Mould Illness: A UK Functional Medicine Approach 2023

Mould in room

This article summarises mould illness and provides strategies for healing from it, with links to UK-based (and many US) testing and cleaning companies. It forms a ‘master blog’ on mould illness and includes links to many other blogs I have written on specific elements of testing and treatment. You can check out all my blogs on mycotoxins here, and you may be particularly interested in:

What Is Mould Illness?

Put simply mould illness is when someone is exposed to toxic mould and develops symptoms. It is sometimes referred to a ‘sick building syndrome’ and can lead to a conditions called chronic inflammatory response syndrome. One of the ways mould exposure can cause illness is through their production of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are metabolites of mould that we breath in.

The world health organisation defines mycotoxins as “naturally occurring toxins produced by certain moulds (fungi) and can be found in food.”

Yes, we are exposed to mycotoxins through our food. But perhaps more preoblematic to our health is when we are exposed to a water damaged property (because of a leak or damp issue) resulting in us breathing in large quantities of these toxins.

For a more in depth article read The Ultimate Guide to Mycotoxins and for more specific information on specific mycotoxins check out these blogs:

Listen to my interview with Dr. Jill Crista, author of Break The Mold.

Types Of Mould And Mycotoxins

There are three main genera usually tested: Aspergillus, Fusarium, Stachybotrys – there are hundreds of known mycotoxins within these genera.

  • Aspergillus is the most prevalent mold group in the environment. Two of the most common Aspergillus mycotoxins are aflatoxin and ochratoxin. The main target of these toxins is the liver.
  • Fusarium’s major mycotoxins are zearalenone (ZEN) and fumonisin. Exposure to mycotoxins from Fusarium can lead to both acute and chronic effects.
  • Stachybotrys is a greenish-black mold. Two of the more frequently produced by Stachybotrys are roridin E and verrucarin.

What Are The Symptoms Of Mould Illness And Mycotoxins?

The symptoms of mould illness are extensive.

Mycotoxins are neurotoxic, immune toxic, gut toxic, skin toxic, liver and kidney toxic, and gene toxic.

So symptoms can range from insomnia to irritable bowel syndrome (and thus chronic SIBO), chronic fatigue, liver dysfunction, and leaky gut, skin conditions such as rashes, red eyes, coughing, headaches, and autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Crista has an online quiz to help you establish the likelihood of suffering with mould illness: click here.

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How Do You Test For Mould And Mycotoxins In The UK?

To look specifically at mycotoxins there is a urinary mycotoxin test available. Currently two labs offer this test – one is Mosaic Diagnostics, the other is Real Time Labs. They have their own pro’s and con’s. You can learn more about testing mycotoxins by reading my blog “Testing Mycotoxins: Everything You Need To Know“.

In a great paper by Dr. Pizzorno he explains how genetic testing may help to identify those most susceptible to mold toxins and other environmental toxins. I’m a big fan of Lifecode GX who offer genetic testing (via working with a practitioner). Running the Lifecode GX test helps us understand our genetic predispositions that might influence our capacity to detoxify mycotoxins. This can then help tailor treatment to the individual.

It is also recommended to assess for potential nutritional deficiencies and levels of other environmental toxins that may help identify those with increased individual susceptibility. In fact the research says that the determining factor as to whether someone will get ill from mould is the exposure itself (how much and how long) and their health status at the time of the exposure.

A sample of a urine mycotoxin profile can be found below:

Read my blog post Mycotoxin Testing: Everything You Need To Know to learn what other tests may be considered also.

Common Sources of Mould Exposure In The Home

According to Great Plains Laboratory, a US based lab which offer the above mycotoxin test, common exposures may include:

  • Window sills and doors
  • Plumbing
  • Bathrooms
  • Closets
  • Fireplaces and chimneys
  • Laundry rooms
  • Basements
  • Air conditioning systems
  • Roofs
  • Refrigerators

Home Inspection And Treatment

I recommend Pure Maintenance UK who offer a dry fog patented mould remediation service.

Pure maintenance - black mould treatment

You may also like to check out Action Dry as well who, as discussed in my blog, I have used personally when we had a mould issue in our home.

Conscious spaces have some brilliant products including a spray, a detergent and cleaning wipes. All powered by their lab-tested and proven blend of citrus seed extracts.

How Do You Treat Mould Illness?

There are numerous layers to treatment – it really does need to be tailored to the individual based on their unique health state. I will highlight a few common interventions today.

The first step is you must remove yourself from the environment if you are currently being exposed to mould/mycotoxins.

There is a saying in Functional Medicine which is: “you can’t get well in the environment that made you sick”. Nowhere is this more true than with mould illness.

