Mold: nice in fancy French cheese, not so nice anywhere else. Toxic mold can take root in homes and office buildings leading to long-term health issues — many of which can go undiagnosed for years.
Functional medicine expert, Dr. Mark Hyman, recently addressed the issue of mold toxicity on his Broken Brain Podcast (one of our faves for fascinating wellness interviews and insights). Check out the full episode with Dr. Ann Shippy here and keep reading for essential highlights from Dr. H himself…
Toxins are a major issue of our time. With more than 80,000 toxic chemicals dumped into our environment since the Industrial Revolution, it’s not that surprising that we’re at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping our body’s healthy.
You can see the evidence in recent headlines: military families in privatized housing, fighting to move out of houses with toxic residues from sewer flooding, moldy vents, lead, asbestos and other harmful toxins; the awful quality of drinking water across the country, like in Baton Rouge where abandoned oil fields are polluting local waterways. These are just two snapshots of a massive problem, one that even I had to deal with myself.
And guess what? Doctors don’t learn about toxicity. The same way we aren’t taught about nutrition in medical school, we aren’t taught about the importance of detoxification — and this leaves many people suffering with unaddressed symptoms from a wide variety of toxic exposures.
How Does Toxic Mold Impact Health?
There are toxic ingredients hiding in our skincare and household products; chemicals on our food; toxins in our air and water; chemicals hiding in medicines; electromagnetic frequencies polluting our airwaves. One toxin in particular almost robbed me of my health two years ago, and that toxin is mold.
Two years ago I discovered that the 120-year-old barn that I converted into a house was plagued with mold. The mold toxicity started off as a cough I just couldn’t kick. After seeing several doctors (something even a doctor has to do sometimes!) I was advised that it could be mold. My house was the prime suspect and my hunch was right, and so began the process of healing my body and gutting my home. I was, at one point, so sick I couldn’t get out of bed; my mind and body felt like they were failing me and I was desperate to feel like myself again.
Mold toxicity can be extremely dangerous, it can even be equal to or worse than some chemicals and heavy metals. The issue comes from certain molds that produce mycotoxins, compounds that are easily absorbed through the skin and gut — as well as microbial volatile organic compounds — that can enter your body through the skin and lungs. Exposure to toxic mold might elicit zero symptoms in one person and a slew of symptoms in another, such as brain fog, mood changes, hair loss, insomnia, muscle weakness, tremors and joint pain. These can be deadly if not addressed.
Naturally, when I was faced with this challenge I dove into the research and made it my mission to find the latest innovations to help my body fully recover. One of my first steps to healing was testing. I’m going to share my results with you so you can see for yourself how individualized functional medicine tests really are and how they can help us develop the right plan of action. The urine test screens for 15 different kinds of mycotoxins within four major mycotoxin families. I had all four present, some of them in staggering amounts:
Ochratoxin A is a mycotoxin abundant in food but also frequently contaminates water-damaged houses and and heating ducts and can easily enter the body through inhalation.
Aflatoxins are known human carcinogens and can be particularly harmful to the liver and kidneys, these also commonly contaminate certain food products and are more common in humid climates, like my home state of Massachusetts.
The Trichothecene Group, which includes ochratoxin A, can produce 170 different toxins, and you can see I tested quite high: 2.94 ppb with an upper reference range being 0.2 ppb.
Gliotoxin suppresses the immune system, is typically found in buildings, and can be deadly. I also had dangerously high levels of this: 16.01 ppb with an upper reference of 1.0 ppb.
Looking at the line graphs above, you see that just 7 months before my levels from a previous test were mostly normal, with the exception of an elevation in gliotoxin.
These are only some of the many tests I ran to get the full scope of my mold toxicity and how it was affecting my body. I also looked at my overall inflammation, which was extremely high, as well as antibodies to various types of mold. Once I had these results, I could start finding answers on how to heal. And I did.
How To Recover From Mold Toxicity
Evaluate The Issue. I did a lot of experimental things to deal with my illness such as hyperbaric oxygen, ozone and more, but there are also daily things I did to optimize my health.
My advice? If you suspect mold, find someone who can identify and examine your house for mold — one who is not the remediator. In other words, you don’t want the guy who’s fixing your house determine if there is toxic mold present (major conflict of interest). You want someone who’s independent and can do a full evaluation. That’s the first step. And then it might be a simple problem, say a water leak in one area, which is a simple fix. A friend of mine told me to do something as basic as put a plastic container under your sink (most people’s cabinets are wood) that can catch water that leaks. I also invested in good quality air filters.
Address The Toxins. The first thing is to make sure the exposure is not continuing.
I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner who can help support your detoxification systems and mitochondria. My friend, Dr. Ann Shippy, recommends liposomal glutathione and binders like charcoal, clay and modified citrus pectin to draw out the toxins. Also, things such as phosphatidyl choline, CoQ10, D-Ribose and carnitine to support mitochondria. Always work with a practitioner and remember everyone is affected differently. I have specific SNPs that make it harder for me to detoxify from toxins, so when I was exposed, I really had to tackle the problem head-on.
Have you experienced symptoms of mold toxicity or had to deal with toxic mold taking over your home? Ask your questions and share your stories over on our private Facebook group, The Chat.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.