelligent beings, there’s much we can do to restore balance. And testing our home biome is an excellent step towards creating that balance.

 

REFERENCES:

1. http://robdunnlab.com/science-portfolio/never-home-alone/
2. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/489
3. https://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8334
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19895627
5.https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1508749
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791814/
7. https://letthemeatdirt.com
8.https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0593-4.epdf
9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115000304
10. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133

 

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The Relationship Between a Gut Biome & a Home Biome

The Relationship Between the Gut Biome and the Home Biome

In the past decade, the importance of a healthy gut biome has been discussed between scientists, medical professionals, and health consumers. By now, most people know that bacteria reside in our guts and that they’re essential to our health. These bacteria are, together, what create the biome.

However, many people still don’t understand why having diverse bacteria is important. More importantly, most people don’t understand the similarities and relationship between our home biome and the gut biome.

We need the biome in our guts and our homes to be healthy and diverse at the same time. As living organisms, we’re connected to our living environments, so if one biome is unbalanced, chances are the other is too.

Also, by understanding the similarities between the gut and home biome, we can make better decisions for how to improve and maintain them. However, many of us may not understand that the home biome is similar to the one in our gut. Therefore, people may not realize how to create balance in our home biome.

First let’s define both the gut and home biomes and look at their similarities. Then we can discuss the importance of both biomes for the health of our bodies and living environments.

What is the gut biome?

The evidence is clear that having healthy and diverse microbes in the gut is essential for the development, functioning, and maintenance of our overall physical health. Gut microbes impact the digestive system, our immune system, our neurochemicals, and many other systems in our body 1,2,3.

For example, gut microbes are needed to help digest and absorb nutrients from the food we eat. This helps sustain the immune system, which is also connected to the nerves, brain, blood vessels, and other vital organs 1,2,3,4.

Research shows that a gut biome that lacks diverse and healthy bacteria may be a root cause of health problems like diabetes, obesity, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune issues 3,4,5,6.

We’re all born with a sterile gut that becomes populated by essential microbes in infancy. The particular distribution of microbes is unique to each individual even though we share many microbial species between humans 1-6.

Many issues can cause us to lose the diversity of our gut microbes. Things like illness, antibiotics, chemicals, food additives, and stress can all cause a shift in the balance of bacteria in our guts. This imbalance is called dysbiosis 5,6.

Dysbiosis refers to both the loss of our gut microbes as well as an overgrowth of harmful microbes.

A gut without enough microbes means that we may not have the ability to digest enough nutrients. Also, if one microbe is allowed to grow too much, this can lead to other health issues as well.

An example of an overgrowth of harmful microbes is in a common condition known as candidiasis. This is an overgrowth of Candida yeast in the gut known to cause bloating, headaches, brain fog, and other health problems. Yet another example is a bacteria known as c. difficile, which is known to cause severe diarrhea 3-6.

In recent years, many health professionals are advocating for the use of pre and probiotics to help control dysbiosis. There’s also been much discussion of the overuse of antibiotics as they are known to kill healthy gut microbes. Lastly, we know that things like maintaining a healthy diet or decreasing stress can also help retain the microbe balance in our guts 1-6.

The goal is to create an environment in our guts where diverse microbes can grow in healthy amounts. This healthy diversity not only contributes to the proper functioning of our bodies, but it prevents unhealthy microbes from growing in large numbers.

When it comes to the health of our guts, we need lots of healthy and diverse microbes that live well together and in balance.

What is the home biome?

Now that we understand the gut biome, let’s look at the home biome. Our homes also have a biome that is unique and essential in maintaining the health of our living environment.

Just like our guts, our homes get colonized with a variety of diverse microbes, some of which are required to maintain balance and health. If our home biome is lacking in microbes, such as often happens when we overclean and create a sterile environment, then problems can arise 7,8.

Also, if we clear out a few key species of microbes that help maintain balance, we may see an overgrowth of other more harmful species. For example, microbes like mold, yeast, and salmonella can grow unchecked in a home environment that lacks sufficient diverse, healthy microbes 7,8.

