Chronic mold exposure is an often overlooked yet serious underlying issue behind many chronic symptoms and health issues. Mold mycotoxins can create chronic inflammation, disrupt your immune system, trigger allergic reactions, and cause mold-related illness. It is a serious environmental health issue.
Mold-related illness is a complex and chronic health issue caused by chronic exposure to mold mycotoxins. If you’ve been exposed to mold, uncovering the connection between mold and your symptoms may be a critical step to recovery.
So what is mold-related illness and what can you do about the negative effects of mold? Let’s find out.
What Is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus. It can thrive under various conditions, but it especially loves warm, moist, musty, and damp environments. No wonder you can often find mold hiding in your bathroom, kitchen, basement, under carpeting, behind drywall, and behind wallpapers. Moldy areas can become a serious problem in older and unkempt houses or places with water damage. Some mold may also grow on food, plants, or soil.
When it comes to mold, the real problem is the mycotoxins that it releases into the air. Mycotoxins can irritate your body, create chronic inflammation, compromise your immune system, and cause a variety of chronic symptoms and health issues. It’s not enough that mold can hide in less visible places, it can also spread wide and far quickly. The problem may start with a little bit of mold in one spot by your bathtub, but its tiny spores can travel fat through the air. Soon enough, it may start to grow other parts of your home as well. You may also breathe in these spores through the air, causing health issues.
North America alone has about 1,000 species of mold. The most common types of toxic mold include Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Alternaria, Memnoniella, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys or black mold. The mycotoxins or mold toxins from mold are responsible for your mold-related symptoms. They are common allergens and a potential reason behind inflammation and chronic health issues. Depending on the type of mold or mycotoxin, they may cause different issues, including respiratory symptoms, lung issues, gastrointestinal distress, skin problems, cognitive symptoms, nervous system problems, and so on.
What Is Mold Illness?
Mold-related illness, mold illness, or mold toxicity refers to an illness that’s caused by exposure to mold spores and mycotoxins. The two are often confused, but mold allergies and mold illness are not the same.
Mold allergies are caused by mold spores. If you have an allergy to mold, when you inhale its spores, you will develop respiratory symptoms similar to hay fever. Mold illness, on the other hand, is caused by toxic vapors and mycotoxins from mold that can lead to a chronic inflammatory response and related chronic symptoms.
The topic of chronic illness from long-term mold and mycotoxin exposure is still controversial (1). However, various research studies and my personal experience treating patients suggest that mold-related illness is very much a real and serious issue.
How Mold Affects Your Body
Mold mycotoxins can disrupt your health in various ways. Health problems related to mold include:
- Mold exposure and the inhalation of mycotoxins can lead to a significant increase of inflammatory markers (2).
- Mold mycotoxins can impact your gut microbiota and cause gastrointestinal symptoms (3).
- Chronic mold exposure can reduce neurological and cognitive functions, such as memory, reaction time, and grip strength (4).
- Mold mycotoxins can negatively affect your immune system, energy production, hormonal health, and nervous system (5).
- Mold exposure may compromise your lung health (6).
- Mold mycotoxins may increase mast cell activation and histamine intolerance (7).
- Chronic mold exposure may increase chronic inflammation (8).
- Chronic mold exposure may compromise your immune system (9).
Symptoms of Mold Illness?
Mold-related illness may present itself in various ways. Your health risks may depend on your other health conditions and overall health. Your symptoms may range from mild to severe. If you have a compromised immune system, lung issues, or allergies, your symptoms may be more severe (10). Health effects and symptoms of mold-related illness may include:
- Respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, sinus issues, congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath, allergy symptoms, bronchitis, chest tightness, and asthma attacks (11, 12)
- Neurological symptoms, such as poor memory, brain fog, poor concentration, dizziness, imbalances, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues (13, 14, 15)
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea (3, 16)
- Musculoskeletal symptoms, such as muscle aches and joint pain (17)
- Immunological symptoms, such as hypersensitivity to certain food, molds, or chemicals, and allergic reactions (18)
- Cardiovascular symptoms, such as bruising, hemoptysis, and petechiae (19)
- Other symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, migraines, skin rashes, hives, and other skin issues (16, 20, 21)
Solutions for Mold-Related Illness
If you have mold in your home or experiencing mold-related symptoms or illness, there are some crucial steps you can take to improve your health. Here is what I recommend:
Reduce Your Mold Exposure
First, I recommend checking your home for hidden and visible mold problems. If there is indoor mold in your home, no matter what you do to improve your health, your symptoms will keep coming back. If there is mold in your home, call a mold remediation specialist to remove it professionally and get professional recommendations for solutions.
Next, check for and address any underlying issues behind mold growth, including water leaks, too much humidity, and old carpeting. In case of flooding or moisture leaks, lean up and dry up as quickly as possible and fix any water leaks right away.
Buy a high-quality air filtration system that removes mold spores and other pollutants from your indoor air and improves your indoor air quality and overall indoor environment. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner during warmer and humid months. If you have a concern regarding mold at your job, talk to HR about professional mold remediation and investing in an air filtration system.
Detoxify Your Body from Mold
I recommend getting tested for mold toxicity, especially if you’ve noticed symptoms of mold-related illness or you’ve been chronically exposed to mold. If you have symptoms of mold-related illness, support your body in detoxifying from them.
Drink plenty of water to support detoxification. Exercise regularly and try an infrared sauna to support sweating which allows detoxification through the skin. You may try activated charcoal, which can help to absorb and eliminate toxins (12). Take glutathione to support mitochondrial health and recovery from mold toxicity (13). Take a daily high-quality probiotic supplement to improve your microbiome after mold exposure.
Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle
Follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense whole foods diet with plenty of greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, sprouts, fruits, fermented food, nuts and seeds, pseudograins, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish. Since mold exposure may lead to histamine intolerance, you may benefit from following a low-histamine diet for 3 to 4 weeks. Improve your lifestyle by lowering your stress levels, getting restorative sleep every night, moving your body, and reducing environmental toxin exposure.
Working with a healthcare practitioner knowledgeable in mold-related illness is the best way to get to the root cause of your symptoms and to create an individualized treatment. I welcome you to start a personalized functional medicine consultation with me for further personalized guidance to improve your health. You may book your consultation here.