Home Mold Prevention You Are NOT Crazy! Mold Can Affect Your Brain

You Are NOT Crazy! Mold Can Affect Your Brain

by Catherine

Let me start by saying that if you are struggling with depression and feelings of hopelessness as symptoms of your mold illness, you are not alone. You are not crazy. Depression, anger, fear, feeling trapped, desperate, and helpless are all very real and very well-documented (now) symptoms of mold-related illness.

One of the first and most difficult symptoms of being exposed to mold for me was the sudden onset of anxiety and depression. My anxiety levels soared and my ability to deal with life’s ups and downs plummeted. I went from being a smooth-sailing, up-for-anything, laid-back woman, to an unstable, nervous, neurotic, worried wreck. I would literally worry myself into physical exhaustion, almost feeling haunted by my fears that something was going on in my body that I just didn’t understand and no one could figure out or help me with. It was humiliating to not be able to physically prevail in athletics anymore or depend on my body and depressing to always be or feel sick. I also felt out-of-control and like I was failing as a Mom, because my son was struggling with sensory processing issues and frequent ear infections, and caring for my daughter, a sweet baby girl at the time, left me totally depleted and completely exhausted. I was not in a good place physically or psychologically. And, as many of us do when things seem to be “all in our heads,” we blame ourselves, which makes the problem worse.

What I did not know then that I know now, and that makes all of this easier to write about today is the fact that the mold in my living environment was, indeed, affecting my brain. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of looking at the the total-body inflammatory response that living in a moldy environment can ignite, and the hormonal fallout that can result as equal contributors to the alterations in psychology, brain function and mood. Just as my physical health diminished, my cognitive abilities also diminished. This fact is extremely important to understand, because mold can influence the mind, and as it does so, can thwart the powerful and essential mental piece of believing that you will heal and get well. When you are healing from mold, you cannot afford to mentally give up. Your body may seem like it is failing you, but you can get out of the mold, even if it means leaving everything behind.

I also realize that for many people dealing with mold issues in their homes, the prospect of leaving the home, abandoning possessions and starting over is cause for fear, anxiety, and depression. None of it is easy. But, if I can empower you in your plight with evidence that shows, from a scientific perspective, a little bit more about what is going on neurologically when someone is being chronically exposed to mold, then I want to do that.

I’ll start with the science on mycotoxins, although, I think mycotoxins, inflammation and hormonal damage should get equal billing on what causes the psychological shifts in mold patients:

Not only do we have scientific evidence to prove that mycotoxins penetrate the blood/brain barrier, (Ex. The mold fungus Penicillium crustosum occurs relatively frequently in food and animal fodder stored in temperate conditions. This mold produces powerful neurotoxins, for example penitrem A, which causes symptoms that are difficult to distinguish from those of other neurological diseases. Penitrem A is capable of penetrating the blood-brain barrier and new research has unveiled the mechanisms behind the neurological effects of the toxin ~ Science Daily), but we also now have psychological-specific testing and analysis that illustrates just how severely mold mycotoxins impact the brain’s function, chemical balance, and ability to process information and stimuli. The information gleaned from this testing is so significant and so concrete that it has been allowed in a Federal court case as evidence.

A brief synopsis of the court case I am referring to concerns the commercially available software products NeuroQuant® and NeuroGage® which are able to measure and track brain volume abnormalities in patients with mold-related illness and many other brain disorders. The software provides important objective data which vindicates patients’ subjective reports of many neuropsychiatric symptoms that cause suffering and impair function. In this particular case in April 2016, David E. Ross, M.D., neuropsychiatrist, testified on the neuropsychiatric aspects of mold-related illness which had affected the Federicos, a family in Norfolk, VA, who were alleging that they were made sick by mold in military housing. Dr. Ross included the NeuroQuant® and NeuroGage™ MRI brain volume measurements in his testimony.  The results showed a combined pattern of brain enlargement/atrophy similar to that found in two pioneering studies published by Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D. and colleagues.  The jury found in favor of the plaintiffs.

It is good news for patients that these software tools may be  now recognized as evidence by our court systems. It is also good news that a Federal judge allowed this evidence, because state courts tend to follow the precedent and rulings set by Federal courts. This case is groundbreaking for mold victims, because it proves that mold exposure can cause brain injury. (The NeuroQuant® and NeuroGage® software products had previously only been used in traumatic brain injury-specific litigation for things like concussions, auto accident injuries, etc.)

