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
  • 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

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!

Elizabeth Hingley, NP-C, IFMCP, CDCES

Elizabeth Hingley is an accomplished Family Nurse Practitioner, who earned her MSN degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 2013. Her passion for patient care and dedication to her profession led her to pursue additional certifications. In 2022, she received her IFMCP through IFM.org, and she has been a Certified Diabetes and Education Specialist since 2011. Elizabeth has gained valuable experience in urgent care and endocrine management, specializing in diabetes, thyroid, testosterone, and weight management. She noticed that even with traditional medicine, some patients still experienced persistent symptoms, which led her to explore alternative therapies and focus on lifestyle management to address the underlying causes. Elizabeth is committed to patient education and empowering them to take ownership of their health, working with them as partners on their health journey. In addition to her passion for health and wellness, Elizabeth enjoys traveling with her loved ones, trail running, hiking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Josiah Smith, PA-C

Josiah Smith graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from Drexel University in 1998. He continued his education and received his Master of Physician Assistant Studies in 2007. He served as a medical officer with the Army National Guard and earned the rank of Captain. He started his career in Family Practice and moved onto Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care. When he experienced overwhelming life stressors ten years ago, he sought out conventional medical care and all that was offered were several “pills.” Not satisfied that this would fix the “root” cause of his symptoms, Josiah found a Functional Medical provider that transformed his wellbeing through a lifestyle and root cause resolution approach. Impressed with his health transformation, he started his own pursuit of being trained in Functional Medicine.

Josiah opened his own functional medicine consulting practice in Las Vegas with several health coaches. His professional pursuits continued into learning how to optimize the body’s healing potential via other therapeutic interventions. He uses regenerative medicine for aesthetics, sexual wellness, repair and recovery of the body. These include peptide therapy, hormone optimization, IV infusions, Acoustic Wave Therapy, and other cellular interventions to enhance vitality and longevity.

In his personal time he enjoys international traveling and exploring cultures, history, and cuisine with his wife and four teenagers. Josiah also enjoys hiking and skiing.

Kristin Gomes, APRN-CNM

Kristin is a Certified Nurse Midwife.  She received a bachelor’s of science in nursing from California State University San Bernardino.  After working as a registered nurse in transplant, oncology, and palliative care Kristin switched her focus to gynecology, labor, and birth.  Recognizing the need to emphasize health, wellness, and prevention in our culture, she saw an opportunity to impact the health of women and their families through education focused, more personalized, family centered care. Thus, Kristin pursued a graduate degree in nurse midwifery at New York University and graduated with honors in 2014.  She has practiced as a nurse midwife in the Treasure Valley since 2015.

Throughout her years of practice Kristin has always strived to provide an inclusive and holistic approach to healthcare. She aspires to meet each woman where they are and collaborate with them on their health journey.  She has seen the profound difference in treating a symptom vs treating the cause while supporting the body.  The desire to support the innate healing and protective qualities of the body through evidenced based care led to her discovery of functional medicine.  In late 2020 she began her training through the Institute for Functional Medicine which she completed in the winter of 2022.  At Functional Medicine of Idaho alongside the community of practitioners, nutritionists, nurses, and health coaches Kristin has the opportunity to provide a personalized and integrative women’s health experience focused on individualized wellness. 

Kristin feels deeply connected to nature.  When she’s not in the mountains camping, hiking, kayaking, or fishing you can find her tending her garden beds or on her yoga mat.  Her favorite season is winter, preferably one with lots of snow, and her happy place is on her skis with her husband and daughter.

Allyson Howarth, DNP, FNP-C, WHNP

Allyson Howarth is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She offers functional primary care and women’s health care. Allyson's heart for women's health began as a labor and delivery nurse in 2011 out of a strong desire to provide a safe place for women to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Allyson discovered Functional Medicine through her own personal struggle with autoimmune disease. When traditional medicine didn’t have a solution for her poor health, she wholeheartedly embraced functional medicine in her quest for healing. She is passionate about helping her patients find healing and is excited to be able to implement functional medicine principles with conventional healthcare. 

Allyson is working towards her certification with the institute of Functional Medicine. Allyson earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Oregon Health Science University, a Master of Art in Human Services with an emphasis in Health and Wellness from Liberty University, and both of her Master of Science in Nursing and Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Frontier Nursing University. 

Outside of work, Allyson’s favorite activity is spending time with her family. She also enjoys reading, researching, traveling, biking on the Green Belt, and hiking with her husband.

