Chances are, you aren’t a fan of eating moldy food and anything with visible mold gets thrown right in the trash. But what if I told you that mycotoxins - toxic compounds from mold - can be hiding in your food? In my telehealth functional medicine center, I often see these compounds have a profound effect on the health of my patients.
While not everyone is going to be affected the same way by mycotoxins, they are definitely worth talking about. So let’s dive in and see why we should be more aware of these mold byproducts.
What’s wrong with mold?
Mold is a naturally occurring fungus that thrives in dark places where there is also moisture. Not all mold is bad, but there are certain types of mold - like aspergillus, fusarium, stachybotrys, and citrinin - that release mycotoxins that can contribute to inflammation and ultimately trigger or exacerbate chronic health problems. (1)
Even if you are exposed to mycotoxins, they aren’t always going to result in poor health or a symptom flare up. For some people, methylation impairments or a history of autoimmune disease can make it more difficult to detox mycotoxins from your body.
But when a mycotoxin buildup does happen, it can result in symptoms similar to a lot of other health problems like chronic fatigue and brain fog. Unfortunately, this leads many people to struggle with symptoms for years even after they’ve done all the “right” things.
Since this happens so often, I make sure to have my patients test for mold in their home and work environments. But when an environment test comes back clean for mold but the urine and blood mycotoxin labs come back high, it usually means it’s time to look at diet. People are often surprised to learn that certain common foods can actually contain high levels of mycotoxins that, when eaten on a regular basis, can contribute to these ongoing health problems.
Common Mold Illnesses
There are several health risks that stem from mold exposure and consumption, here are some of the most common ones to look out for:
The most common mold illnesses are usually from respiratory infection. This can lead to or mimic symptoms of respiratory dysfunctions like asthma.
Mold exposure and consumption can increase inflammation in the brain, and affect mood regulation and sleep patterns.
This one is a no brainer. Mold toxins can weaken the immune system, leading to an array of illnesses. A common problem caused by mold exposure is Mast Cell Activation Disorder, with which patients experience extreme allergies and allergic reactions.
In worst case scenarios, mold has even been the root cause of many cancers and life threatening illnesses, sometimes even leading to death.
Treating Mold Illness
The thing about illnesses born from mold exposure, is that there really is only one effective way to treat them and that is to remove the patient from a mold infested environment, and begin the detox process through diet and exercise.
The main goal of a detox is not to restrict and starve your body of what it needs for the sake of getting rid of the unwanted bacteria. We want to build support for the immune system and the liver, and other detoxing organs, while also eliminating extra candida, yeast, and other unhealthy bacterial overgrowth in your gut.
You wouldn’t stop watering the whole garden just to get rid of the weeds right? Instead we try to overcome the unwanted troublemakers by promoting the health of the existing ecosystem.
Mold detox diet: Which foods to avoid
Like mentioned above, the first step is to remove yourself from the moldy environment whether that’s your physical location or the foods you are eating. So if you are looking to eat as clean as possible or suspect a moldy diet might be to blame for your symptoms, take a look at these seven foods:
Because rice is extremely versatile, it is often used in gluten-free foods and in many cultural dishes around the world. Most people tolerate rice well but it is worth noting that it can also be contaminated with mycotoxins.
What to look for: Always opt for organic rice and rice-based products over conventional whenever possible.
Coffee beans are one of the more likely foods to contain mycotoxins since the roasting process isn’t enough to destroy them. (2)
What to look for: Choose brands like Bulletproof and Purity Coffee that test for mycotoxins to ensure the coffee you are drinking on a daily basis is mold-free.
Nuts are a great snack option because they are high in both protein and healthy fats. However, nuts like Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews have a higher chance of containing mold.
What to look for: If you do eat nuts, make sure to buy the freshest nuts possible and follow best practices of soaking and dehydrating your nuts before eating. (3) Not only is this best practice to avoid mold but it also makes them easier to digest. Also, choose seeds like chia, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin over nuts as they have lower mold content overall. And if you’re a peanut butter lover like I am, look for brands that use only Valencia peanuts as they grow in a drier climate that is less likely to facilitate mold growth. (4)
4. Dried fruit
Because dried fruits like raisins and dates retain moisture, they are more likely to contain mold especially considering their packaging and time spent on the shelf is the optimal environment for growth. (5)
What to look for: Consider swapping dried fruit for fresh or frozen berries as a sweet treat.
