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Mold Poisoning: Symptoms, What to Look For, and Remediation Options

When I bought a new house in February 2022, I didn’t know it would give me mold poisoning

However, that spring, I felt like my immune symptoms were flaring and getting worse. I reduced my work hours because I was struggling to get everything done. My biggest issue was fatigue. 

It wasn’t until another mom at the playground asked me if I thought my declining health had to do with our new house that I considered mold could be the problem. 

I remembered that a few years ago, my mom was trying to figure out what was causing her leaky gut symptoms. She had been working with a functional medicine practitioner and they discovered she had mold toxins in her urine.

My folks immediately thought about how they had a leak in the attic where a bathroom fan was installed over a decade ago. 

In their other bathroom, they knew they had some recurring mold growth around a tub that didn’t have tile on the walls above it. 

They remediated the attic above the bathroom with the faulty fan, and replaced the drywall around the tub. 

I was pregnant at the time, but made a mental note that maybe I should do some type of mold detox after I was done breastfeeding. 

I never did. 

Now, fast forward to the summer of 2022, I was sitting at the playground wondering if we might have mold in our new house

What should you do if you suspect mold poisoning in your family? I’ll share with you what I learned and what I’m doing about it. 

But first, let’s look at what mold poisoning is and the symptoms it causes. Then, you’ll learn how to address it. 

mold on floor boards

What Is Mold Poisoning?

Mold poisoning is when you have more mold exposure than your body can handle

It’s not to be confused with a mold allergy, where your body has an IGE response with immediate symptoms. 

In fact, you can have an allergy to types of mold that aren’t toxic like cladosporium. Some practitioners think that mold poisoning can lead to a mold allergy because your immune system is trying to alert you to get away from the exposure. 

There are a few terms that mold-related illnesses are called

  • Mold poisoning 
  • Mold toxicity 
  • Mold colonization 
  • Mycotoxin illness 

Mycotoxins is the parent name for the toxins that come from mold. I was surprised to learn that there are so many. 

Some of the toxins are

  • Aflatoxins
  • Citrinin
  • Gliotoxins 
  • Mycophenolic acid
  • Ochratoxins 
  • Trichothecene

Next, let’s look at the symptoms that mold poisoning may cause

stuffy nose

Symptoms of Mold Poisoning 

There are a lot of symptoms associated with mycotoxins and mold poisoning. 

The first night we moved into the new house, one kid started vomiting at 1am. Within 48 hours of moving in, everyone in our family got the stomach flu (or what we thought was the stomach flu.) 

We all had vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. While everyone else bounced back after 3 days, I was sick for 7 days with abdominal pain and loose stool. 

At the time, I assumed this virus just hit me harder than everyone else

The odd thing about this case of the stomach flu was that we didn’t know who we got it from. No friends from school or church had it. 

Looking back, I wonder if our bodies were protesting moving into a moldy environment

While I don’t know for sure, it makes sense in hindsight. 

Not everyone has immediate symptoms of mold poisoning. Sometimes it shows up as chronic health issues or elusive symptoms

Symptoms of mold exposure may include

  • Asthma 
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 
  • Hypersensitivities 
  • Coughing 
  • Brain fog 
  • Joint pain 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Numbness 
  • Vertigo 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Tremors 
  • Nausea 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Vomiting 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Diarrhea 

The most surprising statistic I came across is that over 90% of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have mold toxins in their urine

Mold poisoning shows up differently in different people. This may be part of why there isn’t a general consensus on it. 

What About Mold Colonization? 

The craziest thing I’ve learned during this experience is that some practitioners think that past mold exposure can colonize in your body. You could have mold growing in your sinuses or in your lungs! 

This really grossed me out

The naturopath I’m working with right now has seen this in her clinic. She thinks the mold exposure in my parents house may have led to me having mold growing in my sinuses

And for people who have this, it really weakens their immune system. In my case, she wonders if the ongoing exposure to mold made my immune system more susceptible to medical trauma from a surgery

Apparently, I’m not her first client who had a health crash after a traumatic medical procedure, and mold poisoning was behind it

Now that we know what mold poisoning is and what symptoms it may cause, let’s look at where you might have mold exposure

mold around window

Places Mold Lurks 

The scariest thing about mold poisoning is that you can be affected by it and not see it

While you may associate mold growth with water damage or damp basements, there’s hidden places you can have leaks

Any water lines or pipes can leak and cause mold. But you could also have a roof leak that’s creating mold in your attic. 

Mold can even grow in plants that are overwatered or in the saucer under your pot. 

All mold needs to thrive is a little moisture. Here’s where we had it. 

Where Our Mold Poisoning Was Coming From

There were two main places where we had mold. 

The first place we had mold was under our acrylic shower base. What we originally thought was a surface scratch was actually a crack. About 2 months after I noticed the crack, I thought I saw water seeping into it. 

I told my husband that we needed to stop using the shower until we could seal it closed. The next week, the scratch popped open and expanded to an open centimeter and over 6 inches long. 

