Mold is commonly found in many foods today, and can be a result of how a food is processed, grown, stored or fermented. Approximately 25% of the population is genetically sensitive to the mycotoxins produced by mold, whether it be in the environment around us, or in the food we consume.
It is a little-known problem that could be the hidden cause of many health issues in this day and age. I am one of those extra sensitive people and here is how I self-diagnosed my mold allergy when doctors couldn’t help me.
First, let me go back to before I figured this all out. I suffered with a whole host of symptoms, along with some behaviors I believed were “normal” for many years that would randomly crop up with seemingly no cause.
I had terrible headaches as far back as I can remember that progressively got worse and worse as the years went by. I always struggled with motivation, lethargy, digestive issues, joint pain, acne, bloating, anxiety and mood swings. I was fun to be around, and then all of a sudden I would become sad and tired for seemingly no reason.
This went on for years and eventually it became too much to handle. Back in 2014-2015, my headaches began to get progressively worse. I was more fatigued than ever before, and my anxiety had increased to a level where I could not take it anymore.
No doctor seemed to be able to pinpoint the cause of my issues, and just brushed my symptoms off as “stress-related”. Despite this, I knew something was not normal and had to change.
After reading the book Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter in the fall of 2016, I thought perhaps there could be a connection between my symptoms and a gluten intolerance. In the book, Dr. Perlmutter discusses how inflammation in the body can cause headaches, joint pains and much more.
I figured I had nothing to lose (except of course satisfying my taste buds with fresh French bread), so I decided to give gluten-free living a try.
Now, before I get too far into my story, I should mention that I had halfheartedly tried going gluten-free several years prior for a few weeks, AND had tested negative for Celiac Disease previously, but this time I gave gluten-free a more fervent effort. At this point, I had been getting really intense headaches several times a week, and I was becoming desperate to find the root cause.
I went gluten-free pretty much right after reading the book, and to my amazement, my headaches got better pretty quickly! I would say that I felt about 75% better at that point, after eliminating gluten.
It happened quite fast too, within a few weeks my headaches had decreased, and I had more energy than before. For some people, this might be the end of their story, but for me it was just the beginning…
Within a few months, I noticed I was still getting headaches (albeit a reduced amount), was still quite fatigued, and some of my other symptoms started cropping up again. In January of 2017, I decided to give Whole30 a shot because I had no idea where to even begin.
For the uninitiated, this is where you eliminate the most common food allergens; gluten, grains, dairy, refined sugar, legumes, soy and preservatives for 30 days. After the 30 days is up, you slowly reintroduce food groups one-by-one and see their impact on your body.
The 30 day period helps your body to heal from inflammation and other issues that you may have been living with for years unknowingly. It is not an easy process, but you learn so much about not only your food sensitivities, but also about your body and how you crave certain foods.
My biggest takeaway from Whole30 was that I am pretty much sensitive to every grain I tried, but most noticeably corn (I never even reintroduced them all, honestly) and some dairy, and I learned that refined sugar made me feel like crap.
With the feeling of relief that I had found another piece of the puzzle, I subsequently eliminated grains from my diet and began to feel like a new person. I had reduced my headaches by 90%, my anxiety had decreased, and I just generally felt happier and more energetic than before.
However (there always seems to be a caveat to feeling great…), I still had the odd headache and general malaise that I really could not explain. I continued to experiment with my diet for several months and kept a food journal to determine the foods I consumed less regularly that made my symptoms flare up.
After some time, it was apparent that I also had issues with vinegar, chocolate, certain fruits (both fresh and dried), alcohol, yeast and even certain meats.
If I’m being brutally honest, it was chocolate that I just downright refused to give up, but had the most awful experiences eating. So I became bound and determined to find the culprit. I could sometimes eat it with zero issues, but sometimes it gave me a bad headache and dizziness.
One time, it resulted in head spinning so bad that I had to immediately go to bed, only to wake up the next day with my head still spinning.
It wasn’t until I found the Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey (can you say book nerd?), that it finally clicked in my brain…mycotoxins in food could be causing the symptoms I was experiencing.
A mold allergy can present itself in a variety of symptoms that differ vastly from person to person. Common reactions include typical allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes.
However, some people, such as myself, don’t display typical allergy symptoms, and instead have what some would say are more serious reaction such as headaches, joint pain, depression, memory issues and much more. It really affects everyone differently.
A quick test for diagnosing a mold allergy: If you have certain symptoms several hours after eating chocolate, try some good quality dark European chocolate, such as Lindt. If you have less or no symptoms, you are probably sensitive to the mold toxins in American chocolate.
