San Diego While allergists are showing alarm at the increasing problem of mold, one physician believes the problem has been entirely overblown. Barnet Meltzer has been practicing holistic medicine in Del Mar since 1972. An author of four books on health and nutrition, Meltzer doesn't practice medicine in the traditional sense.
The hallmarks of Meltzer's practice are fitness, nutrition, stress management, and attitude. Expanding his practice from the boundaries of traditional medicine has taken Meltzer into the realm of advising, training, and coaching. One of his clients was Carl Lewis, whom Meltzer helped train for the 1996 Olympics. "I'm more of a lifestyle coach. Executives hire me who want to increase their productivity and avoid burnout. Professional athletes will hire me who want to improve their performance."
While recognizing mold can be a problem, Meltzer believes the environment can be controlled to some degree. "There is toxic mold probably everywhere you go. It's a question of to what degree you're talking about, in terms of infestation. Depending upon the hygiene of the home, the personal hygiene of the residents, the proximity to the beach, and the humidity of the home, there are various molds that like dark, warm, moist type of environments in which to grow.
"The thing that's challenging about this whole problem with allergy -- and this is where my approach would be different -- is that even though there is a certain amount of allergy to mold or pollen or dust or ragweed or what have you, what I have discovered is that it really depends upon the individual's immune system and lymph system and how those are functioning, which will determine what type of a reaction you will have to a mold. If you take someone whose immune system is very competitive, and their lymph system is rather clean, and they're exposed to mold and they're 'allergic' to mold, the impact on their body will be minimal to none. Take somebody who has a more compromised immune system or more clogged lymphatic system, which comes from eating the more common foods, they're going to have much more of a reaction."
Meltzer sees the problem not so much in the mold or other environmental substances as with the condition of the patient. "When you evaluate a patient, the important questions of how do they feel -- do they have fatigue, headaches, dizziness? A lot of people have developed a condition called candidiasis or candida, which is a yeast-type of mold that gets into people's bodies, lives in the digestive system, and can penetrate -- for example, women commonly know about it because they get yeast infections and things of that nature. It's a rather common condition we see, particularly people with chronic fatigue syndrome, low blood sugar hypoglycemia, allergies, and problems along those lines. The point I'm trying to get at is, as a doctor, your patient comes in and says, 'My sinuses are clogged, I have headaches, I have sore throats, I have achiness,' etcetera, and you try to figure out what's going on, and now you're concerned about their allergy to molds. But take that same patient and do a careful nutritional history, and you find out what undiagnosed food allergies are present -- which are invariably present in most people who have these reactions. And you get that part of their metabolism corrected, they come back to being exposed to molds and don't have nearly the same reaction as the person who didn't go through that internal cleansing with their diet."
In explaining how lymphatic systems get clogged, Meltzer refers to his latest book,Food Swings: Make the Life-Changing Connection Between the Foods You Eat and Your Emotional Health. "If you've read this, the most common foods that clog the lymph system are the things that most people like to eat. Dairy products, eggs, milk products, yogurt, sweets, white flour foods, refined carbohydrates -- anything that tends to be creamy, sweet, and pasty is going to cause that kind of clogging of the lymph system. If you try to take people off the dairy products and get them away from eating sweets, desserts, white bread, white pasta, white rice, white flour, white crackers, and things like that, you'll be surprised how much that becomes a real part of most peoples' dietary lifestyle. We detoxify that. We put people on a cleansing diet and nutritional detox program that we set up. I wrote a book in 1980 called The 21-Day Del Mar Diet, and it was basically broken down into a cleansing, detox, and maintenance diet. If you take this patient, who has a sensitivity to molds, and they're living at home, and they see mold in the corners of the house, in the linen, perhaps in the food or what have you, and they're suffering with fatigue, allergies, and all kinds of symptoms, if you take that same person and put them through a detoxification, you'll almost always find that the ones that have the most severe reactions have other undiagnosed food allergies going on."
Treating the causes rather than results is Meltzer's answer to mold and other allergy problems. "What the regular doctor is going to do is say, 'You've got a problem with this mold, so you've got to go on some type of a desensitization process' and whatever it is that they generally prescribe. It doesn't take that person's metabolic lifestyle into consideration. So you've got to think that stress to the lymph system is a nutritional factor, and emotional stress also plays a role, especially if they have a very stressful lifestyle. But it's very common for people to come in with these types of complaints and to be told, 'Oh my God! You've got this mold. You need to change where you live and change your home.' That's not my initial approach to the situation. I'd say that 90 percent plus of the people who have this problem don't have to move out of their homes.
"Molds are like secondary invaders. Like scavengers, they're opportunistic invaders. They grow in unfavorable circumstances. That's how you get a mold. It's not so much the mold as much as the fact that the immune system is somewhat compromised, and they are more vulnerable to the mold. Let's say you go to a party with your spouse and some friends, and there's a youngster there with a cold or the flu, and one of you gets the flu but the others don't. So one of you says, 'Oh gosh, I was at the party and little Jeremy had the flu, and that's why I got it.' Well, not really. It's really about the interaction between the host, being the person, and the agent, being the mold or bacteria, that determines the outcome of the situation. So clearly, the most compelling situation is a powerful immune system and a low aggressiveness of mold. The worst situation would be an aggressive mold and a weak immune system."