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5 Misconceptions About Mold Illness

5 Misconceptions About Mold Illness | sick dog with ice pack on head

With something as complex as mold illness, we are bound to run into some confusion. Have you ever considered what the misconceptions about mold illness might be?  What we call mold illness is actually a complex syndrome called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). People exposed to mold are actually responding to the mycotoxins that mold secrete. These mycotoxins are a biotoxin that causes several changes in the immune system, affecting several organs in the body.

Mold growth - Homebiotic - get rid of mold

The symptoms of mold illness are the same as CIRS (1,2). These symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness and Fatigue
  • Memory problems and difficulties with concentration
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Muscle aches and joint pains
  • Feeling sick after exertion
  • Hypersensitivity to bright lights, blurred vision, red eyes, and tearing
  • Cough, shortness of breath, chronic sinus congestion, and asthma
  • More static shocks than usual

People need to know the facts about mold illness to understand the causes and symptoms and eliminate confusion. In this way, people can get the proper diagnosis and treatment they need for CIRS. What’s important to understand is that mold illness, or CIRS, is poorly understood by many people, including some health practitioners. In this article, we’ll look deeper into this issue and talk about the 5 misconceptions of mold illness.

doctor checking boy with stethoscope - Homebiotic - mold illness1) MOLD ILLNESS, OR CIRS, IS NOT JUST CAUSED BY MOLD

Even though we call it mold illness, there’s more to this condition than just mold exposure. Mold illness is actually a systemic response to the biotoxins in mold. However, these biotoxins are not limited to mold alone. They can be found in several other substances, infections, and chemicals (2,3,4).

We call it mold illness because when CIRS is set off by mold, it requires a specific response in order to treat it. This response includes dealing directly with mold removal or getting the patient away from the mold source.

However, CIRS can also be caused by other biotoxins such as (2,3):

  • Exposure to bacteria and the parts of certain bacteria (actinomycetes, endotoxins, and hemolysins)
  • Different species of fungi
  • Inflammagens (external irritants that cause inflammation)
  • Beta-glucans (sugars found in the cell walls of yeast, bacteria, fungi, and some plants)
  • Microbial volatile organic compounds

Lastly, biotoxins can be found in some infections induced by ticks, fish, and insect bites (2). This is why many people diagnosed with mold illness tend to have other issues like Lyme disease (1,2,3). Babesia and Borrelia, bacteria transmitted through tick bites, can also secrete biotoxins that can have adverse health effects.

female friends gathering - Homebiotic - mold illness is common2) CIRS IS ACTUALLY A COMMON HEALTH ISSUE

Although there’s been confusion about this condition, CIRS is common and affects up to 25% of the population. Three conditions must be met to develop CIRS: a genetic predisposition, an inflammatory event, and exposure to biotoxins (2,4,5).

Those with a genetic predisposition may develop CIRS after prolonged exposure to biotoxins. However, research shows that an inflammatory event, like a chronic viral illness or tick-borne illness, is also required to trigger the immune system towards the development of CIRS (2-5).

Not everyone will be genetically inclined towards CIRS. Still, most of us have been exposed to inflammatory events (like viral illness) and biotoxins. This makes the development of CIRS rather common.

When it comes to mold exposure, most of us have been in contact with mold either in our homes or at work. Unfortunately, mold is increasingly common in urban buildings due to their airtight construction, excessive dampness, and cellulose-containing materials that mold like to feed on. All three of these conditions are what mold needs to grow (1,6).

A report on mold and dampness put out by the WHO shows that up to 20% of buildings in Europe, Canada, and the United States had excessive dampness. However, other studies show that mold and dampness may affect approximately 50% of homes. These numbers may be higher in poor neighborhoods where households are crowded, and the heating and ventilation system is inadequate (1).

A report on mold and dampness put out by the WHO shows that up to 20% of buildings in Europe, Canada, and the United States had excessive dampness. However, other studies show that mold and dampness may affect approximately 50% of… Click To Tweet

With this level of mold and dampness, it’s no wonder that CIRS is more prevalent than we realize.

medical record paper - Homebiotic - mold illness is often misdiagnosed3) CIRS IS OFTEN MISDIAGNOSED

As we’ve discussed above, up to 25% of the population is genetically susceptible to CIRS. Also, mold is a risk for 20-50% of all homes. Lastly, most people have been exposed to some kind of inflammatory event. This means that CIRS may be quite common in the general population.

However, CIRS is challenging to diagnose and is often missed. In fact, many health practitioners may not even be looking for it. The symptoms often overlap with other illnesses, and they’re also non-specific. This means that the symptoms don’t conclusively point to CIRS. Also, testing is poorly understood and not widely available (2-5).

