“I just don’t feel quite right” is often said by people who feel unwell and do not know the cause of their symptoms. Anxiety, brain fog, and feeling more tired than usual are common symptoms that may be attributed to several different conditions, such as hormone imbalances (for example, low thyroid hormone), poor diet, stress, and viral infections. Naturopathic medicine can often identify these imbalances. However, sometimes the causative factor is not as easy to determine. One of those hidden barriers to health is mold toxicity.
Mold toxicity is a result of the natural toxic metabolites that mold forms called mycotoxins, which when introduced into the body can disrupt normal function of the internal organs. These mycotoxins are so small, they can pass through the respiratory airways and through the lining of the lungs, nose, and sinuses, absorb into the bloodstream, and affect all the internal organs including the brain. Mycotoxins can be ingested and result in the destruction of the intestinal lining. They can be absorbed through the skin, including our hands and feet. Mold toxicity can cause inflammation and disruption where ever the mycotoxins are in the body.
Mold toxicity affects the mitochondria, the powerhouse of every cell. When there is mitochondrial dysfunction, fatigue and inflammation in the body persist. Anxiety is one manifestation of toxic chemical exposure. Unless anxiety is triggered by a known physical, mental, or emotional injury, illness or event, the root cause is often dismissed. Unfortunately, mold toxicity is not recognized as a contributing factor to anxiety.
Likewise, conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune conditions, all have elements of mitochondrial dysfunction, and may be misdiagnosed. The lack of human studies with mold toxins misses out on the possible contributing factor to these illnesses. Do you have mold toxicity?
What are the symptoms of mold toxicity?
Why should toxic mold be considered a culprit to your anxiety symptoms? Usually mold is considered for anxiety when symptoms are still persistent even after taking anti-anxiety medications and other therapies to help manage the symptoms. It is often accompanied with other general symptoms. It can be a little better when out of the moldy environment and worse when in it.
Some of the general symptoms of mold toxicity are:
- muscle aches and cramps
- abdominal pain
- unusual pains (joint pain with morning stiffness, electrical shocks)
- chronic sinus congestion
- skin sensitivity to light touch
- numbness and tingling
- disequilibrium and dizziness
- frequent urination
- metallic taste in mouth
- sensitivity to light
- coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath
- body temperature issues
What’s the correlation between mold and anxiety?
These symptoms can be attributed to other conditions and therefore, mold is often overlooked as the culprit. The lack of published studies have been limited on the correlation of mold and its affects on anxiety and other cognitive impairments, whereas it is well recognized for its causative factor for respiratory illness. However, it is clear that mold toxicity can cause dysfunction in the innate immune system similar to that of a viral or bacterial infection. A weakened immune system can lead to a host of chronic dis-ease, inflammation, and potentially autoimmune conditions.
There are many species of mold. Stachybotrys, also known as “Black mold”, is one species of mold that forms mycotoxins. This toxic mold are neurotoxins, toxic to the nervous system and affecting the brain function. Mycotoxins can create lesions in the brain resulting in neurotransmitter imbalances. Anxiety is one of the commonly seen symptoms as a result of mycotoxins. Cognitive impairments such as memory loss and brain fog are also often seen with toxic mold exposure. Many species of molds are also neurotoxins.
Where is mold found?
Despite the drought, San Francisco is a moldy environment with fog creating a damp layer conducive to mold growth. The older buildings in San Francisco are also more susceptible to mold growth. Moldy growth is common in water damaged buildings, basement and closets, and is often seen in bathrooms, kitchens, and window sills.
Mold can also be found in our food supply. Grains including corn, wine and dried fruit are often contaminated with mold toxins. Hard cheeses and dry cured meats often have normal moldy growth on the surfaces. But, old food that retains moisture such as fruits and vegetables, soft cheeses, yogurt, breads, jams and jellies, peanut butter, and meat that commonly have moldy growth and should be thrown out. The surrounding area should also be cleaned to prevent mold spores from spreading to other foods.
The moldy food should definitely not be sniffed or inhaled, which can cause mold spores to enter the body resulting in respiratory systems. From the lungs, the mold toxins can enter into the bloodstream and rest of the body leading to symptoms. Mold toxicity occurs most when the mold in the environment is disturbed and inhaled. Air vents or air conditioning units are prime locations to have mold spores dispersed in the air.
However, mold is sneaky. Mycotoxins don’t often have a smell attached to it. If you are concerned of mold in your house, it is best to get the advice of certified mold inspector.
Why do I feel sick from mold and others do not?
About 25% of the population is genetically unable to detoxify and clear mold toxins from the body. This can lead to a large amount of the population harboring mold toxins in their body, especially after a big event such as a hurricane or flooding.
How can I get help for my mold toxicity?
Naturopathic medicine focuses on removing underlying barriers to optimal health. Anxiety can have many contributing factors, and mold and mold toxins can cause significant medical problems.
Treatment for mold toxins in the body is not as simple as throwing out moldy food from the refrigerator. An air filter, dehumidifiers, and wearing masks may help to improve respiratory symptoms, but it will not help to clear mold toxins from the body.
A naturopathic medicine or functional medicine approach includes identifying the specific mold toxins, supporting detoxification methods, and protecting the organs that are at risk of damage and chronic inflammation. If the mold is the underlying contributor to anxiety symptoms, it will get better with treatment.
For more information about naturopathic medicine and care for mold illness, call Bay Natural Medicine at (415)564-3200 and schedule an appointment.
Harding CF, Pytte CL, Page KG, Ryberg KJ, Normand E, Remigio GJ, DeStefano RA, Morris DB, Voronina J, Lopez A, Stalbow LA, Williams EP, Abreu N. Mold inhalation causes innate immune activation, neural, cognitive and emotional dysfunction. Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Jul;87:218-228.
Nathan, Neil. Mold and Mycotoxins: Current Evaluation and Treatment 2022