Mysterious Mold: Is it Making You Sick?
Average Read Time: 7 minutes
Mold is so mysterious. You have likely seen it creeping along your window sills and tile grout, growing on old food in the fridge, possibly in your clothes washer (especially front loading washers), and maybe even in your shower.
The lingering question at the back of our minds is, “Is that mold toxic?”
In this article I will outline and expand on some of the topics I covered in my Thyroid Refresh TV interview, “What Thyroid Patients Need to Know About Mold,” including mold-related illness, testing, mitigation, and detox.
The Truth About Black Mold and Mycotoxins
Most people have heard that “black” mold is bad mold, but doesn’t all mold look black?
The World Health Organization’s report about the Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality shows that approximately 50% of houses in the U.S. have dampness (water leakage or damage, bubbles or discoloration of floor coverings, visible mold growth on walls/floors/ceilings) or mold.
Not all molds produce mycotoxins, the actual toxic particles that can cause serious health issues. Mycotoxins can be produced by different species of mold that are not always black. Essentially, the color of the mold to the naked eye does not tell you anything about whether it is toxic or not. With over 100,000 species, testing for mycotoxins is the only way to tell if the mold is harmful (keep reading for more on testing).
Mold toxins pose a serious health threat for about 25–30% of the population.
Those who have a genetic predisposition to developing Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) are at risk for becoming very ill when exposed to mold.
Some people have such a severe sensitivity that within 15 minutes of being in a toxic, mold-infested room or building, they become ill—they have trouble breathing, break out in hives or rashes, become nauseous, etc.
But even if you don’t have the genetic risk factor, mold can be a problem for you. The exposure to mycotoxins (especially over an extended period of time) weighs on your immune system, making you more susceptible to other illnesses, and burdens your liver and all of your other detoxification organs.
Mold-related sickness goes all the way back to biblical times. It can be traced all the way back to the Old Testament of the Bible where it was known as the “plague.”
Mold plagued me. It contributed to high estrogen and eventually Hashimoto’s.
What Is Mold-Related Illness?
Unfortunately, mold-related illness often goes overlooked or misdiagnosed because conventional medicine doesn’t acknowledge that mold can make you sick. Even most functional medicine practitioners aren’t well versed on how to handle mold toxicity.
Along with a lack of education, getting a diagnosis for mold-related illness is challenging because the symptoms often cross over with other conditions.
Symptoms of mold sensitivity can include:
- Aches, asthma and sinus issues
- Difficulty concentrating, brain fog and dizziness
- Eye and throat irritation or flu-like symptoms
- Chronic fatigue, headaches and mood swings
- Rashes, weight gain and night sweats
- Frequent urination, weakness and tingling/numbness
- Hormone imbalances, menstrual irregularities and autoimmune disease
One of the signature signs of having a mold-related sickness is being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder (which can be caused by mold exposure) or some other chronic condition that doesn’t get better with treatment.
Two other signature signs of mold toxicity are frequent urination, since our body is trying to eliminate the toxins all of the time, and being electrically charged, meaning that you shock almost everything you touch.
As I mentioned earlier, you can’t tell if mold is toxic just by looking at it, or based on what color it is. The only way to tell if mold is toxic (and whether it’s having an effect on you) is by testing for it.
How to Test for Mold
Before you dive into hiring an expensive specialist or raising a ruckus at work about toxic mold, there are a few cheap and easy screening tests you can do…
The Visual Contrast Sensitivity Screening Test – Mold toxins can affect neurological function, and thus vision. This is an online test to measure your vision contrast. If the test is positive, it can be an indication of mold toxicity. However, if the test is negative, you still can’t rule out mold toxicity completely. My test was negative, but I did have other indicators for mold illness. For about $15, this test might be a good place to start, and it’s a cheap way to measure healing progress once you start treatment for mold.
