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Mold Illness: The Hidden Epidemic

In the field of medical research and education, there exists a shadowy corner that often goes unnoticed – mold illness. Despite its pervasive impact on health, mold-related illnesses remain a neglected and overlooked topic in academic medicine. Mold illness is a condition caused by exposure to mold and its toxic byproducts, known as mycotoxins. Mold can be found both indoors and outdoors, thriving in damp and humid environments. While mold spores are ubiquitous in the environment, certain species of mold can produce mycotoxins, which can have detrimental effects on human health when inhaled, ingested, or touched.


In the medical and scientific world, mold illness has several names like Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), Sick Building Syndrome, Chronic Biotoxin Associated Syndrome, Dampness and Mold Hypersensitivity Syndrome (DMHS), Toxic Mold Illness. It is important to know that in mold illness the chronic inflammation and chronic symptoms are caused by a combination of factors including:

  • spore symptoms

  • spore fragment symptoms

  • microbial off gassing symptoms

  • mycotoxins symptoms.

Some people can have only mycotoxins. Others can have mold toxins and mold colonization like in 70% of adults and 30% of children with mold illness. Mold illness can present as:

  • mold allergy only

  • mold allergy and mold toxins only

  • or combination of all meaning mold allergy with mold colonization and mold toxins.


The primary sources of mold exposure are:

  • water-damage buildings

  • contaminated food.

It has been estimated that 20-50% of houses worldwide are affected by mold. The percentage differs in each country and depends on the geographic location, building materials etc. Around 25% of the world’s food crops are contaminated with mold. The most common are grains, corn, nuts, wine, and coffee due to poor harvesting practices, improper food storage, and damp conditions during food transport and processing.


The most common way mycotoxins get to the human body is through breathing (inhalation) and eating (ingestion). Mycotoxins can also enter circulation via skin as skin does not have any protective mechanism against them. Newborns can be exposed to mold toxins via placenta and breast milk.

Respiratory system is the first line on how one can get mycotoxins. Mold spores can irritate the respiratory system. While mold itself cannot enter your bloodstream due to size, it can colonize in places like nostrils and lungs. Mold toxins, however, are much smaller than the spores and can travel to different body systems through lungs and blood circulation.


Mycotoxins are opportunistic toxins that cause dysregulation of the immune system and contribute to chronic inflammation. Inflammation affects the function of every organ and every cell in the body. Mold can suppress the immune system so a person can be more prone to get other infections, but mold can also lead to hypersensitivity. Person can start reacting to more and more items like food and chemicals, or even to the electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

Mold contributes to gut dysbiosis by killing beneficial bacteria and encouraging the growth of pathogens. That will enhance the problem with the immune system even more.  Mold toxins affect cognition and brain function. They cause lung inflammation and worse symptoms of asthma. They also impact kidney and liver function and block liver detoxification pathways leading to toxins accumulation and environmental sensitivity.



Mold exposure, as with all environmental toxins, has a cumulative effect. It all adds up until it's too much for the body to handle. Symptoms and their intensity can differ from person to person and can include:

  • general: fatigue

  • nervous system: cognitive abnormalities, “brain fog”, sleep problem, headache, migraine, poor balance, vertigo, tremors, numbness

  • digestive system: metallic taste in mouth, nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, excessive thirst, bile acid reflux

  • eyes: blurred vision, eye irritation, itchy eyes, red eyes, light sensitivity, tearing

  • hormonal system: thyroid problem, irregular or painful menstruation, lack of menstruation, problem to regulate temperature

  • immune system: chronic inflammation, food intolerance, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)

  • mental health: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), irritability, mood swings

  • muscular system: muscle pain, muscle weakness, joint pain, morning stiffness

  • respiratory system: cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, sinus problems, chronic sinus congestion, new-onset or worsening asthma, shortness of breath, chest tightness

  • skin: rashes, dryness, irritation, skin sensitivity

  • urinary system: increased urination, urgency to urinate, painful bladder

  • others: weight and appetite swings, weight gain or weight-loss resistance

Mold can be a trigger for other conditions like: 

  • autoimmune diseases

  • cancer

  • chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

  • fibromyalgia

  • mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)

  • multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)

  • postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and other dysautonomia

  • sleep problems

  • mental health problems

  • gut dysbiosis like SIBO.


Mold and mycotoxins make every other health problem worse. Via suppressing the immune system, mold can allow previously unrecognized infections, like Lyme disease, to manifest.


Mold illness can have significant impacts on human health, ranging from respiratory issues and allergic reactions to neurological symptoms and chronic health conditions. Check your symptoms, surroundings, test home and yourself. And in case you have mold illness, work with a practitioner who knows what to do.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Mold.

Food and Agriculture Organization (2012). Prevention and Reduction of Food and Feed Contamination.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2021). Mold.

Thrasher, J. D., & Crawley, S. (2009). The biocontaminants and complexity of damp indoor spaces: more than what meets the eyes. Toxicology and Industrial Health, 25(9-10), 583-615.


United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020). Mold and health.

World Health Organization. (2009). WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: dampness and mould.

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