What to look for: If you want to stay as far away from mycotoxins as possible, stick to tequila, white wine, and organic red wine from Europe as they usually follow stricter guidelines and testing requirements for mold.
6. Processed meats
Processed meats can contain mycotoxins in one of two ways - either the animal was fed with feed already contaminated with mold or there was mold on the final product.
What to look for: Choose products that are grass-fed and brands that follow organic practices since they are less likely to feed their animals moldy feed. (2) Also, make sure the final product is salt-cured as salt helps to inhibit mold growth.
If you look at any ingredient list, corn is in almost every product in some form or another whether it be popcorn, cornstarch, or corn syrup. However, since this crop is highly susceptible to mold it makes choosing corn products a little more difficult. (8)
What to look for: Since you can’t avoid all corn, the best practice is to choose organic corn products as much as you can over conventional, processed corn.
When in doubt: If the food is processed or high in sugar, it’s more likely to be a candidate for mold exposure.
What foods help detox from mold?
1. Organic and Grass Fed Meats
Meat is still essential to a healthy diet for many individuals. In avoiding processed meats, make sure that the chicken or beef you buy is pasture raised, grass fed, and organic.
2. Wild Caught Fish
Fish is also a great staple to a healthy diet. Similarly to beef and chicken, make sure that your fish like salmon and tuna is wild caught rather than farm bred.
3. Leafy Greens
A no brainer right? Kale, spinach, romaine, and cabbage are incredibly good for you and low-risk for mold growth. Always make sure you get your vegetables from the best sources possible to ensure their nutritional value and carefully wash and prepare them.
We all know how important veggies are in a healthy diet. The most impactful in a low mold diet are root vegetables like carrots and radishes, vegetables in the gourd family, and lots of greens like broccoli, cucumber, brussel sprouts, and asparagus. Basically, if it’s a richly colored vegetable you are in the clear.
5. Healthy Fats
In avoiding processed and fast foods, make sure not to completely restrict fat in your diet, it is still an important component of your health. Instead aim to use things like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, organic butter, avocado, and even coconut milk.
6. Raw Nuts and Seeds
Seeds are tiny but still very impactful! Include raw pumpkin, chia, sunflower, and sesame seeds in your recipes, and grab some raw almonds or pecans for a healthy snack.
7. Herbs and Herbal Teas
Choose herbal teas carefully, avoiding black tea and mate. Make sure to add some of these herbs to your recipes for a healthy boost: Parsley, cilantro, basil, chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, tarragon, etc.
8. Alternatives for those with a sweet tooth
If you have a relentless sweet tooth, we would suggest using pure maple syrup, raw honey, and whole stevia leaf to sweeten up your recipes in place of sugar.
On the same note of reducing sugar intake, if you are a fruit lover, always make sure it is fresh, cleaned and prepared carefully, and eaten in moderation. There are some lower sugar fruits you can lean toward like melons, berries, citrus, and kiwi.
One last thing is that carbs do break down into sugars in your body system, so if you are a bread lover, try out some gluten-free grains instead.
How to boost your body’s detoxing abilities
There are a few other healthy habits that can improve your body’s ability to detox, that when coupled with your mold detox diet should give you optimal results.
Supplies in the Home
There may be several items in your home that are full of toxins and chemicals that don’t serve your body well. These can include cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and even laundry detergents. We recommend cleansing your home of supplies high in chemicals and searching for cleaner products to take their place.
If you aren’t sweating daily, that may be a culprit in the buildup of toxins. Sweating is the body’s natural way of cleansing itself from chemicals, bacteria, and even heavy metals. It can also regulate your body temperature creating an overall better environment within your body systems. It also helps clear the mind which ties perfectly into the next item on this list.
The mind to body connection is so much more powerful than we sometimes give it credit for. It is important to care for your mental and emotional health by taking time each day to journal, meditate, pray, whatever your preferred mind cleansing rituals may be. Make time for your favorite activities and self care routines.
How long does it take to detox from mold? It’s important to be aware of the food we are eating and habits we have on a daily basis and understand how certain foods and exposures might affect us. Not everyone’s health case is going to be impacted the same way by mycotoxin exposure considering some people are just more sensitive to mold toxins. By eating a diverse diet of clean, whole food sources we can help avoid an overload of mycotoxin exposure while also getting in a variety of healthy nutrients that will help support overall health.