I realize I am not alone in bringing this topic to light. Even in the beginning of mold illness research and treatment protocols, Dr. Shoemaker talked about research literature showing that trichothecene mold toxins can trigger cytokine responses associated with both depression and ME/CFS. In addition, Dave Asprey talked about his “mold rage” and his inability to have healthy relationships when fungus had control of his body. In Asprey’s movie Moldy (HERE is my post on Asprey and his movie), Dr. Daniel Amen discussed his findings on mold’s effect on the brain and the emotional symptoms that result.

Dr. Amen’s spec scans of a normal brain next to a brain of a person exposed to mold are shocking. The brain of the mold-exposed individual has many holes near the edges and scalloping of the edges.  “These holes represent lack of blood flow to those areas of the brain.  A similar picture can be seen in those with brain damage from carbon monoxide, alcohol, illegal drugs, Lyme Disease, and heavy metals.”

According to Dr. Amen, “the lack of blood flow can explain a variety of symptoms that many with mold toxicity experience such as depression, anxiety, panic, brain fog, insomnia, fatigue, poor concentration and memory, and bipolar disorder.

Dr. Dennis also found and wrote about in his research and paper that I featured on the blog (read that post HERE) that his patients who were not responding to maximum body therapy and removal of mold from their indoor environments still had mold inside their bodies. This mold, when cultured post surgery was emitting a neurotoxin. Not until the mold was removed surgically, and the patients continued with maximum therapy and mold avoidance, could they fully recover. In other words, the neurotoxin was still “running things” as long as it was still in the body.

But, this is not even really scratching the surface of the multitude of studies, polls and surveys that abound on this subject. More and more doctors, scientists, toxicologists, mental health professionals and naturopathic doctors are grasping the importance of treating and supporting the emotional healing of their mold patients as a crucial part of their recovery. One of my favorite reads on this subject and well worth your time is by psychiatrist Dr. Mary Ackerley. Her article is entitled Brain on Fire: The Role of Toxic Mold in Triggering Psychiatric Symptoms. In it, she discusses her path to treating mold patients in the first place and to helping them heal. I love her frank and open way of stating that many mold patients ended up in her office, because they had been to many other medical doctors about their symptoms and were told that it was all in their heads. Thus, they eventually conceded and ended up in the office of a psychiatrist for help. Here is one excerpt on feelings of hopelessness that really resonated with me, because it helps to put what you are experiencing psychologically as a result of the mold in the same treatment “bucket” as any of the things you are doing to heal your body:

“Everyone can find reasons why their life is worth living. Knowing that something in the brain is causing that problem sometimes really helps people to shrug it off and say, ‘Here come those silly thoughts again. Let me try to figure out what’s going on. Maybe I’m being exposed to mold. Maybe I’m not doing my mold treatments the way that I should be.’”

Dr. Ackerely expounds upon the undeniable link between inflammation in the body and personality shifts, brain fog, depression, psychosis, and psychological disorders. When studied, the brains of patients experiencing some of the most extreme cases of psychiatric symptoms were totally inflamed, because of disease, secondary infections or toxic exposures. She also expresses her concern that more doctors aren’t looking to treat the source or cause of the inflammation that is creating the problem. Mainstream medicine still seems to linger behind, teaching doctors to treat and medicate the symptom instead. This doesn’t work for these patients, because when inflamed, the body and brain balance are so disrupted that it makes the patients treatment resistant and furthers their feelings of hopelessness, rather than alleviates any of the problem.

In her article and another important topic in and of itself is hormone imbalance and mold’s influence on cortisol levels in the body. The mold pathway actually inhibits cortisol. Since we all know how hormones work in unison with brain function, it comes as no surprise that those with mold illness have impaired pituitary function as well. Hormones influence behavior and mood—just observe a teenager, if you need confirmation. Mold messes with hormones and hormone receptors. It blocks things up, mutes things, and makes hormonal levels go haywire. That is why it is important as part of your treatment to have pituitary, thyroid and hormonal support to help re-regulate and stabilize things.

