Mold and Irregular Heartbeat: The Scary Truth

Black mold lurks around in the background, hiding in the warm, humid, and damp areas of your home. This mold not only sounds sinister, but it’s downright dangerous for your heart and can contribute to an irregular heartbeat. Even if you can’t see mold, you can still breathe it in, ingest it, or absorb it in through tiny pores in your skin, leading to a host of health issues.

What is black mold?

Black mold is a type of fungus that refers to several species. Usually dark green or black, it thrives in warm, moist environments. You can find it in your bath, shower, toilet, kitchen, or basement. It can even grow on wood, dirt, or paper. Sometimes invisible, black mold can be dangerous when touched or ingested. In fact, some of the most hazardous types of molds are invisible and often become airborne, going around undetected. 

But not all mold is black, and the color of a mold doesn’t determine how dangerous it is. There are thousands of mold species, some helpful and some problematic. Mold is often collectively referred to as black mold, but color and structure will vary.

Can mold cause an irregular heartbeat?

Mold toxicity is one of the least understood health issues today. Unfortunately, mold is also something that many doctors miss — especially when diagnosing irregular heartbeat. Mold allergies can cause a reaction, but so can prolonged exposure.

Mold can cause many heart problems, including:

  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
  • Endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart)

While most types of mold can lead to heart problems, a few varieties are known for being particularly dangerous such as aspergillus, paecilomyces, and phialophora.

Mold exposure often goes unnoticed or untreated. Research conducted by Research Gate concluded that failure to evaluate patients for mold exposure creates the wrong impression. It suggests that indoor mold exposure poses no significant threat to healthy people. In reality, exposure to high mold levels can cause problems throughout the body. This means that even healthy individuals could unknowingly suffer from breathing and heart problems.  

What are mold mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are small particles released from mold in your home or work environment or from foods like wheat, corn, and soy. Mold is a species that has survived the tests of time. Mycotoxins live because mold survives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that these mycotoxins pose a severe health threat to both humans and animals. According to WHO, adverse health reactions of mycotoxins range from acute poisoning to ongoing effects, such as compromised immunity.   

Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by toxic mold that lead to illness. In fact, mycotoxins are why certain types of mold are toxic, and others are not. Though scientists aren’t entirely sure why mycotoxins exist, they are known to be harmful and are thought to be mold’s defense mechanism.

Can mold cause arrhythmia?

If you have an arrhythmia, you need to find the underlying cause. And one of those causes may be mold mycotoxins. Here are some ways that mold mycotoxins can lead to an irregular heartbeat.

Low vitamin D

Research suggests that mycotoxins harm vitamin D receptors.  Every cell in the body needs vitamin D, and low vitamin D levels contribute to AFib.  

Inflammation

Mycotoxins are highly inflammatory to the immune system and may trigger severe immune responses. According to clinical research, mycotoxins produce pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins that stimulate cells to move to sites of inflammation. Mycotoxins are so toxic that they create ongoing inflammation, a big factor in AFib.

Weakened immune system

AFib itself does not cause a weakened immune system. But a weakened immune system can lead to AFib. This is because AFib patients often have other underlying health conditions that cause a person to be immune-compromised. 

Nitric oxide production

Mycotoxins interfere with nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is formed by nearly every type of cell in the body. It’s one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health. Its job is to relax the inner muscles of your blood vessels. This keeps the vessels wide. Studies suggest that AFib is linked to nitric oxide impairment.  

How to tell if mold is affecting your heart?

Prolonged exposure to mycotoxins can mean they’ve entered your bloodstream. Since mycotoxins are highly inflammatory, you could experience symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest, neck, and shoulder pain   
  • Swollen and painful joints

Mold exposure may also cause sneezing, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, and itchy, watery eyes. Once again, these are only symptoms of underlying causes that could lead to further complications. If you suspect you have heart problems due to mold, talk to your doctor right away.

Mold can affect glutathione production

Glutathione (GSH) is an important antioxidant produced in cells. Stress, poor diet, poor air quality, and toxins like mold decrease levels in the body. Research suggests that glutathione is vital for the immune system. Unfortunately, mold impacts glutathione. When glutathione is affected, so is the heart.

According to one study, people undergoing surgery for AFib had significantly low levels of glutathione in atrial heart cells. But that was not the case for control subjects who had no history of AFib. General glutathione deficiency is often linked to heart abnormalities in people with cardiac diseases.

Chronic mold exposure affects important pathways that are involved in glutathione production. That can lead to an increase in oxidative stress (tissue damage) and DNA damage. In turn, oxidative stress feeds chronic inflammation. Inflammation then impacts the immune system, leaving you at risk for AFib.

Next steps

If you have AFib, it could be a symptom of an underlying inflammatory disease caused by environmental sensitivity to mold or excessive exposure. Can mold cause arrhythmia? Yes. An irregular heartbeat can be triggered by black mold in your home, work environment, or even certain foods.

Before prescribing meds for AFib, your doctor should be looking for the underlying cause — which could be mycotoxins. If you suspect you might have mold sensitivity or you have noticed mold in your home, be sure to bring it up to your cardiologist and conder getting testing to determine your level of mold mycotoxin exposure. AFib doesn’t have to be a death sentence and neither does mold exposure.

Take steps towards a healthy life and your 100 Year Heart — starting with identifying and removing mold from your home and workplace.

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Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

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