Low testosterone and hormonal imbalances in men are on the rise. Many men suffer with lack of energy and stamina as well as decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction. Find out if there may be a role your environment is playing in your hormone imbalances.

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Dr. Nicole R: Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of Integrative Wellness Radio. I am here with Brooke Scheller, our functional medicine nutritionist, and I am Dr. Nicole. We work side by side here at Integrative Wellness Group in Belmar, New Jersey and today we're actually talking about mold and fungal infections and how they can actually impact your hormones.

So interesting enough, depending on if you're a male or a female, getting exposed to mold and getting exposed to other types of fungus, including candida yeast, actually affects men and women very differently. So, we actually find that in men, they're going to have lower testosterone levels and in females, they're actually have higher estrogen and higher testosterone levels, which can potentially lead to different conditions, like polycystic ovarian syndrome as well as other types of system fibroids in the reproductive organs.

So, we're gonna dive in and talk a little bit more about these topics in detail and really just get you a little bit more clear of an understanding of what we're kind of meaning by mold exposure or fungal infections.

Brooke Scheller: I think this is such an important topic because being in practice here, we have so many people that come in with hormone imbalances and we've chalked it up to making it this super normal thing, that PCOS is very common these days or even hormonal imbalances around our periods or menopausal type of symptoms, that they've really just become super normal and we don't really think that there's anything wrong, we just kind of chalk it up to maybe aging. Even fertility's another one too that a lot of us think that we have to go through IVF or some other type of extreme measure to get pregnant, but really it's understanding why are the hormones out of balance to begin with?

So, to start, I know we wanted to talk a little bit about where we might be getting exposed to these things because some of us might be thinking that, "I've never been exposed to mold or I've never heard or something like candida before," but most people have had some type of exposure. So, let's talk a little bit more about where somebody might be exposed to that.

Dr. Nicole R: [00:03:00] Well, I think the interesting thing about mold is with the mold exposure that we get, it's not always going to be that black mold exposure that we may be thinking of. There's a lot of people that are struggling with different types of allergies which we call seasonal allergies. But, what I find so interesting is when I dive deeper with people in their consultations, I'm actually finding that their allergies are kicking in when either the air conditioning is turning on or the heat is turning. It's typically because their HVAC systems are contaminated with different types of molds, and again, it does not always have to be that black mold. It could be various different types.

But in addition, we also have mold exposure from food. There was a young boy that I worked with and he was a very extreme mold case. He had exposure from his home, but that was actually very small in comparison to what he was getting exposed to through his diet. He actually pretty much lived off of cereal, it was specifically like corn-based cereals, and he also lived off of peanut butter crackers. So, some of the highest mold foods is gonna be a combination of wheat, corn, and peanut butter.

So, if you are someone who is maybe consuming these foods and you're especially consuming the more commercial brands that are maybe a little bit more processed than the average natural peanut butter, you might be getting exposed to high levels of mold through your diet outside of what you might be getting exposed to in your home, in your workplace, in a public school. We do find that that is also a huge culprit is these schools that are just older and not maintained properly.

Brooke Scheller: Yeah, and another thing I that's huge that we find a lot too is people that have had a past exposure, and I'm talking about even several years before or growing up. Recently, I had a woman come to me with hormonal issues her entire life and through digging through some of her history, come to find out that growing up, she had lived in a very old home, they had had a lot of flooding, and different scenarios where water had intruded the house and so since her symptoms started so long before, she had kind of just always thought, "Well, I always had irregular periods and I've always had bad PMS-"

Dr. Nicole R: It's genetic.

Brooke Scheller: It's genetic, my mom had it, and then we talk about, "Oh well, mom was living in the home too so could mom have been affected? Dad have been affected?" A lot of times when we ask even about the family members that lived in the same home or if it's a workplace, coworkers and things like that, we see almost these little clumps of people that'll be sick or have similar symptoms, headaches or different things like that. So, it's very interesting once you start peeling away some of those layers and thinking a little bit back on maybe some past exposure that you might have had, not just something that's current.

Dr. Nicole R: Yeah. Well, let's actually talk a little bit about the other symptoms. So obviously this podcast is to educate on the hormonal components of mold exposure or fungal infections, but there's actually a lot of symptoms that can manifest. I think the biggest things we think of is we think of, "Oh, if you get exposed to mold, you have respiratory issues or you might have sinus issues that tag along some allergies," but there's actually some really odd symptoms that you would never realize necessarily. So ,some of those actually include having a lot of issues with temperature regulation. So, you might find yourself getting hot at night, you always have to get the covers off of you at some point-

Brooke Scheller: A.K.A. hot flashes.