The United States has very few laws governing mycotoxin limits in food, whereas Europe has quite stringent standards. Also, if you go on a European vacation and your symptoms magically reduce or clear up, you likely have a mold problem, my friend!
The Bulletproof Diet eliminates common mycotoxin-containing foods as a basis for improving cognitive performance. It is a low-carb, grain-free and dairy-free way of eating which helps to reduce inflammation in the body and starve fungus and yeast in your body of the carbohydrates that they thrive on.
The founder suffered with mold-related illness for many years and was able to heal his body through this way of eating. Dave Asprey even made a documentary, Moldy, on how detrimental mold can be to your health. I highly recommend it, if you think you may be suffering too.
It’s currently free, as of the time I’m writing this. I have found the Bulletproof way of eating to be SO revolutionary in how I feel on a daily basis. Since adopting my own modified (ever changing) version of this diet and a traditional Ketogenic diet, I now have a better understanding of the foods that make my body feel best, than ever before.
When I eat something now that I know I should probably avoid (like too much dairy, certain nuts, or peanuts), I will often suffer the consequences. I feel so good now that I usually don’t even want to “cheat”, because now that I am well into healing my body, I am even more sensitive than before to mold allergenic foods.
Not to mention that a few months ago, we had a pipe freeze in our 100 year old house’s basement, and I had to spend several hours thawing out the pipe with a hair dryer that involved blowing air at some insulation covered in black mold. It’s quite foolish looking back, I know.
To say that my mold allergy was solidified after that would be an understatement. I had the most severe reaction imaginable – one of the worst headaches of my life, terrible knee and joint pain, dizziness, a 102F fever with chills and night sweats that lasted several days, and a terrible cough that took over three weeks to go away.
Meanwhile, my husband had a bit of a sore throat for that afternoon and then was fine. Isn’t it crazy how something can debilitate one person and another can be completely fine? Needless to say, I am now incredibly serious about avoiding mold at all costs, now that I know how it truly affects my body.
Now that I am recovered from my mold incident and have gotten my health back on track, I pretty much follow an intuitive way of eating. While I would not classify myself as Ketogenic, Paleo or Bulletproof, I would say I fall somewhere in this range most of the time. I am always experimenting to see what feels best in my body, and do not like to be bound to one style of eating.
I find that mold sensivity is a very personal thing. For some people, they can eat certain gluten-free grains in moderation and get away without symptoms. For others, they can’t go anywhere near them without a whole host of issues.
I find that I can eat certain nuts and moderate amounts of (some types of) cheese most of the time, but if I push the boundary too much, that’s when the headaches and fatigue come back.
It’s about finding what works for you. I do recommend starting with eliminating gluten and determining whether than eases some of your symptoms, and then progressing to non-glutenous grains and dairy.
I would be lying to you if I said that it is a quick process to determine what foods you are sensitive to. It takes months, if not years, to figure it all out. However, you can find relief almost instantly once you eliminate those problem foods from your diet.
The whole process has changed my life in so many ways and I would not trade it for anything. I’m still so amazed and grateful that my body was sending me warning signs, and that I was finally able to determine the cause when no doctors were ever able to. It can be so debilitating to be stumbling through life not feeling your best.
If you suspect you have a mold allergy, there is also allergy testing that can be conducted to very quickly determine, and perhaps even pinpoint the types of mold you are susceptible to. I have not gone through allergy testing, but I can say with high certainty that I would test positive for several types of mold allergies.
There is also an online test you can take called a visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) test, where people affected by biotoxins such as mold toxins cannot distinguish between certain shades of grey. It is pretty accurate from what I’ve read. I took the test shortly after my basement mold exposure issues and failed miserably.
Let me know if you guys find this kind of post helpful. I would be more than happy to share more information about my mold allergy for those who are interested. I hope I can help some of you find some relief through my story, and based on the statistics, I know I can’t be the only who has suffered with this.
If you have a suspicion that this is something you, or someone you know, may be struggling with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email. I would be happy to help! firstname.lastname@example.org
One last note: I am not a doctor, and this is based solely on my personal experience. With that being said, I have heard of very similar stories of relief of mold allergy symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes. Please be sure to do your own research and consult a professionally trained doctor
Oh, and since I have posted this, I decided to create a Food-Related Mold Allergy Support Group on Facebook. If you suspect you are going through this or something similar, hop on over and join us!