Got mold and need to detox your body?
People with Mold Illness often struggle just to obtain a diagnosis – due to the complexity of the condition and the lack of awareness within the mainstream medical community, patients can go months, if not several years, without relief for their illness and varying symptoms—from hormone imbalances to IBS, headaches, histamine intolerance, food sensitivities, anxiety, brain fog, mast cell activation syndrome and more.
I’ve written a ton about mold illness, including my personal story, how to test for mold illness in your body, and a comprehensive guide, “Moldageddon”, on how to recover from mold illness—from start to finish.
And while we’ve certainly come a long way in understanding this barely discussed condition, it remains a complex condition with no definitive roadmap for detox and treatment in the healthcare system…until now. I’ve got you covered.
How Do You Know If Mold Is Making You Sick?
First things first, how do you know if mold is actually making you sick in the first place?
Although at least 1 in 2 buildings have water or mold damage in the U.S. many people have no idea whether or not they are living in mold at first, much less if mold is causing ill health. See if any of these signs fit you:
- You feel better when you leave your home or work/school environment
- You feel worse in a damp building (Mold allergy or illness symptoms take place with exposure to damp water damaged buildings, poor ventilation in rooms, and humidity above 50%)
- You are you sensitive to chemicals or smells
- Your health declined when you moved homes, offices or following water damage or a home maintenance issue
- You have a history of autoimmunity or autoimmune disease in your family
- “Nothing” seems to help your symptoms—hormone imbalances, gut problems, metabolism, skin breakouts, etc. (supplements, eating right, working out)
- You wakeup in the middle of the night for no reason
- Antihistamines like Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec make you feel better
- You feel more anxious, tired or you gut is a mess for no apparent reason
- Food intolerances have increased or histamine-rich foods make you react (fermented foods, fish, canned or packaged meats, avocado, spinach, tomatoes, bananas)
Aside from these questions, check out the most common symptoms of mold illness as well as top recommended tests to see if you have mold in your body or home.
Mold Signs & Symptoms
- Basic: Insomnia, intolerant of fragrances and chemicals, nose bleeds, difficulty regulating body temperature, heart palpitations
- Gastrointestinal: IBS, nausea, bloating, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
- Hormonal: Low energy, missed or irregular periods, hormonal headaches, blood sugar imbalances, excessive thirst or urination, appetite swings
- Immune: Autoimmune disease, lymph or bodily swelling, allergies, sinus congestion, sore throat, red eyes, colds or flu easily
- Musculoskeletal: Joint and muscle pain, muscle cramps, general fatigue, Fibromyalgia, morning stiffness
- Neurological: Headaches, brain fog, weakness, nerve pain, memory loss, dizziness, tremor, weakness, light sensitivity, vertigo, hearing loss, sluggish speech, coordination and reaction times
- Psychiatric: Anxiety, depression, OCD, short fuse
- Respiratory: Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, asthma
- Skin: Skin rashes, itching, splotchy skin
- Urinary: Urgency, incontinence
You do not have to have all the signs and symptoms of mold illness—in fact you may just have two or three.
Mold Tests for Your Body & Home
If your symptoms are aligning with mold illness, then we may run a mycotoxin urine test for your body as well as a mycotoxin test for your home! (you can find out my favorite mold tests with my FREE MOLD SURVIVAL GUIDE)
Why Does Mold Make You Sick But Not Others?
If we determine if mold is making them sick, a lot of times patients ask why they got sick, but not their roommates or family members?! (Even those living in the same exact house!).
That was me!
I lived in a brand new rental home for 2 years with hidden black mold in the HVAC air conditioning unit and side wall. I got 10 chronic illnesses. My two roommates barely winced—one girl had occasional vertigo spells and insomnia on occasion; the other girl just had “bad allergies” and plopped an air purifier in her room, not thinking twice.
I, on the other hand, got IBS, SIBO, migraines, nausea, hypoglycemia, shortness of breath, chest pains, insomnia, hormone imbalances, thyroid problems, along with autoimmune disease city! Everything flared: Lupus antibodies, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s, colitis, pernicious anemia! All the things!
There are several reasons or “strikes” why mold may make one person sick, and not another.
Strike #1: Autoimmunity
A big piece of the puzzle explaining why one person (like me) gets really sick from mold and others do not is autoimmunity.
Some people (like me and maybe you) have an underlying genetic susceptibility to developing mold illness. In fact, 25% of people who get mold illness have the HLA-DQ gene that is turned “on”—inviting in sensitivities to environmental and food triggers like mold, chemicals, gluten, dairy and gluten cross-reactive foods.
Patients with autoimmune sensitivities often develop reactions to mycotoxins—toxic mold spores, that can get trapped in their body’s systemic circulation, congesting nasal and sinus cavities, gut and liver, and even the brain. Mycotoxins are best known in scientific literature as toxins that contaminate shelf-stable foods, like grains, beans, nuts and corn, and they are used as weapons of mass destruction in biochemical warfare! In fact, it is these mold spores mycotoxins, not just mold itself, that make mold toxic to humans—especially those with underlying autoimmunity, and why individuals with mold illness often feel better outside than they do inside, since mycotoxins are most prevalent in poorly ventilated and water damaged buildings. Mycotoxins can also accumulate in porous items—like clothing, furniture, upholstery in homes, and they are a big reason why mold and mycotoxins can make you sick even in brand new homes that are built out of wood and paper materials (mold food) that can get wet during the building process!
If you have autoimmunity, you have compromised detox pathways (liver, gallbladder gut), and you get exposed to mycotoxins, this is typically the perfect storm for a more full blown mold illness and your mold recovery journey will entail not just removing your body from mold exposure itself but also detoxing your body from mold.
Strike #2: Mold Allergy
Some people have mold allergy, meaning they are allergic to mold, but often once removed from the source of mold, they feel much better and can go about life, business as usual.
They are sensitive to moldy and musty environments, often feeling allergy type symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath, asthma, watery eyes or itchy skin. However, they are not as sensitive to mold and mycotoxins as the autoimmune or poor-detox-pathway folks.
Strike #3: Congested Liver or Gallbladder Function
Your liver and gallbladder work together in your body to help you detox out mycotoxins like Batman and Robin.
Your liver is the primary powerhouse. Its most important job is to detoxify foreign chemicals, foods, hormones and substances. In fact, every single food you eat, air and environmental exposure you inhale and even your cholesterol and hormones have to answer to your liver. Your liver decides what toxins and nutrients to keep or get rid of— passing them off to your intestines, gallbladder and digestive system for elimination through your urine, sweat and poo.
There are two liver’s detoxification process, named Phase 1 and Phase 2.
- Phase 1 Detoxification
The purpose of Phase 1 is generally to make mycotoxins less toxic and harmful than they were before. It does this by activating cytochrome P450 enzymes to attack the toxins and break them down into smaller pieces to propel into Phase 2, often creating free radicals in the process. That’s why detoxification requires lots of “antioxidants” in foods or supplements to help keep inflammation down.
- Phase 2 Detoxification
Once toxins have been broken down through Phase 1, the job of Phase 2 is to make toxins more water-soluble and ready for elimination in your poop or urine.