While I could go on forever on the topic, and would love to cover it again, if it interests you (please let me know), the most important things I want to offer in this post are my understanding and compassion for what you are going through, the scientifically proven validation I have mentioned that your psychological symptoms are real and can be treated, and some advice from my own experience about some products and therapies that helped me.

So, what do I have to offer as help? I am not a doctor, naturopathic doctor or medical practitioner of any kind, so please take my advice as that of a friend and nothing more. I just want to share the things that have had a positive impact in my life and that were advised as part of my treatment by my trusted doctor. So, first, before I mention anything else, please do what you need to do to find your team of environmental illness practitioners—these are the professionals that use the techniques and products that I mention below—that listen to you, have experience successfully treating mold, and will stand by you through your recovery. This is a marathon, and you will need to put one foot in front of the other for quite some time to get your health back, but you can get it back.

Now for my recommendations:

  1. (Nothing else will work unless you do this): Get out of the mold. You cannot recover or treat your body if you are still living in the mold. Do whatever you need to do, and remediation can sometimes eventually happen and be successful, but you cannot stay living in the mold and get well. You can also use some of the techniques and EC3 products to help temporarily make mold-safe places for you. See the MicroBalance Health Products site for product info. I also feature their products and how I use them all over this blog.
  2. Get the mold out of your body. You will have to work with a  naturopathic doctor or a medical doctor trained in environmental illness to do this safely and effectively. Sometimes this comes in the form of binders, like charcoal or Colestimine, or from a surgical procedure, like sinus surgery to remove the mold, or maybe it could be something as simple as an antifungal nose spray or supplement, but if significant concentrations or spores are in your body, they need to come out for you to properly heal.
  3. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment can be a game changer in this department. It will increase oxygen flow and delivery to all tissues and organs in the body. This is incredibly helpful when the brain is being affected by mold. It can help with mental processing and clarity.
  4. Magnesium supplements were also helpful to me. I use an effervescent powder called Calm. Many mold patients are magnesium deficient. This addition to my regimen helped my anxiety and sleep. I highly recommend it. It can also help the body from becoming constipated as a result of any binders you may be taking for detoxification purposes.
  5. Drinking lots of spring and/or purified water to prevent dehydration is helpful. Dehydration inhibits brain function. If you are dehydrated, you can become confused and disoriented. Sometimes drinking enough water is the last thing on the mind of someone suffering from mold illness. It is one simple, very doable act, though, that will make a tremendous impact in your overall health. Also, because the pituitary gland is impacted with mold exposure, your body may have a difficult time producing antiduretic hormone which prevents dehydration.
  6. Regular use of the CellTropin sublingual spray has also been helpful for me. It gives my body the endocrine and pituitary support I need. Without proper pituitary support you cannot recover proper thyroid and adrenal function. In addition the spray is designed to help normalize the hormone deficiencies seen in some mold patients. Argenine supports improved circulation and astragalus root promotes stabilization of the DNA telomeres, which act to decrease DNA damage with aging. Mold is a toxin, so it can shorten telomeres, thereby aging the body more quickly. DNA support is often overlooked, but can have tremendous benefits to the body’s ability to recover and to heal. That is why I continue using the CellTropin daily. I use the spray 2-3 times per day. One of the biggest indicators that it was helping was how regular use positively impacted my sleep patterns. I have said this before, but I will say it again, that when I was in the worst part of my sickness, I was only sleeping 2 hours at a time, waking up 4-5 times a night and never feeling rested in the morning, regardless of how many sleep hours I accumulated. The CellTropin helped me to get back to regular sleep patterns. I realize that may seem like a small thing, but when you are sleep deprived, any psychological issues you are having are magnified.
  7. Last, but not least, and some would argue most important is getting on top of my diet (a mostly Paleo diet works best for me, but everyone is different) and eliminating sugar to help reestablish a healthy gut microbiome. Sugar feeds any yeast in the body. As I understand it, Candida sugar receptors in the brain can react to sugar and fermented alcohols quickly causing memory and other cognitive disjunction. If you work with a skilled naturopathic doctor on this piece of your recovery, they can help you with supplements and strategies to limit cravings and sugar withdrawals to make this process easier. Once the yeast is starved from your gut and a healthy gut microbiome is recovered, your moods are quicker to lift, because the yeast is no longer running the show. You will also not experience as many blood sugar peaks and valleys. I had to add a high-potency probiotic to my regimen to fully recover, but some people are able to do this with diet alone. If you do need a probiotic, I highly recommend Visbiome.

