Shocking Mold Toxicity Symptoms + 10 Natural Remedies
What was once an overlooked trigger for disease, mold exposure has garnered increased attention for its silent but powerful role in a multitude of chronic health problems. From mild respiratory problems to autoimmune conditions, mold toxicity is something I see almost every day in my telehealth functional medicine clinic. With research continuing to evolve, so is our understanding of mold and how to combat its effects, but there are quite a few natural treatments for mold exposure that have stood the test of time. Here’s everything you need to know about mold, its most common symptoms, and my top ten favorite natural remedies.
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Understanding mold exposure
Not all mold is bad, but there are certain types of mold - like aspergillus, fusarium, stachybotrys, and citrinin - that release mycotoxins (1) that can lead to health problems. The biggest problem with these types of mold is that they often go undetected, slowly wreaking havoc on your health with little to no indication that they are the reason behind your symptoms. And since mold thrives in dark, damp places hidden to the human eye, you can go on for years without even knowing that it's there.
That is why it is so important to not only understand where to find mold (read my article here to learn more about common mold habitats) but also how to recognize the varied symptoms of mold exposure so you know how to take action at the first signs of trouble.
What are the symptoms of mold exposure?
The reason why there is not a one-size-fits-all set of mold toxicity symptoms boils down to the fact that everyone’s biochemistry is unique and different types of mold can lead to different symptoms. Even though this is not a complete list since researchers are continuing to find connections between mold and various illnesses, these are the signs of mold exposure I see most often in my telehealth functional medicine clinic.
- Respiratory issues: Persistent coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and sinus congestion are some of the first signs of mold exposure. Mold spores can irritate the respiratory tract, triggering allergic reactions or aggravating existing respiratory conditions.
- Fatigue and weakness: Chronic fatigue and unexplained weakness typically coincide with mold toxicity. Mold exposure can hinder your immune response, leading to persistent tiredness and decreased energy levels.
- Neurological symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and frequent headaches are telltale signs that mold toxicity is affecting your nervous system.
- Skin issues: Rashes, itchiness, or general redness can be due to mold exposure, as the body reacts to the allergens present in mold spores by trying to detox them through your largest organ - your skin.
- Digestive problems: Digestive issues like nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or changes in bowel habits are also symptoms that can happen when mold toxins are ingested through contaminated food or inhaled spores.
Why is mold toxicity difficult to diagnose?
As you can see, mold exposure can be so difficult to diagnose because it doesn’t correlate with one set of symptoms. Plus, these symptoms overlap with a multitude of other health problems, making mold toxicity far down on the list of things that most doctors consider as a driving force. Because of the multifaceted nature of mold toxicity, researchers have coined the term chronic inflammatory response syndrome - or CIRS for short - to encompass any sort of health problem triggered by mold exposure.
A functional medicine approach to mold
When it comes to treatment for mold exposure, conventional medicine focuses on alleviating symptoms through medications like oral corticosteroid or antifungal drugs depending on the severity of your case. Functional medicine on the other hand, looks to support your body’s natural ability to get rid of mycotoxins and fight the damaging effects of mold exposure
Functional medicine is also able to run more labs to identify whether or not mold exposure is a factor in your health case that look at specific biomarkers and genetic variants that can make you more susceptible to mold toxicity. Mycotoxin labs in particular are the gold-standard for uncovering mold toxicity as they look for the presence of mycotoxins in your urine and antibody production against mycotoxins in your blood.
Natural treatments for mold exposure
If you are struggling with symptoms of mold exposure, start off by eliminating the source and implementing these natural remedies into your routine
1. Eliminate mold in your environment
The first step in eliminating mold in your environment is to find the source of your exposure through an inspection. To find someone to do the inspection, check out this online directory from the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors. The next step is to fix the source. Depending on the results of your inspection, the person doing your inspection can usually recommend a remediation specialist.
2. Keep mold from coming back
Keep moisture at bay - mold’s preferred environment - by using dehumidifiers in your home. These devices work by reducing excess moisture in the air to lower overall humidity levels and inhibit mold spores from germinating. Another thing you can do is invest in a high quality HEPA air filter that can be added to your HVAC system or as stand-alone units for certain rooms. These can help remove mold spores from the air you breathe and give you that extra peace of mind knowing that there is another layer of protection in your home.
3. Take a look at your current diet
Just because fuzzy green mold isn’t growing on top of your food, doesn’t mean there aren’t mycotoxins hiding inside. In fact, you would be surprised at how many of the foods you eat on a daily basis harbor microscopic mycotoxins including rice, corn, and even coffee. For a complete list of the foods most likely to contain mycotoxins, check out my article here.