If either Phase 1, Phase 2, or both, of these phases are not working in tip top shape; then those mycotoxins stay inside your body—not released out of it!
Phase 1 detox can slow down due to: a lack of blood flow, due to aging or a sedentary lifestyle; nutrient deficiencies in the vitamin and mineral cofactors necessary for the proper function (especially Vitamins B2 and B3, magnesium, and iron); and heavy metals;
On the other hand, Phase 1 can also become excessively fast due to excess exposures to environmental toxins. Substances that may cause Phase 1 liver overactivity (or induction) of the P- 450 enzymes include:
- Caffeine and coffee
- Saturated fats
- Paint, exhaust and chemical fumes
- Medications like birth control pills and sleeping pills
- Pesticides; alcohol
Unfortunately, we live in a toxic world where we are exposed to over 80,000 different toxins on a daily basis. Although the liver is designed to handle them, if any human is exposed to too many toxins for too long (a “high toxic load”), your liver can only take so much. Fast Phase 1 due to excess mold expose can be a problem if paired with a slowdown in Phase 2.
A congested gallbladder will also slow down your Phase 2 pathways because elimination is not happening! In this case, toxins get trapped in your body, often leaving you with oxidative damage, an overactive immune system and sensitivities to chemicals and molds.
Common stressors that congest your gallbladder function include:
- Eating a long term low fat diet (your gallbladder also breaks down fat; if you don’t eat enough fat, your gallbladder never gets exercised)
- Eating a long term high-fat diet without enough carbs or fiber (fiber helps bind toxins and push foods and substances through the digestive system)
- Low meat/no meat diets (amino acids are essential for liver detoxification)
- Under-eating or restrictive diets (liver detoxification requires nutrients)
- Sleep deprivation & circadian rhythm disruption
- Regular laxative use/abuse
- High coffee consumption (more than 2-3 cups per day)
- Low water intake
- Birth control pills
- High alcohol intake (more than 3-4 glasses per week)
- Substance use (cigarette smoking, drugs)
- A sedentary lifestyle or overtraining
- Chronic exposure to mold
- Chronic exposure to environmental toxins (such as working at a hair salon or around paint fumes)
Strike #4: Impaired Methylation, Glucuronidation &/or Sulfation Detox Pathways
Once toxins have been through Phase 1, they move onto Phase 2 detox where they may go through one or more of 6 different detox reactions in order to make toxins water-soluble and ready for elimination.
Even if your liver and gallbladder are working okay, if you have genetic “SNPs” or malfunctions in one or more of the 6 detox pathways, or you are not eating or absorbing the proper nutrients in your gut to support these detox pathways, then this makes it really difficult to detox mold out of your body.
In other words: some people are born with a poor ability to detox!
The 6 main pathways that mycotoxins may go through in Phase 2 include: methylation, glucuronidation, acetylation, amino acid conjugation, sulfation, the glutathione transferase pathway.
The majority of people are most familiar with hearing about “methylation”— a fancy word for the process that helps turn ON or turn OFF different functions in your body, including gene expression, immune function, brain chemistry and detox.
Impaired methylation can actually cause your liver to only function at about only 60% capacity—making it much harder to not only process and detox toxins, but also to process nutrients in foods and supplements too! If you don’t methylate well, your liver’s abilities to kick toxins, like mold, out of your body will be off.
The same thing can be said for the other 5 pathways. If any of them are not working at their peak, the more likely mold toxins don’t get inactivated or excreted easily.
To figure out if you have impaired detoxification, you can run a genetic panel with Self Decode. Some people also use OAT testing (urinary organic acid test) to assess detox pathways. The best thing to do to figure out your detoxification abilities is to work with a clinician who can, not only order genetic testing for you, but also help you interpret and understand results.
Strike #5: Bad Gut Health
Your gut is the gateway to your total health. In fact, 70 to 80% of your immune system is produced and activated in your gut and your digestive tract and the liver are physiologically connected through the “gut–liver axis.” In short: If your gut health is off then your liver is off, and vice versa.
The liver intercepts toxic chemicals and substances from the gut and your intestines intercept all products after they are detoxed by the liver.
For example, if you get a “leaky gut” from eating gut irritating foods, lack of fiber in the diet, too much alcohol or coffee, or a gut infection like food poisoning, your liver is automatically exposed to numerous toxic factors derived from the intestine and gut bacteria, thrust into circulation. Likewise, if your liver is overloaded with toxins—like mold spores—it tosses them off to the gut to be cleared out through your poo and urine; however if your gut is not functioning in tip top shape, those toxins don’t get excreted!
Unfortunately, at least 3 in 4 people have some sort of gut-related problem (many who are completely unaware of it). Common gut pathologies may include:
- Low stomach acid and digestive enzyme production
- Sluggish gallbladder function
- Intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”)
- Insufficiency dysbiosis (low growth of beneficial healthy bacteria)
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Pathogenic infections (bacterial, parasitic)
Gut problems are commonly attributed to the same stressors that impair your gallbladder and liver function (above).
How to Detox Your Body from Mold: 8 Essentials
Ok, so now you know how and why mold can make you sick, let’s start detoxing! Here are 8 essentials to detox your body from mold.
- Detox Your Environment
- Eat a Mold Detox Diet
- Boost Your Immune System
- Optimize Digestion
- Cleanse Your Liver
- Balance Your Hormones
- Reset Your Limbic System & Mind
- Have No Fear
#1. Detox Your Environment
The first, most crucial step towards detoxing your body from mold is to get away from it—either temporarily or permanently.
If you’re not sure where to go or what to do (Sell your house? Remediate? Get out of your lease?) is to find a short term rental (like an Air BnB), stay with a friend, go on a trip, camp, go see family—just get away from the mold the best you can. Additionally, if you’re currently renting your house or apartment, talk to the landlord about getting out of there ASAP. This will allow you to “take a breath”, feel slightly better physically and think more clearly about how to proceed next.
After getting out of your contaminated environment, you will be able to think more clearly about what you should do. You have a couple options when it comes to reducing toxins in your environment:
- Option 1: Move
- Option 2: Remediate (remove and repair) the mold in your environment
Optional 1: Move
This option is an easy decision if you rent your home, apartment or office space.
It entails: uncovering the mold problem , then moving yourself to a non-moldy environment (with a prior mold test recommended).
In my experience, I’ve found that, as a renter, it’s simply not worth it to try to stick it out or stay around. Many states have no-contest laws in place where, if there is mold present, you may be able to get out of your lease (especially if you have an official mold toxicity report—either from lab testing company, a doctor’s note, or a home mold inspection report—legally, your landlord, apartment company or even your boss cannot make you stay).
Even if you own your home, moving is still a great option as well and worth consideration if you home is making you sick and the mold problem has gotten out of hand. No mold is worth your health.
Option 2: Remediate Your Home
Mold remediation begins with identifying the source of mold—visible, smell, testing, followed by “remediating” and cleaning—a complete removal of the mold.