For further reading on mold, check out my articles on the top signs of mold exposure, exactly where mold can be hiding in your home, and what you can do to overcome mold toxicity issues.
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As you kill the mold and there are less organisms in your body, you will start to feel better. It took my husband six months to become free and clear of mold while it took me a year and a half. Even though I am currently back on my detox regimen due to a new mold exposure, which is another story, I feel good.What foods help detox from mold? ›
- Leafy greens like kale and spinach.
- Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli.
- Onions and garlic.
- Most other vegetables, from asparagus to zucchini.
- Herbs like basil, thyme, and cilantro.
- Spices like ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric.
- Organic butter and ghee.
Getting a mycotoxin test may help you determine whether you have mold toxicity in your body. This is a great way to test whether the harmful antigens in the mold are negatively impacting your health. This test may help you decide how to treat your mold exposure and allergies.How do you naturally detox your body from mold? ›
Some of the richest dietary sources of glutathione are spinach, avocados, asparagus, and okra. In addition to glutathione, quercetin and N-acetylcysteine support mold detox. If you're recovering from mold exposure, you may benefit from a concentrated dose of glutathione through supplement pills, inhalation or IV.What are signs of mold sickness? ›
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Cough and postnasal drip.
- Itchy eyes, nose and throat.
- Watery eyes.
- Dry, scaly skin.
Common symptoms are fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, depression, chronic pain, skin rash, allergies/sensitivities, immune suppression and dysregulation, among others.What tea is good for mold? ›
Organic green tea goes through a milder fermentation process than pu-erh and black teas, and contains phytochemicals that protect against mycotoxins, so I recommend including it in your diet. (44) Pique Tea may be a good solution for those who can't give up their tea but are sensitive to mold and mycotoxins.How do you get mold spores out of your lungs? ›
What is the treatment? It's almost impossible to avoid all contact with fungal spores, so treatment for mold in your lungs often consists of taking medications. Corticosteroids often help open your airways to make coughing easier. You may need to take them when daily or only when your symptoms flare.How do you get rid of mold permanently? ›
Simply mix one part bleach to four parts water. Using a damp cloth gently scrub and wipe the mould until the mould is gone. Once finished, dry the area well with a soft cloth.Will mold exposure show up in bloodwork? ›
Another way to know if you have mold poisoning is by taking blood tests. Your doctor may take a sample of your blood to examine the presence of mold antibodies. One of the common types of the blood test used for mold symptoms is known as Memory Lymphocyte Immunostimulation Assay, which is abbreviated as MELISA.
Some of the neurologic symptoms of toxic mold include weakness, light sensitivity, sinus problems, blurred vision, concentration and memory issues, tremors and a general feeling of numbness.How do you know if you have mold in your lungs? ›
Imaging tests: A chest X-ray or computerized tomography scan (CT/CAT scan) may be performed to examine the lungs. Sputum culture: A sample of sputum might be stained (dyed) and tested to see if aspergillus fungus is present.Can I test my body for mold at home? ›
Urine mycotoxin tests are ideal for testing yourself (and your family members) for mycotoxin exposure. They're absolutely painless, totally non-invasive, and incredibly easy to use. With just a small amount of urine, our experts will be able to spot up to 15 different illness-causing mycotoxins.What is mold anxiety? ›
Mould toxicity, sometimes referred to as 'sick building syndrome', is a commonly unrecognised cause of chronic illness and can be a reason for unexplained anxiety along with fatigue, lack of ability to think clearly and gut dysfunction.How do you know if your house is toxic? ›
- Mold growth.
- Condensation around windows and in high humidity areas such as bathrooms.
- Lingering condensation.
- Dampness that doesn't seem to go away.
- Dust build up in your ventilation system.
