Mold illness results from exposure to mold primarily via water-damaged buildings (WDB) although some exposure does take place from foods. These sources of exposure can expose people to both mold spores and toxins produced by mold known as mycotoxins. While mold spores often lead to allergies, asthma and allergic-type reactions, mycotoxins are much smaller particles and readily pass into the blood via the lungs on inhalation and can affect virtually every organ system of the body. Mycotoxins cause significant oxidative stress and immune dysregulation and can therefore cause a wide range of symptoms and illnesses. Some individuals are more susceptible to mycotoxin illness than others. Normally, these mycotoxins are removed from the body via detoxification pathways. However, in these individuals, the mycotoxin is not recognized by the adaptive immune system and therefore is not removed from the body efficiently.
There is no single test to confirm a diagnosis of mold/mycotoxin illness. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. However, there are a number of biomarkers associated with mold illness that can be ordered via conventional labs and specialized lab testing that help in identifying this condition. Assessing for levels of mycotoxins excreted in the urine can be very helpful.
Mycotoxins may pass from cell to cell creating cell damage and causing immune system dysfunction which leads to systemic inflammation. This chronic inflammation affects multiple organ systems causing widespread symptoms, frequently leading to misdiagnoses and failed treatment.
Mold/mycotoxin illness is often confused with these conditions or can lead to the following diagnoses:
Symptoms associated with mold/mycotoxin illness include:
A comprehensive approach to the management of mycotoxin illness must take into consideration many aspects of health, including gut barrier integrity and imbalances of gut flora, liver detoxification capacity, oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and toxic burden.
There are several areas of management of mycotoxin illness in the Functional Medicine approach: