General Health

Breaking the Mold

If you or someone you care for is baffled by mysterious fatigue, brain fog, sinus problems, or other inexplicable symptoms, mold could be the underlying cause.

About 25 percent of us are genetically sensitive to mold and can develop debilitating symptoms from exposure. And such sensitivity may not be obvious because others exposed to the same environment have no reaction. If other causes have been ruled out, however, mold toxicity could well be the culprit, says Drew Sinatra, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Northern California who helps a lot of patients get relief. Visible water damage or mold is another clue.

“A lot of it has to do with the timeline,” says Sinatra. “Let’s say someone’s health is good, then they move into a new place and one to three months later, they’re not feeling right; their brain isn’t working; they’re tired; their joints are achy; their balance is off.” All in all, he says, “It’s kind of a weird symptom picture.”

The same could happen in the workplace. Some people get a headache or feel unwell during the week, but feel fine when they’re off work for a few days.

Why Mold Harms

Molds are a natural part of our environment, and not all of them are harmful. However, the types of molds that grow in moist areas of buildings produce a variety of powerful mycotoxins, and these can trigger many different symptoms in sensitive people, from respiratory irritation and illnesses to persistent fatigue, aches, and pains.

“Mycotoxins cause oxidative damage,” says Sinatra. They can harm brain tissue, cellular membranes, and mitochondria, the energy-generating components of all cells.

One of Sinatra’s patients had menopausal symptoms but experienced no relief from bioidentical hormones that are proven to be effective. Once mold was identified as a problem and removed from her apartment, she did a detox program to heal the damage from mycotoxins, and then the hormone treatment worked as expected.

How to Get Relief from Mold Toxicity

Removing the mold is always the first essential step. Afterwards, specific supplements can help the body to remove the toxins and heal the internal damage. Here are Sinatra’s top choices:

Binders: Activated charcoal can mop up and bind with mycotoxins in the small intestine and enhance their elimination. Otherwise, the toxins can be recirculated and continue to cause health problems. This, says Sinatra, is the mainstay treatment for mold toxicity.

How Much to Take: 1 serving of an activated charcoal supplement or formula, once or twice per day. Start with one daily dose and if you tolerate it well, increase to two. Mycotoxins can make some people sensitive to supplements, so be aware of your own reaction and reduce the dose if needed.

Glutathione: This is the body’s master antioxidant, but it gets depleted by mycotoxins. Getting glutathione from supplements helps protect and heal your liver, other organs, and mitochondria.

How Much to Take: 100–500 mg daily. Start with the lowest dose, as taking too much can produce discomfort by eliminating toxins too quickly.

Trace Minerals: Natural binders that help flush out toxins may also bind with minerals in the body and increase their elimination. To prevent a shortfall, try a trace mineral supplements.

How Much to Take: 1 serving daily of a trace mineral formula (e.g., ConcenTrace).

CoQ10: This nutrient is fuel for mitochondria. Because mycotoxins damage mitochondria, Sinatra recommends taking CoQ10.

How Much to Take: 100 mg daily of any form of CoQ10.

Antifungals:  Herbs such as oregano oil fight fungus. They can be especially helpful if mold toxicity has depleted the immune system and allowed candida, another mold illness, to develop.

How Much to Take: 50 mg of oregano oil, once or twice per day.

Related: Your Head to Toe Detox Plan

What to Expect

Once the mold has been removed, damaged cells need to heal, and supplements should produce some noticeable improvement in about a month. Complete healing can take several months or more.

“A lot of people with mycotoxic illness are sensitive to supplements,” says Sinatra, so start with small doses and work with a health professional. You can find a naturopathic physician through the Institute for Natural Medicine at naturemed.org.

Is Mold Making You Sick?

About half of American homes, 85 percent of commercial buildings, and 30 percent of schools have water damage that promotes mold growth. A report by the National Research Council estimated that eliminating mold from office buildings alone could prevent between 6 and 8 million respiratory infections per year and between 1 and 4 million episodes of asthma and allergies. Symptoms of mold toxicity may include:

  • A feeling of being “off” mentally
  • A general feeling of unwellness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cough
  • Recurring sinusitis or bronchitis
  • Neurological
  • problems such
  • as brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Aches and pains
  • Anxiety or
  • depression
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty breathing
  • New or recurring asthma or allergies
  • Irritated eyes or respiratory tract

Finding and Eliminating Mold

Your home or workplace likely has mold if it’s had water damage or if you notice any of the following:

  • A musty smell or other mysterious odors
  • A leaky pipe, now or in the past
  • Discoloration in a ceiling or wall
  • A leaky roof, now or in the past

Where Mold Hides

Mold can be hidden in walls where pipes have leaked, in ductwork, in roofing materials, on the back of drywall, paneling, or ceiling tiles, or under wallpaper, carpets, or padding. Mold can be cleaned off some hard surfaces, but not porous ones, such as paper, wood, upholstery, dry wall, or carpeting. These must be removed and replaced. Contractors who specialize in mold remediation can safely remove and replace moldy building materials.

Home Testing for Mold

ERMI, the acronym for Environmental Relative Moldiness Index, is a test developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to assess mold contamination and indoor air quality by analyzing dust samples. The ERMI test detects mold DNA and is considered the most reliable method. ERMI tests are available at envirobiomics.com. Cost is $240 for a Swiffer Kit. Some companies market mold tests for much lower prices, but these are not ERMI tests and may miss hidden mold contamination. For more information, visit survivingmold.com.

did you know …

Sweat helps eliminate mold toxins
Photo: Adobe Stock

Sweating improves your body’s elimination of toxins. Any type of sauna, one to four times per week, is helpful, as is any type of exercise that produces sweat, as long as you’re up to it. When purposely sweating, it’s important to take a trace mineral supplement because minerals are excreted in sweat.