It’s frustrating. You’ve got digestive problems but you’ve hit a roadblock in the healing process. 

Maybe you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Or maybe you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

But you’re not getting any better.

Newsflash: there’s one thing you probably haven’t tried to get rid of your digestive problems. I’m talking about toxic mold exposure. 


The Fungus Among Us

Mold is a type of fungi and it’s everywhere around us. It’s in water-damaged homes, on the tiles of our showers, in the soil of potted plants—even in some of the foods we eat.

Really gross, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. Molds certainly won’t win any beauty contests. Yet, they serve their purpose on this planet. They’re essential to the breakdown of organic matter like fallen leaves or dead trees.  

There are thousands of species of molds. Many of them are harmless to your health. But some molds produce health-harming mycotoxins.

I have made great strides with my IBS and SIBO patients once I realized many of them have symptoms of mold sickness. This isn’t the root cause for all of my patients, but in the people who have mold exposure, resolving the problem can lead to major breakthroughs in their health. 

In this article, I’ll dive deeper into the issue of mycotoxin exposure and how it can wreak havoc on your digestive health. I’ll also give you some suggestions on what you can do about it. 


What Are Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are substances produced by some molds, usually when the mold feels as if it’s in danger. Kind of like the way a spider or snake shoots out venom when threatened. 

While mycotoxins are good for the fungus, they’re not so good for our health. Mycotoxins are to blame for mold symptoms and are real troublemakers for digestive health.

Some mycotoxins are found in foods and beverages

  • Mycophenolic acid, found in Bleu cheese
  • Ochratoxin, found in cereals, cocoa, coffee, wine, beer, spices, dried fruit, and grape juice.
  • Aflatoxin, found in cereal crops like corn, wheat, and rice, peanuts, eggs, meat, and milk from animals fed contaminated grains.

One of the most common sources of exposure is from coffee mold, which produces mycotoxins in coffee.  Ochratoxin A and aflatoxin B1 are the main mycotoxins that might be found in your daily cup of Joe.  

Some mycotoxins are found in buildings, especially those produced by black mold:

  • Trichothecenes made from the mold called Stachybotrys (black mold)
  • Ochratoxin, which may hide out in wallpaper, furniture, and fiberglass insulation.

Research suggests that up to 50% of buildings in North America and Europe have water damage that can lead to mold infestations. This has to do with how we build buildings. We wrap them in plastic and use materials that are susceptible to water damage and mold growth.   

What’s more, the mold could be lurking in your home without you even knowing it’s there. Creepy, yes? It’s sometimes good at hiding because not all mold causes that yucky musty smell.

Black mold is the one many people think about when they hear about toxic indoor mold. That’s because it’s one of the most common toxin-producing molds. Black mold symptoms include those mold toxicity symptoms I mention later in this article.

Black mold may be one of the most common — and grossest – molds many people are exposed to, but it’s not the only one that causes issues in people with digestive problems. 

Here are some other mycotoxin-producing molds that can cause mold toxicity symptoms:

  • Aspergillus
  • Chaetomium
  • Cladosporium
  • Fusarium
  • Mucor 
  • Penicillium 
  • Rhizopus 
  • Wallemia

When inhaled or ingested by humans, mold-made toxins can do a real number on the health of susceptible people.


When Mold Meets Your Immune System

When exposed to mold, your body can react in one of two ways:

  • Mold allergy – This is a reaction by the immune system to the mold itself. Think runny nose, red eyes, itchy skin.
  • Mold illness – Unlike mold allergies, mold illness causes problems throughout your body. Mold illness can cause widespread inflammation called chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), otherwise known as biotoxin illness. CIRS can be caused by other factors, but when it occurs together with a known history of mold exposure, odds are mycotoxin exposure is playing a role in this inflammatory illness.  

CIRS is also linked to food sensitivities and intolerances. There’s also a connection between CIRS and hypersensitivity to chemicals and other substances that never bothered you before you were exposed to mold.


Symptoms of Toxic Mold Exposure

After exposure to toxic mold, your body may react by developing certain symptoms. In some people, these can be crippling. I’ve treated people exposed to mold who almost couldn’t function. Often, they couldn’t think straight to the point it was very hard for them to even follow my protocol for healing. Many of them had severe pain, nervous system, and/or immune system problems. 

Other mold-exposed people have vague symptoms that are milder or come and go. 

Here are some of the common symptoms of mold exposure:

  • Anorexia
  • Asthma
  • Body aches and pains
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches, especially migraines
  • Histamine-related symptoms
  • Hives
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Hypersensitivity to foods, chemicals, and other items that didn’t previously bother you
  • Insomnia
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Memory/learning problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Poor word recall
  • Pulmonary diseases
  • Rashes
  • Sinus symptoms
  • Unwanted weight loss
  • Weight gain


Are You Susceptible to Toxic Mold Syndrome?

Just because you’re exposed to mold doesn’t mean you’ll develop any symptoms of mold poisoning.