Some restoration businesses advertise “mold removal” and even guarantee to remove all mold. This is a fallacy. They are not necessarily practicing “mold remediation.” Mold remediation focuses on getting mold levels back to normal, natural levels by both removing the issue (sometimes via demolition), then cleaning and purging the affected area.
You may be able to clean some of the mold yourself, but the process of remediation is best accomplished with professional help who knows since it includes several complex steps, and, if you’re sick, you don’t want to be around the mold.
My mold recovery book, “Moldageddon”, gives you all the deets for mold remediation and how to find a legit professional.
To Get Rid of Your Stuff or Store It?
A big question that comes up with mold is: “Can I keep my belongings?”
That is such an individual answer.
For me, the answer was a clear, NO.
After living in a contaminated home for 2 years and getting super sick, I had to walk away. During my first escape, I tried to keep some clothes, some books, my Berkey water filter, even my Toyota Camry but it all smelled like mycotoxin city and I found myself reacting to everything from that old house. Shortness of breath. Headaches. Watery eyes. Anxiety.
In short: I “Marie Kando-ed” my life and honestly, it’s the BEST thing I ever did. I never looked back and have since adopted a “minimalist” lifestyle and absolutely love it. No stuff to weigh me down.
If you’re not sure what to possibly keep and clean or what to toss, download my FREE MOLD SURVIVAL GUIDE to find a detailed check list for detoxing your belongings.
What if You Can’t Move?
This one’s tough, but for some folks moving, remediation or moving right away are not an option. Others may know there is a problem, but they simply don’t want to deal with it, or their husband or family doesn’t want to deal with it—especially if it seems like you are the only one sick, sometimes they may think it must just be in your head!
If you’re stuck in mold with nowhere to go, or nowhere to go right away, a few “mold survival” things that have helped me include:
Thank you @richontech and @CleanairCA for bringing attention to the importance of air quality and including IQAir’s Atem in your segment on @KTLAMorningNews about the best air purifiers for your home! https://t.co/Jyem0YBKyH pic.twitter.com/aGVrHXIxRC
— IQAir (@IQAir) October 9, 2020
- Get (several) air purifiers: Air purifiers will not kill mold or get rid of it, but they can help you breathe and sleep better. I have slept in many a moldy Air BNB or visiting my family’s home during the holidays with 3 to 4 purifiers in tow. I recommend several Honeywell’s HEPA Air Purifiers and absolutely love my IQAir HealthPro air purifier. (You can even get a small one to keep by your head or at your desk).
- Fog your space. If mold is mild in the space, routine fogging can help with clearing the air. Like an air purifier, it will NOT kill mold, but can make the space manageable. This is the best fogger I’ve come across to date.
- Get a dehumidifier + hygrometer. Ideally you want your humidity less than 50% in the house. I keep my dehumidifier on much of the time and my hygrometer tells me if I am staying in this range.
- Keep your sinuses clear. Mycotoxins love body cavities like your sinuses, nose and lungs. Breathe easier with NasoPure nasal wash, natural nasal spray, propolis throat spray and these natural inhalers.
- Minimize your stuff. Less is more. Picture frames, books, knick knacks, old bedding—these all can harbor mycotoxins on them. Clean out your space to have less stuff overall out in the open.
- Detox your supplies. Water. Cleaning supplies. Hygiene supplies. The less toxins the better. Toxic products and mycotoxins love each other. Whatever you do, do not use bleach. Ever. Invest in a water purifier and swap out conventional toothpaste, for toxic-free options. Branch Basics is great for laundry, EC3 mold cleaner is great for wiping down surfaces and good ol white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract are not too shabby.
- Get outta the house as much as possible. Try to spend as little time as possible in the contaminated environment. Consider getting a co-working office space if you work from home, working at coffee shops or somewhere else. Spend time outdoors when you can.
- Camp on the porch or in a tent. During temperate climate months this can be an option, and while it may sound crazy, many folks find they feel better outdoors rather than indoors. Camping is not a bad option.
#2. Eat a Mold Detox Diet
Let food be thy medicine! Next to FMT (fecal microbial transplants), food is the #1 tool all humans can use to dramatically transform their gut microbiome. In fact, your gut microbiome can rapidly change in as little as 24 to 72 hours with dietary changes!
Considering that the majority of your immune system is housed inside your gut, when you optimize your diet, then you optimize your biome, which then optimizes your immune system. Win. Win. Win.
Since mold illness is highly related to autoimmunity, dysbiosis and leaky-gut, many patients respond favorably to a short term 30 to 90 day autoimmune-paleo approach.
This approach emphasizes the nourishing superpowers of nutrient dense, whole foods including organic meats and fish, colorful vegetables and prebiotic fibers, healthy essential fatty acids, while limiting the top gut inflammatory and allergenic foods like gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, eggs, lectins, nightshades and grains to reduce inflammation and support optimal gut and immune healing.
Mold Detox Foods to Eat
- Organic meats, poultry & fish
- Dark leafy greens
- Colorful vegetables (except nightshades)
- Some fresh fruits (1-2 servings/day)
- Essential fatty acids (extra virgin olive oil, coconut, ghee, avocado, flax, olives, tallow, sunflower seed butter, wild caught fatty fish cod liver oil)
- Filtered water
- Herbal teas
- Low mycotoxin coffee (ideally no instant coffee)
- Sweeteners: Organic Manuka honey, pure maple syrup, monk fruit, stevia
- Extras: coconut flour, arrowroot starch, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar
- Himalayan sea salt
- Non-nightshade spices (cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, sage, etc.)
Tip: Search recipes using the term “AIP” (check out my friend Michelle’s recipe blog for inspiration)
Mold Detox Foods Foods to Avoid for at Least 30-90 Days
- Grains (rice, oats, quinoa, pasta, breads, etc.)
- Nightshades (peppers/bellpeppers, tomatoes, egg plant, chili powder, paprika, cumin)
- Sugar & artificial sweeteners
- High-histamine Foods (possibly)
An additional consideration many patients with mold illness need to consider is histamine intolerance—a common sensitivity they develop to foods with high histamine in them due to reduced DAO enzymes in their gut (enzymes that help break down histamine) as well as a great likelihood of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome at play.
There are tons of conflicting “high histamine” food lists floating around out there on Dr. Google, but the foods that I’ve found to affect the most people with histamine intolerance include the following:
High Histamine Foods
- Fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, etc.)
- Canned fish, shellfish and non-fresh seafood
- 2-3 day old proteins or leftovers (histamine accumulates over time)
- Smoked, cured, processed meats and deli meats
- Dairy (yogurt, cheese, kefir)
- Sweet potatoes
- Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya, ripe banana)
- Dried fruits
- Vinegars and salad dressings
- Nuts: especially walnuts, cashews, and peanuts
- “Bulk bin” spices, flours, dried fruits, etc.
- Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread, etc
- Artificial preservatives and dyes
- Cacao, cocoa & chocolate
- Egg whites
- Alcohol & wine
- Preservatives in vitamins/supplements
- Certain probiotics
If symptoms are not improving on an AIP based diet, then a short term trial with a low histamine diet can be helpful.