Me and my family, happy and finally healthy during the holidays.

Good luck and keep fighting to all of you going through similar situations. Please comment on the blog or write to me with anything you have to share. I would love to start featuring some of YOUR stories and experiences on the blog. We can all learn so much from each other!

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Laura Jaye Greer May 25, 2022 - 7:08 pm

What do you mean by, “Preparing the organs of filtration” before detoxifying, from mold?

Catherine May 26, 2022 - 2:06 am

It means to make sure your liver and kidneys are healthy and can handle the dumping of toxins for excretion before you embark on any aggressive detox protocols.

Carolyn June 7, 2021 - 2:18 am

Thank you for all your posts! It’s so nice to hear from someone who has made it through all this. I’ve been working with my Naturopath on this since Sept. Sometimes I’m not sure about all the supplements but I’m better then I was then. We have moved to a new home and I continue to detox. I really like the details you have put with each product you take. I’m hoping to try oxygen deprivation next . I have been a personal trainer for 20 years felt amazing .I’m hoping someday I will be back to that person.
Thank you again for all your posts they help greatly❤

Catherine June 10, 2021 - 3:48 pm

Thank you for writing. I also hope you continue to improve and get back to your former, healthy self. 🙂

Sebastian Xavier May 26, 2021 - 7:39 am

For four years I went on vacation. I went to a place where the majority of the time I stared at the wall in a bedroom. Sinus infections were chronic. I became more aggressive. I was a ghost of who I had been. My conduct was outside moral norms for myself. I was gone. In my absence was left devistation to relationships.

Catherine June 2, 2021 - 10:49 pm

I am so sorry. I hope you are in a safe place now. I hope you are recovering and are feeling more like yourself again.

Karen Michele Laass May 16, 2021 - 1:51 pm

I feel blessed to have found your website Cindy. I moved out of a home in 2018 after realizing it was riddled with mold. I lived there over 7 years. May of 2020 found me moving out of an apartment I’d only been in for less than 2 months when work between the walls of the building I lived in had shook loose dust, mold and who knows what else had been knocked loose settling down to the basement floor where my studio was located……I will post more about my journey in finding help at last. Now I have hope and you are to thank for this. Have a blessed day and may God bless you for helping others like myself by sharing through your own experience providing for me some light in the dark and lonely journey.

Karen M. Laass

Catherine May 22, 2021 - 4:29 am

Thank you so much for writing. 🙂 I am so happy you have found help and have healed. Mold can be so devastating and isolating. We would all love to hear more about your journey.

Chemical Free Gal March 28, 2021 - 2:14 am

Such a great post! Thanks for sharing. 💛

Catherine April 9, 2021 - 4:19 pm

Thank YOU for commenting. I appreciate it. 🙂

Sharon January 29, 2021 - 9:46 pm

Hello, thank you for such an in depth read, I’ve learnt alot from it. I’ve been living in an old farm house nearly 2 years now. There’s alot of water damage on the ceilings and the other day we pulled up one of the carpets in the room, covered in mold. Can’t believe we were sleeping with th whole carpet destroyed in mold. I was wondering about the musty smell, thought carpet was just old. My landlord doesn’t care too much about it and doesn’t realizse the dangers of black moldd.
When my partner and I removed the carpet the other day I have a a metallic taste in my mouth I can’t get rid of it. I’m off balance and fel like I’m delusional or something it’s a very scary feeling.
Feels like my brain is shrinking or something. I don’t know how to describe it. Can’t afford to see a specialist right now, don’t know what to do I feel helpless, I’ve lost my personality, libido everything. Don’t think I have uch fight left on me anymore.

Catherine February 10, 2021 - 10:04 pm

Hi, Sharon,

It sounds like you liberated a LOT of mold by pulling up the carpets. They should probably have been removed with containment and personal protective gear since they are so mold-damaged. You probably took a huge immune system hit from that exposure. I would advise doing what you can to clean the air inside your home. I would also do some testing of the home. If the testing comes back that the space is dangerous, your landlord may have to financially assist you in moving and in replacing any of your things that are damaged from the mold. Doing some simple things like nasal irrigation with an antifungal added, like silver or CitriDrops Dietary Supplement, and taking some binders like charcoal or clay could also help. I would try to connect with a doctor trained in environmental illness. Many are GPs and do take insurance. You really should not wait, if possible. The sooner you address it, the sooner your symptoms will improve.

