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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kari Young

Is it Mold Toxicity?

Mold toxicity affects up to 10% of the global population, and nearly everyone is exposed to mold at some point in their lives. People can be exposed to mold in their workplace, schools, or at home. When left untreated, undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, mold toxicity can lead to chronic health challenges.

Most medical doctors do not properly diagnose or treat mold toxicity in their patients. One reason is that the symptoms can be often indistinct, and attributable to other causes. And, it is common for patients to be completely unaware that they have been exposed to toxic mold.

It is important that you determine whether any symptoms or diagnosis are attributable to mold toxicity so that it can be effectively addressed.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report titled “Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mold”, it is estimated that 10% to 50% of indoor environments in North America, India, Europe, Australia, and Japan have significant mold issues, with a greater likelihood in coastal areas and areas close to water.

Toxic mold growth can be found in any environment, and most people become exposed by toxic mold in their schools, homes and workplaces. When a building is found with mold toxicity, it is labeled as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). Many steps can be taken to confirm the level of mold toxicity as well as effective remediation.

The Most Dangerous Molds

Most people are aware that black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is among the most dangerous types of mold; however, there are many more types that pose as much danger to the human body.

Examples of other types of mold often found in toxic indoor environments include:

  • Aspergillus

  • Chaetomium

  • Cladosporium

  • Fusarium

  • Mucor

  • Penicillium

  • Rhizopus

  • Wallemia

Mold is dangerous because it produces toxins such as mycotoxins and microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs).

Mycotoxins attach to mold spores and travel through the air. While mVOCs are gasses and travel on their own. Mold exposure can be by swallowing, breathing, or physically touching the mold.

Mycotoxins are poisonous chemicals produced by mold and are extremely harmful, even with minimal exposure. They are quite insidious since they are generally odorless.

There are hundreds of different types of mycotoxins, and each is dangerous to our health, specifically to the lungs, mitochondria and kidneys. For example:

Ochratoxin A: Suppresses the immune system, and damages brain function.

Trichothecenes: Prevents the cell's production of protein, damages nerves, and can cause oxidative stress.

Aflatoxins: Increases the risk of liver cancer.

In contrast to mycotoxins, mVOCs are generally odorous, and often present as a musty smell.

Mold is often overlooked unless it can be seen or smelled. However, mold may be lurking and remain undetected.

Mold Sickness

The symptoms of mold toxicity vary wildly from person to person. In fact, I have treated clients with specific mold symptoms that were completely different from the list of symptoms of their exposed family members. Some people can be exposed without any symptoms whatsoever.

Factors that affect a person’s sensitivity to mold include their toxic load, health status, and extent of exposure.

There are no clear cut symptoms that make mold toxicity an obvious diagnosis. Many people are misdiagnosed with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These diagnoses completely fail to identify the root cause.

For example, a study of people with chronic fatigue syndrome revealed that 90% had ongoing exposure to a water-damaged building. The same study showed that 93% had tested positive for one or more mycotoxins in their urine.

Mold is often one of the root causes of chronic disease and must be addressed and removed from the body.

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)

Mold can cause chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), or biotoxin illness, which can lead to changes in brain structure and damage to the nervous system. The following signs and symptoms are often found in CIRS due to mold toxicity:

  • Weight: Weight gain or loss

  • Brain: Brain fog, memory loss, loss of words, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression

  • Gut: Pain, bloating, diarrhea, leaky gut, vomiting

  • Respiratory: Chest tightness, sinus congestion, cough, asthma, runny nose, shortness of breath, sneezing

  • Immune System: Autoimmune conditions, flu-like symptoms

  • Nervous System: Dizziness, headaches, numbness, poor balance, poor coordination, seizures

  • Sensitivities: Heightened sensitivities to light, chemicals, fragrances, odors, foods, temperature. Metallic taste in mouth, skin sensitivity to light touch, prone to static shocks.

  • Skin: Dryness, irritation, rashes

Diagnosing Mold Toxicity

The conventional medical community does not generally address the root cause of illness, and therefore does not diagnose the presence of mold toxicity.

If you are interested in determining whether you are suffering from mold toxicity, here are a few ways to do so:

  • A urine mycotoxin test. Excreting an elevated level of mycotoxins is a sign of mold illness.

  • A blood test to measure specific immune system and inflammatory markers, for example C4a, TGF Beta-1, and MMP-9. These markers alone do not confirm mold toxicity, however may be an indicator.

  • Heightened sensitivity to chemicals with symptoms such as a cough, headache, or nausea.

  • Continual and recurring infections such as a weak immune system or sinusitis.

  • Known mold exposure and a link to symptoms. Often clients can link the moving of homes or workspaces to new symptoms.

  • Hypersensitivity to the smell of mold in an environment or on other people’s clothing.

The more criteria you meet, the more likely that you have mold toxicity.

#1 - Eliminate Mold Exposure

If you suspect that you suffer from mold toxicity, it is important that you determine the source of exposure, and to take steps to remove yourself or the mold from the environment.

There are several approaches to confirm the existence of mold in your environment, depending on availability in your area:

Dust samples: The gold standard for mold testing is the dust sample test, the Environmental Relative Mold Index (ERMI). The test involves sending a sample to a lab which tests the DNA and determines that type and density of the mold.

Mold plates: The mold plate test involves collecting mold spores in Petri dishes, which can be located in various rooms in the building or home. These samples are sent to a lab for analysis. False negatives may occur since not all molds settle on mold plates, and could be overlooked.

Professional inspection: Mold inspectors vary in quality, and may present with a conflict of interest if they offer both inspection and remediation services. I recommend Pure Maintenance to see if they service your area.

Tape samples: If you have actually seen something that looks like mold, you could buy a tape sample test and send the sample to the lab for analysis.

Once you determine mold exposure, you can choose to either remediate the problem or move out of the toxic environment. If you do move, ensure that you dispose of any mold-contaminated items so that you don’t simply move the source.

New vapor technology (dry fogging) can make your home mold safe. It is the most affordable option for remediation and prevention.

#2 - Lower your Overall Inflammation

Mold toxicity causes chronic inflammation, and ensuring that this is managed is important to regaining your health. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet and implementing healthy lifestyle habits is a great way to mitigate and reduce inflammation.

#3 - Support the Drainage Pathways

Opening the drainage pathways is essential for proper detoxification of toxins.

The liver moves mycotoxins from the blood and into the bile. Make sure that your bowels are moving at least three times a day, in order to remove the toxic bile from the body. Regular bowel movements ensure that toxins do not get backed up and reabsorbed into the body.

#4 - Sweat

Sweating is an overlooked strategy for detoxing, and studies have shown that ochratoxins and other types of mycotoxins are removed through sweat. To sweat and open lymph more do an infrared sauna and/or get more regular physical activity.

In addition to removing mold toxins, sweating is effective for removing the overall toxic burden, including heavy metals. It is important to address the overall toxic burden in order to completely heal from mold toxicity.

If you are new to sweating, I recommend easing into it gradually in order to avoid releasing a toxic storm in your body, which may cause you to feel worse. Ensure that you stay hydrated with pure water.

#5 - Remove All Pathogens

Mold toxicity inhibits the immune system, and may cause chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, parasitic infections and other viruses to flare up. These pathogens can compromise the immune system and make the body more vulnerable to mold toxicity.

When it comes to parasites, it’s important to know that we all have them! Some of us have higher levels than others, and this can lead to a parasitic infection. Mold spores are known to hide inside of parasites. And, some parasitic worms can block the bile ducts, interfering with toxin drainage. Detoxing from parasites is an important step to recover from mold toxicity!

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