A Functional Medicine Approach to Toxic Mold Sickness
Y’all know I love learning. My most recent continuing education is done! I am now certified in Mold Exposure!
I am a Mold Proficiency Partner Practitioner through Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s program!
This is a HUGE topic of health that is not discussed or treated enough.
Millions of people have had toxic mold exposure, which leads to a host of health issues.
Mold is a type of fungus that can grow in damp and humid environments. While most molds are not harmful, some can produce toxic substances known as mycotoxins. Toxic mold exposure happens when we come into contact with certain types of mold, and can happen in acute situations or chronic exposure.
There are different types of mold; it is important to note that some produce these mycotoxins, and some do not. You can also be exposed to these toxins without actually SEEING any mold. Eeeek!!
The top causes of where mold exposure include:
- Water damage (leaks, spills, poor plumbing)
- Dampness and High Humidity (we know we deal with this in Florida!)
- Poor ventilation (improper HVAC systems & circulation)
- Improper Construction and/or Building Materials (that are a host for mold to grow)
In my functional medicine approach, we work on removing the toxic load in the body, but also finding the ROOT CAUSE of where the mold came from, so we don’t continue the exposure!
Mold sickness might look like sinusitis, asthma, allergies, food sensitivities, chronic skin rashes, anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel, or irritable bladder.
Mold can disrupt your immune system so that you get sick often.
Mold can cause liver disease, kidney disease, and some cancers.
Most of the people I see with mold sickness are experiencing fatigue, frequent headaches, sinus issues, cognitive impairment (difficulty focusing, concentrating, finding the right words, brain “fog”), and gut symptoms (gas/bloating, IBS).
Here is an extensive list of all the symptoms associated with mold sickness:
Mold symptoms Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat:
- Runny nose
- Post nasal drip
- Chronic sinusitis
- Nasal polyps
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Hay fever
- Ringing in the ears
- Hearing loss
- Dry or irritated eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic dry cough
- Burning lungs
- Heaviness in the chest
- Sensitivity to fragrance
- Colds go to the lungs easily
- Chronic respiratory illnesses
- Appetite changes
- Irritable bowels (Diarrhea / constipation)
- Bloating, Abdominal pain
- Food sensitivities
- Easy bruising
- Easy bleeding
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Raynauds phenomenon
- Low blood pressure
- Sensitive and or Itchy skin
- Burning sensation on skin
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Fungal infections
- Brain fog
- Confusion, Slow thinking
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with word finding
- Dizziness / vertigo
- Slow reflexes
- Tremors, Seizures
- Daytime sleepiness
- Overactive bladder
- Kidney inflammation
- Irritable bladder
- Blood in urine
- Bladder infection symptoms with no identifiable infection= Interstitial cystitis
- Susceptibility to infection
- Colds that don’t resolve quickly
- Reactivated Mono or EBV
- Frequent herpes outbreaks
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Vaginal yeast or bacterial infections
- Jock itch
How do we diagnose mold sickness?
We take an extensive history asking about any exposure to a building that may have had a water intrusion. Did you know it only takes 48 hours for mold to begin growing once water has been introduced into the environment?
We ask these questions:
Have you ever lived in a building with obvious mold visible?
Has you home ever been flooded?
Is there any obvious water intrusion? A toilet that has overflowed? A washing machine/ dishwasher/ water line from the refrigerator/ or pipe that has leaked?
Do you smell musty odors?
Does your home have condensation on the windows?
Are there any water stains around your light fixtures in the ceilings?
Did you feel worse after you moved homes, schools, or work place?
Has conventional air quality testing revealed mold spores present?
Further questioning includes:
Have you ever had a tick bite?
How about having a flu like illness after camping or visiting a Lyme endemic area?
Have you been exposed or swam in a body of water with an algae bloom?
Have you even been in waters/ estuaries where sudden fish kills were reported through direct contact or inhalation of aerosolized or volatilized toxins?
Have you eaten reef fish and felt ill soon afterwards?
Have you ever had a spider bite? (From a brown recluse spider)?
Once we have identified possible exposure, we then do a simple screening test called the VCS. This is done online and is inexpensive to do.
Next we give a specific symptom questionnaire. If enough symptoms are positive, with a failed VCS test and a history of an exposure, we can move forward with lab testing to confirm a biotin illness.
Here are some aspects of my functional medicine approach to toxic mold exposure:
- Patient History and Evaluation:
- A detailed evaluation to understand potential exposure to mold, with reviewing the individual’s living and working environments to identify possible sources of mold.
- Environmental Exposure Assessment:
- Evaluation of the individual’s home and workplace for signs of mold and moisture, then identification and remediation of the source of mold to prevent further exposure.
- Nutritional Support:
- Nutritional interventions to support the body’s natural detoxification processes, which may include a nutrient-rich diet and supplements.
- Emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods to help reduce inflammation associated with mold exposure.
- Detoxification Support:
- Consideration of lifestyle factors that can support detoxification, such as adequate hydration, exercise, and sauna therapy.
- Gut Health Optimization:
- Since the gut plays a crucial role in overall health and immune function, we focus heavily on supporting the gut (and liver) function, through changes with diet and supplementation.
- Immune System Support:
- Strategies to support and modulate the immune system, such as nutrients, supplements, improving sleep and recovery etc.
- Stress Management:
- Stress reduction techniques, as chronic stress can impact the body’s ability to cope with toxic exposures. Mind-body practices, such as breathwork, journaling, meditation or yoga, are some examples that might be helpful to promote overall well-being.
- Individualized Treatment Plans:
- I create individualized treatment plans based on a person’s unique health profile. This may involve a combination of dietary recommendations, lifestyle changes, and targeted supplements.