IN THIS ARTICLE:
Shortly after publishing my most recent blog post, “Why I am Using Sunlight to Heal from Mold Illness,” I started to get a lot of questions asking about the other components of my protocol I am using to heal from mold illness. Many people have specifically shown interest in the gut-healing strategies I am using, since mold illness can have a significant impact on gut health. In this post, I’ve outlined the strategies I am using to heal my gut while recovering from mold illness.
What is Mold Illness?
If you are reading this article, it is likely that you have already heard of mold illness; however, for those who may not be familiar with this condition, here is a bit of background information.
Mold illness is provoked by exposure to toxic molds, typically in water-damaged indoor environments. This type of environment is very hospitable to mold spores. Upon taking up residence and propagating in water-damaged areas, molds begin to produce insidious byproducts called mycotoxins and noxious gases called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Susceptible people living in water-damaged, moldy environments are at risk for developing serious illness due to the inhalation and ingestion of mold spores, as well as exposure to the byproducts of mold metabolism, mycotoxins and VOCs. Exposure to mold, mycotoxins, and fungal VOCs is a grossly misunderstood and overlooked cause of chronic illness. These toxic exposures can cause immune dysfunction, chronic inflammation, allergies and asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, cognitive issues, and neurological symptoms.
Gastrointestinal issues triggered by mold illness, my focus in this article, can be difficult to resolve. The severity of GI issues that often accompany mold illness can be attributed to several factors. Mycotoxins circulate in bile, which is cycled through the GI tract numerous times every day; this chronically exposes the gut to inflammatory mycotoxins. In addition, fungi can propagate in the gut, crowding out beneficial bacteria that are necessary for maintaining GI health. Both of these factors compromise gut health and may lead to gut-related disorders such as food sensitivities, yeast overgrowth, mast cell activation, chronic bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The strategies I have developed to heal my gut seek to address the root cause of these issues by removing moldy foods from the diet, eradicating fungal microorganisms from the gut, restoring a healthy microbiome, binding mycotoxins circulating in bile, and repairing the intestinal barrier. While I have tried hundreds of products over the years for gut health, I have ultimately come to abide by a fairly simple food and nature-based approach.
Eat a Low-Mold Diet
To give yourself the best chance of recovering from mold illness, it is essential to reduce your exposure to mold and mycotoxins as much as possible. This includes removing yourself from environments that contain mold, as well as reducing your intake of mold and mycotoxins via food. This may sound surprising, but certain foods can harbor significant quantities of mold and mycotoxins. In the United States, the legal limits for mycotoxins in foods are higher than in many other countries. Some of the foods that are most likely to harbor mold and mycotoxins include grains (corn, wheat, oats), soy, sugar cane and sugar beets, alcoholic beverages, and peanuts. One example of a common mycotoxins found in foods is zearalenone (ZEA). ZEA is an endocrine-disrupting mycotoxin produced by the fungus Fusarium graminearum. ZEA is extremely prevalent in grains and grain-derived products. It may also accumulate higher-up in the food chain, such as in meat and dairy products, when moldy grain is fed to cattle. The human intestinal flora is unable to degrade ZEA, and this has adverse effects on human physiology. Some of the effects of ZEA on the body include premature puberty in girls and weight gain. (1)
In my experience, avoidance of moldy foods is very important for recovering from mold illness – continuing to feed your body mycotoxins may make it hard for you to come out ahead. Based on my years of experience with mold illness, as well as a great deal of research, I have developed a low-mold diet template. My template includes plentiful non-starchy vegetables, moderate amounts of starchy vegetables such as cassava and sweet potatoes, organic meat and poultry, wild-caught fish, low-sugar fruits such as apples and berries, healthy fats like olive oil and ghee, small amounts of gluten-free grains, if tolerated. I also recommend eating plenty of antifungal foods and herbs, such as garlic, onions, coconut oil, olive oil, thyme, and rosemary, just to name a few.
To see the full template for my Low-Mold Diet, check out my previous post: “The Low-Mold, Low-Salicylate Diet for Mold Illness.”
