More often than not, patients with a health concern of indeterminate origin will show up with a range of symptoms rather than a single one.

Here in Southwest Florida, with our pervasive heat and humidity and elevated risk of hurricanes, physicians would be wise to consider mold toxicity as part of the differential diagnosis. It’s easy to miss, but important to think about.

Functional medicine takes a holistic approach in the detection and treatment of mold exposure. At Naples Center for Functional Medicine, our doctors compile detailed patient histories and factor in environmental impacts, such as mold exposure at home or work. We can also tap detect mold toxins through specialized blood and urine tests.

Risk factors and exposure

Risk factors for mold exposure commonly include:

  • Geographic areas with high humidity, including areas close to water collections and prone to frequent rain
  • Water damage
  • Increased humidity
  • Poor ventilation
  • Building material, such as drywall and insulation that can harbor mold overgrowth in water-damaged buildings
  • Occupational exposure (e.g., construction workers)

The most common ways that humans are exposed to mold toxins are through:

  • Inhalation of spores (primary exposure mode)
  • Ingestion of contaminated food, dirt and dust
  • Skin contamination from clothing or surfaces

How to know if you have been exposed:

Symptoms in the upper and lower respiratory tract include:

  • Nasal congestion and chronic sinusitis
  • Coughing/wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Irritation of the throat

Symptoms in the central nervous system include:

  • Headaches
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Declining cognitive function
  • Symptoms can also present as general ill feelings, such as fatigue, weakness, joint aches, pain and rashes.

Patients previously exposed to mold have a significant increase in recurrent flu-like illness and symptoms of allergies. Exposure to multiple toxigenic mold- and water-damaged buildings has also led to an increased incidence of multiple organ symptoms in affected individuals.

As opposed to traditional medicine, which typically does not treat mold exposure through a cleanse or detox, functional medicine suggests recovery from mold exposure through the use of binders, detoxing, azoles and supplements, as well as the avoidance of mold-toxic environments.

Ian’s Impact

One year after Hurricane Ian’s devastation, the rise in mold exposure among those whose homes were damaged or destroyed has contributed to an overall increased awareness of the risk of mold exposure.

This has been the case at the Naples Center for Functional Medicine, where positive cases are on the increase, and those who are presenting symptoms are checked and tested for mold.

We also educate our patients to be aware of their surroundings and be mindful of mold exposure, especially in water-damaged buildings that are in flood zones. It is important for those in areas affected by floods or water damage to be aware of potential health issues pertaining to mold exposure and to seek medical attention from a functional medicine doctor if they have symptoms.

Cleanse and detox

In some circumstances, a functional medicine recovery plan from mold exposure can include a cleanse or detox, use of binders, azoles and other supplements.

Some mold experts support glutathione and binders for mold recovery; however, others disagree about that approach. Glutathione in general is helpful but should not be used in certain mycotoxins, as it would make the symptoms worse.

Binders rely on absorption of mycotoxins from the gut preventing it from getting absorbed. They are effective in neutralizing certain mycotoxins, like aflatoxins.

Azoles, which is a group of antifungals, provide some of the best results in treating mold.

No one approach is right for every patient. Treatment is tailored to the patients’ individual symptoms; and could include the use of supplements such as magnesium, melatonin, Vitamin D, Vitamin B Complex, Omega-3, curcumin, CoQ10, probiotics and Vitamin C, to support the body’s function and boost the immune system.

A Healthier Home

To minimize the likelihood of exposure to mold, Southwest Florida homeowners can do the following:

  • Maintain proper ventilation
  • Use air conditioners to control humidity and use dehumidifiers or exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Control humidity at homes and workplaces and address leakage and water damage promptly by repairing
  • Regularly inspect for wet or damp areas, clean air ducts and gutters regularly and ensure windows and doors and correctly sealed to prevent water leakage.
  • Address water/flood damage immediately

Southwest Florida’s hot and humid climate in itself is a risk for mold exposure. We can’t always change our environment, but we can take care of our bodies by recognizing symptoms and seeking treatment options when needed.

About the author:

Dr. Lina Sakr is a board-certified internal medicine physician at Naples Center for Functional Medicine with nearly 40 years of experience. She specializes in metabolic and nutritional medicine, anti-aging medicine and women’s health.


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