Gavin Guard, PA-C, MPAS, CISSN, Pn1

Gavin Guard believes that the average doctor visit is not giving patients the time and support they deserve. Gavin graduated summa cum laude from Whitman College with a bachelor’s in biochemistry before completing graduate medical school training at the University of Colorado. His main clinical focuses include gastrointestinal disorders, thyroid and hormone health, as well as metabolic disease like diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Aside from patient care, Gavin is also publishing medical literature in the functional medicine field. He wakes up every morning to help patients find lasting solutions to their health so that they can experience hope and feel restored. When not in the clinic or reading papers, you can find him spending time with his wife and two young girls or pumping iron in the weight room.

Specialties include:
- Digestive concerns (IBS, SIBO, reflux, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, IBD)
- Longevity and metabolic health (heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight loss)
- Mold illness and toxicity
- Thyroid health
- Hormones (testosterone, menopause, female hormones)
- Autoimmunity
- Brain fog, fatigue

Jennifer Paulson, DNP, FNP-BC, APHN-BC, IFMCP

Jennifer Paulson joins FMI after 8 years of owning her private practice in Bend, Oregon. She is dually board-certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from University of Arizona and completed her graduate studies in Nursing at Concordia University in Wisconsin. 

Jennifer discovered early in her primary care role as a nurse practitioner that the band-aid approach used in medical settings was not the way she wanted to practice. She knew from her personal healing journey with autoimmune disease and recovering her children from neurodevelopmental disorders she needed a different model to provide care to her patients. She earned her certification with the Institute of Functional Medicine in 2017.  Her practice style is unique and she truly meets each patient where they are on their wellness journey while holding space for learning and growing. She enjoys caring for patients of all ages. 

Jennifer also holds certifications and advanced studies in mind-body-medicine such as Yoga, Reiki, HeartMath™, Ayurveda, Holistic Pelvic Care™, and lifestyle genomics. Jennifer is an educator at heart and has held faculty positions with Georgetown University and currently teaches Doctor of Nutrition students at University of Western States. 

In her time outside of work, Jennifer loves gardening, baking, fishing and spending time with her growing family-husband, children, grandchildren, cats, and dogs.  

Christa Inzer Castillo MSPAS, PA-C, MPH

Christa Inzer Castillo is a board certified Physician Assistant, with 14 years of experience in  family practice, who offers primary and acute care for adults and children. She loves the opportunity to get to know entire families and develop relationships with her  patients. While trained in western medicine she has long infused a whole person and natural  approaches to achieve best patient outcomes.  

Personal experience, specifically a mother who has responded poorly to the traditional western  medical approach, but used whole body approaches to find answers inspired Christa to begin  the process of understanding root cause medicine. The desire to help answer “why” is this  going on in the body and “how” to help the body heal has become a passion. The process of  teasing out each person’s unique puzzle is fascinating and rewarding, especially when you start  to see health restored.  

Christa grew up in the Treasure Valley, graduated from Meridian High School, earned her  Bachelor of Science in Biology from the College of Idaho. In 2008 she earned her Master of  Science in Physician Assistant Studies and Masters of Public Health from Touro University in  Vallejo, California.  

Outside of the clinic, Christa enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children. You can  find them outside working on numerous projects with chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and  gardening, or hiking and exploring the great state of Idaho. She also loves to serve in her  church and squeeze in a swim.

Stephanie Ritari, PA-C

Stephanie Ritari is a board-certified Physician Assistant who offers primary care for adults at the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center. She specializes in Internal Medicine and has spent the majority of her career in the field of cardiovascular disorders.

Stephanie has more than 15 years experience as a Physician Assistant in a variety of medical areas, including cardiology and electrophysiology. Holistic practices have long been a part of Stephanie’s lifestyle, with a particular focus on clean living and nutrition. She has embedded functional principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. After watching family members struggle to find answers for their chronic illnesses, Stephanie became more interested in finding ways to take a root cause approach in her own practice. Wanting to provide a proactive, comprehensive, and preventative scope of care for her patients, Stephanie began studying functional medicine. In 2021, she joined Functional Medicine of Idaho, where she is able to provide evidence based, root cause medicine.

Stephanie earned her Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Montana and her masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Rocky Mountain College. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine. 

In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and dog doing outdoor activities including biking, hiking, and skiing. She also loves interior design and traveling, and is hoping to start her own garden in the near future.

Dr. David Musnick, MD, IFMCP

David Musnick is a board-certified medical doctor who offers in-person and telemedicine care from the Functional Medicine of Idaho Eagle clinic. Dr. Musnick offers Functional Medicine, Sports Medicine, Functional Immunology, and Primary Care for adults and teenagers. He specializes in sports medicine, internal medicine, frequency specific microcurrent (FSM), scars, homeopathy, prolotherapy, and low-level laser treatments. 