Roni Rudell January 17, 2021 - 10:42 pm

I got out of mold finally but for years my brain is not just on. I feel like part of my brain shut off, no creativity, emotions, just blah! Any thoughts on what to do?

Catherine January 19, 2021 - 4:52 pm

EMDR, craniosacral therapy, and neurofeedback were all great tools for me. Melatonin supplementation for brain detox and DHA can also be helpful. The brain and gut are intimately connected at well. How is your gut health? Leaky gut = leaky brain. I saw marked improvements in all neurological symptoms when I finally got all of my GI issues on track. I think looking into those things may help to uncover the missing piece to this puzzle.

Hilary Murray December 31, 2020 - 11:20 pm

I live in Maine. The house I live in was built in the 1900’s. There is a lot of mold. We clean all the mold we could find in the hours but I think it is in the structure. We can’t find anywhere to move because of covid a lot of people from different states have moved here. I have depression anxiety, heart erithmias, chest pains, dizziness numbness. I have been looking for a rental since August.

Catherine January 1, 2021 - 6:07 am

Hi, Hilary,
I do hope you can find a safe, mold-free place to live soon. I am sorry you have had such trouble with your current home. Many times, if you have a crawlspace or dirt basement with exposed soil (common with older homes) that will be your main source. Older homes can be very costly to fully remediate because there can be many structural things leading to the mold issue. It does sound like your symptoms could be related to your environment as well. Maybe you can employ some temporary Band Aid measures to help your symptoms, like air scrubbers or fogging? Not great or permanent, but things that could give your body a break until you can move? There are also things like glutathione, Sinus Defense, and phosphatidylcholine that can also help your body to hold on. Maybe there is a skilled practitioner in your area who could help too. You take care.

LIsa ALDEN February 1, 2018 - 6:20 pm

We recently fled out toxic rental house (the pencillum aspergillum was remediated by pulling up the carpet which revealed stachybotrys growing on the wood underneath). I found an osteopath who was sympathetic and practices kelation therapy and other IV treatments. However, when I told her that I had four amalgam fillings she told me that I had to get those removed before I could even attempt to removed the mold in my body and get better. She says the mold sticks to the amalgam.

I cannot move forward because removing the fillings would cost about 8k, so I feel stuck.

Have you ever heard of this?

Thanks, Lisa

Catherine February 1, 2018 - 11:06 pm

Hi! I am so sorry you are going through all of this. Yes, I have heard of this, but have you had proper testing to see if the fillings are elevating your heavy metals levels? The test that my naturopathic doctor recommends for this is the Mercury Tri-Test from Quicksilver Scientific. The test is the only one that I know of that breaks down the levels of mercury present for each “species:” inorganic mercury from dental fillings, methyl mercury from fish consumption, etc. The Tri-Test, which tests blood, urine, and hair samples to arrive at it’s results, gives a detailed assessment of what the source of the mercury is, and how elevated one’s levels are. A doctor will have to order this test and assess the results. If the fillings are not giving you health problems, I do not see why a practitioner cannot help you to begin to address the mold issue in your body. The first goal is to stop further exposure to the offending toxin, whether it’s mercury, mold or mycotoxins, or other pollutants/metal toxins–which you have done by fleeing the home. This is a BIG step in your recovery. BRAVO! No matter what, it’s important to prepare the organs of filtration (namely the kidneys, liver, and digestive tract) before jumping into a detoxification protocol of any kind. If you test low for mercury, then ask your doctor about beginning your mold detox in a comprehensive, step-by-step manner, with supplements, etc., seeing how you do at every turn. If your body is then not responding, you can then seek the help of a trained biological dentist who can safely remove your amalgams. Of course, I am not a trained medical professional, so all of this is just advice. I hope this helps you!

Mark @ Simon Air Quality February 1, 2018 - 4:48 pm

This is very useful and efficient article about the mold spores can continue to live on these products and if you use them to clean another area of the house, mold is likely to spread there too…


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