Toxic molds (fungi) are parasites that live in or on another organism (its host ie: humans) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. All molds/fungi must secure essential trace nutrients, including iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and phosphorus for survival and to overpower their host (humans).
They steal our nutrients with specialized hyphae called haustoria that penetrate a host’s cell wall and lie against the plasma membrane, where they can absorb food. The loss of food and nutrients to the host then causes malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies that can lead to a whole host of different illnesses, diseases, and death if it is not corrected. This parasitic process occurs in all life such as plants, insects, animals, mammals and humans.
There are many vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can result from toxic mold illness and fungal infections. One of these minerals I would like to share with you in this article is zinc.
Who do we need zinc?
Zinc is the second most abundant transition (trace) metal (mineral) in the human body, second only to copper. It is one of the most important trace minerals that people need to stay healthy by working in our body’s defensive (immune) system in order to function properly (Shankar and Prasad, 1998).
The pathogenic molds know this so when they live in our bodies via a fungal infection, they steal our zinc which leads to a deprivation of zinc or a what is commonly known as a zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency is a massive worldwide problem that currently affects approximately 2.2 billion people around the globe. A zinc deficiency can result in several health issues such as inflammation, diarrhea, malnutrition, loss of appetite, growth retardation, developmental issues and produces systematic dysfunction in the human body. Zinc is also required by our bodies for the maintenance of the structural integrity of proteins, regulation of gene expression, cell growth, cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
Over time, our body’s immune system had figured out how these fungal invaders were stealing our nutrients so it has developed the ability to withhold and limiting nutrients in order to starve the pathogenic molds. A process called “nutritional immunity”. Unfortunately, these clever, billion-year-old organisms have found ways to hack our immune systems to work around our natural defenses.
How do molds (fungi) steal our zinc?
The need of zinc for the growth of Aspergillus niger was first observed in 1869. There have been many studies in the last decade that show how zinc is one of the key players in host-pathogen interactions. Researchers have shown that to overcome extreme zinc limitation within the host environment, molds have successfully evolved a number of mechanisms to secure sufficient concentrations of zinc for their survival and pathogenesis.
A 2012 study titled, “Zinc Exploitation by Pathogenic Fungi,” had found that fungi rely on zinc for growth through a cofactor of several enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and alcohol dehydrogenase and many other proteins, such as transcription factors. The researchers found that in order to cause infections, pathogenic fungi must assimilate zinc from their host environment.
A process they dubbed “zincophore”.
For example, candida albicans secretes a zinc-binding protein (Pra1, pH-regulated antigen), which can sequester this metal from the environment and is required for stealing zinc from host cells. They noted that zinc acquisition by the pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus encodes three zinc transporters (zrfA-C), all of which are positively regulated by ZafA, the functional orthologue of yeast Zap1.
The researchers said that the most well characterized zincophore-encoding species, C. albicans and A. fumigatus, are both notable for aggressive, hypha formation-mediated tissue invasion and inflammation.
They concluded, “Therefore, an intriguing possibility is that the loss of the zincophore system by contemporary human fungal pathogens may actually contribute to their capacity to evade certain aspects of immune recognition. Whilst foregoing zincophore-mediated zinc scavenging, yeasts such as C. glabrata, Cryptococcus neoformans and Histoplasma capsulatum may benefit from avoiding unwanted attention from aggressive host immune responses.
In summary, as the scope of nutritional immunity expands beyond iron to encompass other metals, the molecular mechanisms that pathogenic microorganisms deploy to circumvent host metal restriction represents fertile ground for the identification of novel virulence factors.” (1)
A 2016 study had looked at the adaptive responses of Candida and Cryptococcus species to changes in environmental zinc and copper and found significant shifts in zinc and copper availability upon transitions between commensal or environmental and infective stages. The researchers stated that certain successful fungal pathogens have hardwired virulence factor expression into their metal ion sensing machinery and may use the metal ion environment of the host as a key signal.(2)
What symptoms and ill health effects will a zinc deficiency cause?
Now that we know that molds (aka fungi) like to steal our essential nutrients such as zinc and our bodies like to limit its availability during a fungal infection, this will naturally lead to a zinc deficiency and let’s take a look at what this will cause.
A 2009 study had detailed that zinc plays an essential role in numerous biochemical pathways. Zinc deficiency affects many organ systems, including the integumentary, gastrointestinal, central nervous system, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems. The researchers stated that a zinc deficiency results in dysfunction of both humoral and cell-mediated immunity and increases the susceptibility to infection.
Zinc deficiency is also associated with acute and chronic liver disease and has also been implicated in diarrheal disease, and supplementation has been effective in both prophylaxis and treatment of acute diarrhea.(3)
Many of you who are reading this know that mold also causes inflammation. Researchers in a 2012 study found that a deprivation of zinc can result in the generation of inflammatory cytokines which cause oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
They said that zinc has a critical effect in homeostasis, in immune function, in oxidative stress, in apoptosis, and in aging, and significant disorders of great public health interest are associated with zinc deficiency. In many chronic diseases, including atherosclerosis, several malignancies, neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases, aging, age-related degenerative diseases, and Wilson’s disease, the concurrent zinc deficiency may complicate the clinical features, affect adversely immunological status, increase oxidative stress, and lead to the generation of inflammatory cytokines.
The researchers concluded, “In these diseases, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation may play important causative roles. It is therefore important that status of zinc is assessed in any case and zinc deficiency is corrected, since the unique properties of zinc may have significant therapeutic benefits in these diseases.”(4)
Mold Safe Solutions Conclusion
If molds are in our bodies and they are stealing our nutrients like zinc, then it makes perfect sense to counteract this by adding more zinc to our diets by supplementing. In my next article, I will go over how this can help your health and also may help kill the mold in your body.
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.