An In-Depth Guide to Mold Exposure Symptoms – Part 2

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM


Read Part 1 | Part 3

Mold Exposure Symptoms and Adrenal Fatigue

mold exposure symptoms and adrenal fatigueMold exposure symptoms are very similar to another condition, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Some of the more serious symptoms common to both mold exposure and AFS include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Poor memory
  • Concentration problems
  • Appetite increases and decreases
  • Mood swings
  • Bloating
  • Disorientation
  • Vertigo

One significant effect of exposure to the mycotoxins in mold is the suppression of all aspects of the immune system. This is also a factor in AFS.

An inflammatory response is also a common symptom in AFS and mold exposure. With suppressed adrenal function as seen in AFS, inflammation increases in your body. When you’re exposed to mold, inflammation is one of the many mold exposure symptoms.

When the body experiences any kind of stress, it automatically begins fighting its effects. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis begins the process. This results in the adrenal glands releasing cortisol to fight the effects of stress. The body tries to fight against stress as long as stress is present. In our world of continuing stress, this means a prolonged struggle.

The adrenal glands will continue secreting cortisol as long as they can. However, at some point adrenal fatigue sets in and less and less cortisol is secreted. At this time the major symptoms of AFS become visible.

When you’re exposed to mold, a major symptom is an inflammatory response triggered by the mold. The body then needs to produce more cortisol to fight the inflammation. If the adrenals are already fatigued due to AFS, they are less able to secrete the necessary cortisol to fight inflammation.

If AFS occurs with mold exposure, the problems are doubled. AFS reduces the cortisol your body can produce, and inflammation increases due to mold exposure, which can lead to continuing stress that aggravates AFS symptoms.

With both, you are more likely to develop infections. The immune system is depressed by both the mold exposure and AFS. Opportunistic infections can set in, and the risk of pneumonitis from mold exposure increases.

With AFS, the hormone system can be affected negatively by mold exposure as well. Estrogen dominance can become an issue, leading to significant increases in PMS, uterine fibroids, and even breast tumors in women. Cancer is one of the major mold exposure symptoms, caused by high levels of mold exposure, and chances of developing certain kinds of cancer increases with both conditions.

Illnesses Associated With Mold Exposure

Many common illnesses can be traced back to mold exposure symptoms, even if that exposure has been years previous to the first sign of the illness. But many physicians aren’t aware of the possible effects of mold exposure. Symptoms mold exposure may be among the most missed illnesses today.

There are a number of reasons for mold-related illnesses to be dismissed. One is the ambiguity of long lasting symptoms.

Part of the challenge with identifying mold exposure is when the symptoms come and go. When you’re in an environment where mold grows, you experience symptoms. When you’re away, they sometimes go away. This coming and going of symptoms presents an unclear symptom picture to your physician. Unless he/she has some experience in environmental medicine or has learned about mold exposure symptoms, knowing what to do to deal with your symptoms will be extremely difficult.

Serious illnesses and mold exposure symptomsAt times, your physician may consider other possible conditions your symptoms point to, including fibromyalgia, life-threatening breathing conditions, chronic lung or sinus infections, fatigue syndrome, myelin destroying diseases, serious neurological diseases, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and even tumors. Some of these illnesses have been associated with mold exposure. These possible diseases can lead to numerous tests and work-ups to try to narrow down what is going on.

However, it is important to focus on the root of the problem, and not on symptoms alone. If the real issue isn’t identified, serious problems with nearly all systems of your body can result.

Damage to body systems can include:

  • Vascular system – bleeding from your lungs, fragile blood vessels
  • Digestive system – bleeding, diarrhea, vomiting, liver damage
  • Neurological system – depression, headaches, loss of coordination
  • Respiratory system – difficulty breathing, bleeding in your lungs
  • Skin system – rashes, sloughing off of skin, sensitivity to light
  • Urinary system – kidney toxicity
  • Reproductive system – infertility, changes in menses
  • Immune system – suppression of immune responses

Aspergillosis, brought on by one of the more common molds in homes, can lead to whole body infections. Invasive aspergillosis is one of the most serious illnesses that comes from aspergillus. This occurs when the mold gets into the bloodstream and travels throughout the body.

