Thyroid Strong

Healing from toxic mold exposure gave me a major breakthrough in putting my Hashimoto’s into remission. The bad news is that moldy buildings have become very common nowadays with less airflow through buildings and increased use of drywalls, which grow mold quite readily. Mold exposure can lead to very similar symptoms as Hashimoto’s, including weight gain. It also may trigger Hashimoto’s. 

Unfortunately, toxic mold is still a poorly recognized problem both in conventional and alternative medicine. Symptoms can be ambiguous and different for everyone. There isn’t a standard reliable test to diagnose mold issues. Also, mold-toxic people tend to be very sensitive to chemicals and supplements. As a result, they tend to suffer for years before getting the right diagnosis and finding a mold-literate doctor.

The good news is that you can heal from mold and lose the extra weight. Also, there are mold-literate doctors who can help you. In this podcast episode, I interview mold expert Dr. Jill Crista, ND, about how to know if you’ve been exposed to mold and what you can do about it.

What Are the Symptoms of Toxic Mold Exposure?


Most mold-toxic people don’t know they’ve been exposed to mold. Many mold symptoms are quite similar to Hashimoto’s, such as:

  • Brain fog
  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Rapid weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight
  • Widespread muscle and joint pain
  • Hypermobility
  • Muscle loss, since mold toxins inhibit muscle protein synthesis

Mold toxins are very inflammatory, neurotoxic, and hormone-disrupting, so they can contribute to the following issues [1]:

  • Histamine problems, such as hives, anaphylactic shocks, and asthma.
  • Respiratory symptoms, such as allergies and asthma.
  • Chemical sensitivity and allergies. You may not be able to walk down the cleaning aisle in the grocery store without getting very sick.
  • New food sensitivities and allergies that get worse over time.
  • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Neurological conditions, such as tremors.
  • Hormone-related conditions, such as thyroid issues, fibroids, infertility, and cancers.
  • All kinds of atypical or mysterious conditions.

Keep in mind that symptoms of toxic mold exposure can vary from person to person, depending on the weak links in your body. About 40% of the population are genetically more susceptible to developing serious illnesses from mold exposure. Some of them have HLA-DR genes that are linked to mold illness, but Dr. Crista found that people with weak detox genes are also more susceptible [2], [3].

What Are Toxic Molds and Where to Find Them?


Toxic molds include a few groups of mold that release very toxic substances and toxin-producing spores. Not all mold is toxic. It’s a common misconception that only black mold is toxic. However, the truth is, some black molds are nontoxic, and some non-black molds can be toxic. Toxin-producing species belong to the following five groups:

  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Fusarium
  • Aspergillus
  • Stachybotrys

Once you’re exposed to mold toxins, they can absorb through your skin because they’re fat-soluble. You can also inhale the toxins and spores and then swallow them. They may also fall on your food. So, they can affect your gut and get absorbed into your bloodstream, affecting all of your bodily systems.

Non-Toxic molds may not cause any harm unless you’re not allergic to them, as they can be allergenic. However, they’re still not healthy to live with and the mold-growing conditions can eventually grow toxic mold. You should remove the mold and the conditions that allow the mold to grow.

Molds need three things to grow: spores, organic matter, and humidity or moisture. There are always some spores in the air, and they’re more likely to settle with less air circulation. Most homes and buildings nowadays are constructed with materials like drywall that grow mold readily with a little bit of moisture [4]. Therefore, homes and offices with over 50% humidity or leak spots tend to grow mold. In some cases, the water damage happened a long time ago. 

According to a 2007 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 47% of US homes have dampness and mold problems [5]. Another EPA inspection estimated that 85% of commercial buildings have mold, and 45% of them have active leaks [6]. The number could be higher in areas with higher humidity or natural disasters involving floods. However, even if you live in an arid climate, there could still be leaks or damp spots growing mold. 

You may never see or smell the mold, but you’ll feel different. A telltale sign is if your health seems to get worse or you gain weight after exposure to a new location. If you suspect that you’re exposed to toxic mold, contact a professional mold inspector and remediator. 

Mold inspection and remediation can be devastating. It’s expensive and you may be displaced from your home for months or feel like there is no safe place you can be. Therefore, you want remediation performed correctly so you don’t miss mold toxins or spores. The remediation must be thorough to address the mold-growing conditions so the mold does not regrow.  Learn more from this podcast episode where I interviewed expert mold inspector and remediator Brian Karr. 

Can Mold Make You Gain Weight?


There are a few reasons why toxic mold makes you gain weight, and it’s mainly because your body is trying to protect itself.