A contractor came out to give us a quote on fixing it and told us it looked like our shower base hadn’t been glued on properly. So we stopped using the shower. 

But we decided to use our other bathroom for the time being and save up to redo the master bath shower. I couldn’t see any mold, but the crack smelled musty to me

The second place we had mold was in the cabinets under both our bathroom sinks. I noticed stains under our master bathroom sink but assumed it was from a greasy product spill. 

But over the holidays, we had some extended family stay with us. I went to grab my dry brush from under the guest bathroom sink, and it was soaked. 

The extra water usage from our company confirmed a leak in the pipe joints. My husband tightened the pipes and we thought it was fine. I put a pie dish under both bathroom sinks to catch water just in case. 

But I kept finding water. My husband was worried he was going to strip the pipes if he kept tightening them. 

water leak

When Mold Poisoning Finally Clicked

What finally made the picture clear in my mind that we had mold was that I noticed my nose would run whenever I used either bathroom at home

And this didn’t happen at my job or other public bathrooms. 

So I started wiping the inside of the bathroom cabinets with a borax, alcohol, and tea tree solution to kill mold spores. And in the guest bathroom, my nose wouldn’t run for a day after I did that. But it still always ran in the master bathroom. 

That’s when I suspected there was mold growing where I couldn’t see

Because my parents had already gone through mold remediation, I called them to ask for help. 

How to Address Mold Poisoning 

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about addressing mold. The first, and most important, is to reduce mold exposure

Reduce Mold Exposure 

It’s important to work with a professional to help you do mold remediation

We had the standard mold air testing done when we bought the house. The levels came back in a range acceptable to the bank. 

I didn’t know at the time that most functional medicine doctors say those tests are not enough. They aren’t sensitive enough for many mold spores and may not pick up on mold growth. 

So we pulled out the pipes under our sinks and took them to the local hardware store to get replacements. It turns out the reason they were both leaking is that they were not fitted correctly. 

When they were installed, they both needed about a half inch trimmed from the piece that connects to the drain, called a tailpiece. Since the plumber (or perhaps previous DIYer home owner) didn’t do that, no matter how much we tightened our pipes, one of the joints always sprung a leak

Since we had the pipes fit properly, we haven’t had a leak. 

When we called my parents for help, I was fortunate enough that they are retired and were happy to come down and help us. 

They helped us replace the master bath cabinet base and the board that was supporting the back of the cabinet floor. 

Then, they took out our shower base.

Even though I had not yet done air testing at the time, I suspected we had mold growing there since I saw the crack take in water

And if I was wrong, the worst case scenario was that we’d save some money with the handyman to replace the shower base eventually. 

When my dad pulled the shower base out, there was a big ring of mold between the layers of OSB oriented strand board and the base itself. 

Added up, it was over ten square feet of black mold. 

There was also mold creeping on the backside of the drywall next to the shower and on the closest stud.

My dad cut out the moldy drywall. We scrubbed the mold off the studs with that same mix of borax, alcohol, and tea tree oil. Then we painted the studs with a non toxic antimicrobial called Caliwell by AFM Safecoat. 

We wiped down all the bathroom surfaces, walls, and items. I washed the shower curtain and all the towels too. 

We replaced the drywall with a mold resistant green board

Do Regular Mold Fogs 

After my folks helped us get all the mold out of our bathrooms, I bought a fogger and used the EC3 Mold Concentrate.

It has a mild citrus smell. I like to add tea tree oil to it to make it more potent. 

After we did the whole house fog and the remediation, I could really tell a difference in our air quality. My nose stopped running when I went into either bathroom

Reduce Humidity 

You’ll want to buy a humidity gauge and use a dehumidifier. This will help remove moisture from the environment. 

If your bathroom(s) and kitchen don’t have fans that go to the outside, you’ll want to look into having those added. While you save up for that, you can crack your bathroom window. 

What you need to know is that some older houses have fans that only vent into an attic space. This could cause mold in your attic if it’s not properly ventilated. 

Use UltraHEPA Filters 

The Air Doctor has an ULTRAHepa filter that works for many mold spores.

I have multiple units in my home since it also helps with indoor air quality. 

You can read Katie’s review of her Air Doctor in this post.

Not only do you want to work on reducing your mold exposure, but you will also want to test for mold poisoning

Get Urine Testing 

You’ll want to ask your healthcare practitioner about getting mold urine testing done to see if you are excreting any mold toxins

My tests have shown: 

  • Citrinin 
  • Mycophenolic acid 

And my naturopath thinks that I may have more when I do it next. She’s found that later tests tend to excrete more

My friend Wardee over at Traditional Cooking School is offering a new resource for women’s health that you can claim for FREE.

Natural Remedies to Common Female Infections

You’ll get lots of info about the superfoods, essential oils, and simple, natural remedies that can heal urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections… naturally!

Optimize Detoxification Pathways 

If you are suffering from mold poisoning, you’ll want to optimize your body’s detoxification. Here’s how to do that. 