Mycotoxins, the toxic compounds produced by mold, like to hang out in bile. As you may know, bile is produced in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released into the small intestine to emulsify dietary fats and assist with vitamin and mineral absorption. However, bile is also “recycled” during the digestive process; much of what is released into the intestine ends up being reabsorbed and used again. This route by which intestinal substances become reabsorbed by intestinal cells and recirculated back to the liver and bile is referred to as the enterohepatic circulation. For people with mold illness, this normal aspect of human physiology creates a vicious cycle in which mycotoxins continue recirculating throughout the gut, wreaking havoc on our health. This is where binders, also referred to as “sequestering agents,” come into play. Binders are nonabsorbable substances such as bentonite clay, charcoal, and chlorella that bind mycotoxins (and a wide variety of other environmental toxins) in the gastrointestinal tract and facilitate their elimination from the body, thus reducing enterohepatic recirculation and the body burden of toxins. These are my three favorite binders:
The consumption of clay is a practice deeply rooted in human history; human beings have intuitively known that consuming small amounts of clay could remedy various ills or accidental toxic exposures. Bentonite clay is quite useful for sequestering mycotoxins. (2) In fact, farmers have long been familiar with the practice of feeding clay to their animals should they accidentally receive mycotoxin exposure in their feed. (3) My preferred brand of bentonite clay is Yerba Prima Bentonite Clay; it comes in a liquid form that is easy to mix with water and drink. I take 1 tsp of this per day, and find that it significantly reduces inflammation, without causing uncomfortable side effects such as bloating.
Charcoal has been found effective for binding ochratoxin (produced by Aspergillus), aflatoxin, and Fusarium toxins, all different types of mycotoxins. (4) I feel that charcoal is a very powerful binder, and I personally can only take it a couple times a week, whereas I take the bentonite clay approximately 5 days a week. If you feel that you can’t handle a full capsule of charcoal, you can always open it up and just use half at a time. I use Bulletproof coconut charcoal.
This is a beneficial yeast that no only kills pathogenic fungi such as Candida albicans, but also binds mycotoxins! (5) This is both a binder and strong antifungal, so if you are in the throes of mold illness, I suggest starting very slow, with perhaps half a capsule per day.
Repair Leaky Gut with Colostrum
While improving one’s diet and removing mycotoxins can reduce irritation to the gut, which contributes to increased intestinal permeability (i.e. “leaky gut”), I found that I needed additional support to repair the damage sustained by my digestive tract due to mold illness. The product I have found to be most effective for healing my gut is bovine colostrum. I have written an entire blog post on the myriad health benefits of bovine colostrum, one of which is its ability to repair damaged cells in the intestinal wall. (6)(7) Colostrum also contains a substance called lactoferrin, which is a potent natural antifungal, and antimicrobial peptides that target pathogenic microorganisms. These natural antifungal/antimicrobial substances may be useful for eliminating Candida overgrowth and other gut infections. I have personally found colostrum extremely useful for clearing up intestinal Candida, when used in conjunction with a low-mold diet and binders. (8) For more information about the extensive health benefits of colostrum, check out my blog post “Colostrum: An Ancestral Superfood for Modern Times.”
I also take a broad-spectrum probiotic by Ultimate Flora, to replenish the beneficial bacteria in my gut. This has further improved my Candida situation. This brand of probiotic can be found in the refrigerated supplements section at most Whole Foods and other health food stores.
Get Some Sunlight
Blue light has been found to have antifungal properties, and the best source of blue light is the sun! If you read my previous post, “Why I am Using Sunlight to Heal from Mold Illness,” then you know that sunbathing has been one of my primary therapies for recovering from mold illness. Sunlight also stimulates the body’s production of vitamin D, which itself has antifungal and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is required for maintaining the integrity of the gut and supporting the gut mucosal immune system. If you want to heal your gut, sun exposure should be high on your priority list. If you live in an area where sunlight is sparse, I recommend using a vitamin D lamp, such as the Sperti Vitamin D Light Box, which is recognized by the FDA for its effectiveness as treating vitamin D deficiency. If the light box is not an option, I would recommend supplementing with oral vitamin D3, along with vitamin K2, since these two nutrients work synergistically.
Overall, you may notice that my protocol doesn’t contain a slew of antifungal herbs, the binder cholestyramine, or a bunch of detox products. I have tried all those products in the past with little success and a lot of discomfort. Essentially, I have found that a simpler food- and nature-based approach to healing my gut seems to work best for me.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please seek the counsel of your doctor or another healthcare professional before trying any of the interventions mentioned here. In addition, if you choose to buy any of the products mentioned in this article, note that I do receive a small commission from Amazon for each item purchased. This helps to support the extensive research, writing, and effort I put into the Ascent to Health website and blog!
17 thoughts on “How to Heal your Gut from Toxic Mold Illness”
Best no nonsense article Ive read on mould illness – thank you. Tried CSM didn’t like it, blocked bile ducts caused billarubin to climb (as well as mycotoxic root cause)… simple binders and anti fungal diet with missing ingredient _collostrum that i didn’t know about till today…!!! Will use with pro biotic and L-Glutamine… Genius.