The exact biotoxin that people have been exposed to must be understood and isolated to secure a diagnosis. In the case of mold, the environment needs to be tested to ensure there was an actual exposure to mold (1,6).

Until now, most mold tests look at only 5-30 species of mold, but since there are thousands of mold species, these mold tests may be falsely negative (7). Thankfully, Homebiotics has created a new product that tests for over 30,000 species of mold. With more specificity, mold exposure can be adequately diagnosed and treated.

The other requirements for diagnosing CIRS are: identifying a genetic haplotype, having biomarkers consistent with neuroimmune, vascular and endocrine abnormalities, and a positive visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) test. The VCS test shows problems with the retina that are highly specific to biotoxin damage and CIRS (2-5).

Many of these diagnostic criteria can be challenging, and not every practitioner has the capacity to do the testing and follow up required. This means many people with CIRS are misdiagnosed with other overlapping illnesses with similar symptoms.

black mold under wall paper - Homebiotic - how to get rid of mold4) FIRST STEP IN TREATING MOLD ILLNESS (CIRS) IS MOLD REMEDIATION

As discussed above, part of diagnosing CIRS is to understand the biotoxins involved. If mold exposure is suspected, then it’s essential to test for mold in the patient’s environment. Once a proper test is completed, then mold removal is the next step.

Unfortunately, removing mold can be difficult if you don’t know where to look for it. Most mold is visible, but sometimes it isn’t. For example, a lot of mold growth happens behind drywall or bathroom tiles, which can often be inaccessible without significant renovation.

Unfortunately, removing mold can be difficult if you don't know where to look for it. Most mold is visible, but sometimes it isn't. For example, a lot of mold growth happens behind drywall or bathroom tiles, which can often be… Click To Tweet

Many times, removing mold can be costly, and if you don’t know how to prevent mold growth, it can quickly grow back. Sometimes this means that many people have to leave their home environments due to the cost and confusion of mold removal. All of these factors can make the removal of mold exposure very challenging (1,6).

People need to know how to prevent mold so they can stop mold exposure in the future. This involves prohibiting dampness, increasing airflow, and cleaning up clutter around areas known to have contact with water. Also, when possible, any water leaks need to be repaired properly (1,6).

smoothie bowl inside papaya with berries - Homebiotic - ways to detox mold illness5) TREATING MOLD ILLNESS (CIRS) IS MORE THAN JUST REMOVING MOLD

Since there are many biotoxins other than mold, it’s essential to look for other overlapping biotoxin exposures. As mentioned before, some people with CIRS may also have Lyme disease or chemical biotoxin exposures. It’s crucial to uncover this if a person shows potential for CIRS.

If mold is the biotoxin in question, removing the mold or removing the person from the moldy environment is the next step. However, the problem is that people with CIRS have a genetic predisposition that makes them unable to clear and remove biotoxins from their bodies. This means it can take a while before they can detox from their mold exposure (2,3).

The process is complicated and requires specific chemical binders to pull the mold out of their bodies. It also requires dietary and lifestyle changes to improve their ability to detoxify. In a perfect world, all physicians would know how to help patients remove the biotoxin build-up in patients with CIRS. Unfortunately, there are only a few that offer that service (2-5).


Hopefully, these 5 misconceptions about mold illness can help increase awareness of this health issue. We know now that mold illness is a condition called CIRS caused by a genetic predisposition triggered by an inflammatory event, followed by a mold biotoxin exposure.

Due to a genetic issue, people with CIRS can’t clear biotoxins from their bodies very easily. This makes their recovery more complicated. We also know that mold testing and removal can also be challenging for many.

In the meantime, education is vital in informing the public about what mold illness really is and what’s required to diagnose and treat it. The more this education gets out there, the more that patients and physicians can advocate. When it comes to CIRS, knowledge is power.


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Are We Over-Cleaning Our Skin?

Are We Over-Cleaning Our Skin? | Soapy hands over a bathroom sink

In these current times, the topic of under and over-cleaning our skin and home environment is discussed more than ever. There have always been debates about how often we should clean and which soaps or cleansers to choose. But with the pandemic, everyone is more concerned and possibly more confused as well.

Undoubtedly, in the past several months, there’s been a steady stream of antibacterial and alcohol-based soaps being marketed to the general public. And while these have great success in killing and washing viruses from our hands, we need to consider how often and where to use them.

Should we be using antibacterial soaps for whole body cleansing? How often should we shower versus washing our hands? What’s the best way to avoid skin allergies, acne, or dry skin when choosing a cleansing routine? How clean is too clean? This article will address all of these questions and more.