Drink Enough Water 

It’s important to stay hydrated. I love to add a pinch of Redmond Real Salt to my water for some electrolytes. 

I have an AquaTru reverse osmosis counter filter so it’s important to me to add some of those minerals back in. 

And you’ll want to drink plenty of water along with the next way to optimize your detox. 

Get Sweaty 

You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of sweating.

My favorite way to get sweaty is by using my infrared sauna. I slowly worked up to using mine once a day for about 20 minutes. 

And once I stop sweating, I wipe off and head outside for a few moments to get some morning sunlight

If you don’t have a sauna, you can also take hot baths. I like to fill a bathtub as hot as I can stand it. While that fills, I’ll heat a full electric kettle. Then, once I’m in, I’ll slowly add the hot water from the kettle into the bathtub to make me sweat. (Be careful to not burn yourself!) 

Take Binders 

You’ll want to work with a practitioner to find out which mycotoxins are affecting you, and which corresponding binders are best. 

Unfortunately, you can’t just take one supplement like glutathione and call it good. 

I was surprised to find out that different types of mold toxins cling to different binders. But some of the common ones to talk to your doctor about are: 

  • Charcoal 
  • Bentonite clay 
  • Chlorella 
  • Zeolite 

I had to start with just a dusting one by one. In other words, I began with only a couple little pieces, like 3 grains of sand. This can help prevent a detox reaction. 

mold on walls

Have You Ever Had Mold Poisoning? 

If you are someone who struggles with mystery health symptoms, you’ll want to rule out mold poisoning or mold illness as one of your root causes

It’s also important to work with a practitioner to help guide you. 

I don’t have a pretty ending where addressing the mold poisoning and doing mold remediation has solved all my health issues. 

We’ve had to prioritize what we’ll do next financially. We just bought a new Naturepedic mattress during their last sale. We did this because mattresses can be sponges for mold exposure

While we believe we’ve got all the mold issues remediated, right now we are saving up to do an ERMI test to make sure.

The most helpful thing I’ve done is take the MC360 Precision Mold Master Class. The advanced level has helped me better understand what is going on in my body and how to better work with my practitioner. 

You can watch this Healthy Parenting Connector episode with the creator, Beth O’Hara, FN

This course helped me better understand what my practitioner recommends and helped me feel empowered as I navigate this. 

Do you suspect you have mold poisoning? What helped you?

References 

Anyanwu, E. C., Campbell, A. W., & Vojdani, A. (2003). Neurophysiological Effects of Chronic Indoor Environmental Toxic Mold Exposure on Children. The Scientific World JOURNAL, 3, 281–290. https://doi.org/10.1100/tsw.2003.22   

Bennett, J. W., & Klich, M. (2003). Mycotoxins. Clinical microbiology reviews, 16(3), 497–516. https://doi.org/10.1128/cmr.16.3.497-516.2003   

Brewer, J. H., Thrasher, J. D., Straus, D. C., Madison, R. A., & Hooper, D. (2013). Detection of mycotoxins in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Toxins, 5(4), 605–617. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins5040605 

Chen, J., et al. (2021). Research Progress on Fumonisin B1 Contamination and Toxicity: A Review. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 26(17), 5238. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26175238  

Conti, P., et al. (2018). Impact of Fungi on Immune Responses. Clinical Therapeutics, 40(6), 885–888. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinthera.2018.04.010  

Empting L. D. (2009). Neurologic and neuropsychiatric syndrome features of mold and mycotoxin exposure. Toxicology and industrial health, 25(9-10), 577–581. https://doi.org/10.1177/0748233709348393  

Fisk, W. J., Lei-Gomez, Q., & Mendell, M. J. (2007). Meta-analyses of the associations of respiratory health effects with dampness and mold in homes. Indoor air, 17(4), 284–296. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0668.2007.00475.x  

Gajęcki, M. T., Gajęcka, M., & Zielonka, U. (2020, October 20). The Presence of Mycotoxins in Feed and Their Influence on Animal Health. Toxins, 12(10), 663. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins12100663  

Guerre P. (2020). Mycotoxin and Gut Microbiota Interactions. Toxins, 12(12), 769. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins12120769  

Mendell, M., & Cozen, M. (2003). Building-related symptoms among U.S. Office workers and risk factors for moisture and contamination. Epidemiology, 14(Supplement), S72–S73. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001648-200309001-00164  

Mendell, M. J., Naco, G. M., Wilcox, T. G., & Sieber, W. K. (2003). Environmental risk factors and work-related lower respiratory symptoms in 80 office buildings: an exploratory analysis of NIOSH data. American journal of industrial medicine, 43(6), 630–641. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.10211  

Mudarri, D., & Fisk, W. J. (2007). Public health and economic impact of dampness and mold. Indoor air, 17(3), 226–235. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0668.2007.00474.x  

Tuomi, T., et al. (2000). Mycotoxins in crude building materials from water-damaged buildings. Applied and environmental microbiology, 66(5), 1899–1904. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.66.5.1899-1904.2000  

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