Notice I said SHORT TERM histamine approach—not forever! While taking a break from histamine foods, it is essential to also be proactive in healing your gut. If you continue to restrict your diet for TOO long, you can actually worsen your gut function by killing off gut bacteria (a healthy biome needs diet diversity and variety).
Clinical Pearl: Although limiting inflammatory and high histamine foods is helpful for detoxing from mold, healing your gut and supporting digestion are equally (if not more) important to detox your body from mold. For example, supplementing with DAO Enzymes can be helpful with meals to boost digestion of histamines and other foods (More on gut healing in a moment).
One last consideration is your blood sugar balance.
Many folks with mold illness have blood sugar imbalance because their gut microbiome and HPA axis (stress hormone system) is a total wreck! When this happens, they may get insatiable cravings for sweets, carbs or snacks; feel tired all the time—despite sleeping; need coffee to function; or experience hypoglycemic crashes throughout the day, such as feeling shaky or lightheaded before meals, getting hangry easily or feeling particularly tired after they eat.
Track your blood sugar, before and after meals, using an at-home glucometer to assess your blood sugar balance. If you notice that your blood sugar is spiking over 140 dL during the 1 to 2 hours after a meal OR your blood sugar is higher or lower than 75 to 90 dL before eating a meal, then you may need to evaluate your protein, fat and carb intake at meals.
Most people with blood sugar issues feel best starting the day off with at least 30 to 40 grams of protein at meals—especially their morning meal, along with a couple servings of essential fatty acids and a low-moderate carb intake (approximately 50-100 grams of starchy type carbs and fruits on a 2000 calorie diet, and 75-125 grams of starchy type carbs on a 2600 calorie diet. Non starchy veggies like dark leafy greens and broccoli do not count).
Eating enough also cannot be discounted. Simply put, if you are not fueling your body, you are not fueling your mitochondrial and detox pathways with nutrients they need to heal.
#3. Boost Your Immune System + Mitochondria
Most people just think about their liver when they hear the word “detox”, but your immune system with all of your immune fighting cells is just as important. If you have mold illness or exposure to mycotoxins, your immune system is the primary system at play.
Chronic exposure to toxic mold triggers the activation of “toll like receptors” in your immune system.
Toll like receptors (TLRs) are like your body’s personal a smart home security system. Similar to how your home security system is wired with sensors that alert you about intruders, UPS delivery men and natural disasters, TLRs recognize foreign invaders in your body and send out signals that activate immune cells to start the inflammatory process—releasing inflammatory cytokines to deal with the mycotoxin inflammation invading your body.
Without removal of the trigger (mold), your body’s mast cells can then become overactive in some individuals, sometimes even leading to the development of another condition known as mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS).
The big idea: In order to fight back against mycotoxin illness and detox mold from your body, you need to support the forces—boost your immune system and mitochondria! (Your also gut plays a big part in this, discussed more in the next step).
“Boosting your immune system” goes beyond just taking Vitamin C.
Lymph Mobilization & Drainage
For starters, you need to mobilize and drain your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system plays an integral role in all immune functions of the body, serving as the first line of defense against pathogens.
Your lymphatic system is the largest circulatory system in the body—a widespread network of connective tissue and fluid that surrounds nearly every organ and system.
The lymph system is responsible for:
(a.) Delivering all nutrients—including immune boosting nutrients— to various tissues and organs;
(b.) Flushing and draining toxins/wastes through all exit channels in your body—poo, sweat, urine; and
(c.) Serving as “home” to your immune system! The majority of your lymph is in your GALT—gut associated lymphatic tissue, which is why we often say the majority of your immune system is in your gut.
Signs of a clogged lymph go hand-in-hand with many of the same signs and symptoms as mold illness:
- Bloating or constipation
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Allergy and immune system deficiencies
- Water retention
- Stiffness, especially in the morning
- Brain fog
- Itchy and dry skin, or skin breakouts
- Unwanted weight gain
- Chronic sinusitis, sore throats, colds, and ear issues
- Breast swelling with the menstrual cycle
- Swollen glands
- Cold hands and feet
- Ineffective “gut healing” protocols
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Hormone imbalances
- Dysbiosis and yeast overgrowth
- Difficulty getting your weight to “budge”
- Depression or anxiety
- Food sensitivities
- Edema or swelling in your hands or other body regions
Keeping your lymphatic system (“the drains” of your body) clean and flowing is vital for optimal health, detoxing and getting the most out of your detox. There are many simple, but effective, strategies for helping cleanse your lymph naturally.
I also encourage my clients to start each morning off with 16 ounces of warm lemon water with a pinch of sea salt and celery juice. Celery juice is rich in chlorophyll!—a compound super oxygenating to the body (especially the liver and gallbladder). Chlorophyll enables oxygen to be taken up efficiently by the red blood cells. Without sufficient oxygen, our lymph and cells become sluggish. Eating fruit on an empty stomach in the mornings like grapes, melon, grapefruit or berries is an excellent way to add more hydration to your diet, along with of course two to three colors—preferably veggies—with each meal.
As for lymph cleansing lifestyle hacks, daily movement and exercise cannot be discounted. I also love dry brushing one to two times per day (Watch: How to Video), rebounding and inversion—putting your feet up a wall. The inversion process decompresses the joints of the body and stimulates the lymphatic and circulatory system. This brings blood and oxygen to the tissues, which helps to clear the muscles of toxic build-up. Lie on your back with your feet up the wall to encourage blood flow.
Natural antihistamines can help calm down the inflammation and over activation of the immune system from mold exposure. You’re probably more familiar with antihistamines like Zyrtec or Benadryl. These meds offer relief from allergy-related symptoms by suppressing the histamine response in the body. While you may want to keep medications handy in case you need immediate symptom relief, if possible, try to start with natural sources of antihistamines for less toxic load to your body as you continue to address the underlying causes. Natural sources of antihistamines include:
- Vitamin C
- Stinging Nettle
- Manuka honey and organic raw honey
- Pine Bark Extract
- Osha root
Support the Lung Microbiome
Some people with chronic mold exposure experience significant inflammation of their lung microbiome, resulting in symptoms like asthma and shortness of breath. If this is you, lung-regeneration supports include:
- Fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K)
- Natural inhalers: Essential oil inhalers, sea salt inhalers and inhaling in peppermint essential oils
- Oxygen therapy and EWOT therapy
- Natural lung anti-histamines: Mirica and perilla seed
- Lots of glutathione—your body’s master antioxidant that helps fight inflammation
But not just any glutathione. Many straight up glutathione supplements on the market are not bioavailable to do body because they do not include the compounds necessary to facilitate proper uptake and absorption past the liver, into the bloodstream rendering them useless and not bio-available to the body.
To bypass this limitation, my fave form, hands down is either via IV nutrients or liposomal (easily absorbed) glutathione like Trizomal Glutathione by Apex Energetics. You can order through a healthcare practitioner or order it on my FullScript site.
It’s important to note that not all people tolerate glutathione well due to a genetic sulfur or “sulfite sensitivity”—impairments in their sulfur detox liver pathway. Glutathione, your master antioxidant is comprised of: cysteine (which contains sulfur), glutamine, and glycine. Cysteine is also found in most high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a supplement form of cysteine. You need sulfur. You cannot completely avoid it. However, some people can’t tolerate sulfur in large quantities. Sulfur sensitivity looks a lot like a histamine reaction, including hives, itchiness, asthma, headaches, nausea, fatigue, flushing, and brain fog.
