Mycotoxins, Mold, and Your Mental Health

Mycotoxins and Mold and Mental Health

Your mental health can change dramatically in response to the world around you. Most people know how stress and major life events can affect them, but even factors like diet or how clean their bedrooms are can have some noticeable impacts. But other elements could be influencing your mental health—without you even knowing.

Mycotoxins are natural toxins that certain fungi produce. These fungi—sometimes called molds—are omnipresent both indoors and outdoors. They usually grow on crops like grains, nuts, spices, and fruits.

Most countries that produce these products follow certain international standards and codes of practice to ensure these molds and their toxins don’t end up in your meals. However, tiny amounts remain even after these processes.

Beyond this, anyone who lives in a humid area knows that mold can appear pretty much anywhere that is wet and warm enough—including your home. These fungi release their mycotoxins, and humans absorb the spores day after day.

Some experts believe that this is nothing to worry about and that the mycotoxins are not powerful enough to influence humans beyond minor skin and lung issues. Others feel that mycotoxins could be yet another hidden factor negatively impacting public mental health. In this article, we’ll explore how mold exposure could impact your mental health, what the symptoms might look like, and how you can get help if it is a concern.

The Impact of Mold Exposure on Mental Health

Exposure to mycotoxins can occur through direct physical contact with the mold and through ingestion or inhalation of the spores. As the spores accumulate in the body, they can have a range of effects, some physical and others mental.

Researchers are still trying to assess the full spread of the mental health effects of mold exposure. What we know so far is that people who experience mold toxicity tend to report higher rates of depression and anxiety. Currently, there is a lack of studies confirming if the increases in poor mental health stem exclusively from mycotoxins or if a combination of external factors and the mycotoxins are responsible. Some experts point out that the high demands of a moldy house can create a sense of a lack of control, feeding into depression and anxiety symptoms.

Mycotoxins may also cause various physical issues and have links to poor physical health outcomes. The worse a person’s physical health is, the more likely they are to have mental health concerns as well.

Socioeconomic factors may also play a role. Researchers found that homes with mold issues are far more likely to be in low-income areas—populations that are already prone to mental health conditions like depression.

Several recent studies also found a significant association between exposure to mycotoxins in children and autism spectrum disorder, but the mechanism of this interaction is still a mystery. People who are neurodivergent—such as those on the autism spectrum—often have comorbid mental health issues.

Common Symptoms of Mold-Related Mental Health Issues

Depending on the individual, their level of exposure, duration of exposure, and the types of mycotoxins, mold exposure can cause many different symptoms. Because the list is so extensive, researchers will break lists of symptoms down according to the affected region of the body.

Typically, most people present with respiratory issues. This most often involves swelling of the sinuses and nasal congestion in the upper respiratory tract. In the lower respiratory tract, mold exposure triggers a chronic cough, wheezing, throat irritation, and chest tightness.

Some of the most common central nervous system symptoms include headache, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, and tinnitus; and, though some research disputes these claims, many more studies find that mycotoxin exposure can cause short-term memory loss and cognitive function loss. In some cases, the cognitive function loss was so severe that brain scans showed signs similar to those of mild traumatic brain injuries.

Many people have non-specific symptoms that are difficult to describe. Study participants frequently reported general symptoms like joint aches, pain, rashes, weakness, and extreme fatigue.

Certain reports also show that exposure to multiple types of mycotoxins can lead to significant increases in chronic issues, such as flu-like illnesses, symptoms of severe allergies, and anxiety.

Addressing Mold-Related Mental Health Concerns

It is possible to address mycotoxins and reduce or even eliminate the mold impact on well-being and mental health. As with any medical issue involving exposure to chemicals, poisons, or—in this case—mold, it is essential to eliminate the source of the exposure. In some areas, this is as simple as changing food providers or targeting a specific area of the home, like the bathroom, with cleaning products. Always wear protective gear like gloves to avoid additional exposure.

Modern homes are extremely energy efficient. While this is great for your power bill, it also limits how much fresh, dry air can enter the home and combat fungal growth. It is beneficial to leave bathroom windows open during the day to help wet air escape and avoid creating an ideal environment for mold. As a bonus, fresh air has links to improved mental health, so you’ll be fighting two issues at once.

In particularly humid states, the mold may have already spread throughout the house. In these cases, it may not be possible to eliminate the source by yourself—or at all. Reaching out to experienced contractors trained in handling mold may be the right step.

Next, visit a physician. There are physical aspects to mycotoxin exposure that could also be affecting your mental health. This is particularly important if you are having physical problems.

When it comes to mental health concerns, these can be more difficult to address. If you do not have a history of depression, anxiety, or similar conditions, your symptoms may improve once you eliminate the mold and the spores slowly leave your body. However, if you are more prone to these issues, just cleaning up the fungi may not be enough. Consider adopting some of the more common methods that people use to manage their depression symptoms, such as practicing mindfulness and meditation.

Exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep are all also beneficial for mental well-being. Ultimately, everyone has different needs, so consider what you know helps you the most.

Seeking Professional Guidance for Mold-Related Issues

Despite our best efforts, it’s often extremely difficult to manage mental health problems alone—especially in the case of mycotoxin-related issues. Having a counselor guide you through different therapies may allow you to manage conditions like depression and anxiety that you might otherwise struggle with on your own.

Keep in mind that many experts still do not recognize mycotoxins as a valid source of mental health problems. This could lead to some frustrating sessions and potentially cause more harm than good. Finding a mental health professional you can trust is key. If they are dismissive, it may be better to seek other options.

At Restore Mental Health, our experts have helped many people find relief from their symptoms, whatever the cause. Contact us today for a free consultation.