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Mold growth outdoors is a normal part of a healthy, natural ecosystem. However, mold growing in indoor environments, such as your home or workplace, can significantly hurt your health. Mold does not belong indoors!
Indoor molds release mycotoxins, small toxic compounds that can cause illness. Water-damaged buildings may also contain toxins besides mycotoxins, including harmful bacteria and bacterial endotoxins. (1)
Exposure to mycotoxins and other harmful substances in water-damaged buildings triggers inflammation, hurting body systems from the gut to the brain. In addition, mycotoxins may also accumulate inside the body. Illness caused by exposure to mold spores and mycotoxins is called “mold illness.”
To recover from mold illness, we need to help our bodies detoxify mold and mycotoxins. Read on to learn how to detox your body from mold naturally so you can recover from mold illness and reclaim your health!
In This Article:
- What Types of Toxins are Made by Mold?
- Five Steps to Detox Your Body from Mold Naturally
- Final Thoughts on How to Detox Your Body from Mold Naturally
What Types of Toxins are Made by Mold?
When water damage occurs inside a building, it creates an environment ripe for mold growth. Molds are fungal organisms that grow on damp or decaying organic matter, such as wood and drywall.
As mold grows indoors, it multiplies quickly. As it reproduces, mold releases spores. Mold spores are microscopic – just 2-4 microns in diameter. For reference, the width of a single human hair is about 100 microns.
Exposure to mold spores, mainly through inhalation and ingestion, may lead to allergic symptoms and gut issues. Chronic exposure to mold spores can also induce chronic inflammation.
Examples of mycotoxins with harmful health effects include:
- Deoxynivalenol, produced by Fusarium mold species
- Fumonisin, produced by Aspergillus niger and Fusarium mold species
- Gliotoxin, produced by various Aspergillus mold species
Since mold spores and mycotoxins can hurt our health, we must address both factors when detoxifying our bodies from mold. Let’s walk through the five steps you should take to detox your body from mold and mycotoxins.
Five Steps to Detox Your Body from Mold Naturally
Step 1: Remove Yourself from the Moldy Environment
You can’t heal in the environment that made you sick, whether that is an unhealthy physical, mental, or emotional environment. So the first step towards helping your body detox from mold is to get out of the mold-contaminated environment.
This is not always an easy step, but it is necessary. If you continue to expose yourself to mold spores and mycotoxins, your immune system will continue to be activated by these substances, and you’ll experience ongoing inflammation and immune dysfunction. In addition, your gut health, nervous system, and hormones may also take a hit.
If you suspect a mold issue in your home, I recommend partnering with an indoor environmental professional (IEP) who can properly assess your environment for mold and help you determine the next steps, such as whether remediation is needed. The International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness has a helpful database where you can find an IEP in your area.
Suppose you can’t remove yourself from the moldy environment immediately. In that case, I highly recommend avoiding or sealing off the areas of your home most significantly impacted by mold and investing in a high-quality air purifier. You’ll want an air purifier that filters down to the 0.1-micron level because a filter of this size is small enough to filter mycotoxins.
However, please don’t use an air purifier as a “band-aid” to delay getting out of the moldy environment any longer than necessary. Mold avoidance is imperative for your recovery.
Step 2: Support Your Gut Health
Research shows that certain beneficial gut bacteria can help metabolize mycotoxins. (7) A healthy gut also leads to a more balanced immune response and lower inflammation levels. Together, these findings suggest that optimizing your gut health may be crucial for helping your body detox from mold.
In my work with clients with mold illness, I’ve learned that addressing gut health (if it’s not optimal) is essential before diving into mold detoxification strategies, such as binders. Having a healthy gut is like having an intact “waste disposal system;” you want to have the waste disposal system functioning optimally before you try to process a bunch of waste (mold and mycotoxins) through it!
To optimize your gut health, you may need to:
- Address small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Repair leaky gut
- Address Candida overgrowth
- Improve stomach acid production and digestive enzyme secretion
- Increase levels of beneficial gut bacteria
Building a “bulletproof” gut will create a strong foundation for your mold detox process.
Identifying and addressing gut issues can be tricky. Therefore, I recommend working with a functional healthcare provider who can order testing and develop customized gut treatment protocols to meet your unique needs. Working with an experienced provider will save you time, energy, and money in the long run!
