Toxic mold is a widespread, completely unassuming trigger and cause of many different chronic health conditions. Today we explore why toxic mold is becoming so common these days, how toxic mold is different from regular mold allergies, what mycotoxins are, and what common symptoms are if you’re struggling with chronic health problems and if mold may be to blame.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Toxic Mold: The Missing Link
Autoimmune, chronic neurological diseases, psychiatric disorder– many people face symptoms that they cannot figure out. It is at the root cause of various of these ailments but goes unrecognized repeatedly because this very real toxin is not acknowledged for its harmful effects by many practitioners.
An individual will generally be more sensitive to mold when other co-infections present, like Lymes, bacterial or fungal infections 1. This makes the situation multifaceted and more complicated for practitioners to understand and heal unless they have the first-hand experience with mold clients.
On top of everything, many people who have chronic mold exposure don’t even know they are in a toxic environment. This compounds the problem because you cannot get well by exposing your body to toxic mold.
Why is Mold Toxicity on the Rise in America?
Many people don’t realize how common toxic mold is, nor how dangerous it can be. As a result, the common causes for toxic mold are not taken seriously. Mold is most prevalent in damp or humid areas, especially if there has been a water leak. It is estimated that at least 50% of houses and 60% of commercial buildings have had water damage or dampness 2!
The way that we build houses, offices, and schools in this country compounds the problem. The factors that make American spaces (and therefore American people) more prone to toxic mold include: 3-4
- Using materials (particularly sheetrock or cellulose) that feed mold
- Using quick and lower-quality processes that encourage plumbing problems and leaks
- Tightly built spaces with poor air circulation that encourage dampness or mold as a result of an air conditioner leak
- Central air system that can take a small mold problem and blow the mycotoxins throughout the entire house or building
It does not always have to be a significant flood that causes mold toxicity. The presence of one or both of the mold-feeding building materials or tight unventilated spaces can turn a small window leak or a flooded toilet into a mold infestation.
How Toxic Mold is Different from Regular Mold Allergies
The kind of mold that many people think of, be it during pollen season or that grows on food, is significantly different than the toxic mold that grows inside of water-damaged buildings. Not only can these molds cause similar symptoms to the airborne mold that presents in pollen season (like stuffy and itchy nose, sinus infections, or upper respiratory cough), but these toxic molds also contain dangerous mycotoxins.
What are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by certain molds (fungi) and are found most commonly in damp indoor spaces due to flooding or in food 5. They can cause various adverse health effects and be a severe health threat to both humans and animals. Mycotoxins’ adverse health effects range from acute poisoning to long-term impacts such as immune deficiency and cancer 5.
Mycotoxins are fat-soluble, so once they get into the system, they make their way to the body fat located in the brain and between the cell membranes and mitochondrial membranes 6. Mycotoxins, therefore, wreak havoc on the brain, cell membranes, and mitochondria, which has a strong ripple on the whole body.
Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of the cell. One of their main functions is to turn the energy we get from food into energy that the cell can use 7. They generate the majority of our adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell. Since the body needs this energy to survive, anything that harms mitochondria will dramatically negatively impact health and life itself 8.
Exposure to these mycotoxins that store in body fat accumulates over time, which is one of the reasons why not everyone is super sensitive to mycotoxins. Someone exposed to mold toxicity when they were younger has already started to build up their toxic load. Combine that with co-infections or autoimmunity, and you have the perfect storm.
Symptoms of Toxic Mold
The symptoms for mold toxicity mirror the symptoms for many other ailments, which is one of the reasons that it often goes misdiagnosed. As a result, many people go years, even decades, suffering.
Some of the common symptoms include: 9-12
- Recurrent upper respiratory infections
- Chronic cough
- Chronic allergies
- Chronic sinus infections
- Antibiotic resistance to upper respiratory
- Brain inflammation
- Brain fog
- Poor memory
- Poor sleep quality
- Gut dysbiosis
- Leaky gut
- Muscle weakness
If you’re experiencing symptoms of toxic mold, it is essential to check in with yourself and seek the help and guidance of a practitioner who has experience diagnosing and effectively treating mold toxicity.