You can find out if you have sulfite sensitivity by testing your genes and looking for a homozygous (two bad copies) genetic mutation in an enzyme called CBS (Cystathionine beta-synthase). CBS mutations are usually up-regulations (meaning they work faster than normal), potentially resulting in an excess of sulfur-containing compounds, and also an excess of ammonia. (Symptoms of too much ammonia include confusion, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, nausea, and back or abdominal pain.)
Your mitochondria is short for the “energy booster and fueler of all your cells” including immune cells. Mitochondria regulate the activation, differentiation, and survival of immune cells. Mitochondria support includes several key nutrients that act like jet fuel to power up all systems, processes and cell functions in your body including CoQ10, PQQ, alpha lipoid acid, Vitamin C, B vitamins, L Carnitine, essential fatty acids and magnesium. Mitochondrial NRG is a great product with many of these in one.
#4. Optimize Digestion
The stronger your digestive health, the stronger your gut and your immune system are to “fight back” against mold. For one, your digestive system is what helps your body actually absorb nutrients for detoxification in the first place. Your gut is also the primary place where your immune system is housed and activated (70 to 80% of your immune cells are located in the GALT—gut associated lymphoid tissue and your gut bacteria help signal to your immune cells when to work or not).
“Healing your gut” is commonly talked about in the health world, but it goes far beyond taking a probiotic pill or drinking kombucha as commonly described. In fact, before we even talk about gut bacteria, your digestive mechanics that help you actually digest, absorb and eliminate pathogens in the first place have to be functioning in tip top shape, including stomach acid, digestive enzymes, gallbladder function, your gut tissue lining, your gut bacteria and poo habits.
In fact, if you are NOT pooping on a daily basis, then you definitely know something is up with your gut. Toxins are staying stuck in your body and you need to get things moving along before you can actually move on to detoxing mold more directly with supplements like binders or anti-fungal herbs.
Boost Stomach Acid + Digestive Enzymes
Stomach acid and enzymes are natural agents your body already has; however, many folks with bad gut health are low in both. Common signs you can benefit from stomach acid and/or enzyme support include GERD, heart burn, bloating or gas after meals, skin breakouts, feeling fatigued after eating, carbohydrate malabsorption, protein makes you nauseas or feels like a brick in your stomach, getting hangry easily, food intolerances or sensitivities—even to “healthy foods” and constipation. Take 1 to 2 HCl tablets and 1-2 digestive enzymes with meals to help support the initial break down of nutrients. You can also try 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in water.
Strengthen Your Gallbladder
Your gallbladder is like a muscle that helps package up toxins and wastes from the liver into a special liquid called “bile” and then sends bile on to the intestines to be eliminated in your waste. Your gallbladder is also a key player in digesting fats, carbohydrate metabolism and clearing out excess hormones, like estrogen and cortisol, to keep your hormones in balance.
If bile becomes too thick with excess toxins or a poor quality diet (either super restriction and disordered eating or low fiber, high fat, processed and refined foods), then “bile sludge” happens and toxins and impurities get recycled back into your gut instead of excreted!
Everyone can benefit from both liver and gallbladder support!
One of the best ways to do this is by eating at least 5 to 7 colorful veggies and 1 to 2 fruits each day, particularly liver cleansing and cholagogue rich foods. Foods that support liver cleansing, healthy gallbladder function and bile flow.
Liver & Gallbladder Detox “Superfoods”
- Amino acids: glycine, cysteine (or n-acetyl cysteine), taurine, and methionine (Pastured, organic grass-fed meats, poultry, organ meats and meat broth or bone broth (like Fond Bone Broth if not histamine intolerant)
- Apples, grapes, berries, grapefruit, melons and pears
- Bitter greens
- Celery & celery juice
- Cruciferous veggies (Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and turnips)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh herbs—rosemary, cilantro, milk thistle, dandelion, thyme, oregano
- Garlic and onions (if tolerated)
- Lemon & lime
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Extra virgin cod liver oil & wild-caught fish (salmon, halibut, cod)
- Peppermint/peppermint tea
You can also take 1 to 2 droppers of digestive bitters with meals and even consider an occasional gallbladder-liver flush (I love recommending my friend Wendy’s quick gallbladder flush with Kassandrino’s high quality extra virgin olive oil).
Rebalance Your Biome
Once your digestive mechanics are working in tip top shape, then we can talk about the gut microbiome—the trillions of bacteria living inside not only your digestive system, but also your sinuses, your vagina, your liver, your lungs, your mouth. You are more bacteria than human! Ideally we want more healthy bacteria and more diverse bacteria than pathogenic bacteria or the same few species of bacteria in our body for optimal health. An imbalanced gut biome is called “dysbiosis” and sets you up for more gut inflammation, impairing immune and liver function in the long run!
You can cultivate a healthier biome with the triple threat:
- Low histamine probiotics (Like BifidoMaximus and Seed probiotic)
- Fiber (Especially soluble fibers like citrus pectin, partially hydrolyzed guar gum and flaxseed)
- Short chain fatty acids (Bacteria metabolites that help kill off pathogens and cultivate a healthier biome like Tributyrin)
Warning: many probiotics sold on shelves contain higher histamine strains that make folks feel more bloated, experience IBS or exacerbate SIBO/candida symptoms. Don’t just buy any probiotic!
Repair a Leaky Gut
Chronic exposure to ongoing stressors like mold can create a fiery storm of inflammation in your gut tissues, resulting in a leaky gut paired with all the side effects from it—particularly increased food and chemical sensitivities, skin issues, brain fog, bloating, gas, and IBS.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the world has a leaky gut; nor is repairing a leaky gut the panacea to conquering mold illness, but in my clinical experience, I have found that a leaky gut is often a byproduct from the continual inhalation and exposure to mold toxins. Once you have your digestive mechanic support up and running, a little bit of extra gut lining and tissue support can be beneficial for “healing and sealing” the intestinal lining, including L-glutamine, bovine colostrum, dairy-free IgG support and good ol bone broth. I prefer powders over pills for absorption.
Fight for the Golden Poo
If you’re not poo-ing every day, Houston, we have a problem. You cannot fully detox or progress to the next stages of gut healing and liver cleansing without daily bowel movements—otherwise you will be mobilizing toxins to sit inside your body.
- Massage your abdomen to stimulate colon. Rub castor oil on your stomach as a topical substance.
- Drink lots of clean filtered water + add mineral drops
- Cook, steam, sauté, puree, soften your veggies & eat easy-to-digest meats and fish (stewed meats, boiled, baked fish, etc.)
- Avoid high FODMAP foods
- Swig apple cider vinegar shots with meals
- Rebound. Jump up and down in place for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Use a squatty potty.
- Drink Smooth Move Tea before bed
Clean Up Yeast, Dysbiosis & Bacterial Overgrowth
Fungal and bacterial overgrowth and gut dysbiosis go hand-in-hand with toxic mold.
