We all know about mold — we don’t eat it when it grows on our food or touch it when we see it in the wild. So, how would you feel about living with it?
Shockingly, many people do. The term “toxic mold” is becoming increasingly common in conversations about health in the United States, and this mold may be closer to you than you think.
What do toxic mold exposure symptoms look like over time? How can you tell if you have this uninvited guest growing in your home?
Keep reading as we unpack where it comes from, what symptoms you may already have, and how to test for and remove toxic mold from your home. You might even need to try a mold detox diet.
Common Sources of Toxic Mold
Mold is almost invisible as it travels through the air as tiny mold spores. This fungus can enter the home carried by pests, clothes, bags, and shoes. Once inside, it can begin to grow anywhere there’s moisture.
However, there are some places more prone to mold growth than others.
Frequent sources for a mold problem can include ceiling tiles, walls, carpeting, and cellulose products exposed to moisture or water damage. The most common of these are paper, wood, and fiberboard that have been exposed to dampness.
Toxic mold can hide behind paint or linoleum, under carpet, behind sheetrock, linger in the air conditioner, vents or in rooms with humidifiers.
Symptoms of Toxic Mold Exposure
No matter where it’s lurking, toxic mold is associated with disease.
What can tip us off to these spores being blown through our air conditioning or growing in our drywall? There are certain mold exposure symptoms that should send you to a healthcare provider knowledgeable in mold illness.
Commonly, people are dealing with a slew of health issues and haven’t realized they can all be traced back to a single source – toxic mold. Even some seemingly unrelated conditions can be caused by a mold exposure.
Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by many types of molds, and these can have devastating health effects over time. These toxins are produced by indoor molds like penicillium, aspergillus, stachybotrys, chaetomium (to name only a few).
Since toxic mold can wreak havoc on your health, it’s crucial to find the source, and remove the mold (professionally) or remove yourself from the mold. Here are some red flags of toxic mold exposure that should never be ignored.
Short term mold exposure typically produces symptoms that look more like typical seasonal allergies:
- Skin irritation, itching, or rash
- Itchy eyes
- Wheezing or coughing, sore throat
- A stuffy or runny nose, nosebleeds
While these may not sound like major health problems, you only need to look further down the list to learn that long-term mold exposure can turn into a much more serious issue.
When Paired With Respiratory Issues
When respiratory issues like hay fever, lung disease, or asthma symptoms are already present, mold exposure symptoms may be more severe. These may include:
- Allergic reactions
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Frequent coughing
- Watery eyes
- Recurrent chest colds
- Sinus inflammation
- Severe asthma attacks
Living in a moldy environment long-term or having chronic exposure to these toxic molds can lead to severe reactions. Unfortunately, many people don’t identify these various conditions as mold symptoms. Even if you don’t have immediate symptoms of mold exposure, the effects of living with toxic mold can eventually catch up with you. Toxic mold symptoms can include all of the following:
- Hair loss
- Anxiety, irritability, anger, depression
- Memory loss
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Stomach pain
- Light sensitivity
- Unexplained weight gain/loss or appetite swings
- Muscle pains/cramps
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Concentration difficulty
- Joint pain
- Fungal infections
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Gluten sensitivity and/or food sensitivities
Diseases/disorders may also occur, sometimes as a result of the weakened immune system, such as:
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
- Balkan nephropathy
- Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
- Respiratory infections
It’s clear that toxic mold, growing in indoor environments, has a devastating effect on human health. This is true of young children, with one study finding that infants and young children affected by mold are more likely to develop asthma later in life.
Identifying and treating mold exposure symptoms, from toxic mold, is crucial. Left untreated, the consequences can be far-ranging with effects that span beyond simple respiratory issues.
How to Test for Mold
What should you do if you suspect that you’re experiencing mold exposure symptoms? A doctor can confirm your suspicions, and it’s recommended to seek out a functional medicine doctor familiar with both mold exposure and CIRS (chronic inflammatory response syndrome). Since many mold symptoms can be sneaky to detect, a doctor experienced in mold treatment is essential.
A well-rounded approach to mold testing may include a urine mycotoxin test and checking biomarkers. Hormone levels, like cortisol, leptin, MSH, ADH and more, should also be tested for signs of mold exposure/illness. Finally, levels of certain proteins and enzymes may be abnormal in cases of mold exposure.
A thorough assessment of your environment is critical. Taking a dust sample of your home/office to assess for different molds is beneficial. If you do air samples alone, the ability to miss mold(s) is highly possible. The right IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional) is key to helping you properly assess your environment. Proper assessments will unearth if the mold exposure symptoms are due to current environmental conditions or previous conditions. All of these factors should be considered for an effective diagnosis.
How to Get Rid of Mold
Each individual situation will have a different plan to clean up mold and detoxify. After proper testing is performed and the source(s) of mold determined then mold remediation becomes the next step. It’s important to try to be out of the environment during remediation and only come back once it’s all complete. There are multiple steps that will need to be undertaken for you to heal. These may include a mold detox diet, binding therapy, infusion therapy (such as glutathione) and more.
- We are becoming increasingly aware of the devastating effect of mold exposure symptoms, and how commonly it’s found indoors.
- Mold can lurk anywhere inside that there’s moisture sitting on surfaces, especially drywall, air conditioning pipes, wood, ceiling tiles, and bathrooms/showers.
- Mold exposure symptoms can vary by the length of exposure and any preexisting medical conditions. These symptoms can range from typical allergy symptoms to serious diseases, with certain cancers and conditions becoming more likely as exposure continues.
- Mold could be anywhere in your house, but proper testing and treatment can get your life back on track.
Functional Medicine Doctors in the Kansas City Area
Navigating mold exposure can feel very overwhelming. You may see multiple providers but not get an answer to your multiple health concerns, all stemming from a toxic mold exposure.
At Jellison Integrative MD, we have been treating mold illness for years. We understand how frustrating and debilitating this illness can be. Let us help guide you on your journey to recovery from toxic mold.
If you’re in the Kansas City area and battling with toxic mold exposure and/or CIRS, request an appointment today with Jellison Integrative MD or call (913) 568-0608.
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