I remember watching a home makeover show 20 years or so ago that was renovating a family’s home infiltrated by mold. Their account of the devastating affects of mold, notably cancer, was one that never quite left my memory.
Nowadays, however, mold toxicity is generally downplayed. Perhaps it’s because most remediation efforts are subpar, or new homes are built with moldy wood, or because home insurance companies generally don’t cover mold damage. Mycotoxin/mold illness can be a highly expensive problem to remediate both in your home and in your health.
I’ve watched mold remediation specialists tear through drywall and flooring suspected of mold contamination without wearing proper protective equipment, like respirators, to prevent inhaling the toxins, or clothing coverings to minimize the spread of toxic mold spores as they leave the building. It boggles me that these companies are not ensuring their employees are protected from a toxin that can be highly hazardous to their health. Again, mold is downplayed.
After years of dealing with mysterious symptoms myself that weren’t fully responding to what I know should work, I discovered the symptoms of mycotoxin illness. Mycotoxins are the chemical emitted by mold and the substance that actually affects human health. With so many of these symptoms present, it was a relief to finally make some sense of symptoms that made no sense, considering how I eat and support my health both physically and emotionally. While the symptoms weren’t debilitating and were mostly quite mild, I suspect that without attention toward managing stress through inner work, neuroplasticity practice and meditation, clean eating, and a broad base in various plant medicine knowledge, I would have had a much more severe experience. Upon leaving my house and developing an herb, vitamin and mineral supplementation plan with mold in mind, my symptoms started to shift. More than a year after 2020 stay-at-home orders blew up my symptoms, I’m still working with a few modalities/practitioners, homeopathics and supplements. I hope the following information inspires you to feel hope in the face of “I’ve tried everything” for chronic symptoms.
Mold illness can manifest many symptoms that span body systems, making it very difficult to get to the underlying issue or for conventional medicine to diagnose. Nearly a quarter of the population has a genetic susceptibility to mycotoxicity or chronic mold illness. Here are some symptoms that might be present:
● Joint pain
● Word recall problems
● Memory recall problems
● Concentration and focus problems
● Confusion, disorientation
● Chemical sensitivity
● Food reactivity / Food sensitivity
● Sensitivity to light, sound, smell
● Skin sensitivity
● Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) sensitivity
● Sensation of bugs crawling on skin
● Red eyes
● Persistent nerve pain
● Sore throat
● Breathlessness or shortness of breath
● Lung tension, asthmatic breathing
● Mood swings
● Extreme irritability
● Rage (atypical of personality; sudden, irrational)
● Unexplained sudden onset of anxiety
● Chronic depression unaffected by various treatment
● Tingling or burning sensation
● Ice pick-like pain
● Muscle weakness
● Unusual body pain
● Muscle cramping
● Temperature regulation / dysregulation
● Sinus infections
● Morning stiffness
● Appetite swings
● Scalp imbalances, like dandruff, dry crusting or oozing
● Sweats, particularly night sweats
● Increased urination
● Excessive thirst
● Abdominal pain
• Bloating, especially unexplained
● Metallic taste
● Appetite swings
● Static shocks
● Unusual internal vibration sensation
● Decreased immune system function
As you can see, mold-induced illness from mycotoxins or biotoxins can affect just about every system of our bodies. One won’t necessarily have all these symptoms, and experiencing some of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have a mycotoxin illness. Many of these symptoms might be diagnosed as:
● Chronic fatigue syndrome
● Irritable Bowel Syndrome
● Lyme disease
● Autoimmune disease
● Rheumatoid arthritis
● Candida overgrowth
● Mast cell activation syndrome
● Cancer (especially lung, breast, lymphoma)
These symptoms are also similar to a Lyme disease co-infection caused by bartonella, a parasitic bacteria spread by fleas, lice, ticks, and cat scratch. If treated for either Lyme or bartonella without improvement in symptoms, investigating mold toxicity is a smart next step.
If mold is the underlying cause of the presence of many of these symptoms, it might be diagnosed as chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS). CIRS is defined as:
An acute and chronic, systemic inflammatory response syndrome acquired following exposure to the interior environment of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic organisms, including, but not limited to fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and mycobacteria as well as inflammagens such as endotoxins, beta glucans, hemolysins, proteinases, mannans and possibly spirocyclic drimanes; as well as volatile organic compounds.
If you can smell mold in your home, car or workplace, mold is present. But even if you can’t smell it or see it, mold might be present.
Mold emits mycotoxins that are invisible to the naked eye. We can breathe in or eat these mycotoxins; our skin can even absorb them. Mold toxicity happens when the body is unable to efficiently detoxify mycotoxins we’ve absorbed. Our bodies are designed to filter out toxins, through urine, bowel movements, exhalation, sweat and menstruation, but in some cases, not everyone detoxifies mold efficiently, which may be result of a specific gene (HLA DR). However, chronic exposure to mold means the body never gets a break and our cells become overloaded with toxins.
This could lead to a cellular response, known as mast cell activation, which may contribute to myriad sensitivities and extreme reactions. For example, one might be extremely sensitive to sounds, or have major reactions to foods inconsistently, or extreme responses to chemicals. One client with mold toxicity had severe skin blisters and rashes in the presence of a disinfectant spray her grocery store is now using in accordance with pandemic business guidelines. Face masks have caused rapid onset of facial rashes for others who may be experiencing mast cell activation.
If mycotoxins have not been effectively eliminated and are stored in body fat, symptoms might flare when exposed to mold –– like visiting a friend’s home, staying in a hotel, or walking into a moldy office –– even if the person is no longer living in a moldy environment.
In the next post, we’ll talk about how to manage mold illness.
Kara McNabb is a naturopathic practitioner and somatic therapist. She works with clients of all ages to help them get to the root of mental, emotional and physical health problems using a holistic approach and natural medicine, ranging from herbalism, homeopathy, flower essences, nutrition, energy medicine, a holistic counseling process and more. Kara guides her clients in an exploration of subconscious limitations affecting their life to help them find freedom, health and a presence practice.