4. Limit your sugar intake
Speaking of your diet, giving up sugar is another crucial step in overcoming mold toxicity since sugar is the preferred fuel source of fungi, including mold and yeasts like candida. Studies have even found (2) that people with high blood sugar are at a higher risk for mold infections.
5. Boost your liver health
Your liver is your body’s main detox organ and if your liver isn’t functioning well your body won’t be able to rid itself of the onslaught of mycotoxins it's been exposed to. There are many ways to support your liver health, but my go-tos are milk thistle (3) and dandelion (4) which have both been shown to restore liver function in the case of toxin and inflammation overload.
6. Start sweating
Your skin does more than just protect you from outside threats, it is also your body’s largest detoxification organ. Sweating is one of the main ways your body expels toxins including heavy metals and mycotoxins. While more studies need to be done to measure the level of mycotoxin release through sweating, early studies have shown that regular sauna sessions in combination with other therapies were able to significantly reduce (5) mycotoxin levels and ease mold toxicity symptoms.
7. Consider binders
There is a group of nutrients called binders that help “bind” to toxins and eliminate them from your body. One of my favorite examples of this is activated charcoal. Through its ability to adsorb - the process where one substance attaches to the surface of another - activated charcoal supplements are able to attract mycotoxins and move them through your body to be removed with the charcoal in your bowel movements.
A recent 2023 study published in the journal Toxins, (6) found that a mix of activated charcoal and two other binders, S. cerevisiae, and L. rhamnosus, were able to remove up to 96% of mycotoxins in chocolate - another high mold containing food.
8. Take glutathione
Known as the “master antioxidant,” glutathione helps your body increase its production of other antioxidants that fend off cellular damage and disease. Studies have shown (7) that mold can dampen your glutathione levels, so taking it in supplement-form can help you boost your body’s natural efenses.
9. Try salt therapy
Halotherapy, also known as salt therapy, involves inhaling salt particles in a controlled environment like a salt cave or salt room. Studies have found that these salt caves have anti-inflammatory properties that can lower inflammation in the lungs and improve (8) asthma, two hallmark symptoms of mold exposure.
10. Supplement with chlorophyll
Chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants and algae, has been suggested as a potential aid for mold exposure due to its binding capabilities similar to activated charcoal. Research has also shown it to have powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it a great addition to your mold detox protocol . Although research is limited in this area, it is common to drink a glass of water with a few chlorophyll drops in it before using a sauna to further enhance detoxification.
Seeking help from a functional medicine expert
Remember, while these natural remedies might offer some relief, it's crucial to consult with a qualified practitioner who can aid in proper diagnosis and treatment, especially if you're experiencing severe or persistent symptoms due to mold exposure. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we specialize in identifying mold toxicity through in-depth lab testing that looks at a range of biomarkers and can point you in the right direction of qualified remediation professionals and next-level detoxification protocols beyond this list that are relevant to your specific health case.
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- Bennett, J W, and M Klich. “Mycotoxins.” Clinical microbiology reviews vol. 16,3 (2003): 497-516. doi:10.1128/CMR.16.3.497-516.2003
- Fuji, S et al. “Hyperglycemia as a possible risk factor for mold infections-the potential preventative role of intensified glucose control in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.” Bone marrow transplantation vol. 52,5 (2017): 657-662. doi:10.1038/bmt.2016.306
- Abenavoli, Ludovico et al. “Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 24,10 (2010): 1423-32. doi:10.1002/ptr.3207
- Pfingstgraf, Iulia Olimpia et al. “Protective Effects of Taraxacum officinale L. (Dandelion) Root Extract in Experimental Acute on Chronic Liver Failure.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 10,4 504. 24 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/antiox10040504
- Rea, William J et al. “The treatment of patients with mycotoxin-induced disease.” Toxicology and industrial health vol. 25,9-10 (2009): 711-4. doi:10.1177/0748233709348281
- Hamad, Gamal M et al. “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Charcoal, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae as Aflatoxin Adsorbents in Chocolate.” Toxins vol. 15,1 21. 28 Dec. 2022, doi:10.3390/toxins15010021
- Guilford, Frederick T, and Janette Hope. “Deficient glutathione in the pathophysiology of mycotoxin-related illness.” Toxins vol. 6,2 608-23. 10 Feb. 2014, doi:10.3390/toxins6020608
- Lăzărescu, H et al. “Speleotherapy - modern bio-medical perspectives.” Journal of medicine and life vol. 7 Spec No. 2,Spec Iss 2 (2014): 76-9.
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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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