So, we also need to consider ways to enhance the growth of healthy bacteria, the same as we would do for our guts.

Just as we take probiotics for our gut health, we can also use probiotics for our home. Products like Homebiotic contain healthy soil-based microbes that help maintain the home biome.

Also, just as we work to prevent a sterile gut, we want to avoid a sterile home environment. This means we don’t over-clean our homes with harsh chemical cleaners too frequently 7,8.

How are the gut and home biome related?

Since we are biodiverse beings that are dependent on our environments, it makes sense that our gut and home biome co-exist. Of course, the microbial population in our guts and our homes will be somewhat different. But, studies show that homes are colonized by bacteria found in humans and pets that live in the house 8.

Interestingly, some microbes that are unique to the home and the immediate outdoor environment also live in our bodies. We know that this relationship creates a diverse biome, and this diversity is fundamental to our well-being as a whole. So obviously, if there is dysbiosis in the home, then there may be dysbiosis in the human biome as well 7,8,9,10.

Indeed, in recent years, research shows how the use of chemicals to clean our bodies and living environments can also affect the human biome 7.

Also, we know that homes surrounded by diverse soil-based microbes such as farms or homes with a lot of green space are known to create healthier immune systems in children. This suggests that a direct connection to our environment is what actually creates robust body systems 9,10,11,12.

Lastly, a home that is lacking in diverse microbes is likely to have an overgrowth of harmful microbes like mold. In recent decades, mold illness in the form of allergies, asthma, and other related health issues are on the rise. So we know that our home biome has an effect on our health and well-being 11,12.

Why is this important to know?

The more we understand the connection between our gut and home biome, the more we know how to maintain health in both areas. As living beings, we are symbiotically connected to our environments.

People are becoming more educated about the importance of healthy and diverse gut microbes. Still, they have yet to see the connection between their gut and their home biome.

The more we understand the importance of having diverse microbes in our guts and in our homes, the more we will take care not to create a dysbiosis in either. As we try to enhance our physical health to ensure the diversity of microbes in our gut, we can also do the same thing for our homes. It just makes sense to look after both so we can improve our overall health.

 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667473/
2. https://letthemeatdirt.com
3. https://www.jillcarnahan.com/2013/01/03/healthy-gut-healthy-you/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448089/
6. https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/354902
7. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
8. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2015.1139
9. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/all.13002
10. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/7/9/287
11. https://www.pnas.org/content/110/46/18360?etoc=
12. https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1508749

 

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The Surprising Environmental Impacts of Mold

The surprising environmental impacts of mold

You may be familiar already with some of the health effects associated with mold exposure, but there are also environmental impacts that can go much further than the initial mold issue. Specifically, the impacts of traditional mold killing remedies can have far-reaching environmental effects.

The Impacts of Toxic Cleaning Products

Many people tend to reach for a bottle of bleach (or other bleach-based products) when tackling household mold issues, but as we’ve discussed before, bleach is not a good choice for dealing with mold. Beyond the health impacts of exposure to bleach, its use can lead to significant environmental impacts within your home and the areas around your home.

Environmental Impact: Indoor Air Quality

According to the EPA, Americans spend roughly 90% of the time inside,1 where the concentrations of some pollutants are 2 to 5 times higher than concentrations typically found outdoors2. This situation is made worse when we consider that the people who are most vulnerable to poor air quality (eg. infants and children, the elderly, and anyone suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease) tend to spend more time indoors than others3.

In recent decades, as buildings have become more and more airtight for energy efficiency (itself not a bad thing, of course), indoor pollution levels have risen sharply. This is primarily due to a lack of sufficient mechanical ventilation in sealed buildings to allow adequate air exchange, as well as the rise in popularity of industrial-strength cleaning products now marketed for home use4.