Your gut protocol may include antimicrobial herbs, digestive support, and probiotics. Interestingly, specific probiotic strains may protect the gut against mycotoxin-induced damage. For example, the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been found to bind the mycotoxin aflatoxin, increasing its elimination in the stool. (8) In addition, it also protects the intestinal lining against damage caused by the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol. (9) Pretty cool!
Step 3: Reduce Mold-Induced Inflammation
Mold exposure triggers inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, can make your body highly reactive and make it challenging to tolerate mold detoxification. To help your body better handle mold detox, reducing inflammation is essential before incorporating detox treatments.
The following nutrients and strategies may help reduce inflammation caused by mold and mycotoxins:
- Phosphatidylserine (PS): Phosphatidylserine is a type of lipid (a fat) naturally found inside the body. It supports myelin, the protective fatty sheath around neurons, enabling them to properly conduct signals. (10) One route through which mycotoxins hurt the brain is by depleting myelin. (11) Supplementing with PS may help reduce brain inflammation and repair neurons damaged by mycotoxins.
- Magnesium: Magnesium supports anti-inflammatory and detox pathways inside the body. Magnesium deficiency is associated with an elevated inflammatory response. (12) While you can obtain magnesium through whole foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, many people will also need to take a magnesium supplement to truly optimize their levels of this mineral.
- Fish oil: The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may help alleviate inflammation triggered by mycotoxin exposure. For example, EPA and DHA (the two main types of omega-3s found in fish oil and in whole seafood) have been found to inhibit damage to the intestine provoked by the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol. (13) DHA also inhibits kidney inflammation triggered by deoxynivalenol. (14) While fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines, are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, I also recommend supplemental omega-3s for individuals exposed to mycotoxins. A dosage range of 2-4 grams per day may be ideal.
- Try a low-mold diet. A low-mold diet is a specific dietary approach that can aid recovery from mold illness. It eliminates foods commonly contaminated with mold or mycotoxins and foods that feed mold growth inside the body.
Incorporating these supplements and nutritional strategies can lower your body’s total inflammation levels, paving a path for more successful mold detoxification.
Step 4: Support Phases I and II of Detoxification
Detoxification of mycotoxins inside the body involves three steps: Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III of detoxification. (15)
“Phase I” of detoxification makes toxins water soluble so they can be excreted via the kidneys or bile. Phase I detox is usually performed by CYP450 enzymes. “Phase II” of detoxification joins the reactive toxins made in Phase I with compounds such as glutathione and glycine, further preparing the toxins for elimination.
Phase III detox finishes the process, ushering conjugated toxins, such as mycotoxins, out of the body through bile flow and, ultimately, your poop. More on this below under “Step 5!”
Your body requires a variety of nutrients to support Phases I and II of detoxification and, thus, for successful mold detox.
Examples of nutrients needed for Phase I of detoxification include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- B vitamins
- Flavonoids (found in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and culinary herbs)
Phase II detox is supported by the following:
- Limonene (found in the rind of citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges)
- Amino acids, such as glutamine and glycine (found in the protein you eat in your diet)
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
Eating a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet that includes both plant and animal foods will help you meet your body’s needs for these detox nutrients. However, supplementation may also be necessary.
Several professional-grade supplements on the market provide a nice balance of nutrients to support Phases I and II of detoxification. I like XenoProtX by Xymogen and Detox Antiox by Designs for Health.
Step 5: Support Phase III Detox by Enhancing Bile Flow and Using Binders
Once you have removed yourself from moldy environments, optimized your gut health, and reduced inflammation as much as possible, it’s time to begin facilitating mycotoxin elimination by supporting bile flow and taking binders.
Bile is a digestive fluid that plays a critical role in facilitating the excretion of toxins from your body and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. It is a fluid produced in the liver and released by the gallbladder that breaks down dietary fats and serves as a vehicle for excreting toxins from the body. Bile is comprised of bile acids (also referred to as bile salts), cholesterol, phospholipids, and water.
Bile is a primary route of elimination for mycotoxins, so supporting healthy bile flow is essential for mold detoxification. (16)
The movement of mycotoxins out of cells, through the liver, and into bile is a part of Phase III detoxification.
