10 Everyday Places Mold Likes To Hide (That You’d Least Expect!)
In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I see patients on a daily basis that have struggled for years with chronic health problems. By the time they see me, they’ve already been to multiple doctors and have piles of lab work but no real answers.
Unfortunately, mold exposure and its effects are widely misunderstood and therefore, drastically overlooked. But growing research is starting to show us just how much mold exposure can contribute to ongoing health problems - and it’s way more common than you’d expect.
By peeling back the curtain on mold, I’ve been able to help my patients unlock a missing piece of their health puzzle. While every person’s health is different and therefore will be affected by mold differently, it’s something worth considering especially if you have made great steps in your healing process but are still experiencing symptoms.
I also do know and make sure my patients know that, while we can’t live in a bubble, we can be aware of the world around us and use our education to make the best decisions possible for our health and lifestyle. So if you’ve hit a plateau in your health journey, or just want to create the healthiest living environment possible, take a look at the top familiar, yet unexpected places mold might be hiding in your life.
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Chances are you have a few essential oil diffusers around your house or office. They are the optimal environment for mold to thrive in since it is a small dark space with sitting water.
To prevent mold from growing, clean out your diffuser on a regular basis by filling it about halfway with warm water and 10 drops of vinegar and let it run for 5 minutes. Afterwards, use a vinegar soaked cotton swab to wipe down the inside, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Also, look for oils that have natural antifungal capabilities like tea tree oil, (1) to diffuse in your home and help fight off any potential mold-growth.
Food is probably one of the places you’d least expect mold to be hiding. If you can’t see it visibly growing on your food, shouldn’t it be safe to eat? Not exactly. Certain foods like coffee, corn, rice, and dried fruit can actually contain (2) high levels of mycotoxins that when eaten might not make you sick immediately, but when eaten consistently over time can trigger or exacerbate (3) chronic health problems. To greatly minimize your exposure, choose organic whenever possible.
The bed you sleep on every night could very well be moldy. The foam used in mattresses is the perfect environment for mold growth when combined with the mixture of humidity in the air, body heat, sweat, and circulating dust.
Keep these types of mold at bay by keeping your house’s humidity down with a dehumidifier, changing your sheets regularly, rotating your mattress, and letting in as much light as possible since mold thrives in the dark.
Where there is moisture, mold is quick to follow. (4) Windows are constantly exposed to moisture from rain, snow, humidity, and condensation. Keep mold away by cleaning windows on a regular basis and making sure that window seals are properly installed since a broken seal can let in more moisture that ends up sitting there and facilitating mold growth.
5. Cutting boards
If you like to cook, you probably use a cutting board on a regular basis. And if you have a wood cutting board, all that chopping, dicing, and washing can cause moisture and bacteria to build up within the wood’s pores. To avoid mold growth, hand wash your board with dish soap and hot water and wipe dry with a towel, sitting it upright to air dry completely.
6. Carpets and furniture
Any sort of carpet or upholstery traps dust and dirt that can feed mold spores. All you need is moisture - like in the case of a leak or spill - and its game over. Keep your house mold-free by dusting and vacuuming on a regular basis and drying any spills as soon as they happen.
7. Water pipes
It’s possible (5) to have mold in the water of your toilet, shower, and kitchen and bathroom sinks. While it might not make you sick immediately, it can build up in your body over time and contribute to ongoing symptoms.
8. Toothbrush holders
Mold thrives in dark, damp areas and your toothbrush holder is the perfect environment. When you place your toothbrush in an open container, the water from your toothbrush drips down to the bottom of the container and sits there. Make sure to wash, rinse, and fully dry your toothbrush holder on a regular basis to avoid any potential mold growth.
Yes, plants can get moldy (6) too! Too much water can cause mold to grow on the interior of the pot as well as the soil itself. Be careful not to overwater your plants - for their health and yours!
Just like how your carpet and furniture can harbor mold, so can your car. The upholstery in your car can be a breeding ground for mold growth with any spills or moisture left sitting. Protect your interior from outside moisture and mold spores by keeping your windows rolled up and be sure to dry the interior after any spills.
While we are continuously learning more about how mold affects our health, one thing is for sure - it’s something we shouldn’t continue to overlook. Not everyone is going to be affected by mold the same way, but it’s always important to be aware of how certain things affect our health - both negatively and positively.
If you suspect mold might be an issue for you, start by addressing these common areas mold might be hiding in your life, and talk with your doctor about what you can do to continue making moves to a healthier home and a healthier you.
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- Nenoff, P et al. “Antifungal activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) against pathogenic fungi in vitro.” Skin pharmacology : the official journal of the Skin Pharmacology Society vol. 9,6 (1996): 388-94. doi:10.1159/000211450
- Alshannaq, Ahmad, and Jae-Hyuk Yu. “Occurrence, Toxicity, and Analysis of Major Mycotoxins in Food.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 14,6 632. 13 Jun. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijerph14060632
- Bryden, Wayne L. “Mycotoxins in the food chain: human health implications.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition vol. 16 Suppl 1 (2007): 95-101.
- Mahooti-Brooks, Negar et al. “Characterization of mold and moisture indicators in the home.” Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene vol. 1,12 (2004): 826-39. doi:10.1080/15459620490890332
- Novak Babič, Monika et al. “Fungal Contaminants in Drinking Water Regulation? A Tale of Ecology, Exposure, Purification and Clinical Relevance.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health vol. 14,6 (2017): 636. doi:10.3390/ijerph14060636
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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