In my recovery from toxic mold illness, no dietary changes have been more crucial to me than avoiding mold-containing foods. Once I learned that numerous foods could harbor mold, and thus worsen my symptoms, I became extremely vigilant about keeping these foods out of my diet. Below is a comprehensive list of foods that contain mold. You may want to avoid these foods if you are struggling with a chronic illness, as mold illness not only makes your body more sensitive to mold and mycotoxins in your environment, but it can also increase your sensitivity to the substances that you bring into your body as food.
- All types of cheese
- Vinegar and foods preserved in vinegar: Salad dressings, mustard, olives, white vinegar
- Sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt
- Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine
- Sourdough bread
- Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables
- Preserved meats: Jerky (even organic and grass-fed jerky), smoked meats, smoked fish, sausages, corned beef, ham, bacon
- All dried fruits: Raisins, apricots, cranberries, figs, prunes
- Canned juice
- Canned tomatoes
- High-sugar foods and processed foods should be avoided, as sugar will feed the fungal infection.
- Pineapple, melons, and citrus have a higher propensity for developing mold. Honeydew melon and cantaloupe are two prime examples; you can often see mold growing directly on the rind of these melons (unless a toxic fungicide has been applied, but it would be best to avoid that too!)
- You may want to avoid eating canned foods, even if those foods are not on the “mold-containing foods” list. If any mold spores enter a vat of food before it is divided up and canned, the spores can replicate in the can to a degree significant enough to cause illness.
- Coffee can contain mold spores; consider purchasing a mold-free brand of coffee, such as Bulletproof coffee. I love Bulletproof coffee, it goes through a special process to determine that it is free of mold and mycotoxins. You can purchase it via the link below.
- Wash and peel fruits and vegetables that have grown from the ground before eating. Mold is present in the soil, and can contaminate the skins of fruits and vegetables.
Foods That Can Be Eaten:
- Organic, pastured animal meats and poultry, wild-caught fish (fresh, not canned)
- Non-Starchy Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, chard, onion, leek, garlic, asparagus
- Moderate amounts of starchy vegetables: Potato, sweet potato, turnip, parsnip, squash
- Low-sugar fruits: Apples, berries
- Raw nuts and seeds (except for peanuts, which are high in aflatoxin, a mycotoxin produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus)
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, pastured organic tallow, lard, duck fat, ghee, butter, coconut oil
- Small amounts of gluten-free grains, if tolerated: Brown rice, wild rice, oats. Note that grains, even organic and gluten-free, are still likely to harbor some level of mold of mycotoxins simply due to the the methods by which they are stored and processed. It may require some self-experimentation to determine whether you can tolerate any grains in your low-mold diet.
Include Anti-fungal Foods in Your Diet!
Eliminating the foods listed above is important, but it is also crucial to incorporate anti-fungal foods into your diet. Examples of these would include garlic, onions, propolis, raw honey (the exception to the “no sugar” rule), coconut oil, and other coconut products.
Avoidance of Salicylates While Healing from Mold Illness:
Salicylates are chemicals that occur naturally in many plants, including numerous edible plants. Salicylates act as natural pesticides by protecting the plants against predation by other animals, and also defend the plants against disease. Salicylates are present in a number of the foods we eat and do not cause problems for the average person. However, it is possible for people to develop an intolerance to foods high in salicylates, especially if one has compromised gut health and a decreased ability to metabolize these substances, as may occur in the case of chronic infection and “leaky gut.” I personally have dealt with a pretty severe salicylate intolerance. About a year into my journey with healing from toxic mold illness, I learned that fungi actually produce substances similar in structure to salicylates; this led me to discover that the fungal infection I was dealing with as a result of mold exposure was causing me to reach “salicylate overload” in my body, due to the salicylate-like compounds being produced by the fungi. This led to me developing a decreased ability to metabolize the salicylates (likely due to deficiencies of certain enzymes and cofactors needed to metabolize the compounds) and made it so that any additional salicylate intake from foods caused my body to go haywire and develop symptoms.