People with aspergillosis can grow what is called a “fungal ball” in their lungs. This is a ball of fungal fibers called aspergilloma. Sufferers may cough up blood, have difficulty breathing, develop fatigue, and lose weight. If this type of infection becomes really severe, it can spread to the brain, heart, kidneys, or skin.

Many other illnesses prevalent today have been linked to mold exposure. These illnesses include heart problems, GERD, GI problems, learning disabilities, myelin destroying conditions, and cancer. Thyroid problems also may have some link to mold exposure.

Another issue is any time your immune system is negatively affected, as with mold exposure, you are open to numerous illnesses that otherwise would have been stopped by the immune system.

Suppressed Immune System and Chronic Fatigue

One of the general symptoms of mold exposure is suppression of the immune system. When chronic fatigue is a factor, such as that brought on by AFS, the immune system is also placed under a tremendous burden. It’s like a fighter having to fend off opponents coming at him from every direction at the same time.

There are simply too many opportunistic infections from too many sources for the immune system to defend against them all. There is too little energy remaining for the suppressed immune system to fight off these opportunistic infections.

The weaker the immune system becomes, due to more and more aggravating factors, the more ineffective it becomes. This leads to the adrenals becoming more fatigued and depleted, and more difficulty in the metabolism of sugars, proteins, fats, and mineral salts.

Mycotoxins, in addition to adrenal fatigue and suppressed immune functioning, may cause:

  • neurological inflammation in the form of headaches, brain fog, irritability, and insomnia.
  • digestive inflammation that can bring on irritable bowel, nausea, lack of appetite, and sugar cravings.
  • opportunistic co-infections from bacteria or viruses because of a weakened immune system.
  • a dramatic increase in intestinal yeast and candida populations, resulting in leaky gut, irritable bowel, decreased absorption of nutrients, and increased food sensitivity.
  • lessened adrenal functioning leading to lower cortisol levels, further weakening of the immune system, more difficulty metabolizing sugar, and insulin resistance.
  • difficulty with already compromised liver detoxification ability, leading to problems with mineral and nutrient absorption.

Mold Exposure and the NeuroEndoMetabolic Model

Symptoms of stress triggered by mold exposure symptomsWhen considering exposure to mold and ensuing attempts at correcting the effects of the mycotoxins, a comprehensive approach must be utilized. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response model is the most comprehensive available.

The traditional model of how the body handles stress is incomplete. Even though this model has an understanding of how the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands are functionally connected, the way the body handles toxins isn’t fully grasped.

In general, the traditional model deals with the body one organ at a time. For example, if someone has symptoms of sinus infection due to inhalation of mold mycotoxins, physicians trained in this model will address only the sinuses. The typical remedies will be ineffective and possibly hazardous.

Focusing too much on individual organs causes practitioners to overlook the interaction of each organ system on the others. It is these vital interactions among systems that keep the body functioning at its best. If one system is out of balance or dysfunctional, its interactions with other systems will be dysfunctional, sending the entire body into a tailspin of dysfunctions.

When the body’s immune system is suppressed by mycotoxins, metabolism must be considered. This involves how your cells provide the energy your body needs to function, how the cells deal with inflammation, and how they work to remove toxins and mold exposure symptoms.

When your metabolism isn’t working right due to AFS, detoxification is impaired. Toxins increase in the body and more stress is placed on it. This leads to a greater demand on the adrenals and the rest of the endocrine system.

Under continuing stress, the immune, metabolism, and endocrine systems begin breaking down and not functioning properly. Exposure to molds and the mycotoxins they produce is a part of this continuing stress.

Read Part 1 | Part 3

© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


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