Dr. Nicole R: Yeah. You also might find yourself having issues with feeling cold during the day, especially in your hands and feet. So it could be wrong, that could overlap with thyroid issues, but it is a culprit of mold as well. Visual issues. This is a really big thing that we see is that people start to notice that their vision is getting worse and they're having a lot of issues with blurriness in their peripherals, so out to the sides. They're also dealing with eye floaters as well. There's actually some different types of urinary symptoms as well as neurological symptoms that can manifest. So, if you find yourself having frequent urination or really feeling thirsty a lot, you might think, "Oh my God, am I becoming a diabetic?" What actually happens when you have mold in your system is you urinate out all of your electrolytes so you tend to urinate frequently. In addition, you are going to be quite thirsty.

I would say one of the other big ones is going to be weird sensations from a numbness, tingly standpoint or even having like this weird buzzing sensation in the body. Like, almost feeling like there's electrical impulses going through your system. Those are usually people that have been exposed for a significant amount of time, but it is something that can manifest and usually you get told it's in your head and it's not, it's really just the [micotoxins 00:07:44] can really affect your neurological system.

Brooke Scheller: Yeah and a couple other things that I'm thinking about is even ringing in the ears, which I think is fairly common and a lot of people think is normal or have been dealing with it long-term, but it is one of those classic symptoms. But, I think even the biggest thing, and I know you want to talk more about this, is the impact it'll have on the immune system as well.

Dr. Nicole R: Mm-hmm. Yeah, the immune system is something that really gets triggered in the event that somebody is exposed to mold and the toxins that is given off by mold, which we call micotoxins. What really happens is the immune system becomes very overloaded and very burdened so it then kind of opens you up to having a lot of immune issues. So one of those things can be autoimmune conditions. You can also get sick often. You can also potentially get yourself vulnerable to Lyme's Disease or even to vulnerable to various types of parasites. So, if you find that you might have lived in a moldy environment then all of a sudden you're having a lot of stomach problems, you're digestive tract isn't the same, you can actually have mold that colonizes in your gut, but you also can be opened up to your body not being able to fight off things that maybe are getting into your system through food.

Brooke Scheller: Or even things I think that are lying dormant in the body. If you have past infections and then your immune system drops down to this place where you can't really fight things off so then you start having flare-ups of these different conditions as well.

Dr. Nicole R: Yeah, I think Epstein-barr virus is such a big one for that. So, Epstein-barr virus is what causes mono. So if you've had mono as a kid and then you get exposed to molds, say maybe you went to college and you lived in a moldy dorm-room, unfortunately very common, then you might find that all of a sudden you get out of college, you're in your 20s and all of a sudden you're really tired and your fatigue is just kind of really consuming you. A lot of times it's because that moldy environment can suppress your immune system and now the virus which causes mono starts to kind of creep up and come to the surface.

Brooke Scheller: So let's talk about candida's role with the fungal infections as well.

Dr. Nicole R: Yeah, so when we say fungus, fungus is really the category of mold, and it's gonna be the category of yeast. Candida is just one of those yeasts that I feel like a lot of people have heard of because if they've been dealing with underlying gastrointestinal issues or they're getting bloated a lot or they're having just a lot of issues with either constipation or even sometimes loose bowel movements that they might be working with a physician that is telling them that they have candida. Candida is one of those things that everybody has a little bit in their system, but it will become overgrown in the event that you are eating high abundance of sugars and carbohydrates, typically, not favorable ones. Like, if you're gonna sit down and eat a bunch of fruit, you're not necessarily going to ever have a problem with candida, but if you're eating a lot more of processed carbohydrates, processed sugars, that's a little bit different of a story. You will actually overgrow that yeast and have that become problematic.

Brooke Scheller: So, let's talk about how the fungus and the mold may affect the male hormones.

Dr. Nicole R: Yeah. So, there's a similar thing that happens in the event of how estrogen plays a role with women primarily, again, because it can produce more of those false estrogens for men and what men might actually start to see is that they're having excess weight in their abdomen. They might even start having excess tissue around the breast area. So, not all men are gonna develop the full-blown gynecomastia, which is what we call man-boobs. But, they might just notice that they have more fatty deposits around the nipple area, but also they might just be struggling with getting rid of their belly, even if they're working out and everything. It's because the fungus is producing what we call false estrogens so it's actually raising the estrogen within the body.

The other really important thing is we see low testosterone levels. What's very interesting about this is in the body, there is a process and it's kind of this cascade of hormonal conversion. So you have, first of all, [DHEA 00:12:11], which makes both your estrogen and testosterone, but what happens is there is this process called aromatase and what aromatase does is it breaks down extra estrogen into testosterone. So, the primary thing that mold does is it shuts down your aromatase pathway. So, pretty much, you hold on to a bunch of estrogen and you stop producing or having that conversion into testosterone. So, you'll naturally start to see the testosterone drop and you, again, might see that you're having these weird patterns of fat tissue accumulating and it has a lot to do with the estrogen accumulation.