Some people can live in a super moldy home, where the mold is actually visible, and yet not experience a single symptom. 

So you’re wondering why you’re not one of those lucky people. Maybe you’re extremely sensitive to mold exposure. You live in the same building with others who are perfectly healthy, yet you’re sick. This can be because:

  • You’re exposed to more mold (you have a higher body burden or toxic load).
  • You’ve been exposed for longer.
  • Your genetic makeup. Some genes boost the susceptibility to mold toxicity by 24%.
  • Your immune system doesn’t identify and clear mold toxins as easily as someone else’s does. In this case even smaller overall exposure levels can harm your health. 

Other reasons why some people are more susceptible to mold sickness than others:

  • Type of mycotoxin you’re exposed to
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Health status
  • Nutritional status


Mold and IBS

Digestive problems don’t always come to mind when thinking about mold toxicity. Yet, mold exposure can cause major problems in your digestive tract. 

Mycotoxins can declare all-out war against the good bacteria in your intestines. This causes the bad bacteria to take over.

The result? Constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Leaky gut also often develops when mycotoxins damage the gut barrier. In leaky gut, undigested food particles or toxins from the outside world leak through your gut lining into your circulation, causing problems not only in your gut, but also throughout the body. 

The opposite of this is also true. If your gut microbiome – the population of good and bad microorganisms that live in your intestines – is well balanced with just the right amount of good little guys, it will make you less susceptible to mold-related digestive problems. They can also protect you from mycotoxins.


Mold Makes Life Easy for SIBO

Mold can open the door to infections of the gut by reducing immunity. Toxins from black mold are linked to a drop in levels of a substance called IL-8 in the intestine that helps remove pathogens. This leads to infections in the gut.

SIBO happens when there is an abnormal rise in the overall bacterial numbers of the small intestine – especially types of bacteria not usually found in that part of the body. 

In fact, many cases of SIBO are really post-infectious IBS that occur after a person has experienced food poisoning. If mycotoxins are present, your small intestine is even more vulnerable to this type of infection. 

That means mycotoxins can make you more likely to develop SIBO. And they get in the way of healing this disorder.

Your functional medicine provider can order the right tests to diagnose whether you have SIBO.


Testing for Mold Exposure

If a patient with digestive problems has symptoms of mold exposure or has a known exposure to mold, we will order the Great Plains Laboratory or RealTime Labs Mycotoxin Panel. 

There’s also visual contrast sensitivity testing (VCS), which was originally created by the department of defense to find out if soldiers had been exposed to biotoxins. You can take a VCS test online. It costs only $15. 

If the mycotoxin panel indicates you have mold exposure, we’ll order blood work to measure how much inflammation the mycotoxins are causing in your body. We’ll order the same blood work to monitor and measure your progress with treatment. 


Treatments for Mold Exposure

Here is what we do to treat IBS and SIBO patients who have mold toxicity. With this protocol, we’ve had excellent results clearing roadblocks to healing. 

  • We urge patients to leave the mold-contaminated environment for several weeks, or until the area can be decontaminated or remediated….lots of outside time is helpful! 
  • Remediate your home or office. Use a professional IEP (independent environmental professional) and make sure they check the HVAC system for mold.
  • Have your home/car/work spaces assessed by trained professionals and also use an ERMI test to make sure your spaces have low enough mycotoxin levels to allow you to start treatment. 
  • Treat and clear GI parasitic pathogens first and improve the health of the microbiota through the use of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria are your gut’s best friend. Many strains of probiotics can reduce the level of mycotoxins by binding to the toxins and boosting the immune system.
  • Usually wait to treat SIBO or Candida-type fungal dysbiosis until after mycotoxin treatment is underway.
  • Eat a low-mold diet, including a mold-free diet brand of coffee such as Bulletproof
  • Take binder supplements that help bind and remove mycotoxins. We can help you choose the right ones for the mycotoxins that are present. We commonly use activated charcoal, chitosan, silica, and BioAloe. 
  • Agents such as liposomal glutathione to coax mycotoxins out from the intracellular space and help remove them.
  • Sauna and sweating [check out HigherDose] helps detoxify mycotoxins—especially ochratoxin – but all mycotoxins to some extent.
  • Neuroplasticity techniques can be extremely effective in helping to minimize symptoms and regulate hypersensitivity in people with mycotoxin issues. My go-to is the Gupta Program.


Say Goodbye to the Root Cause of Your Digestive Problems

Is your IBS, SIBO, or other stubborn digestive problems caused by mold toxicity? The first step to finding out is to book a free 15-minute troubleshooting call

If after the call you come on board as a patient, I’ll dig down deep to discover the main reason why you have digestive problems – whether it’s mold sickness or some other cause. Then I’ll recommend the right tests and treatments to start you on your healing journey. We’ll remove the roadblocks that hold you back from optimum gut health and get you feeling your best again.