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Mold is more than just an unpleasant sight or smell. While it can be harmful to whatever it is growing on, it can also be detrimental to your health if you are frequently exposed to it. When mold is out of doors, it plays a decisive role in regulating our ecosystem. But when it creeps inside homes and workspaces, it can cause allergies, infections, poorly regulated immune responses, and disease. In addition, mold exposure and mold toxicity can be highly complicated to diagnose and treat, which is why it is essential to know the warning signs of mold toxicity. Here, we share 8 signs of mold-related health problems and why they may impact your thyroid health.
An allergic response is one of the first signs suggesting a mold problem. Many people who suffer from mold exposure suffer from a mold allergy. Consequently, they can experience allergy symptoms such as:
- Nasal congestion
- Irritated eyes
- Sore throat
- Lung irritation
An allergic response to mold is usually short-term and resolves once the allergen has been removed (or you remove yourself from the environment). But, if mold exposure is unavoidable or you cannot leave the background, you may be at greater risk for further complications and heightened immune response.
Like cognitive changes, fatigue is nearly something all people with mold toxicity experience. This fatigue is usually unexplained by anything else, and sometimes it is related to difficulty sleeping, whereas other times it is entirely unrelated to sleep quality or quantity. For example, people can get a consistent 8-9 hours of sleep and still feel fatigued.
Indeed, we know more about the physical effects of living in a moldy environment, such as an increased risk for asthma, headaches, and chronic fatigue. But studies suggest that the mental side of mold exposure can be just as challenging. Feeling moody, depressed, or low are mental symptoms of mold exposure. Still, more research is needed to determine if this is a causal relationship or if there are missing variables that also contribute to mood changes and mold toxicity.
Like mood changes, mold exposure may change how you think and process information. People with toxic mold exposure often complain of brain fog, memory loss, and anxiety. Getting distracted easily or failing to focus for more extended periods can also be signs that you may have mold toxicity.
People with mold toxicity often experience problems with food intolerance and other digestive ailments like bloating, gas, and constipation. One plausible reason the digestive system gets involved is that mold toxicity can affect the immune response, and much of the immune system lies in the gut. Moreover, mycotoxins (a toxic metabolite or chemical from mold) can harm the intestinal mucosa by potentially changing the epithelial tissue lining the intestines. Thus, nutrient absorption and food intolerance can potentially become more commonplace in individuals with elevated amounts of mold in their environment.
The term 'hormone imbalance' is vague and can mean many things. But, when we hear of hormone imbalance, we often think of common symptoms like hair loss, unexplained skin rashes, and weight control issues. While these symptoms can be related to several hormone changes, they can also accompany mold toxicity. For this reason, it pays to look inward at your hormones and outward to your environment for answers to your symptoms.
Reading this next sign makes you feel a bit wiggly because it can feel so loaded and complicated. Unexplained pain is one of the most frustrating and difficult ailments to live with, partly because it can be so troublesome to navigate and treat. People with mold toxicity often describe a muscular pain similar to fibromyalgia, but it can also be abdominal pain.
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is also a warning sign of mold toxicity. Any changes in hearing may be due to various factors related to mold exposure, including Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease and pressure changes created by frequent infections from toxic mold exposure.
Diagnosing mold-induced illness is complicated because there are often no patterns in this illness, and there is no symptom unique to mold toxicity. Moreover, there is no clear-cut diagnostic tool for identifying mold toxicity; instead, a diagnosis comes from ruling out other causes.
Indoor mold can stem from numerous things, including water leaks, air conditioners, high humidity levels, and other moist environments. If you suspect mold toxicity, one of the first things you can do is have your home environment tested. You can ask your healthcare provider if they have any recommendations for who to call for an at-home mold test.
Simultaneously, you will want to work closely with your healthcare provider to rule out other health conditions behind your symptoms. For patients with a thyroid condition, toxic mold exposure can worsen your immune response, which can cause more trouble for patients with autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease. Indeed, mold toxicity may exacerbate other autoimmune symptoms and worsen the inflammatory response against the thyroid.
Finally, be wary of following advice from non-medical professionals, as mold toxicity is still not fully understood, nor are there clear guidelines for treating it. However, we do know that it certainly can help to
- Eliminate your exposure to mold
- Find ways to reduce inflammation (such as through healthful eating, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate sleep)
- Treat other health conditions (again, another helpful way to lower inflammation and your overall stress response)
- Get help for your sinuses if you struggle with allergy-related symptoms.
Managing inflammation is always crucial for your health, including managing conditions such as hypothyroidism and mold toxicity. Diet and lifestyle changes can help support reducing inflammation. If you are experiencing symptoms of mold toxicity or your healthcare provider has recommended implementing an anti-inflammation, we recommend scheduling a session with one of Paloma’s expert thyroid nutritionists. Our expert nutritionists will be able to help you develop a meal plan that is personalized and optimal for your health.