Once we are no longer being exposed the key theme within mycotoxin treatment is detoxification. But we do need to be mindful of whether someone has been colonised with mould – this can often occur in the sinuses or/and in the gut. In these instances we have to eradicate the mould/fungal colony using various treatments ranging from netipots and sinus sprays to anti-fungals.

Learn From Dr. Jill Crista

Watch my interview with leading expert Dr. Jill Crista.

Diet: What Foods Contain Mycotoxins?

There are room foodstuffs that are known to be frequently contaminated with mould and mycotoxins and these include:

  • Coffee unless it is tested. I recommend Exhale Coffee as it is tested to be sure it is free from mould, mycotoxins, heavy metals and pesticides.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Certain grains – wheat, corn, oats, rye.
  • Nuts – tree nuts, peanuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Certain spices.
  • Alcohol – wine, beer.
  • Potatoes.
  • Milk, cheese and eggs.

It can also be important to avoid foods that might exacerbate imbalances in the gut microbiome (very common when suffering with mould illness). These include:

  • Alcohol.
  • Sugary foods and drinks
  • Mushrooms (although there isn’t a consensus on whether these need to be avoided).

It’s important to appreciate that, in theory, governments have policies in place to ensure our food is safe and we are being exposed to very low levels (you could say acceptable amounts) of mycotoxins. We do see though that studies from various countries around the world (including Europe) have found mycotoxins detected in various bodily fluids of the population. Yet another reason to focus on eating local and in senses produce.

We can also use certain foods, such as ground flaxseed, to bind toxins. Use code ALEXMANOS10 to receive £10 off your orders at Welleasy.

Supplement Considerations

Bitters: Bitters support detoxification and digestion. Bitters support bile flow, a kay aspect on optimal detoxification, and bile is anti-bacterial and thus protective against conditions such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth. They also stimulate the production of digestive enzymes/juices.

Phosphatidylcholine: Dr. Crista says if there was one edit she could make to her book Break The Mold it would be to add phosphatidylcholine to her recommendations. It aids the detox of mycotoxins as it helps stimulate and thin bile. It also supports cellular health.

Sequestering Agent (Binders): Sequestering agents refer to non-absorbable materials capable of binding toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing the body burden of toxins. These agents are not absorbed into systemic circulation; therefore, side effects are typically limited to gastrointestinal symptoms and potential malabsorption of medications and nutrients, especially if the dose is poorly timed.

Several agents have shown specific efficacy in lowering mycotoxin and endotoxin levels including cholestyramine (a medication), activated carbons (charcoal), and chlorella. Additionally, these agents are nonspecific and can bind additional toxins, helping to lower ‘total body burden’ of toxins.

Probiotics: The ability of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GAF01 to degrade or bind aflatoxin M1. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Lactobacillus casei have a significant hepatoprotective effect against aflatoxin B1. Mycotoxins have also been shown to disrupt the integrity of the gut lining (i.e cause leaky gut) – another reason why probiotics might be helpful.

Omega 3 Fats: Omega 3 fats are helpful at ‘diluting’ the toxins which build up in the fatty parts of our mitochondria, cells, organs and body. This tip came from my conversation with Dr. Jill Crista, a specialist in mycotoxins.

Liposmal Glutathione: Glutathione is frequently recommended to support detoxification of mycotoxins. Research has shown how we need an ‘on demand’ source of glutathione to help detoxification of mycotoxins. The issue is that mycotoxins have been found to inhibit the enzymes which regulate the endogenous production of glutathione!!

Other anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidant compounds such as zinc,  NAC and alpha-lipoic acid.

Sweating: Sauna therapy, hot baths or/and exercise are all appropriate for this. Human sweat has found to contain mycotoxins!

Vivien’s Recovery Story


What To Do When You Can’t Tolerate Supplements


The Gupta Program


Sometimes people become incredible sensitive to their environment, including food and supplementation. In this situation I find The Gupta Program a really helpful step back to good health.

There are three randomised control trials (so the best level of evidence) evidencing the efficacy of the approach in chronic fatigue syndrome, long COVID, and fibromyalgia.

I have interviewed the founder and CEO Ashok Gupta:

Resources When Suffering With Mould Illness

A great book on mycotoxins and mould illness is Break The Mood by Dr. Jill Crista. Click here. Check out other books on mycotoxins in my library.

References For Mould Illness

  • Mycotoxin: Its Impact on Gut Health and Microbiota: click here.
  • Occurrence and Human-Health Impacts of Mycotoxins in Somalia: click here.
  • Biomonitoring in Human Breast Milk: click here.
  • Detection of mycotoxins in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: click here.
  • Is Mold Toxicity Really a Problem for Our Patients? Part 2—Nonrespiratory Conditions: click here.
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