Over time, I found that by following a low-to-moderate salicylate diet, my salicylate intolerance symptoms improved dramatically. Thus, I have ultimately incorporated principles of the low-salicylate diet with the low-mold diet. This is the diet I have been following while recovering from toxic mold illness. Below is some information regarding symptoms of salicylate sensitivity, as well as a chart depicting levels of salicylates in various foods. Salicylate sensitivity symptoms usually occur upon ingestion of salicylate-rich foods. However, other products such as fragrances can also contain salicylates, and inhalation of those substances can trigger symptoms as well. Foods that are low-mold may still be moderate or high in salicylates, and potentially cause problems for those who are sensitive.
Symptoms of salicylate intolerance from the Food Intolerance Network (1)
- Headaches and migraines
- Itchy, inflamed skin rashes such as eczema
- Irritable bowel symptoms – acid reflux, nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas diarrhea, constipation
- Bedwetting, cystitis
- Asthma, stuffy or runny nose, nasal polyps, frequent throat clearing
- Behaviour problems such as irritability, restlessness, symptoms of ADHD
- Sleep disturbance - difficulty falling asleep, night terrors, frequent night waking, sleep apnoea
- Anxiety, depression, panic attacks
- Rapid heart beat and arrythmias
- Tinnitus, hyperacusis, hearing loss
- Joint pain, arthritis
Salicylates in Vegetables:
Salicylates in Fruits:
Salicylates in Nuts, Seeds, and Grains:
Salicylates in Fats:
Salicylates in Seasonings, Condiments, and Sugar:
As with mold-containing foods, preserved and canned foods are more likely to cause problems, as salicylates are increased in these types of foods. I recommend consuming primarily fresh foods, as these are likely to be the lowest in salicylates. Leftovers may be a problem for some people in regards to salicylates; I have found that I can tolerate food that is at the most 2 days old.
As a general rule, grains, meats, poultry, fish, and dairy products contain either no or negligible amounts of salicylates, unless they are preserved and contains spices, sauces, or preservative chemicals.
Note that levels of salicylates can also vary in produce depending on the season, whether or not the food was peeled, whether the food is cooked or raw, and how ripe the food was upon harvest. Since there are so many factors, I would suggest keeping a food journal to keep track of your reactions to various foods, and see if you can find a pattern between intake of certain foods, symptoms, and potential salicylate intolerance. This is how I determined that I had a salicylate intolerance, and it is how I finally developed a diet for myself.
Avoiding high-mold foods and high-salicylate foods can be a challenge, as it cuts out such a wide variety of foods. However, with salicylates, there are some strategies you can take to increase your ability to tolerate these substances in food. Metabolism of salicylates requires glycine, so you may want to try taking supplemental glycine. I recommend this brand:
Treating fungal infections and healing the gut are also key for reducing salicylate intolerance. Since fungi produce compounds similar in structure to salicylates, an untreated fungal infection can create a flood of salicylate-like compounds, overwhelming the body and leaving it unable to tolerate any additional salicylates in the form of foods. I have found that treating fungal infections and healing leaking gut has allowed me to slowly increase my intake of salicylates. To treat my fungal infection and heal my gut, I have used the following products:
Just Thrive: This is a probiotic with potent antifungal properties. I think this is an excellent antifungal product for those who cannot tolerate herbal antifungals due to the extent of their salicylate intolerance.
Prescript-Assist: A soil-based microorganism probiotic that can help restore a normal balance to the microbiome, eradicating pathogenic fungi.
Saccharomyces boulardii: An beneficial yeast that crowds out pathogenic microorganisms (including candida). Research also indicates that saccharomyces boulardii has the ability to bind mycotoxins, and thus faciliate their excretion from the body.
For more information about salicylates, you can read my previous post on phenol intolerance (another name for salicylate intolerance), "Phenol Intolerance: A Symptom of Mold-Induced Illness."
Final Note: If you decide to purchase any of the items mentioned in this post, I will receive a very small commission from Amazon. This helps to support my website and blog.