This is a subject I am being asked about more and more. Many people are leaping straight into saunas and anti-fungal treatment – and feeling terrible! So, I’ve written this to take you through the first stages – which, fingers crossed, might be all you need!
Moulds (or Molds for our US followers) and mycotoxins, the toxins released by the mould components, can cause such harm and most people have no idea they have been exposed or that they are behind why they can’t get well.
Most people are fine with an exposure, but if it gets out of control or your body is low from stress, poor immunity, another illness etc, you become more vulnerable and less able to deal with it.
Moulds release spores, which generally cause reactions of some kind. Those spores release smaller fragments that can get into places we don’t want, like lung tissue, nasal cavities etc and mycotoxins, which are pretty harmful to many systems of the body. They are very effective at suppressing the immune system and creating biofilms, like a shield, so that the mould is protected. Some mycotoxins are so powerful, they are actually used as meds to suppress immune conditions – think of penicillin, for example!
Have you been exposed to mould?
Very probably. Think back over your history from childhood – consider any damp buildings, anywhere near water, any flood/water damage, condensation on the inside of windows, black, green, pink mould in bathrooms, garages? Any bubbling of paint? Streaky water lines down walls?
Essentially, we can often see moulds in a water-damaged building or on damp walls, but it is not always so easily seen. Could it be in your car filter, air con or heating ducts, behind walls, in the roof etc? You can’t always smell it either – a common misconception that a place would smell damp or musty: not true. Hidden mould with no oxygen or air does not smell at all, but it can still release spores and mycotoxins that you inhale, touch or eat. Note that new houses are just as susceptible as old ones, too.
Is it Moulds or Mycotoxins?
So, how would you know if moulds or mycotoxins are affecting you? Well, the most obvious sign for me is if you have a chronic problem that isn’t getting better when it should using normal interventions. Weird reactions to stuff including food, meds, chemicals, supplements, hypersensitivity to anything you try and do in a bid to get well. Those can obviously be caused by other stuff, but do consider mycotoxins if this sounds like you.
Is is misdiagnosed or a co-illness such as Lyme, SIBO, MCAS, Long Covid? Are symptoms waxing and waning, maybe? Inflammation going up and down?
Symptoms can be acute right after an exposure but, more often, they come on after repeated, cumulative exposure over years – they finally tip you over the edge. You might have one exposure at school, then 4 – or even 20! – years later have another and that causes the problem. That’s why it’s quite difficult to spot if mycotoxins are involved.
The other odd symptom that crops up is a kind of inner vibration. No idea why, but other practitioners have recognised this too. An unsettled inner feeling; just feeling odd with no idea why.
Or do you feel hungover, especially on waking, even though you didn’t have a drink the night before? Are you feeling fermenty?
Do you feel better when you leave a place for a while – home, a work building, school? Feel rubbish when you go to a particular place, shop, bar?
Is your immune system suppressed – mycotoxins are expert at suppressing the immune system to protect the mould. Are your white blood cells low – think: lymphocytes, eosinophils, neutrophils on your blood tests?
The most common locations for mould issues in the body are the sinuses, nose, lungs and gut but the toxins themselves can travel anywhere and affect anything, which is why mycotoxin symptoms can be so diverse. Everyone has some mould – the problem comes when it over-colonises and starts to release the mycotoxins. Eventually, in serious cases, we can become the mouldy building or host, if you like.
Could be anything, but the most common ones seem to be immune based, in the gut, skin, liver, kidneys or neurological (tinnitus, MS type, pelvic pain, brain fog, mental fatigue etc).
Chronic inflammation in the respiratory system, especially nasal, sinus, lung
Low immune function – low SIgA, NK cell dysfunction, T and B cell disorder
Neuroinflammation (headaches, brain fog, migraine, tinnitus, MS type symptoms etc)
Gut inflammation, sensitivity to food
IgE mediated allegies inc hayfever, rhinitis, pneumonitis, asthma
Non IgE responses esp asthmatic exacerbation
Infection – aspergillosis
Associated illnesses commonly seen include:
Skin rashes and problems
Interstitial lung disease
Anxiety and depression
NI eg. Tinnitus, migraine
Try completing Dr Jill Crista’s questionnaire here – how do you score?
Testing for Mould and Mycotoxins
See the Mould test links here – this is always the most up to date. Essentially, you need to do two things.