This step includes using natural antimicrobial herbs to help “clean up” any fungus, yeast, dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth like SIBO.
Antimicrobial herbs are basically nature’s natural antibiotics without the ill side effects of prescription antibiotics, such as oregano, olive leaf, garlic, berberine and cat’s claw to name a few. A couple of my favorite formulas are Microb-Manager and Biocidin.
Do not move on to this step until you have focused on the preceding gut support steps. It’s also recommended that you run a comprehensive stool analysis and possibly SIBO test with an experienced clinician who can support you.
Unfortunately, a ton of patients and practitioners make the mistake of “killing the pathogens” or targeting candida and SIBO before they’ve boosted their immune and lymphatic system, as well as fine tuned their digestive mechanics (enzymes, stomach acid, gallbladder, etc.). As a result, you can end up with all sorts of die-off reactions or failed protocols.
Others treat the gut as if “everyone” has candida or “everyone” has SIBO or parasites, putting their patients on long-term antimicrobial protocols, antibiotics, anti-fungals, low FODMAP and anti-candida diets without going on to the critical post-antimicrobial step: “rebuilding” the gut biome after your protocol is over!
This does the patient’s gut more harm then good, especially if you already had significantly decreased healthy bacteria to begin with. The big idea: Don’t go this step alone and the goal should be to “love” your gut back to health, not hate it.
#5. Support Your Liver
Most people just think about their liver when they hear the word “detox”, however every single step we’ve talked about prior to now must be in place before you jump in to mobilizing your toxins!
“Supporting your liver” basically entails using lifestyle, nutrients and supplements to facilitate in gently cleansing mold out of your body.
Binders & Biofilm Disruptors
Binders assist your body in reducing its toxin levels by effectively “binding” to and eliminating toxins from your body. On its own, your body’s detox systems are designed remove some toxins, however if the toxic load gets too high (like from mycotoxins), your body needs assistance! That’s where toxin binders come in! Binders help clear out toxin buildup and biofilms on pathogenic bacteria and fungus that has developed from the toxic mold exposure itself.
Think of biofilms as the protective shining armor used by pathogens that take up residence your body. Biofilms help protect pathogens from detection by your immune system so they can stick around.
The only way to effectively rid your body of these pathogens is to first break down the biofilm sheltering them, then clear out the released toxins.
The first step is to equip your body with the tools needed to bind and eliminate released toxins. Using binders for detox is an excellent way to do this.
My faves include zeolite, modified citrus pectin and activated charcoal. G.I. Detox is one supplement often recommended as well with multiple binders in one. Note: binders can be constipating so refer to our constipation hacks in the gut section! Also, take binders away from other foods and supplements since they can bind to them too!
After your binders are up and running, along with your immune and gut supports, for at least 1 to 3 months, then you can go in with some biofilm disruption and “cleaning up” your gut microbiome (as discussed in the gut section as well).
Sweat: Exercise & Infrared Sauna
One of the best ways to get toxins moving out of your body is through sweating. Daily movement and sweating in an infrared sauna help accomplish this. Of all the therapies I tried to date, daily movement (especially walks and yoga) and my daily infrared sauna sessions were, hands down, two of the most effective, cleansing and grounding mold detox tactics for me.
Compared to basic saunas at your local gym, far infrared saunas are believed to be more effective in moving toxins through the skin than traditional saunas because in a far infrared sauna only 80 to 85% of the sweat is water with the non-water portion being cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals, sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid. That said, in my books, any sweat is a good sweat. You have to find what works for you!
IV Therapy: Glutathione, PC & Vitamin C
If your gut health and absorption is compromised from mold exposure, IV nutrient therapy can be a great option to get a therapeutic dose of essential liver support nutrients. IV therapy is sort of like riding up an escalator with a suitcase, versus dragging it up the stairs—it assists the liver for a smoother, supportive detox process.
During the peak of my mold ills, I was going to my doc’s office to get glutathione, phosphatydlcholine and Vitamin C IV’s three times per week for about 12 weeks, and it made all the difference in the world.
Coffee Enemas & Detox Baths
Mold Detox Juicing
Juicing is a popular practice in clean eating and detox circles, and it has several benefits for boosting energy and healing. So obviously it’s good for mold detox right? There are pros and cons.
Pros of Juicing
- Antioxidant Powerhouse. Gives you a greater concentration of nutrients in one convenient single serving 8 to 16 ounce drink.
- Boosts Hydration & Minerals
- Easier to Absorb. If you have gut issues, liquids can enhance the absorption of nutrients. When you remove the insoluble fiber and are left with the water-based components of the fruits and vegetables, it aids in easier assimilation and absorption of vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients across the digestive tract. Basically juicing is a fast track for nutrients.
- Our bodies are made up of about 60% water, and every system depends on water. Although juicing does not replace water, it does still hydrate you—an essential since 75% of people are dehydrated and don’t even know it.
- Supports Liver Detoxification. Nutrients in many juices, like celery juice, support Phase 1 liver detox to mobilize toxins onto Phase 2 liver detox—the phase where toxins are packed up and excreted out of the body
- Gets Your Veggies & Probiotic Bacteria On. Juices help you increase your overall consumption of fruits and vegetables in a society where only 1 in 10 Americans actually eats the recommended number of vegetables each day—a minimum of 3! One study also found that vegetable/fruit juices provide polyphenols, oligosaccharides, fiber and nitrate (beet juice), which may induce a prebiotic-like effect to stimulate healthy gut bacteria.
That said, juicing is not for everyone. For some people, juicing can make them feel worse, not better—more nauseas, hypoglycemic or sick at their stomach. This happens for a few reasons.
Cons of Juicing
- Low Fiber. Juicing strips veggies of fiber—an essential component for pushing foods and toxins through the digestive tract, forming normal bowel movements and feeling satisfied.
- Blood Sugar Imbalance. Many people choose fruit juices over veggie juices, or add several fruits to a veggie juice, making some juices a sugar-packed beverage. Even though natural sugars in fruit are touted as healthier than white sugar because they come with moderating constituents like fiber, when the fiber removed, the health perks of fruit are significantly reduced.
- Possible Tummy Troubles. Juice is rapidly absorbed and digested by the body—sometimes too much too fast, sometimes leaving you feeling bloated or constipated (especially if you drink an entire head of broccoli, spinach, apple, celery and cucumber in less than 5 minutes)! Tummy troubles can also happen if you drink your juice paired with other, more complex meals and foods, confusing your digestive mechanics, or if you’re not hydrated well enough to aid in juice absorption.
- Liver Detox Overload? Can mobilize toxins in your body “too fast” in Phase 1 liver detoxification if your Phase 2 detox pathways are not working properly to excrete them out (note: if you are not poo-ing and sweating regularly, this could be an issue)
- One of the top complaints about juicing is that it can be messy! (This is why I prefer to treat myself to juices at my local Juiceland instead or buy a quality pre-made cold-pressed juice to take the thought and mess out of it).
Juicing can certainly fit in to your personal mold detox protocol if you want a simple way to optimize antioxidant nutrients and hydrate your body; however juicing is not the “panacea”, nor do I advise going on a liquid only “juice cleanse” to get mold out of your body.