ERMI or HERTSMI Dust Test – One of the problematic aspects of mold toxins is that they become airborne (known as mold spores), and they can become embedded in porous surfaces, thus contaminating the whole home or building. This simple at-home test looks for remnants of mold spores. You simply dust different surfaces with a cloth, send the samples to the lab, and about $200 later you have a report letting you know if mold spores (and the volume of them) are living in your environment.
ImmunoLytics Home Mold Test – This at-home test also looks for airborne mold spores, but has the advantage of testing separate rooms, surfaces and pets. You can test up to four locations for about $150. The report also includes a consultation with a mold specialist to review your results, with recommendations for your particular situation. Even if the type of mold that comes back on this test is not “toxic,” it can still be an indication of dampness. Where there’s dampness and one kind of mold, there can be more mold. This test can indicate whether it’s time to hire a professional to explore further.
Nasal Swab – Mycotoxins are a type of biotoxin that can result in something known as MARCoNS in the nasal passages. MARCoNS are found in many patients with mold exposure, chronic Lyme disease, and biotoxin illnesses. This at-home nasal swab test is approximately $90, easy to do, and can be an indicating factor for mold illness. However, if the results come back negative for MARCoNS, that doesn’t quite mean you’re in the clear, especially if you are still symptomatic and have other positive test results. I was negative for MARCoNS but had other bacterial and fungal overgrowth in my nasal passages, as well as other positive mold markers.
Mycotoxin Urine Test – Since toxins are excreted through urine, this type of test checks whether mold toxins are being eliminated this way. It’s a fairly simple test that any doctor, naturopath or functional health professional can typically order for you from a lab such as Great Plains. If your detoxification system is clogged or backed up, you may not pick up toxins from this test, OR the test can also show past exposures, so it’s best to pair it with one or a few of these other tests to look for correlation and determination.
Doctor Ordered Blood Markers – These might be a little bit tougher to get, but if you can convince your doctor to order them, you might just be lucky enough to have insurance cover the cost. These tests will provide direct insight into how mold might be making you sick. Some of the most important mold blood markers include C4a, C3a, MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone), TGF Beta 1 (Transforming growth factor Beta receptor 1, and VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor). These blood markers will show the inflammatory response that is occurring in your body as a result of biotoxins.
There’s no such thing as an all-inclusive test for mold toxicity. Knowing if mold is making you sick means looking for correlating factors such as:
- Known water damage or a leak
- Having symptoms
- Doing a combination of tests with a combo of positive indicators
If you have at least two positive correlating factors, then mold might be a problem.
In my case, I knew there was a leak in our house. I wasn’t feeling like myself and my hormones were a mess. Both my ImmunoLytics and ERMI test came back positive for mold spores.
Based on all of these signs, I invested in a professional mold testing specialist who confirmed we had toxic mold in our home. These results led me to doing the mold blood markers, and my numbers definitely weren’t right.
How to Get Rid of Toxic Mold
Mold is invasive, mysterious, and mutagenic.
Since fungal organisms such as mold can reproduce as quickly as every 30 minutes, adaptation happens much faster and easier than it does in, say, humans, who reproduce less frequently. This unique feature makes mold resistant to treatments with bleach, certain fungicides, and simply painting over the infected area.
To truly fix a mold illness problem, the most important action you can take is to physically remove the mold from your environment, not just “treat” it with something. In some cases, this might mean actually removing yourself from your home or work while the mold is remediated by a professional.
Because mold is mutagenic and the mycotoxins become airborne by means of mold spores, it’s important to also take steps to clean the air in your home and all porous surfaces that the mold spores can cling to.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to rid your environment of toxic mold and make it safe for you again:
- Identify the Source – Find the source of the water leak, dampness, and/or damage and take the necessary steps to fix it so it doesn’t happen again and lead to more mold in the future.
- Remediation/Removal – This should be done by a professional to protect you and your loved ones. Proper remediation includes sealing off the infected area with plastic and using air cleaning machines during the process to prevent the airborne mold spores from spreading even further.
- Clean Your Air – Since the mold spores are airborne, it’s also important to clean your air. This includes hiring a professional to clean air ducts, changing out HVAC air filters for filters that have a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of 16, and getting some HEPA air purifiers to place in your bedroom and other rooms where you spend large amounts of time.
