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Recognizing Mold Toxicity Symptoms | The Integrative Approach to Mold Illness

Are you experiencing persistent, unexplained, symptoms even after trying several OTC medications in just as many months without relief? You may be living with mold growth in your home or workplace, and it's far more common than you might think. Spotting symptoms of mold toxicity and knowing how mold exposure happens are the most important pieces of education you can arm yourself to protect against mold illness.

In this blog post, we will discuss the integrative medicine approach to treating mold toxicity. We will explain what mold toxicity is and how it can affect your health. We will also discuss the symptoms of toxic mold exposure and why they are so difficult to diagnose. Finally, you'll learn what you can do to decrease mold exposure at home and in your daily life.

What is mold toxicity?

Mold toxicity is a collection of symptoms resulting from exposure to mycotoxins due to mold growth in indoor environments.

Airborne mold spores themselves are largely harmless, as they float around naturally both indoors and outdoors. But it's when they find a moist, stagnant place to grow that they become a problem.

As they multiply, mold spores then produce mycotoxins, which cause an inflammatory reaction by your immune system. Mold spores commonly live under ceiling tiles, flooring, and carpet where there's moisture and little ventilation. 

Different mold species grow indoors, as well as the species commonly referred to as 'toxic black mold'. Black mold exposure is dangerous and should be treated for removal by a professional mold remediator.

Related: 12 Natural Antimicrobials to Help You Stay Well

Mold toxicity symptoms are often misdiagnosed

The symptoms of mold exposure can be extensive and mimic other allergic or immune issues. Mold illness may be misdiagnosed as asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), or even mental illness, as some of the more common symptoms are neurological (1,2)

Despite the number of water-damaged buildings in the country, the mainstream conventional medical community has been slower to acknowledge the serious risk posed by exposure to mold and mycotoxins. 

Additionally, some people are at increased risk of severe illness as a result of mold exposure, while others may experience no health issues or minor symptoms. 

Learn more about conditions we treat: Chronic Fatigue and Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

11 Common Symptoms of Mold Exposure

According to estimates, nearly half of all homes in the U.S. have some type of mold growth, which makes the chances that you’ll never be exposed to mold rather unlikely (3). 

Symptoms of mold toxicity include:

  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Red, itchy, and watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Rashes
  • Frequent chest cold or congestion
  • Chronic sinus infections or sinus inflammation
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Tingling and numbness in extremities
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps or joint pain
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lightheadedness

If you’re someone who has seasonal allergies, other underlying respiratory health conditions, or asthma, your symptoms may be more severe.

Related: The Functional Medicine Guide to Seasonal Allergies

Want to learn more?

Who’s at risk for mold exposure?

Exposure to damp and moldy environments where mold grows is the biggest factor for developing mold illness. Some people, including those with a mold allergy or who have asthma, may have more severe symptoms. Severe reactions may occur among people who are exposed to large amounts of molds in their workplace or indoor settings, such as farmers working around moldy grains. Severe reactions may include neurological symptoms and worsened respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath.

Those who are susceptible to the effects of mycotoxins may also need to identify sources of moldy food in their diet. Unfortunately, mold and mycotoxins are a huge concern for almost all grains, nuts and seeds (especially peanuts), coffee, and hard cheeses.

You may like: Quercetin and the Benefits of Other Natural Antihistamines

People with a weakened Immune System

Those who have a weakened immune system can develop mold illness in the days to weeks following exposure to mold (4). Mold exposure triggers an inflammatory response, which, if left unchecked, can cause damage to your DNA, gut, and brain. In fact, neuroinflammation is among the most common symptoms of mold exposure (5). Over time, mycotoxins also result in immune suppression, leaving the body vulnerable to the resurgence of latent infections. Chronic mold exposure also impairs the immune response to other pathogens, increasing the risk of infections.

Support your body’s natural defenses with high-quality vitamins, minerals, and herbs.

People with Chronic Diseases

Some people with chronic respiratory disease or autoimmune conditions develop mold illness symptoms after only brief mold exposure. The longer they inhaled the worse symptoms may become. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses require avoidance of indoor mold, and diligent actions to prevent mold growth.