Detoxification does not work that way. If you want to “speed up” detoxification, your body actually needs a wide variety of nutrients from foods to support both Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detox, especially amino acids (proteins), fresh herbs like rosemary and dandelion greens, and fiber-rich foods. For this reason, blended veggies (smoothies) with the fiber included can be a great way to give your body an extra binder to help get mold out of there!
Here are 3 of my favorite mold detox juice and smoothie recipes:
Morning Cleanser: Simple Celery Juice
- 1 bunch of organic celery
- Himalayan sea salt
Juice in a high-speed juicer or blender (and extract pulp using a cheese cloth or nut milk bag). Add a pinch of Himalayan sea salt. Drink first thing on an empty stomach after drinking water.
Natural Fiber Binder: The Vegetable Mash-up
Get your pre-biotics and short chain fatty acids on! Eating different vegetables is key to healthy gut bacteria. Beneficial bacteria need fiber to thrive, and fiber also acts as a binder to bind up toxins and get em out of your body. Use the veggie mashup shift the microbiome in a positive direction more effectively.
Buy 15-20 different organic veggies of choice. Examples: carrot, carrot greens, parsnip, mint, cilantro, fenugreek, parsley, dill, spinach, bok choy, beet, broccoli, fennel, celery, radish with greens, zucchini, kholrabi, turnip.
Process veggies to a pulp in a food processor. Mix well. Then store in baggies or glass containers in the fridge or freezer to blend into a high speed blender along with water or liquid of choice for a daily smoothie. Add 5-6 heaping spoonful to a smoothie, soup or eat straight each day to get your veggies on.
Gut Love Boost: Simple Fruit & Veggie Juice
- 1 pineapple
- 1 cucumber
- 1 head chard
- 1/4 inch Ginger
Put all the ingredients through a juicer.
#6. Balance Your Hormones
Mycotoxins wreak havoc on your hormones. Your hormones are the orchestra or symphony of your bodily processes.
Your thyroid hormones for example keep your metabolism—body composition, digestion, blood pressure, energy—playing in tune. Your estrogen and progesterone hormones keep your libido and mood stable, facilitate growth and fertility. Your cortisol hormones—your stress hormones—help you fight off inflammation, survive and fight or flee.
Hormones play a beautiful tune…until mycotoxins come into the picture. Mycotoxins cause endocrine disruption—big time!
Mycotoxins are actually often categorized as “xenoestrogens” because they can mimic and hijack the role of estrogens in your body—causing all sorts of issues from mood swings to cycle irregularities, man boobs, breast tenderness, unwanted weight gain, fat storage, constipation, PMS symptoms and cancer risk.
However, mycotoxins’ effect on the endocrine system goes far beyond estrogen alone. For one, mycotoxins interfere with the 17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD) class of enzymes, which are involved in both androgen (testosterone, cortisol) and estrogen metabolism. Mycotoxins can also interfere with all sorts of hormone receptors, directly stimulating or blocking them receptors to accept more hormone or not accept them at all— leaving you with hormone imbalance galore!
Hello thyroid problems, low Vitamin D (a hormone), “adrenal fatigue”, low testosterone and more!
Studies show that exposure to a variety of mycotoxins cause significant elevations of serum cortisol after just 4 weeks! Imagine what happens if you live in mold for 6 months or 2 years!
During a mold detox, supporting your hormones with adrenal adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha, rhodiola, relora, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus), reishi and cordyceps, can be helpful for bringing cortisol levels into more balance, consequently mitigating the imbalances of all your other hormones as well (basically healthy cortisol levels help whip other hormones into shape).
The beautiful thing about many adaptogenic herbs is whether your cortisol levels are too high or too low, many of them act like a buffer to foster them back to a baseline—middle of the road.
Cortisol Balance Supports
To support hormone balance, I often recommend supplements like Adreno Distress Guard, HPA Adapt or HPA Axis for basic cortisol support. Steer clear of formulas with licorice root, adrenal glandulars or American or Asian ginseng unless you are super low in cortisol as these can be more stimulating. A high quality CBD oil, like this one, can help mitigate excess anxiety and stress, as well as help some folks sleep.
Bad Sleep? It May Be Your Hormones…
Also speaking of sleep, if you are not sleeping, you are not detoxing mold. Sleep is when your detox pathways should be working the most.
Unfortunately, more than 1 in 3 people are sleep deprived. Little do many of these people realize that inhaling mycotoxins at night plus disrupted cortisol hormones can be the reason why!
If you’re waking up between the hours of 2 to 4 am or you feel tired despite staying in bed 7 to 9 hours, mycotoxins may be disrupting your cortisol, adrenaline and the production of melatonin—which occurs in your gut microbiome!
Mycotoxins can also cause blood sugar imbalances, leading to those hypoglycemic episodes that force adrenaline to wake you up in the middle of the night. Blood sugar imbalance happens when mycotoxins disrupt your gut bacteria and cortisol that aid in the proper digestion and utilization of glucose (sugar from food) in the first place. They are all connected!
By focusing on restoring your gut biome and lymphatic and immune system, plus eating a balanced detox diet and balancing your hormones by focusing first on balancing cortisol, many people find quality sleep falls into place (without having to take prescription sleeping pills).
In the early stages of detox, however, some helpful “sleep aids” include:
- Sleepy Time or Chamomile tea before bed
- Sleep with the room at 68 degrees or below
- Sleep in a pitch black room—use blackout curtains or an eye mask if needed
- Inhale peppermint or lavender oil
- Take a warm bath or hot shower before bed
- Nix the blue light screens 1-2 hours before bed—read a book instead
- Sleep with WiFi turned off in your home and your phone either in airplane mode or outside the bedroom to eliminate EMF exposure
- Experiment with one of the following natural sleep supports: phosphatydlserine, ashwaghanda, CBD oil or liposomal GABA—all of which can enable the body and mind to relax, fall asleep, and sleep soundly
#7. Reset Your Limbic System & Mind
Last but not least: do not underestimate the power of your mind for detoxing mold out of your body—especially your limbic system!
The limbic system is part of your midbrain that is known as the “feeling and reacting brain” and it consists of four major structures including: the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and cingulate
The limbic system filters billions of sensory and emotional information bits that come your way at any given second, every single day and then categorizes that information into two separate categories: either “threat” or “no threat.”
When you experiences a threat or stressful experience, such as living in toxic mold, becoming very ill or being re-exposed to mold, it activates the “fight, flight or freeze” response, releasing adrenaline, cortisol and inflammatory cytokines to make sure you get away from the threat in any way possible.
Because most of your blood flow is going to the limbic system in the brain, it shuts down your thinking brain—the prefrontal cortex. For example: if you are being chased by a bear, you probably won’t have time to consciously think about what to do. Your body automatically runs super fast in order to survive.
If your limbic system is continually activated by stress, it can become injured and impaired, in turn, it starts categorizing new information that comes in as threatening when it is actually non-threatening, sending your body into “fight, flight or freeze” easily.
