What is mold biotoxin illness?

Molds produce toxins that are biologically-produced, hence the term “biotoxin”. Mold-related illness can occur when we are exposed to the toxins produced by mold, namely molds that are associated with water-damaged buildings. Mold biotoxin illness is, as Dr. Neil Nathan puts it, “Public enemy number one”.

Exposure to mold may induce allergy-like responses in some people, but mold toxins can wreak havoc on virtually every body system. Patients with mold-related illness may also suffer from other complex chronic diseases like lyme and other tick-borne infections, chronic activation of viruses, chronic yeast or fungal infections, chronic bacterial infections, and so-on, as the immune system becomes weakened and cannot provide proper defense against other organisms. Patients undergoing treatment for these conditions may find they don’t get better, or they plateau and can’t seem to ever get back to feeling well until they are able to discover and address the mold biotoxin illness as well. 

What are the symptoms of mold biotoxin illness?

This can be a difficult question to answer, because the symptoms vary widely and may include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Body aches (muscles, joints, overall increased pain)
  • Headaches, dizziness, poor balance or coordination, changes in vision, or other neurological complaints
  • Weight gain or swelling
  • Memory changes, dementia, difficulty concentrating or learning new things
  • ADD/ADHD, PANS/PANDAS 
  • Mood swings, anxiety, depression
  • Insomnia or night sweats
  • Immune system dysregulation (including autoimmunity)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Recurrent and prolonged infections like a cold, sinus infection, flu, bladder infection, and yeast infection
  • Gut imbalances like SIBO and dysbiosis
  • Sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, rashes, and asthma exacerbations
  • Environment and food allergies, chemical sensitivities
  • Seizures
  • Blood pressure imbalances
  • Autism related symptoms (in kids)

You may feel worse when in a certain building, like home, school, or work, or you may feel better when you leave those places. Patients have also been known to get sick when traveling and staying in a home or hotel that has had water intrusion. Cars, boats, trailers and other vehicles can be culprits, as well.

When we see a patient who has seen multiple specialists and none have adequately diagnosed or treated the patient, we start thinking about biotoxin illness. Patients who have lost hope and start thinking “Nobody can figure out what is wrong, maybe it IS just all in my head” are definitely suspect, as well. When conventional medicine cannot explain the constellation of symptoms, but the patient KNOWS something isn’t right, they are usually correct. Where or not you can see mold in your environment, if you are experiencing any or all of the symptoms, mold toxins could likely be the culprit, as many of us are genetically vulnerable to biotoxin illness.  

How do I know if I have been exposed to mold?

Think back to when you last felt well. Do you remember having any water intrusions in your home, office or school? Any water intrusion, including roof leaks, pipe leaks or bursts, water heater leaks, window leaks or condensation, malfunctioning toilet / tub / dishwasher / freezer, and even a bathroom without proper ventilation can breed mold if there is enough moisture to encourage mold growth. The age of the building, as well as faulty construction, can lead to structural changes or damage that can allow moisture in the home to rise. Pest infestations like rodents or termites that damage the structure can be a portal through which water and moisture can enter your home. 

How do you know if you have mold in your home?  Mold doesn’t just come from a huge flood in your basement (although it certainly can). The first way to determine if you have mold in your space to look. If you see (or have previously had) any mold, water spots, or water drips from the ceiling, there has been a significant enough water intrusion that mold is likely present. If the paint bubbles around the windowsills, if there is mold around the window, or if there is condensation inside the windows when it is wet outside, you may have enough moisture to breed mold. Within minutes of water or moisture exposure, molds that are inherently present in building materials become activated and can grow, releasing toxins. If your home smells musty, that can also be a telltale sign there could be a mold problem. 

Even if your home has been remediated and found to be mold-free, don’t be so sure. There are molds that are colorless and odorless, so you may not always be aware they are present. Mold often hides behind walls or under sub-flooring, so it is not always visible. Mold may even be present in a brand new home. The only way to know for sure if your home is mold free is to have testing done on the environment, as directed by a trained Indoor Environmental Professional. 

If you think you may have been exposed to a water-damaged building at any point in your life, contact the office for an appointment to discuss. We can get you pointed in the right direction. The last thing we want you to do is try to test the home yourself, or pay to have an inspection unless it is someone we know and trust from a medical perspective. It is all well and good to hear that the building code has been met and there is no visible mold, but that does not tell me anything about the health of the home or the risk to the people (and pets) living in it. 

I think I may have mold biotoxin illness. What do I do now?

About 25% of the population has a genetic variant that does not allow their immune system to recognize and eliminate the mold toxins, thus allowing it to remain until we are able to identify and remove it with help from your functional practitioner. The remaining 75% of us are still at risk, as mold toxins are so highly toxic they can impair our detox pathways as they move through the organs, causing congestion and reduced organ function. 

Through many forms of support, we can open up those detox pathways and help support organ function, while moving toxins out of the body. There are many ways we can test the body to see if mold toxins are present and if they have, in fact, caused alterations in your biochemistry.   

Please feel welcome to call Functional Medicine of Idaho to address any mold biotoxin questions or concerns you have. We have many providers here on staff that would be able to assist you in your journey in living free of mold biotoxin illness, and the down-stream effects these toxins may have on your body.

Jessica Santos, FNP, IFMCP

Adult Functional Practitioner

Schedule an appointment with Jessica Santos by calling our office. Are you a new patient? Get started online!

Jessica Santos, FNP, IFMCP

Jessica Santos has joined FMI as a certified functional medicine provider, offering telehealth visits from her home in northern California, where she and our current medical director, Dr. Holthouse practiced together for many years. She will join us in-office on a regular basis to see patients in person, as well.

Jessica received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Arizona. She spent her first decade as a Family Nurse Practitioner working in Urgent Care, Family and Internal Medicine, as well as Pediatric practices. While working within the constraints of conventional medicine, she felt she was missing the opportunity to really make an impact in her patient’s lives.

Since finding functional medicine, her passion is helping patients recover from complex chronic disease and achieve optimal wellness through functional medicine. She is certified through The Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFMCP. She is also a member of the International Society for Environmentally-Acquired Illness, where she has expanded her scope of practice to include those who suffer from biotoxin illness, like lyme disease and mold-related illness. 

In her spare time, Jessica and her husband like to travel and take their kids to new places to explore on their mountain bikes. They recently all came to Idaho and decided that Bogus Basin was home of their new favorite mountain biking trails!