Could mold be responsible for CFS and MS?

There is some evidence that multiple sclerosis is primarily a mold toxin disease (6). Supporters of this theory explain that the development of this nervous system disorder is due to a metabolite produced by some species of Aspergillus and Candida (two types of molds). This toxic metabolite suppresses immune function, increases blood-brain-barrier permeability, and is highly neurotoxic.

Additionally, as is already known, cases of MS increase the further away from the equator you are, which also correlates with both mold exposure and decreased vitamin D—a critical nutrient for immune system modulation. Some researchers think there could be a link between mold exposure, vitamin D deficiency, and multiple sclerosis. 

Another study showed a high correlation in the presence of mycotoxins present in the urine of patients who were diagnosed with chronic fatigue (6). Of the 102 CFS patients studied, 93% had 1 mycotoxin present, and nearly 30% had 2 or more mycotoxins present.

These are intriguing connections, although further research is warranted to better understand this association between mold exposure and chronic neurological conditions.

Learn more about conditions we treat: Chronic Fatigue and Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

How do you test for toxic mold exposure?

There is no simple, straightforward way to diagnose mold illness, which is one reason mold poisoning presents such a challenge for conventional medicine. Testing mainly looks at the body’s immunologic and inflammatory reaction to mold, not the mold itself.

  • Blood or urine tests identify certain antibodies, which indicate your immune system’s reaction to mold. They also examine metabolites of mold and mycotoxins.
  • Mold allergy tests can also measure your allergic reaction to certain molds, indicating your sensitivity to their presence in your environment.
  • A certified mold inspector can evaluate your home or other indoor settings for the source of the mold, at which point you can begin detoxification from mycotoxin illness.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of mold illness, get in touch with a patient coordinator quickly and easily.

How does functional medicine treat mold toxicity symptoms?

Treating symptoms of mold exposure is a multi-step process that involves your environment, diet, certain changes in lifestyle, and the help of supplements to help support detoxification pathways.

Eliminate mold exposure

First, it’s key to remove yourself from a moldy environment. For some, this process is the most difficult part if there is extensive mold in your home, air conditioner, or HVAC system. You can also reduce your overall burden of mold by eliminating common mold-containing foods like coffee, peanuts, dried fruit, cured meats, and grains.

Optimize detoxification pathways

Your body was designed to efficiently remove harmful substances via your kidneys, liver, lungs, and lymphatic system. There are also ways you can support this natural process. Helpful supplements include: 

Gentle binders such as G.I. Detox provide safe elimination of mycotoxin metabolites.

IV therapy also supports glutathione and antioxidant function to mitigate inflammation.

Lower inflammation

Because mold illness is a result of your immune system’s inflammatory response, you’ll want to focus on as many anti-inflammatory factors as possible. Get plenty of sleep, follow an anti-inflammatory diet, stay active, and optimize antioxidant production.

Work with a functional medicine provider to treat underlying fungal overgrowth

Common signs of underlying fungal infections include yeast infections, oral thrush, and digestive issues. Molds and Candida can affect the sinuses, bladder, gut, lungs, and vagina.

Shop: Metagenics Candibactin-BR

Don’t let mold interfere with your health

Most of us share our environment with various types of mold and other microbes, but when mold begins to grow inside our homes and offices, they produce mycotoxins that cause symptoms of mold illness. This condition causes inflammation and irritates multiple organs and systems. Symptoms often mimic other respiratory and neurological illnesses, which makes mold illness a challenge to properly diagnose. 

If you have lingering symptoms you can’t quite explain, and believe you may be exposed to mold, it’s important to work with a qualified integrative physician. They can help you diagnose and treat mold or mycotoxin illness.  

Resources 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705282/
  2. https://www.clinicaltherapeutics.com/article/S0149-2918(18)30229-7/fulltext
  3. https://iaqscience.lbl.gov/dampness-and-mold
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/mold/invasive-mold-infections.htm 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444319/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4982651/ 

Tags

Holistic healing for autoimmune disease, holistic medical care for the family, holistic medicine, Mold Toxicity


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