Usually, because these products tend to be extremely irritating to your eyes and mucous membranes (nose, throat, lungs), it’s suggested that they are only used in a “well-ventilated” area3. While this certainly can remove the pollutants from the immediate vicinity of the person using them, it does still result in noxious fumes being released to the outside air. In past decades, the phrase “Dilution is the solution to pollution!” was often repeated, but despite the catchy rhyme, it’s definitely not a solution. It’s also not just for air. This applies to what goes down your drain as well.

Environmental Impact: Water Quality

If you live in a rural area or are on a septic system, you’ll no doubt already be aware that flushing bleach down your drain is a big no-no. But did you know that it’s also bad even if you are on a city sewer system? Nearly every wastewater treatment system uses bacteria to break down sewage, and exposure to antiseptic products within the wastewater can disrupt the beneficial bacteria. This can result in a reduced or incomplete breakdown of the biological material. In addition, many wastewater treatment systems are not designed to break down chemicals and so often they pass right through the system and are discharged into a lake, river, or other nearby body of water – sometimes the same body of water where drinking water is sourced from!

It gets worse.

Common household bleach, also known as sodium hypochlorite, contains a reactive chlorine atom which readily reacts with both organic and inorganic material in water to form a group of substances called trihalomethanes. The 4 trihalomethanes are chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and bromoform5. These are all byproducts of the reaction of disinfection products with non-purified water, such as is found in household wastewater. Each of these is a Cancer Group B carcinogen (substances shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals). 

Trichloromethane (chloroform) is by far the most common in most water systems. Dibromochloromethane is the most serious cancer risk, (0.6 ug/l to cause a 10-6 cancer risk increase) followed in order by Bromoform (4 ug/l), and Chloroform (6 ug/l). EPA regulations strictly limit these chemicals at a maximum allowable annual average level of 80 parts per billion (80ppb) when used in drinking water purification systems, but there are no such controls for household wastewater6. With either a compromised city wastewater system or a rural septic system that could potentially contaminate a well or nearby body of water, these pose significant health and environmental hazards.7

A Better Choice For Cleaning Mold

Rather than using toxic cleaning products that create harmful fumes (Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs) that must be vented to the outside environment or using products that create disinfectant byproducts that are known to be carcinogenic, consider a more eco-friendly alternative.

Hydrogen peroxide, h2o2, can be as effective as bleach in disinfecting a surface but lacks the numerous negative side effects. The reaction uses oxidation rather than a chlorine reaction and produces only water as a byproduct, and no harmful fumes. Hydrogen peroxide, at a concentration of 3%, is effective for killing minor mold growth and disinfecting affected surfaces. It may discolor some materials, so be sure to spot test in an inconspicuous area first. This concentration of hydrogen peroxide is easily found at most grocery stores, drug stores, and of course online. A higher concentration of 7% can be found at chemical supply shops, beauty supply shops, and from online retailers including Amazon, and is more effective, but should be used with caution.

How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide On Mold

A common spray mister cap can be attached straight to the hydrogen peroxide bottle and sprayed onto mold spots. This will most likely generate a fizzing reaction for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Carefully wipe the spots away after the fizzing has subsided and at least 10 minutes have passed, and let the surface dry. If there is still mold visible, or it has left stains, you can repeat the hydrogen peroxide application several more times as needed. It’s advised that personal protective equipment be used when cleaning even minor mold spots, including a proper mask, rubber gloves, and eye protection. While the use of reusable microfiber cloths is advisable in many situations, this is not one of them. The mold should be wiped away with a disposable cloth such as a paper towel, which should be discarded immediately. You will likely want to have a fan operating nearby to help remove any excess humidity, although it is not required for the removal of fumes as there will not be any produced.

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.osti.gov/biblio/6958939-report-congress-indoor-air-quality-volume-assessment-control-indoor-air-pollution-final-report
2. https://www.osti.gov/biblio/5936245
3. https://rais.ornl.gov/documents/EFH_Final_1997_EPA600P95002Fa.pdf
4. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2013-08/documents/nas_report_for_web.pdf
5. https://water-research.net/index.php/trihalomethanes-disinfection
6. http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/stage1/
7. http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/ard/documents/ard-ehp-13.pdf