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Updated: Apr 3, 2023

When mold toxins (also called mycotoxins) are present in the body, they activate the immune system to create chemical messengers of inflammation called cytokines. Cytokines can travel throughout the body and wreak havoc on many important systems. In this blog, I discuss the impact of mold triggered inflammation on each of these systems, as well as some common solutions I use. Remember that these are general strategies and not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any individual’s condition. Please consult with your doctor before adding any treatment recommendations to your routine.

Cytokines produced by mold “turn on” your DNA to turn cells into inflammation factories. Many cytokines are also involved in regulating body temperature and pain, which is why mold can create temperature sensitivity or flu-like symptoms. These inflammatory factors also prevent your immune system from regulating itself, so mold toxicity may play a role in auto-immune disease.

In turning inflammatory genes on, it also turns anti-inflammatory genes “off” and prevents your body from activating antioxidant systems (like the SOD/ Catalase system), key to protecting tissues from inflammatory damage. Mycotoxins also divert enzymes that are key to immune function – like copper, zinc, and iron – to the liver, to be used instead for breaking down toxins.

Potential Solutions:

Liposomal Curcumin

Liposomal or rectal melatonin

The Nervous System

In general, cytokines increase permeability of the blood brain barrier; the network of cells that protects structures in the brain from inflammation or damage in the rest of the body. Once in the brain, mold toxins decrease antioxidants important for protecting our brains from cognitive decline and can directly damage nerves. Brain imaging has also demonstrated that mold toxins damage the brain architecture itself.

Potential Solutions:

Resveratrol: helps combat mold induced inflammation in the brain.

Bile Support: contain substances that decrease inflammation in the brain.

Phosphatidylcholine: helps repair nerve cells.

Liposomal Melatonin: helps detoxify the brain.

The Endocrine System:

The inflammatory factors produced by mycotoxins interfere with the HPA axis- the computer center of your brain in charge of regulating hormone production. Through this system, it shifts the body to a stressed state, increasing secretion of the hormone cortisol.

These inflammatory factors also slow the elimination of estrogen at the liver. Additionally, mold toxins can act as xenoestrogens, or estrogen mimics. Together, these effects can lead to estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalance. In addition to promoting excess estrogen, mold toxins can decrease testosterone: important for female libido, energy, and mood.

Potential Solutions:

Gentle Exercise: slows the release of stress hormones. Exercise that is too intense can stir up inflammation, so be in tune with how you feel when you exercise.

Hormone Testing: treatment recommendations should be based on test results.

The Metabolism:

Mycotoxins are also capable of interfering with insulin signaling, promoting insulin resistance, which is associated with Type 2 Diabetes and weight gain. These toxins also have the ability to make glucose so they can create weight gain even in the presence of a healthy diet and increase blood lipids.

Furthermore, mold toxins promote a condition called leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone responsible for decreasing pain and telling our brains we are full. By binding leptin receptors in the brain, it can create weight gain and increase both pain and inflammation.

Insomnia is also common in mold illness due to decreased melatonin production and leptin interference with regulation of sleep-wake cycles. Insomnia can further perpetuate a vicious cycle of resistant weight gain.

Potential Solutions:

Leptin Reset Diet

The Gastrointestinal System:

The inflammation created by mycotoxins can shift the microbiome of the gut to encourage growth of harmful bacteria. Because your digestive enzymes can help degrade these inflammatory factors, mold may impair digestion by decreasing levels of available enzymes.

Mycotoxins have the potential to damage the intestinal lining and inhibit the breakdown of histamines. Histamines have potential to further damage the intestinal lining and promote the development of Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth, food sensitivities, and histamine intolerance.

Potential Solutions:

Eliminate gluten: uses the same pathway as mold toxins to increase intestinal permeability

The Liver:

Mycotoxins damage the liver and interfere with secretion of bile, an important component of both detoxification and digestion.

Potential Solutions:

Taurine & Glycine (support bile synthesis)

The Mitochondria:

Mitochondria are the motors of every cell in your body, that are responsible for energy production. Mold is directly toxic to the mitochondria, creating profound fatigue.

Potential Solutions:

Interaction with Lyme Disease:

People with Lyme Disease and mold toxicity are some of the sickest patients that exist. Mold toxicity and Lyme Disease share overlapping symptoms, activate overlapping inflammatory factors, even activate overlapping genes associated with the illness they create. Both mycotoxins and Lyme Disease have potential to damage the brain. Together, they can worsen the symptoms of the other illness and make both resistant to treatment. Like many toxins, mycotoxins can also suppress the immune system and make you less able to fight off infections like Lyme Disease and its co-infections.

Mold & Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS):

While anyone can experience negative symptoms from mold, some people genetically have the ability to form antibodies to mold toxins. In these individuals, mold triggers an inflammatory cascade in the body that can create a long term illness with severe symptoms (chronic inflammatory response syndrome).

The following tests are used to assess for CIRS:






Complement C3a and C4a

How do I know if I have mold toxicity?

I consider mold toxicity in anyone who has a known or suspected history of living or working in a building with mold or living in a coastal or humid climate, where mold growth is likely to occur. I also consider a diagnosis of mold toxicity in any individual with a diagnosis of Lyme Disease or Autoimmune Disease. Mold can be tested for with a urine mycotoxin test. If I suspect CIRS, I may run blood panels that look specifically for an inflammatory immune response.

If you think mold may be ruining your health, download my Comprehensive Guide to Mold Recovery.

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