With this, I feel like this is kind of an epidemic of men having low testosterone. I think that the mold and fungus is a very, very big part of the puzzle. Again, this is food related, this is also going to be environment related. But, another big part of this in the food world is so many foods that we're eating, like animal based products, everything from the dairy, the milks, as well as our meats, are pumped full of hormones, a.k.a. estrogen.

So we have this double compounding effect of a male who is exposed to molds, maybe also has candida overgrowth because he really likes sugar and then also in addition, is consuming a lot of animal products, but not buying anything organic or grass-fed and getting exposed to a ton of hormones there. That's literally like a triple effect of estrogen accumulation.

Brooke Scheller: Well and I think what's very interesting is, and I know that you want to talk more about this, but how we see so many drugs that are now marketed towards men and helping with erectile dysfunction and things of that nature. For a man, I think it's a lot less common to go out and go to his doctor versus a women who is having menopausal symptoms. I think women go out of their way more to seek some type of hormone therapy. But I think for men, they go in, "Hey doc, I'm having some issues," and the first thing that the doctor's gonna do is put them on some type of testosterone medication. So, how's that gonna play a role?

Dr. Nicole R: Well what I find so interesting is I've worked with plenty of men that have gone down that road. I have had men doing testosterone injections. I've had men taking different types of oral medications for testosterone. It doesn't change the testosterone. I never see the numbers change. It just gets to this point, because the men are thinking that they're obviously doing a good thing, like, "Oh, I have to wait, it'll kick in eventually." It's not the way that it works because if you have these underlying issues that are preventing the conversion, your body's ability to convert into testosterone, you could take take all the testosterone that you want and your body is pretty much not absorbing it and it's not using it. So, it's really a matter of once you fix the foundational problems, you will start to see those numbers go up. But it's definitely something that ... It always blows my mind. You see men that have been testosterone for six months, eight months, a year, and the number has changed maybe 20 points, which is insignificant.

Yeah, also the supplementation with testosterone is going to feed the issue because it's just going to cause more of the testosterone to covert into estrogen. So you actually will be promoting more of an estrogen accumulation.

Brooke Scheller: So what would be your words of wisdom who are listening and are thinking, "Oh my gosh, that's me. I've gone down this route and I still don't feel better."

Dr. Nicole R: [00:16:30] Well I think the biggest thing is is starting to kind of look outside the box because if you are someone who's been struggling with hormonal issues ... And again, when we say hormonal issues, this could be anything from just PMS to bad cramps to endometriosis, cysts on your ovaries or fibroids, whatever it is, all of those are going to be indicators for hormonal imbalance. If you embarked on birth control and you embarked on bioidenticals and you just still do not feel like your hormones are balanced, it's time to kind of dig a little bit deeper and see if any types of infections are playing a role in your hormones because unfortunately, it is very, very, very common. I really have not worked with one woman who came to me with a hormonal issue that did not have some level of an infection that was compromising that.

I'm not saying that every single person it was mold or every single person it was yeast, but those are two big culprits. But, there are other types of viruses and infections that also play a role in your hormones. I always say the hormones are like the last part of the snowball effect. You have all of these foundational things that will start to dysfunction and once that process keeps going or those infections are not resolved, you will start to see hormones get out of balance. So, it's really fixing those foundational issues and you should see major, major improvement.

Brooke Scheller: I always explain to people ... I remember learning this a long time ago and this always kind of sat really well with me that your reproductive system is the only entire organ system in your body that you could remove the entire thing and still live. So, unfortunately, whenever something's going wrong in the body, the hormonal system tends to be the first one to go because that's the one that we don't really need to exist ... To live-

Dr. Nicole R: To survive.

Brooke Scheller: To survive. So, we'll tend to see the hormones go first and then maybe down the line we're seeing things like headaches or more significant symptoms.

Dr. Nicole R: Mm-hmm. Yeah, that's a really good point. The hormones are definitely affected by so many of ... Not even always just the infection, but the toxins given off by different types of infections. It's definitely a system that is fragile.

Brooke Scheller: Well, we really hope that this resonated with some of you and one of the things that we do on all of our podcasts is we offer a free 15 minute strategy call if you're listening and you want to talk more about how we might be able to help your symptoms or guide you on asking better questions. So if you head to integrativewellnessgroup.com, you can schedule that right on the home page and we look forward to speaking with you soon.