1) Burdening your detoxification systems


Mold toxins burden your detoxification system so your body cannot detox effectively. This explains why many mold-exposed people become sensitive to everything. Also, when your body cannot remove toxins, it stores away the toxins in a safe place, which is in your fat cells. Here, gaining fat dilutes the toxins and makes your body safer. 


2) Causing leptin resistance


Leptin is the hormone produced by your fat cells. Typically, it tells your brain that you have enough fat stored. But once you’re exposed to
toxic mold, it causes the inflammation that can lead to leptin resistance, causing your body to think it is starving [7], [8]. As a result, your body conserves energy and does everything it can to store more fat.


3) Disrupting thyroid function


Mold toxins are a thyroid disruptor. They can block the activation of thyroid hormones and reduce overall
thyroid functions, even if all your labs are normal [9]. In a Finnish study examining people exposed to toxic mold, 20% of them developed hypothyroidism, compared to 5.78% in the general population [10].

Therefore, if you have been exposed to toxic mold, you need to correctly address it and heal from the damages it causes so you can lose weight and keep it off.

Not everyone gains weight from mold exposure, however. Some remain at normal weight. In other cases, mold toxicity can cause people to lose weight by wrecking the gut or causing such severe food sensitivities that they cannot eat. In these cases, they tend to be skinny, sick, or even may die from severe malnutrition. 

How to Lose Weight After Mold Exposure: What to do if you’ve been exposed to toxic mold


To lose weight after mold exposure, you have to address the mold toxicity. Because the mold symptoms and damages can be very individual, treating mold requires an individualized approach. You need to work with a mold-literate doctor to get correctly diagnosed and treated.

The steps to lose weight after mold exposure include:

  1. Leaving the source and avoiding all mold exposures. This includes eating a mold-free diet.
  2. Having the sources inspected and remediated properly.
  3. Working with a mold-literate doctor on a mold protocol. They may recommend:
    • The appropriate binders
    • Gallbladder support
    • Detox pathways and elimination support, such as infrared saunas
  1. Healing from damages caused by the mold, which could be in the gut and nervous system. 
  2. Following the right nutrition and exercise program to beat fatigue and strengthen the body. In my Thyroid Strong program, I teach the 5F formula, which includes:
    • The right training Frequency
    • Lifting with the right Form
    • Feeding with the right nutrition
    • Focusing on what matters
    • Forgetting workout myths

Mold toxicity is a common root cause of Hashimoto’s and numerous other health issues. Because understanding mold and addressing it can make such a big difference, we bring on functional medicine experts to go live with Thyroid Strong members to dissect their fatigue and advise on ways to address mold toxicity. These experts include:

  • Dr. Ann Shippy, MD
  • Dr. Jill Crista, ND
  • Dr. Neil Nathan, MD, who is the pioneer of mold illness
  • PJ Harlow Wellness, International Holistic Mold Consultant

References:

1 Edmondson, D. A., Nordness, M. E., Zacharisen, M. C., Kurup, V. P. and Fink, J. N. (2005) Allergy and “toxic mold syndrome.” Ann. Allergy Asthma Immunol. 94, 234–239.

2 Valtonen, V. (2017) Clinical Diagnosis of the Dampness and Mold Hypersensitivity Syndrome: Review of the Literature and Suggested Diagnostic Criteria. Front. Immunol. 8, 951.

Hope, J. (2013) A review of the mechanism of injury and treatment approaches for illness resulting from exposure to water-damaged buildings, mold, and mycotoxins. ScientificWorldJournal 2013, 767482.

4 Epa, U. S. and OAR. (2014) Mold remediation in schools and commercial buildings guide: Chapter 1.

5 Weinhold, B. (2007) A spreading concern: inhalational health effects of mold. Environ. Health Perspect. 115, A300–5.

6 Prevalence of building dampness.

7 Rosenblum Lichtenstein, J. H., Hsu, Y.-H., Gavin, I. M., Donaghey, T. C., Molina, R. M., Thompson, K. J., Chi, C.-L., Gillis, B. S. and Brain, J. D. (2015) Environmental mold and mycotoxin exposures elicit specific cytokine and chemokine responses. PLoS One 10, e0126926.

8 Martin, S. S., Qasim, A. and Reilly, M. P. (2008) Leptin resistance: a possible interface of inflammation and metabolism in obesity-related cardiovascular disease. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 52, 1201–1210.

9 Somppi, T. L. (2017) Non-Thyroidal Illness Syndrome in Patients Exposed to Indoor Air Dampness Microbiota Treated Successfully with Triiodothyronine. Front. Immunol. 8, 919.

10 Tuuminen, T. and Rinne, K. S. (2017) Severe Sequelae to Mold-Related Illness as Demonstrated in Two Finnish Cohorts. Front. Immunol. 8, 382.

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