These symptoms usually first appear 2 to 9 hours after exposure and last for 1 to 3 days. Other affected persons have progressive shortness of breath and cough, as well as weight loss. Work-relatedness may only become apparent over long holidays if symptoms resolve and then recur on return to work.Can mold make you mentally ill? ›
Mold toxicity can manifest in different ways in people. It's more commonly linked to physical problems, such as difficulty breathing, fatigue, and headaches, but research shows that it can present itself in a psychiatric way, too. This includes brain fog, depression, anxiety, problems concentrating, and insomnia.What vitamins help with mold? ›
According to one clinic that specializes in treating mold exposure in people, nutritional deficiencies they commonly find in their patients include the B vitamins (especially folic acid, B-6 and B-12), COQ10, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc.What spice prevents mold? ›
Cinnamon, a spice added to breads and other bakery items, soon may also be an ingredient in the wrapper around the bread as a way to keep out mold. In addition to its sweet, woody aroma, cinnamon has long been known for its capacity to stop spoilage.What essential oil fights mold? ›
Lemongrass, Fennel, and Caraway. These essential oils have been shown to help stop the growth of mold. Adding these to your diet is beneficial since mycotoxins could be microscopically showing up in your food. Lemon Balm, Sage, Coriander, Thyme, Cinnamon, and Peppermint.
Most fungal sinus infections result from mold or yeast. Tiny fungi can enter the sinuses when someone breaths them in. Many types of fungus live on or inside the body all the time. They're usually only dangerous to people who have a weakened immune system.Can mold scar your lungs? ›
The only possible link is this: Mold can cause pulmonary fibrosis (PF), which is scarring in your lungs. If you have PF for a long time, it can make you more likely to get lung cancer.What does the Bible say about mold? ›
He is to examine the mildew on the walls, and if it has greenish or reddish depressions that appear to be deeper than the surface of the wall, 38 the priest shall go out the doorway of the house and close it up for seven days. On the seventh day the priest shall return to inspect the house.
For a natural solution for getting rid of black mold, combine one part baking soda with five parts distilled white vinegar and five parts water in a spray bottle. Alternatively, you can use a chemical-based mold and mildew remover, all-purpose cleaners, bleach or dish soap.Do you have to get rid of everything if you have mold? ›
This is why many toxicologists recommend homeowners treat moldy belongings ASAP. Damaged items should be thrown away without question, and items that are easy to replace or inexpensive (i.e. clothes, food) should be tossed as a precautionary measure. Basically, it's better to be safe than sorry.Can doctors test for mold in lungs? ›
There are no proven tests that show when or where you may have been exposed to mold. But your doctor may check for mold allergies by reviewing your symptoms and performing one of the following tests: Blood test.Can mold exposure cause weight gain? ›
Sudden, unexplained weight gain can also result from mold exposure. Leptin is a hormone that regulates appetite. Your body's inflammatory response to the mycotoxins produces chemicals that block leptin receptors, and the resulting imbalance can cause weight gain, even from normal calorie intake.Can mold affect your brain? ›
Inflammation: Mold spores act as irritants, which can trigger the body to mount an immune response. This can lead to inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the brain can impair cognitive function, and in the case of chronic inflammation, this can lead to long-lasting cognitive impairment.What parts of the body does mold affect? ›
Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions.What bodily problems can mold cause? ›
Exposure to a large number of mold spores may cause allergic symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itching, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, headache, and fatigue. Repeated exposure to mold can increase a person's sensitivity, causing more severe allergic reactions.
You might be surprised to learn that exposure to household mold can cause eye issues, including vision problems, in some people. While most of these issues are not serious and are limited to things like itchy or watery eyes, in some cases serious eye infections can develop and visual impairment can even result.What are the first signs of Aspergillus? ›
- Fever and chills.
- A cough that brings up blood (hemoptysis)
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest or joint pain.
- Headaches or eye symptoms.
- Skin lesions.
Mold can cause a number of heart problems, including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart), damage to the heart muscle and damage to the heart valves.Can mold cause neuropathy? ›
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), mold exposure can cause peripheral neuropathy, which gives us that mysterious tingling and numbness feeling.Can mold cause heart palpitations? ›
Some of the most common early symptoms reported by individuals with mold intoxication are fatigue, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, and anxiety.How do you get rid of mold toxicity? ›
- Eliminate exposure. Eliminate the sources of the mold from the environment but also eliminate common dietary sources of mold, including grains, coffee, and peanut butter. ...
- Address sinus health. ...
- Start a neural retraining program. ...
- Lower inflammation. ...
- Optimize detoxification.
To be on the safe side, it's best to avoid breathing in large amounts of mold, for instance if you're cleaning up after major water damage. In rare cases, some people may need medical treatment due to the effects of mold exposure. But there's no evidence that “detoxing” from mold is necessary or effective.Is there a blood test for mold exposure? ›
A blood test, sometimes called the radioallergosorbent test, can measure your immune system's response to mold by measuring the amount of certain antibodies in your bloodstream known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.