Stimulation of bile flow should be followed by supplementation with a binder to “catch” mycotoxins mobilized in bile. More on binders shortly!
Foods and Nutrients That Support Bile Flow for Mold Detox
To support your mold detoxification process, try incorporating the following foods and nutrients:
- Organic Green Tea: Naturally bitter compounds in green tea stimulate bile flow. EGCG, one of the primary constituents of green tea, also reduces bile reabsorption in the gut, meaning it may help the body better eliminate bile-borne toxins in the stool. (17) Be sure to purchase organic green tea to avoid exposure to pesticide residues, which are commonly found on conventionally-grown tea leaves. (18)
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a central component of several purported “gallbladder cleanses.” While I am doubtful of the efficacy of these “cleanses,” there is scientific evidence indicating that olive oil enhances bile flow. (19)
- Lemon/Limonene: While drinking warm lemon water may be a “trending” thing to do in the health space, there may actually be some benefit in this practice! Lemon is rich in a compound called limonene, which may be an effective agent for dissolving gallstones, thereby improving bile flow. (20)
- Bitter herbs: Bitter herbs such as dandelion, gentian, and myrrh have been used for millennia to stimulate bile flow. “Herbal bitters” are tinctures of bitter herbs that can be supplemented to support bile flow.
Binders for Mold Detox
Binding agents, or “binders” for short, are a critical but often overlooked aspect of detoxification protocols. Fortunately, binders are commonly discussed in the mold illness community thanks to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, who popularized the use of the pharmaceutical binders Welchol and cholestyramine for biotoxin (mycotoxins are an example of a biotoxin) detoxification.
Binders are substances that adsorb toxins in the gut, preventing them from being reabsorbed across the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream and to the liver in a process known as “enterohepatic circulation.” When mycotoxins are not “caught” by a binder in the gut, they can continue to recirculate, wreaking havoc on the body.
While Welchol and cholestyramine are, without a doubt, helpful for some people with mold illness, many people with mold illness do not tolerate these two medications. Fortunately, several natural binders effectively bind mycotoxins and can be used instead.
Let’s discuss three binders that may help you detox mycotoxins:
Activated charcoal contains millions of tiny pores that adsorb ingested toxins within the gastrointestinal tract, preventing the toxins from being systemically absorbed. (21)
Hospitals and emergency rooms have long used activated charcoal to treat acute poisoning in children and adults. In fact, activated charcoal is so helpful as an anti-toxic agent that it is included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. (22) Supplemental activated charcoal is often derived from bamboo or coconut shells.
Activated charcoal binds to several types of mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin. (23, 24, 25) It is readily excreted in the stool. Fair warning, it can turn your stool a strange dark green color, so don’t panic if you notice that! Activated charcoal is very well tolerated.
Bentonite clay is a creamy gray volcanic ash. It effectively binds trichothecenes and aflatoxins. (26)
If you struggle with constipation, glucomannan may be a suitable mycotoxin binder for you to start with.
Glucomannan is a water-soluble fiber derived from konjac root, a root vegetable that grows in parts of Asia.
Studies show that glucomannan effectively binds several types of mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol, and ochratoxin. (27) Furthermore, combining clay with glucomannan results in an improved mycotoxin-binding capacity.
Supplemental glucomannan typically comes in a powdered form that can be added to water or smoothies.
Finally, while you’re working on improving bile flow and taking binders, it is critical that you have at least one complete bowel movement daily. If you struggle with constipation, make sure to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water daily and consider supplementing with magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate, which act as non-habit-forming natural laxatives.
Bonus Detox Strategies
Need additional detox support? Try the following strategies:
- Walk for at least 30 minutes daily. Walking supports your lymphatic system, a crucial part of your body’s “waste disposal” systems.
- Try lymphatic self-massage, or see a certified lymphatic massage therapist. Lymph Love Club sells a great, affordable course all about how to perform lymphatic self-massage.
- Make sure to get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep every night. Your body performs many crucial detoxification processes while you sleep.
Final Thoughts on How to Detox Your Body from Mold Naturally
Mold and mycotoxin detoxification requires thoughtful effort over at least several months, if not longer. It’s not an overnight process. However, if you go through the five steps outlined here, you can optimize your likelihood of tolerating mold detox, gradually remove mycotoxins from your body, and start feeling better faster!