I have not been able to verify that saccharomyces boulardii is a binder. The article cited did not mention it as a binder. I very much would like to know because I have mold illness and already have this supplement. Could you please clarify for me? Thank you.
Hi Lindsay! I am a public school teacher. I wish I could just leave my job, but I have no family to help me. There is mold at my school, not in my classroom, but other classes have it as well as the library. I can tell that the mycotoxins are spreading around campus. I have to be able to hold on to my job. Can you offer me advice for staying on the job. I plan to do all the protocol you listed above. Can that protocol help me enough? I am a singer and unfortunately the inflammation goes right to my vocal cords. Thanks for all you listed!!! I can tell you know your stuff!
Hi Lindsay, great article and the salicylate thing was a real eye opener for me. I just wanted to add that I found coconut oil was causing me problems, only realising after a week long water fast that it was causing a variety of symptoms when I started eating again. Further investigation uncovered that it can often contain mycotoxins due to the mature nature of the coconuts and the processing method. Worth considering. Keep up the blog, it’s one of my faves.
Vinegar kills mold right? Apple Cider Vinegar a good idea?
Vinegar is rough on the gut if it needs help. The acidity will hurt.
Apple cider vinegar is very good for the gut and helps with digestion and healing properties. I would recommend Lemon juice with organic lemons as well as turmeric drinks, like golden milk as well as fiber rich foods to help with gut health and helps push things through.
I have been eating a Paleo/AIP diet for over 5 years. I was a patient at The Functional Medicine Center at the Cleveland Clinic. But, I wasn’t getting well. So now, I am a new patient of a mold expert (think Dr. Neil Nathan MD) and after getting a mycotoxin test, I found out I had high levels of citranine – a mycotoxin not widely discussed. I have tried infrared sauna, liposomal gluthatione , an AIP diet, activated charcoal, chlorella and Bentonite clay. Although I made great strides, apparently, the citranine is mobilized and eliminated with cholestyramine or Welchol only! I am excited that after 3 awful years, (I was placed in a temporary school building with water damage 3 years ago, for 1.5 years), I have finally found something that will eliminate the mold. I, of all people, am for natural remedies. In fact, I’ve gotten off of 14.5 medications by following a strict AIP diet. But, you really need to seek professional advice, get tested and do what works. Sometimes that includes a prescription. I’m currently taking 1/16 of a teaspoon daily. It’s working. I can tell because my histamine intolerance and multiple chemical sensitivities is improving.
Brenda I am so excited to hear your story! And know that the MCS is improving. I am looking forward to these sensitivities to improve too. Thank you for sharing details of your story.
Brenda, how are you doing since the post above?
coconut oil is bad! you need to edit this page and remove all recommendations for coconut oil. None of the really sick "moldies" can tolerate it because its regularly contaminated with large amounts of mold. Coconut activated charcoal is the next thing they start reacting to, if they made the mistake of eating coconut oil initially. Get this right!
Unsure where your getting your info, but I have MCAS from mold toxicity and I react to everything. Coconut is not one of them. I also know many other moldies and most can tolerate coconut oil even the most sensitive ones with MCAS. Very very few do not tolerate coconut oil. With MCAS,. You can react to basically anything.
Hi there! I was just wondering about the timing and spacing of the binders and colostrum? Did you do binders in the morning followed by the other supportive supplements like glutathione, probiotics, and colostrum later in the day? I would prefer to start colostrum right away because I’ve heard great things but I don’t want the binders to interfere with its efficacy. Also do you have any experience with diatomaceous earth? I’ve heard good things but it seems like it can take several weeks to see results. Thank you for your blog post!
Thank you so much for your helpful information. Quite sure I finally understand why my body has had so many transitory symptoms with no help from physicians. I was unknowingly exposed to bathroom mold for several years until it was discovered & remediated 2020. Cognitive changes have been the most bothersome. I look foward to reading previous posts to learn more. I had been looking for ways to detox my body with food and recommended supplements along with exercise. Thank you for sharing.
If you remove yourself from the mold with it eventually be eliminated from the body, if so how long?
Sorry I meant to say in my above question: will the mold and mildew eventually be eliminated from the body if you are no longer exposed to it? If so, how long on average does it take for mold and/or mildew to leave an average persons body? Also, what’s the biggest sign/symptom you have mold/mildew toxicity to look out for?
The biggest sign for me was inflammation, low grade fevers and being sick constantly. But know please that symptoms are different for everyone. I also experienced a lot of brain fog as well. You need to leave the mold and do the binders and diet to rid the body of the mold. She’s listed above the regiment