Dr. Musnick is interested in getting to the root of underlying causes and factors that affect healing, including diet, sleep, exercise, stress, mood, GI health, brain region health, toxins, mold,  hormones, infections, and electromagnetic fields (EMF). He is excellent at Orthopedic diagnosis trying to determine which tissues are causing pain, what the issue with the tissue is and what is going on in the pain processing system. He has developed a unique program to heal the brain after Concussion that is based on what actually goes on in the brain after head injury. His program integrates: diet, supplements, sleep, exercise and microcurrent and brain training to heal the brain after concussion. He also applies this to other brain based disorders including cognitive impairment and dementia. He has a special interest in autoimmune disorders and has studied Functional Immunology.  He is one of the top 10 clinicians in the world with Frequency Specific Microcurrent and he teaches at Microcurrent meetings. He is also very experienced in Prolotherapy regenerative injections to build more ligament to stabilize a joint or area of the spine.  

In medical school, Dr. Musnick spent a year studying nutrition. He has always been interested in the complex interrelationships of different systems of the body. Taking on challenges in the past, he created new treatment programs to heal the brain after concussion, treat chronic pain, arthritis, and tough SIBO and IBS cases. Dr. Musnick wants to help his patients achieve the highest level of health, vitality and function.

After his internal medicine residency in Seattle, Dr. Musnick completed a fellowship in sports medicine where he became interested in helping patients get back to optimal musculoskeletal health and eventually back to their favorite activities. He quickly learned that many areas of the body were interrelated and started learning more about nutrition, supplements, and other facets of functional medicine. Dr. Musnick has more than 24 years of experience in Functional Medicine and achieved a very high level of both experience and expertise with many health conditions. He is also the author of the book, Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, and helped in writing textbook chapters on arthritis and concussions.

Dr. Musnick received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of California, San Francisco. He is certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFMCP. He also studied in the French school of Homeopathy. He is uniquely rare in that he teaches Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and how to integrate it with functional medicine. 

In his spare time, Dr. Musnick enjoys hiking, nature photography, cooking healthy food, mountain biking, and skiing.

IFM Certified Practitioner

Aaron Dykstra, DNP, FNP-C

Aaron Dykstra is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He offers pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Functional and alternative therapies were a part of Aaron’s life from a young age, and he has implemented these principles into his conventional medicine practice throughout his career. Aaron has more than 8 years of experience in a variety of medical disciplines, including pediatrics, obstetrics, mental health, and nutrition. He has practiced in rural health clinics in California and Oregon. For the last 5 years, Aaron has had a passion for working with children and implementing positive change through the family unit. Aaron joined the Functional Medicine of Idaho Pediatric Team in 2021. His enthusiasm for educating children and parents about living a healthy lifestyle allows him to provide preventative and acute care for infants, children, and adolescents. 

Aaron obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Brigham Young University. He earned both his Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through the University of Arizona. He has obtained a Family Herbalist and Family Nutritionist certifications through The School of Natural Healing by Dr. Christopher. He is currently working towards his certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Aaron spending time with his wife and 5 kids, mountain biking, running, or camping in the backyard. Aaron is a big fan of Master Chef and enjoys cooking.

Jessica Santos, FNP-C, 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!

IFM Certified Practitioner

Nadia Kravchuk, DNP, FNP-C

Nadia Kravchuk is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. She offers functional pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Nadia and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 where they first settled in Oregon and then moved to Idaho in 2001. Complementary medicine practices were embedded into her lifestyle at a young age, and she has implemented these principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. She has more than 15 years experience in a variety of medical environments, including emergency room, intensive care unit, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, and aesthetics.

Nadia joined Functional Medicine of Idaho so that she can combine functional principles with the foundations of conventional medicine to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. As an avid gardener, beekeeper, and sustainable living enthusiast, she understands the importance and role of optimizing nutrition, sleep, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. She has a passion for pediatric functional medicine and understands that early recognition and interventions can correct imbalances, prevent chronic illness, and improve overall outcomes for children.

Nadia obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Northwest Nazarene University. She earned both her Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through Frontier Nursing University. In 2017, she was the recipient of the HCA Excellence in Nursing Award. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Nadia working on her urban homestead, hiking, foraging, camping, snowboarding, and spending time with her husband and her dog, Wolfy. She is also fluent in both English and Russian.