You can test the body for mycotoxins through urine tests, many of which require a practitioner order. Some urine tests can yield false-negative results if an individual is so toxic and malfunctioning that the body is not releasing anything. In this case, a practitioner could guide a challenging process to pull mycotoxins out of the body before a urine test. This is useful if a test comes back negative, but there is a known exposure or the symptoms all line-up.
If you are experiencing symptoms, especially if the whole family is, much of the office is, or many students and teachers are, then it is time to test the environment for mold.
Testing the home, office, or school for mold requires the proper technique because, just like a false-negative urine test, specific home mold tests do not find mold when it may be present. Doing a simple air swab test, for example, is generally ineffective.
Effective methods include a holistic process that includes:
- Disturbed air swab samples (after the HVAC system is left on and disturbing the dust in the room)
- Mold plates (especially in dark, moist places like under the sink, in the laundry room, or next to the water heater)
- Vacuum test (like an ERMI test)
Many of these tests can be DIY by ordering kits online. If samples come back positive, it could be helpful to use a legitimate company to do a whole-house investigation to find the root cause and how much the infestation has spread.
Healing from Mold Toxicity
Mold toxicity can be a rather tricky situation to heal, especially if the exposure has been chronic for a long time. As a result, it is helpful to seek a qualified functional health practitioner with mold experience. That being said, some methods generally work across the board, including: 13-16
- Upregulating detox and elimination mechanisms to support the liver and lymphatic system working
- Upregulate cell function
- Strengthen the gut function and ensuring regular bowel movements
- Binders help trap toxins to get them out of the body safely
- Antifungal agents
- Stay away from inflammatory foods
- Irrigating sinuses
- Coffee enemas
- Turn off wi-fi at night
If someone is not getting better, it is vital to triple-check that there is no more prolonged mold exposure. Removing the source is imperative to get better. Next, address the prevalent confounding infections like parasites, autoimmune conditions, and heavy metals.
Mold toxicity is disproportionally on the rise in America because the infrastructure in America uses materials that feed mold. Materials like cellulose feed mold as soon as there is humidity or a leak present. Unlike other molds, toxic mold spores emit mycotoxins into the air, which take up residence in our body. As a result, an array of symptoms show up that often go misdiagnosed. Since mold toxicity is often present alongside other infections like parasites, bacteria, or heavy metal toxicity, it can be worth seeking the guidance of a functional medicine practitioner to help you get well.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
1 “Mycotic (Fungal) Diseases.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Nov. 2020, www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dfwed/mycotics/index.html.
2 Douwes J. Building dampness and its effect on indoor exposure to biological and non-biological pollutants. In: WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009. 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK143945/#
3 “Facts about Stachybotrys Chartarum (Aka ‘Black Mold’).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Dec. 2019, www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm.
4 “Dealing with and Preventing Mold in Your Home.” UMN Extension, extension.umn.edu/moisture-and-mold-indoors/dealing-and-preventing-mold-your-home.
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8 “What Are Mitochondria?” What Are Mitochondria? | MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, www.mrc-mbu.cam.ac.uk/what-are-mitochondria.
9 Liew, Winnie-Pui-Pui, and Sabran Mohd-Redzwan. “Mycotoxin: Its Impact on Gut Health and Microbiota.” Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, vol. 8, 2018, doi:10.3389/fcimb.2018.00060.
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13 Pompa, Dr. Daniel. “Back to the Basics: The 5R’s of True Cellular Healing.” Dr. Pompa & Cellular Healing TV, Dr. Pompa & Cellular Healing TV, 28 Jan. 2020, drpompa.com/cellular-detox/true-cellular-healing-the-5rs/.
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