Testing Your Environment…
First, if you think there is current exposure, that is your priority because you will never get well until you either avoid it or get a company to remedy it so you are not repeatedly exposed. Constant exposure is just going to suppress your immune system and bring you down, literally.
Testing your environment is not that easy. You can use petri dishes in rooms to see if mould will grow. You can do an EMMA dust test to check for moulds and mycotoxins in the air. You can get petri dishes from Amazon or a full Petri dish/ERMI test here.
If either is positive, you have a mould problem in your home and need to get it dealt with. Bear in mind, though, that a negative petri, EMMA or ERMI doesn’t mean there is no mould; it just means you’ve not been able to culture or find it.
The more expensive, but by far the best, option is to have a professional check done. Many companies exist but they do just visual checks, which is not enough. They take an hour or so and just check for wetness or moisture. Do it properly, use Building Forensics if you can. They will give a very detailed report, make recommendations for remediation (do NOT DIY!) and can also help with liaising with building owners/landlords etc.
Testing Your Body…
Next (or at the same time) do a Mycotox test to see if mycotoxins turn up and which they are so you can do something to protect yourself and repair damage done by them.
You’ll no doubt need a Test Report so I can see and analyse the results if anything shows up. To help, the first thing to look for is whether Mycophenolic shows up. This particular mycotoxin is cleared very quickly from the body usually so, if you see it high, it suggests a current exposure. That’s when the building survey etc becomes really important. Find where it is coming from and get rid!
Other mycotoxins can come from past exposure, sometimes from years before!
Treatment for Mould and Mycotoxins
I tend to follow the work of Dr Jill Crista, whose approach makes a lot of sense to me in Mouldy world. The main Mycotox treatment stages she advises are:
Note that the very last stage is trying to get rid of the mycotoxins, not the first, and this is where most people tend to go wrong; they miss the fundamentals and support stages so feel rubbish and the mould load is not cleared effectively. That said, just doing getting rid of the exposure is enough for some people – they will get well just doing that if their nutrition status and wellbeing levels are high anyway. Most people will need to do the stages I have set out below for you – and many will never need to go beyond that, so fingers crossed you are one of them!
The first priority in any mycotoxin case is to remove any current exposure, as I’ve said above.
Whilst this is being done (and you nowhere near any remediation works!), you can start to protect yourself with three important foundational steps; don’t miss these out!
One tip to start with: people with mould illness tend to be very reactive so you may need to make changes and introduce things very slowly. Titrate supplement dosages, starting low and gradually increasing. If at any point, you feel poorly, stop and let your body catch up.
I have put a Mould Starter Protocol below which will help you cover most of the bases I am talking about in the following info. Please do read the rest of the page though to understand how that works; it’s useful knowledge and will help you make choices and take this effectively.
There are tons of lists on the internet, but the really important foods to avoid are: fermented food, mouldy food, aged cheeses, possibly probiotics, possibly saccharomyces boulardii, peanuts, peanut butter and dried fruit.
You need to eat loads of rainbow veg every day (red, green, orange, yellow, blue/purple, white/beige), oily fish and adequate protein 1g per kg body weight for liver detox. Oily fish, olive oil, avocado, walnuts, walnut oil, coconut oil, sufficient essential fatty acids, especially DHA etc are important– you need an oil change every day especially if fatigue or brain problems are presenting because mycotoxins are stored in fat.
Veg-wise, you need loads of bioflavonoids, hence the coloured veg is necessary. You can supplement with bioflavonoids too to make sure. Diet-wise, make the bulk of your veg greens and then build loads of other colours – daily – around those.
Protein: think oily fish daily and eggs, preferably.
Bitter foods are also really important to keep bile flow optimal. We need to detox those fatty mycotoxins really well! Choose rocket, watercress, green tea, bitter coffee or add bitters after main meals.
It is essential to bind the bile in the body where the mycotoxins are. We’re not binding the toxin itself necessarily. Good binder foods include steamed kale and okra especially, plus fibre such as psyllium, flaxseed, rice bran, chia, oat, rice etc. Start low and slow with an eighth of a teaspoon once per day and build up to 2-5g/day. If using kale powder, or other fibres, they work best if ground to a superfine powder.
