While mold itself is not a new problem, the dangers of it are unfolding in more recent years. It is becoming apparent that many symptoms have mold as an underlying cause, especially those who have a genetic predisposition (those with the HLA-DR gene) to mold illness. Mycotoxins, very simply explained, are poisons from mold, and they have been found to contribute to serious problems, including immune deficiency and sometimes the onset of cancer (1). At our office, we offer a blood test which can confirm mold toxicity.
There are several components involved in tackling the problem of mold, and all of them need to be addressed. While getting rid of mold in your home or work space may seem obvious, it is important to remember that mold and mycotoxins can wreak havoc from inside your body as well as outside. Therefore, one necessary element for healing is to follow a low-mold diet. While we know that exposure to mold can cause nutrient deficiencies (2), we also believe in the power of nutrient-dense food to heal. The low-mold diet works to stop mold and fungus from growing inside your body and works to restore nutritional deficiencies caused by mold exposure.
What to Avoid
We’ll begin with what to avoid on the low-diet. There are four major groups of foods to avoid: Sugar and sugar containing foods, grains, packaged & processed foods, and mold & yeast containing foods.
Sugar and sugar containing foods
Sugar is the perfect food for candida bacteria, which is a yeast that can grow in our gut microbiome. We know that mold loves a fungal, yeast environment in which to grow, so sugar provides an environment where mold can thrive (3). Additionally, if your good gut bacteria have already been damaged by mold exposure, sugar will allow candida to grow very fast, allowing rapid mold growth as well. You will need to avoid all sugar, including natural sugars (honey, molasses) and fruits that are high in fructose, such as grapes, bananas, and pineapple. Dried fruit should also be avoided.
Grains are a major source of mold-contaminated foods. Research has shown they contain the following mycotoxins—aflatoxin B1, ochratoxin A, fumonisin B1, deoxynivalenol, and zearalenone (4). Climate change is also likely increasing the mycotoxins present in grains like corn and gluten as well (5, 6). Additionally, gluten is an inflammatory food that can exacerbate an already inflamed body from mold exposure.
Packaged & processed foods
Canned, bottled, boxed, and otherwise processed foods often contain sugar and different kinds of additives that will also fuel mold growth. Absolutely avoid breakfast cereals, ready-made meals, canned soups, ready-made sauces, soft drinks, and fruit juices. For a more complete list, see our PDF below.
Mold & yeast containing foods
Mold is a type of fungus. All fungi should be avoided during this diet, including mushrooms, truffles, and yeast. Cheese is also prime real estate for mold because of its nutrients, and the moisture in the air it sets in. Avoid cheeses and sour milk products like sour cream for this diet. Especially avoid cheeses that have mold in or on them (e.g., brie, camembert, blue cheese, limburger).
Additionally, many nuts are contaminated with mold (peanuts, cashews), mainly because of the warm and humid silos in which they are stored. Also avoid processed and smoked meats, white distilled vinegar and products that contain it (apple cider vinegar is fine for consumption), alcoholic drinks, and any fermented foods.
What is Safe?
Don’t despair, as you can still enjoy many foods that will satisfy. We will speak both about foods to enjoy in moderation and foods to enjoy freely. For a more complete list of foods to enjoy on a low-mold diet, see our PDF below.
Foods to enjoy in moderation
In moderation, you can enjoy some high starch vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squashes. You may also enjoy legumes, such as lentils or peas. Some people can also tolerate gluten-free grains. If you have gone grain-free for a period of time, you may want to try a gluten-free grain, such as brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat, and see how you are able to tolerate it. If you don’t tolerate these grains well, avoid them. Moderation is key for those that are able to consume gluten-free grains.
You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with some low-sugar fruits, such as berries, apples, lemons, limes, peaches, and pears.
Foods to enjoy freely
There are even more things to eat to your heart’s content (or your belly’s) without worry.
Pasture-raised poultry, such as chicken, chicken eggs, turkey, or pheasants are great options. Grass-fed, organic meat, such as beef, lamb, and venison are also great choices. Please ensure that these animals are not grain-fed, as the meat can become contaminated by the mycotoxins in the grain feed. This is very common. Additionally, wild caught fish will give you the protein your body needs.
There are many low carbohydrate vegetables to enjoy freely, such as cabbage, broccoli, arugula, asparagus, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, and many more. Remember to “eat the rainbow” and include lots of colorful vegetables on your plate to give your body the variety of vitamins and minerals it needs for both healing and function. There are also lots of organic nuts and seeds that are safe to eat on the low-mold diet, including almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
Healthy fats are delicious and a must on the low-mold diet to promote healing. These include organic ghee, coconut oil, coconut milk, extra virgin olive oil and avocados.
To satisfy your thirst, choose filtered water, mineral water, fresh vegetable juice, or non-fruity herbal teas. Additionally, while coffee often is contaminated with mold, there are brands that are mycotoxin/mold free. Our office provides Purity and BulletProof coffee for purchase.
Importantly, given the damage mold can do in regard to brain inflammation, it’s important to incorporate foods that serve a neuroprotective function. These can include wild caught salmon, which contains DHA- an omega 3 essential fatty acid for brain health. Another neuroprotective food (if tolerated) is the egg yolk. Egg yolks contain choline, which is important for brain health (7). The body uses choline to produce acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter necessary for optimal brain and nervous system function.
Additional neuroprotective foods include cruciferous vegetables, which contain sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to protect the brain against neurodegenerative diseases and are in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and cabbage (8). Foods with polyphenols, such as blueberries, also work to protect the brain against damage by neurotoxins, such as mycotoxins (9). Low sugar blueberries are powerhouses when it comes to brain health.
The time it takes to heal from mold illness will depend on how long you have been exposed to mold, what type of mold you have been exposed to, and how sensitive you are to mold. You most likely didn’t get sick overnight. All healing takes time.
For more personalized direction, contact us for a free 15-min consultation.