If this happens, your brain unconsciously gets stuck in “fight, flight or freeze” mode and when the brain is stuck in a fight, flight, or freeze response, all body systems get affected—it affects digestion, your gut motility slows down, constipation, bloating and IBS happen; it disrupts detoxification; anxiety goes up; it triggers sensory distortion linked to multiple chemical sensitivities, light sensitivities, sound sensitivities, chronic pain, or food sensitivities
What injures or impairs the limbic system in the first place?
Trauma or chronic stress.
The “limbic system hijack” results from too much stress for the brain to handle.
Trauma and stress are processed and stored in the limbic system. This is why some patients recovering from mold illness often stay “stuck” in the illness, not feeling well or that anything works for them to recover, for a very long time. Their brain is subconsciously keeping their body, brain, gut, detox pathways and hormones trapped in stress.
The “limbic system hijack” does not happen to everyone, but if the perfect storm occurs, you’re the perfect candidate. Many people suffering from mold illness report that their condition was preceded by events such as both mold or toxic chemical exposures (e.g. house remodeling project, new home move, new construction near your home), a viral infection, physical trauma (car crash, surgical procedure), EMF exposure (living near high voltage power lines or cell towers) and prolonged or severe psychological distress (e.g. stressful job, emotional abuse, relationship, financial).
Such stressors trigger limbic system hypersensitivity and initiate a downward spiral.
Many conventional healthcare practitioners label patients with “anxiety” or tell them their illness is “all in their head”—especially when lab work seemingly returns normal on paper. In part, there is some truth to this. The limbic system is hijacked and mold illness patients get stuck in fight or flight mode.
However, traditional treatments such as SSRI drugs and “talk therapies,” like cognitive behavioral therapy, primarily target the “thinking mind” prefrontal cortex, not the limbic system. Therefore, in order to heal from chronic mold exposure, it is critical that your treatment targets limbic-system healing—especially if you feel stuck or like “nothing is helping” (supplements, foods, etc.).
A big reason why mold illness and sister conditions, like mast cell activation syndrome, lyme disease, chronic fatigue and autoimmune disease, can be challenging to overcome is because, after going through the trauma of being really sick and not feeling well or not feeling safe in your environment, your brain unconsciously gets stuck in “fight, flight or freeze” mode. And when the brain is stuck in a fight, flight, or freeze response, it naturally affects the rest of the body—your immune system, your digestion, your hormones, your detoxification processes, your anxiety levels.
Limbic System Retraining Therapies
There are a variety of therapies and techniques to help retrain the limbic system—the non-thinking brain to come back online. The key to integrating them is to find one or two that works for you and practice them regularly—sort of like doing pushups or squats in a gym, your brain won’t get stronger without training.
- Do a guided limbic re-training program—DNRS and the Gupta Program are both popular picks in the mold recovery world. These practices integrate a variety of brain-retraining techniques including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Core Belief Counseling, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Neurosomatic Repatterning, Gestalt therapy, Life Coaching, Body Mind Therapy, Cognitive Restraint Induced Therapy, Mindfulness, Mediation and Brain Stimulation Exercises.
- Regular prayer. Contrary to some popular notions, faith seems to be very good for us. Prayer increases blood flow to the brain and helps lay new neurons and pathways in our brain (rewires the brain). Prayer does not have to look formal (“Our Father Art Thou”), it can look like talking to God like you would a friend or just saying one word or breath prayers under your breath when they come to mind.
- Breathe deeply regularly—Deep breathing quiets the fight or flight response because relaxed muscles send feedback to the alarm centers in the brain tha t there are no threats present. Breathe in through the nose for 7-10 seconds and out through the mouth for the same time frame for 1 to 2 minutes at a time several times during the day.
- Visualize feeling relaxed—If you feel threatened, such as being exposed to a moldy environment, bring to mind, in detail, a place that makes you feel happy and relaxed – a vacation, being in nature or time spent with family, for example. Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, keeping your muscles relaxed and absorbing positive emotions, sensations and thoughts.
- Brain Tap. The Brain Tap headset is a neurofeedback tool that retrains your brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, resulting in limbic system alterations. It incorporates a combination of guided visualization, binaural beats, isochronic tones and brain wave stimulating light to change how your brain thinks and operates.
- Move daily & do some yoga—Exercise increases the creation of new neuronal connections to build neural pathways in which information is stored, as long as you’re not stressing your body out more (read: chronic cardio). Likewise, a regular yoga practice not only gets your body moving and flowing, but also works on your brain’s amygdala to reduce anxiety and fear.
#8. Have No Fear
A big part of healing is learning to live in a world with mold instead of in fear of mold. It is impossible to have a mold free environment and once we do…another leak is around the corner.
My personal journey has left me mold aware and today, I choose not to live in fear. Fear only worsens the situation.
My Biggest Mold Healing Gamechangers
In summary, reflecting on some of the top “remedies” that have helped me detox my body from mold, they include:
- Using air purifiers and de-humidifiers in my home
- Getting fresh air as much as possible
- Daily yoga and walks
- Daily infrared sessions
- Focusing on “loving my gut” with probiotics, prebiotics (colorful veggies), short chain fatty acids and enzymes
- Varying up my diet as much as possible within an autoimmune-anti-inflamatory approach
- Prayer—specific prayers, and daily time in the Word (bible)
- Staying connected to family and close friends
- Peppermint essential oil, glutathione and natural inhalers to breathe better
- Hot showers every night
- Boosting my mitochondria and immune system
- Working with a healthcare practitioner of my own—not going it alone
- Staying off toxic or fear-based negative mold healing Facebook groups
- Keeping my hobbies and purposes alive—working on my business, writing books, creating
- Believing healing is possible
How Long Does It Take to Detox Mold?
Pop question: How long did it take you to get ill from mold?
Answer: Not overnight!
Healing from mold does take time, particularly depending on the length of your exposure and the magnitude of your illness.
In my personal experience, I lived in the toxic black mold home that made me sick for 2 years, resulting not only in mold-related symptoms but a waterfall of other illnesses (autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism, hormone imbalances, mast cell activation syndrome). In turn, it took me at least a good 2 years to really feel like I had reached a healthier state of homeostasis, on the other side.
Of course there were tons of victories along the way, and I instantly felt much better when I left the house that made me super sick. That said, detoxing from mold still took time, work and support.
Even though my family did not understand it at all, they encouraged and loved me; and I am beyond grateful and thankful I did not try to go it alone. I chose to work with and train under some of the top functional medicine professionals in the field who helped me navigate my own healing as well as education in understanding mold illness and recovery.
Today, I’ve made it my mission to now help others, just like you, do the same—to get unstuck from their greatest health ruts (mold included), so they can write a new story for their health, body and life.
You don’t have to go through this journey alone. I’m here to help or can point you in the direction of my amazing network of mold-literate doctors if my mold-recovery approach is not a good fit for you.
Contact my clinic to find out more or to schedule an Initial Virtual Consult appointment today.
Bonus: Mold Detox Supplements
Check out my top 10 most recommended supplements for mold detox and don’t forget to download your Free Mold Survival Guide for my top mold test, product and cleanse checklist recommendations.