Certain binders are recommended for specific mycotoxin types, but overall activated charcoal will bind most quite effectively. The dosage required is 1-3 500mg caps per day, but it is wise to build up to this quite slowly, starting with quarter capsule. Take binders generally at 3pm and bedtime, you can take all 3 caps in one dose before bed when you can tolerate it. They need to be 2 hours away from food/other supps/meds. Take with plenty of water. Charcoal is quite an indiscriminate binder so it will bind eg. minerals etc as well, so don’t stay on it for longer than a week at a time, and make sure you are taking a good multi like the Metabolic Powder below. Maybe try 1 week a month of it and focus on your kale, okra and fibres as above the rest of the time.
One all-in-one kind of binder I really like is Ultra Binder. This comes in caps, powder for more sensitive peeps and a liquid sachet. I don’t much like the extra ingredients in the sachet but it may suit some people.
Always follow the instructions on how and when to take them for best effect. And make sure you are taking a good multi when on any binder, a good two hours apart. (I’ve suggested a powder there for best absorption). If you get constipated at all, introduce plenty of extra Vitamin C and magnesium.
Even better, give yourself two scoops per day of this, which helps support several systems, inflammation, immunity and liver as well as nutrient levels. The powder has some of the binders and NAC to make more glutathione (see why this is important below). Take additional charcoal or binders – well away from the scoops.
It’s important to support the lymphatic system and to help the body eliminate the mycotoxins effectively. Dry brushing and movement are the main keys eg. walking, jumping on the spot, skipping, rebounding – whatever you can do with your energy level. Baths and swimming can also help because the pressure of water on skin is a gentle lymph mover. Most mouldies are poor breathers too – which makes sense as your body is trying to prevent you from inhaling more toxins! So, do some breathwork, but not in the mouldy environment, obviously.
One of the most important ways to protect yourself from the damage from mycotoxins is to ensure you have enough of the master antioxidant: glutathione. Many people are missing on of the glutathione genes, I find, so are more vulnerable to the effects of moulds, mycotoxins and the like in life. The Metabolic Detox powder I recommended above will help you increase glutathione levels as it contains the pre-cursor NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine).
Some people have difficulty converting enough glutathione from NAC, though, so I also recommend taking either an S-acetyl form or liposomal type. These will work well with the powder above as you need certain co-factors to absorb and metabolise the glutathione effectively.
OK, so hopefully that has given a good starter type approach to finding out if you have a mould or mycotoxin issue, how to find it effectively, both in your environment and body, then what to do to start dealing with it if you do find it. These first approaches are important and you will do well to start there. Once this has been done for a few months, re-test to see if the levels are reducing, see how you feel and then you will likely need more individualised help with the latter stages of further protecting you against the toxins, repairing the genetic, cellular, organ and systemic damage they do – as every person varies depending on where their weaknesses are – and getting rid of the mould once and for all.
Mycotoxin Starter Protocol
This is a suggested starter protocol for you to consider. Depending on your health level, genetics, toxic load etc, some of you will be able to put these straight in, others will need to build up each one very slowly. Obviously, you are not my patient and I don’t have your full case, so please do discuss this with your chosen health professionals. These are for your consideration only.
Metabolic Detox Powder, build up to 2 scoops per day. This contains binders, essential fatty acids, nutrients, co-factors, liver and gallbladder support, NAC to make more glutathione and bitter green tea, plus flavonoids. If this is all you can do, this is a great all-in-one product. Even better, add the following:
Ultra Binder Sensitive Powder, 1 tsp in water between meals twice a day. You can combine this with or use Kale Powder in smoothies/water three times a day instead OR Activated Charcoal 1 cap 3 x day. See the tips above for taking binders so you don’t get constipated or bind your nutrients.
Liposomal Glutathione 4ml per day. Do not take extra glutathione unless you are taking binders as you will likely release toxins and then they’ll affect you all over again. Bind them.
Flavonoid Complex, 2 per day especially if you are not hitting your rainbow veg daily.
One last tip: If, for some reason, you cannot tolerate even the start of this protocol, you need then to work on bringing down your limbic system overactivation and improving vagus function, see my factsheet on that here and my Healing Plan.
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Dr Crista has written a great book Break The Mold which will take you through these stages in more depth. You can also find tons of videos and interviews she has done over the last few years. Here’s one to start you off: