Mold and Your Health

Understanding the role of fungi or mold in causing your symptoms is critical to healing.

Fungi or molds are abundant in our environment. 

These organisms are usually harmless to healthy people as the mold spores in the outside air are less concentrated and are not an exposure risk likely to cause problems. There are people who have mold allergies and who experience symptoms when outdoor mold counts are elevated, but few people are systemically affected and immunecompromised by routine outdoor mold exposures. Conversely, the presence of the same mold species growing indoors in a built environment can make you sick.  

Why does Indoor Mold make you sick? 

Because indoor exposure is much more concentrated and magnified. For example, you can burn a pile of leaves outdoors and, due to the volume of fresh air, everyone around the burn pile is fine—maybe a little smoke smell gets into clothing with no major health fallouts likely to occur. But, if you burn the same pile indoors, someone could die of smoke inhalation. In other words, the same amount of smoke that was OK outside is dangerous indoors. Indoors, the concentration and exposure risk is much greater.

16% - 20% of people are Mold Sensitive

To add to the complexity of mold exposure and why some people get sicker than others, 16% -20% of the population has a genetic T-cell or immune system defect, which gives them a predisposition to mold sensitivities and an inability to mount an appropriate immune response to the exposure. If sensitive to mold, a person can have an exaggerated immune reaction whenever it enters their nasal passages—the main line of exposure. Typical allergic responses to mold/fungi include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and a skin rash known as Dermatitis. There are also systemic symptoms, such as muscle and joint pain, fibromyalgia, GI symptoms, and fatigue common for those with mold allergies. Certain fungi, such as Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, Fusarium, and Curvularia can cause serious illness in people with genetic sensitivities and even in some people without genetic T-cell defects. Because mold can impact an individual in many different ways, there is no one absolute symptom. Some symptoms may be caused by a variety or a combination of factors. 

Aspergillus Mold


Cladosporium Mold


Penicillium Mold


Fusarium Mold


Curvularia Mold


Mycotoxins and Your Body

Mycotoxins are the secondary, toxic metabolites produced by some molds. There are over 400 different mycotoxins and they can destroy every system in the human body. These toxins inhibit the synthesis of proteins which the body needs to repair itself. Additionally, these toxins cause immune system suppression that allows bacterial infections to trigger the onset of many different types of disease.

The source of these Mycotoxins, obviously, is mold; which is a fungus that grows in multicellular filaments called hyphae and single-cell filaments called yeast. For mold to grow, it requires a moisture level of 50% and a food source such as wood, paper, fiberglass, or cloth—materials abundant in homes and buildings. Once moisture hits these food sources, mold can begin to grow, expand exponentially and become a big problem very quickly.

7 Symptoms That Point to Mold

1. Chronic Sinusitis 

In 1999, the Mayo Clinic published a study citing an immune response to fungus as the cause of 96% of chronic sinusitis. Frequent or recurring sinus infections need to be worked up for mold and fungi. Fungal sinusitis can easily mimic a bacterial infection. Antibiotics often help INITIALLY, but you are only clearing the secondary bacterial overgrowth with the medications and not the underlying fungus causing the infection. Therefore, infections keep coming back.

What to do?

Ask for a fungal culture and sinus X-rays/CT scan to look for structural abnormalities and fungal balls. If you cannot get a fungal culture done, you can try doing your own nasal swab and putting it on a mold plate. If high levels of mold are cultured, your environment needs thorough evaluation!

2. Unusual Sensory Symptoms

These symptoms can present as numbness or tingling in certain parts of the body, which may be persistent. Pins and needle sensations from compression, such as when your “hand goes to sleep”, usually resolve with changing position, but in the case of myotoxicity, it doesn’t alleviate with a change of position. Some patients report that the first thing they noticed was that their backsides and backs of their legs were numb when they sat on the toilet. These are typically not painful sensations but are just “weird” which is how it has been described.

What to do?

Have your doctor perform some simple neurological tests to check sensations, vibratory senses, and reflexes to see if any other neurological illnesses need to be tested for or ruled out.

3. Dizziness, Balance Problems, & Slow Reflexes

If you find the need to steady yourself while walking down a hallway, feel off-balance frequently, or are slow to react to normal stimuli, you should consider that something like mycotoxins could be disrupting your nervous system.

What to do?

Again, simple neurologic testing can help identify and rule out other causes, such as inner ear problems, biochemical imbalances such as an electrolyte imbalance, or extreme blood sugar fluctuations. Medication side effects also need to be assessed.

4. Excessive Fatigue

This kind of fatigue is not just about being tired from physical exertion or stress. The fatigue caused by mold exposure and experienced by some patients is not related to sleep, exercise, or mood. This fatigue is caused by the impact of mycotoxins on the mitochondria of the cells, which are responsible for creating the energy required to drive every process in the body. Additionally, the inflammation in the small capillary beds caused by mycotoxins decreases oxygen flow into tissues, which can include the brain, muscles, and other organs.  

What to do?

Fatigue is one of the hardest symptoms to assess as it is very subjective with multiple causes. One must rule out many things in assessing it–a complete list of which is beyond the scope of this article–but could include anemia and other blood disorders, medication side effects, and acute or chronic illnesses of many types.

5. Headaches

Headaches are another BIG subject because they can be vascular, musculoskeletal, or biochemical in origin, but mold can cause frequent headaches and ice pick-like pain behind the eyes.

What to do?

The root cause of the pain must be found in order to suggest the best treatment solution. Testing will need to be done by a skilled practitioner. For icepick pain behind the eyes, taking steps to address mold in the sinuses is usually the most helpful.

6. Sudden Alterations or Fluctuations in Mood

This one touches on an area that is very sensitive to mold and mycotoxin sufferers. Because some patients have been labeled as histrionic or been told, “It’s all in your head,” some are hesitant to even discuss the direct impact that mold/mycotoxins can have on their mental well-being. “Brain fog” should also be included in this discussion. Some patients feel they have the sudden onset of dementia, as memory and thought processes become so impaired. Neuropsychological studies have seen patterns in these symptoms which point to environmental causes, including mycotoxins and other chemicals. When discovered and the patient is removed from the mold exposure quickly, these symptoms are reversible, but time is definitely of the essence here!

What to do?

As with fatigue, mood changes and brain fog can have multifactorial causes, but sudden changes require investigation. Disruption of neurotransmitters can and does happen in response to mycotoxins, so do not ignore these symptoms!

7. Allergies

Allergies can manifest as respiratory, such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, but also as skin eruptions. The mechanism of allergic response is different from the manifestation of toxicity, but they can exist together or individually. I do think there is a high incidence of those who are classically “mold allergic”, who then develop symptoms of mold toxicity with continued exposure. Thus, while their first symptom is the allergic expression of inflammation, their symptoms progress to chronic or autoimmune illnesses and diseases if the mold is not found and treated.

What to do?

Removal from the mold exposure is the most important intervention here--you cannot react if you are no longer being exposed to what is causing the reaction. This is also where mold maintenance and ongoing cleaning of surfaces and belongings is crucial to lowering daily exposures that cannot always be avoided. Additionally, a lower histamine diet, addressing any yeast overgrowth/candida, and addressing digestive system health moves the needle in a positive direction for most allergy sufferers.

7 Symptoms That Point to Mold

There are certainly other symptoms specific to individuals when mold and mycotoxins are problems but the ones listed above are some of the most common. Some of the questions that you should also think about are:

How has your home or work environment impacted the onset of symptoms?

Do you feel better when you spend time away from home or work?

Has your home or office had a water or moisture intrusion?

How old is your HVAC system?

Do you have a humidifier attached to your air handler?

Is there condensation on your walls, ceiling, or inside your windows?

Do scents linger in your home long after cooking or cleaning?

Is there any visible mold or mildew growing inside your home?

Does water flow towards your foundation?

Do you have a crawlspace?

Have you become sensitized to foods, ingredients, or scents that you used to tolerate well? 

Want to dig deeper?

There are certainly other symptoms specific to individuals when mold and mycotoxins are problems but the ones listed above are some of the most common.

Want to dig deeper? 

Take a FREE Evaluation!

When in Doubt, Start Here:

1. Check your environment. 

Monitor the indoor humidity. (It needs to be kept below 47%). Look for signs of water or moisture intrusion. If you have signs or know of water intrusion that was not addressed swiftly and correctly, you have mold growing on those building materials. Any water allowed to sit and to penetrate and keep building materials wet WILL grow mold. You can also do some testing yourself by putting mold plates out or swabbing your nose if you have sinus symptoms. If you want professional testing or advice, I recommend using the website to search for a qualified indoor environmental professional in your area.

2. Seek the care of an environmental or mold-literate practitioner. These professionals can assist with testing and treatment recommendations.

And as mentioned over and over in previous articles, your environment MUST be clean in order for you to get better, so move to a safe environment or find those mold sources and clean them up! Dr. Dennis’s Environmental Treatment Protocol that utilizes EC3 products available on this website can also be extremely helpful for those who cannot immediately move or remediate.

3. Begin incorporating some simple, mold-focused solutions.

Eliminating the mold problem is the key to managing illness. Simply eliminating surface mold is not enough, you must correct the underlying problems of moisture and fuel to stop the growth, otherwise the problem will just return. Once the source of the mold is identified and removed then you can clean the mold from your living space to create a healthy living environment.

Things to Remember

Cleaning a mold problem and managing its health side effects can be complicated depending on the severity of the issue. Here are some guidelines to help you make a sound decision on how to best handle this problem:

Safe Environment

If you are sick the best solution is often to get into a safe place where you feel best.

Clean Start

Do not take anything that was in the contaminated area that cannot be properly cleaned.

Low-Sugar Diet

If you are sick, eat a low carbohydrate diet that includes meats, seafood, vegetables and fruit and only non-glutinous grains. Fungi need sugar to grow in your body, so essentially removing sugar from your diet helps to not feed the problem.

Clean Environment

If you are not very sick, treat your environment with the environmental treatment protocol (ETP). You will want to test before and after to make sure that you have the mold under control.

Get Professional Help

If your mold problem has been caused by water damage or is particularly large, you may want to get it treated by a professional environmental company.

Clean Home and Body

Remember, once you have symptoms of mold exposure you must remove mold from both your body and environment, including your clothing and home contents in order to regain your health. Your symptoms will worsen and could even lead to more serious illness if the problem is not remediated. The good news is you have more options than ever before to help you with this problem.

Try some products that can help.

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