Last week I talked a little about Lyme disease and at the end of the post I mentioned toxic mold illness. Today I want to explore that a bit further because many people are sick and demonstrate Lyme symptoms, which are actually reactions to mold. Mold can also complicate the illness of Lyme patients. There are thousands of different types of mold and some people are more sensitive to it than others. As we know, MTHFR gene mutations make it more difficult for the body to clear toxins, which include mold, mycotoxins and other types of fungus. Things become even more complicated when there are multiple pathogens for the immune system to deal with. The issues can arrive in the form of mold allergies or mold illness, the latter being much more serious.


I live in a moldy area. In the above photo, the scary looking petri dish is from the outside air – we did an indoor mold test last year after I became aware of how common the mold issue is. I’m in a southern state so that’s par for the course. But mold can be found even in areas that aren’t traditionally considered to be humid. Dangerous air alerts were issued across the Midwest in both 2013 and 2012 because of high mold counts. And remember that the most dangerous mold situations are often found indoors. If your home has had any sort of water exposure or damage, mold could be an issue. If someone didn’t install a fixture in the bathroom of a new home correctly, you could have toxic mold growing. One of my relatives found it growing behind the walls of her kitchen and never had any idea it was there for decades. You just never know.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), a situation where people become ill because of something in their indoor environment, isn’t always the obvious cause of their problems. But toxic mold might very well be the culprit if you face pervasive, unexplained symptoms like weakness, fatigue, aches and pains, cramps, headaches, eye and vision problems, coughing, sinusitis, diarrhea, cognitive problems, skin sensitivities, numbness and other symptoms that you can’t attribute to anything else (visit the link for many more symptoms and an online test). In this interview with a woman who is surviving from toxic mold exposure you can read about her battles with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), which is another name for SBS. She went to doctor after doctor and none could figure out what was going on with her (sound familiar?) If you’ve been struggling with your digestion, tried all the most common tips to heal your gut and are still getting nowhere, mold allergies or illness could be to blame. Thyroid issues are often the first sign of Lyme disease and mold illness. And mold doesn’t always emit an odor and isn’t always visible. So please don’t think that just because you can’t see or smell mold in your home or workplace, it isn’t there.

Aside from MTHFR, other genetic mutations can also predispose a person to struggle with toxins like Lyme and mold. According to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker of the excellent website, Surviving Mold, the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) 4-3-53 genotype makes it very difficult to get rid of these pathogens. And one in four people have it. The genes for celiac disease (gluten intolerance) also overlap. So if you have chronic illness, finding out your HLA type should be a priority (you can do this through Labcorp). This can be the difference between people who contract Lyme disease or a mold-related illness and cannot get better, and those who contract an illness and bounce back from it very quickly. Find out if you have mold in your environment. Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) testing can tell you whether it’s safe (he recommends using Mycometrics). Dr. Shoemaker also recommends these biomarker tests.

If you do find mold it is imperative that you either get away from it completely or clean it up. Find a professional to do this or contact the owner of the premises if you rent. Landlords and employers will have a legal obligation to make the environment safe for you. Dr. Shoemaker offers advice in the forms of “15 Things You Need to Know” and a step-by-step treatment guide. Please do not delay confronting a toxic mold situation. Your recovery depends on it.

Mycotoxins are another cause of disease and complicate chronic illness, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems. They can cause as many problems as inorganic toxins like pesticides and heavy metals. These include aflatoxin, fumonisins, ochratoxin A, mold and patulin. You can test for these with a few different labs. When dealing with chronic illness and unexplained symptoms, it’s important to evaluate and even just be aware of all the potential hidden toxins that could be stressing your body. I worry that so many people visit their doctors or even uninformed practitioners and don’t question them enough when relief isn’t provided. Don’t think that you are falling through the cracks or you have some strange illness that nobody else has or that is unsolvable. I hope I am communicating this enough on this blog. Most diseases are multifactorial in cause. Every thing aggravates everything else. Chances are you just haven’t gotten to the bottom of your own personal mystery, haven’t solved your personal puzzle. The answer is out there and there is always a root cause.

8 thoughts on “Things That Plague Us: Mold and Mycotoxins

  1. Laura

    Andrea- I am glad to find your blog, it’s been helpful to me. I am also in the south in a humid climate. I am A1298C ++ and HLA 4-3-53. I have been working to recover my health with a FMD after exposure to mold and acute lyme infection. My question for you is -do you think heavy outdoor mold exposures can set me backwards? I am asking as the windows on our house are old and not very tight. I am wondering if this issue alone is a reason to move or replace the windows. Thanks for your thoughts, Laura C.


    1. Andrea Post author

      Hi Laura – I’m not sure – I think we are all different in our sensitivities. One thing I found helpful was allergy testing with an allergist – like a skin test. It’s a little uncomfortable – they scratch your skin all over with different allergens and then measure the reaction – but it will tell you what you are really sensitive to. I think working with a doctor on something like this is really going to give you the answers you need. If you’ve had exposure then most likely you are sensitive…I’m really not any kind of expert in this. But there are different types of mold. A doctor who deals with immune issues may also be helpful here. Good luck and let us know what you find out!


        1. kelli rohrig

          Hi Laura
          Make sure the allergist does a full panel for MOLD. I spent $700 with an allergist pre diagnosis and was tested for many, many things, but never mold or Lyme. Depending on where you live, mold and Lyme might be well off the doctor’s radar.


  2. Lisa Petrison

    Even if people know that Lyme is a problem for them doesn’t mean that mold is not an underlying factor.

    Trichothecenes made by some kinds of mold have the ability to negatively affect the immune system, meaning that infections like Lyme may be harder to get under control.

    I’ve known many people who found their Lyme infections or other infections much easier to treat once they moved to a better environment.


  3. Greg Weatherman


    I have written articles for Dr. Shoemaker’s website, Following industry standards for mold remediation can be abused by cherry picking the parts a remediator likes. Air cleaning devices only clean a small parcel of air around the machine rather than the whole room as the manufacturers claim. HEPA vacuums leak. Spore trap air samples can not measure the dose of mold in the air. Remediation standards/guidelines all have disclaimers saying their methods may not be the best methods but are the most common methods. Many of the people who are adversely impacted by both mold from damp conditions and post Lyme are also chemically sensitive.


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