Washing Our Hands in The Time of Coronavirus

We know that handwashing is the best prevention for the coronavirus. However, before the pandemic, many people weren’t educated about proper handwashing to prevent disease spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have always recommended regular handwashing for infection prevention. They provide researched education about how and when to wash our hands. The recommendations back in 2001 lightly supported the use of antibacterial soap. They cautioned that it may increase the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and negatively alter the skin flora (1,2).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have always recommended regular handwashing for infection prevention. They provide researched education about how and when to wash our hands. The recommendations back in 2001 lightly… Click To Tweet

In 2020, the CDC now supports the use of soap and water as the gold standard for infection prevention and control. A search of CDC handwashing guidelines shows that they recommend only alcohol-based hand washing when soap and water aren’t possible (1,2).

As for antimicrobial soaps, the CDC no longer discusses using them at all. The reason is simple, antimicrobial soaps may do more harm than good.

What’s The Deal With Antimicrobial Soaps?

In recent years, several studies show that antimicrobial soaps may cause cracks and irritation to the skin. This creates more susceptibility to bacterial colonization. And as we know, the use of antimicrobial soaps may have a hand in creating superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics (2,3,4).

But unfortunately, antimicrobial soaps mess with our skin microbiome. Each area of the body has its own microbial balance, which maintains our health and prevents infection and disease. This balance can be disturbed by many factors which we are learning more about in modern times (3,5).

For example, in the book “The Whole Body Microbiome,” Dr. Brett Finlay and contributing scientists discuss microbiome balance issues in all areas of the body. With regard to the skin, they talk about how a simple problem like acne could be related to microbial imbalance on the surface of the skin (5).

For instance, a bacteria called Cutibacterium Acnes actually helps break down our oily skin secretions. This process creates an acidic environment that prevents the growth of Staphylococcus Aureus known for causing acne and other infections (5).

Who would have thought that one bacteria can prevent another worse bacteria from growing? But this is the case in almost all of our body microbiomes. Bacteria often compete and edge each other out, which keeps infections low and improves our well being. They also create enzymes and other by-products that contribute to the healthy function of our body (5,6,7).

For all these reasons, we don’t want to use antimicrobial soaps that kill off all the beneficial bacteria that are actually helping us.

Why Should We Avoid Over-Cleaning Our Skin?

In the Whole Body Microbiome, the authors discuss research and studies showing one glaring truth. When it comes to the skin, less clean is better. Areas of the body such as hands, feet, genitals, and armpits should be washed daily with regular soap and water. But as for other areas like the face and rest of the body, it’s not necessary to scrub them daily (5).

Over-cleaning and using overly hot water can also damage our skin microbiome and cause more problems for our health. Many people don’t know that our skin and body microbiome plays a role in developing illnesses like asthma, eczema, autoimmune disease, and allergic reactions (5,7).

For instance, some studies show that eczema is related to higher levels of Staphylococcus Aureus. Without a balanced skin microbiome, these harmful bacteria are allowed to grow, causing the classic inflammatory skin lesions found in eczema (5,7).

Other studies show that exposure to beneficial skin microbes helps develop our immune system, thus preventing skin and systemic illnesses from developing later in life (5,6,8),.

Lastly, over-cleaning may cause cracks and open sores, which can increase infection risk. One study shows that damaged skin from over-cleaning is more likely to be colonized with several harmful microbes. Not only does this increase skin inflammation, but it may also perpetuate the spread of contagious infections (3,5).

So while it may be hard not to over-clean our hands during the pandemic, we can find a better balance for the rest of our body. Daily washing of feet, groin, hands, and armpits is good enough. But other parts of the body really don’t need to be over-cleaned.

For areas like the face, arms, legs, and hair, it seems the best skincare routine is to wash less frequently with plain soap and lukewarm water. This routine will also help prevent things like acne, wrinkles, dry skin, and other infections. Lastly, using a mild natural moisturizer can keep the skin supple without destroying the microbiome (1,2,5).


There’s never been a better time for more discussion and education around cleaning. Until now, most of us weren’t always sure how often we should wash our hands and clean our skin. With the push towards more frequent handwashing and the use of alcohol and antimicrobial soaps, it’s essential to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Frequent handwashing is critical in these trying times. And yes, we need to wash our dirtiest parts like feet, groin, and armpits. But surprisingly, we don’t need to over-clean other areas of our skin. And we should definitely stop the use of antimicrobial soaps. Pure soap and water is the best way to clean our hands and bodies.

Moreover, people may not understand how important our skin microbiome is for our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, by over-cleaning and using hot water and antimicrobial soaps, we may be damaging our skin microbiome’s delicate balance. This has confirmed repercussions in the development of infections, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

We also recommend learning about over-cleaning your home.