- Spray and Wash – Because mold spores can become embedded in porous surfaces such as clothes, wood, and fabrics, it can be critical to also clean these items in your home. Citrisafe has a variety of products such as antifungal laundry detergent and upholstery spray, air fresheners and even pet shampoo. You might want to also consider cleaning furniture with a HEPA vacuum.
Once you’ve removed the mold and cleaned up the environment, it’s best to retest the space using an ImmunoLytics home test, ERMI, or HERTSMI periodically until you feel safe and confident that you’re mold-free.
UP NEXT: REDUCE JUICE: 30 WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR TOXIC BURDEN
How to Detoxify Your Body of Mold
The fungal and opportunistic nature of mold makes it tricky to remove from the body. The approach you take to getting rid of it must be strategic.
Just like any other toxin in our environment, mold toxins (or mycotoxins) are filtered by the body’s natural detoxification system (which requires the involvement of the liver, lymphatic system, kidneys, and intestines).
What is a bit unusual about this toxin compared to others, however, is it can promote the growth of fungus inside the body as well.
Mold can also be resistant to typical natural binding agents such as activated charcoal and clay, making it especially hard to pull out of the body. Prescription medications may even be required in some of the more severe cases because the natural binding agents that would typically work just aren’t strong enough.
Before attempting to detox your body of mold toxins, I highly recommend testing the mold blood markers and doing a nasal swab test as mentioned above, and consulting with a functional health practitioner.
Once you evaluate the depth of mold toxicity in the body, here are five simple steps you can take to support your body in healing from and eliminating mold toxins:
- Remove inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, and alcohol – This is important for various reasons, primarily because mold toxins cause SO MUCH inflammation, which contributes to further dysfunction in the body. removing other inflammatory factors, such as certain foods, will help to ease the burden and allow the body to do its detoxing job. Additionally, inflammatory foods feed fungus in the body, so to effectively get rid of it, you have to cut off the food supply.
- Support the detoxification system – There are several foods, supplements and daily activities that boost the function of the liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system to support the body’s elimination of mold toxins. Incorporate some of the most potent naturally detoxifying foods (such as beets, lemons, grapefruit and dandelion greens). Take a daily liver supplement that includes milk thistle. Move your body daily, sit in an infrared sauna, and/or do dry body brushing daily to promote the movement of your lymphatic system (the body’s natural sewage system).
- Clean up and heal your gut – The gut is where fungus likes to live the most. This can lead to other infections such as parasites and bacteria, and it contributes to leaky gut, which allows toxins to get into the bloodstream. A combination of gut-healing foods and supplements can help to restore and strengthen the integrity of the gut. This includes: bone broth, fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha), collagen, L-glutamine, fish oils, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
Testing to identify specific gut infections is also critical in order to assess herbs or other treatments to get rid of them. This will also help to boost your immune system to battle the mold and any other health issues you might be dealing with. Check out this list of 20 simple ways to repair and nourish your gut HERE.
- Clear your nasal passages – Fungus and mold like to set up shop in damp, dark places such as your nasal passages. Using a nasal swab test, you can identify if bacteria and fungus have made their home there as a result of mold exposure. Based on the results, there are several antimicrobial nasal sprays you can speak with your healthcare provider about.
- Bind and eliminate – The final step is to actually bind the mold toxins that are in the body so they can be processed for elimination through the urine and stool. As I mentioned earlier, typical binding agents such as activated charcoal and clay are not typically strong enough for this, and in more severe cases a prescription medication may be required. I have found Takesumi Supreme, Lava Vitae and BioBotanicals G.I. Detox to be effective.
I did my best to sum up all of the information regarding mold toxicity, but the reality is there is much more depth to the information I have covered in this blog.
If mold is a real concern for you, I highly recommend checking out the book Is It Mold by Karen Wright, and also finding a functional health practitioner to help guide you through the healing process.