Can mold make you tired?
Absolutely – in fact, chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of mold exposure!
If you are susceptible to mold illness and are exposed to mold, your cells will struggle to make energy. As a result, this exposure to mold will make you tired.
Mold exposure causes most people to react, but their symptoms clear up when the mold is gone. That’s because they have a mold allergy.
However, about 25% of the population has the genes to develop mold illness, also known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) when exposed to mold.
When these people are exposed to mold, their body can’t get rid of it. Ever. As a result of the mold exposure their immune system never shuts off and they suffer from a lot of very unusual symptoms.
These symptoms can often result in a diagnosis of:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities,
- And many other vague diagnoses!
All too often, those who are dealing with a toxic mold illness get labeled with a diagnosis that only describes their symptoms. However, it’s really mold that is the root cause!
How does mold cause fatigue?
First, you need to know that there is a huge difference between a mold allergy and mold illness (CIRS). Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of mold illness, but is not connected to a mold allergy. This means that if you have a mold allergy and fatigue, it will clear up when the mold is gone.
However, if you have mold illness it is very likely that you will develop chronic fatigue. That’s what this post will focus on.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by your mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy producers in your cells. If your cells aren’t producing enough energy you will experience fatigue.
The most common symptom of toxic mold sickness is fatigue. If you are suffering from mold illness, you will develop fatigue because of the mold’s effect on something known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF cues the body to form new blood vessels.
When you were just a tiny embryo, VEGF is what helped your body create an entire network of blood vessels.
The effect of VEGF on your fatigue
Molds and their biotoxins bind to surface receptors of cells within your body. Your immune system recognizes these biotoxins as intruders and sounds the alarm bells. This initial activation of your immune system tends to cause symptoms like:
- Muscle aches
- Unstable temperature
- Difficulty concentrating
As your immune system activates, your body sends white blood cells to the area. With too many white blood cells, there’s not enough room for red blood cells. This results in reduced blood flow and oxygen to the area.
One of your body’s initial responses to toxic mold is to increase VEGF levels. Remember, VEGF builds blood vessels which restores oxygen supply to tissues. In acute mold illness, you’ll likely see elevated VEGF levels. But in toxic mold illness (CIRS), you start to see the opposite occur – a lowering of VEGF levels.
So to recap:
- You are exposed to mold.
- Your immune system is activated and white blood cells are sent to the area, choking out red blood cells.
- Your body is susceptible to developing mold illness (CIRS) so instead of increasing VEGF to form new blood vessels that will deliver oxygen to the area, your body lowers VEGF.
What do you think happens when your muscles don’t get enough oxygen?
You guessed it: muscle fatigue, aches, and/or cramping. Sometimes, it can be so intense that you struggle to remain standing upright.
If circulation to your brain decreases, you will experience brain fog, cognitive impairment, headaches, and challenges regulating your body temperature. Lowered levels of VEGF could be the cause of both your muscle fatigue and brain fog. Low VEGF could also be what’s causing your shortness of breath and a general feeling of malaise/fatigue.
Proper supply of oxygen to your tissues is that important! And VEGF is the key to increasing your fatigue levels!
A blood test to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome?
VEGF may hold the key to diagnosing CFS. Currently researchers and clinicians still aren’t sure what causes fatigue and there isn’t a blood test.
However, there are already preliminary studies showing low VEGF symptoms include fatigue.
The VEGF, mold and fatigue connection
One study examined VEGF levels in people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and/or myalgic encephalomyelitis. It found lowered VEGF levels to be so accurate in predicting chronic fatigue syndrome that it could potentially be used to diagnose CFS.
Perhaps most remarkable about VEGF (and two other inflammatory markers known as IL-7 and IL-16) was that these remained within normal ranges in patients who had conditions where fatigue is a common symptom (chronic infections and autoimmune liver diseases).
That means it’s possible that VEGF, IL-7 and IL-16 are blood markers that only show up in people with CFS. More testing is required to see if they appear in any other illnesses, but it’s an exciting step in diagnosing CFS.
Consider another study that measured VEGF in those with Gulf War Illness. Gulf War Syndrome/Illness is thought to be related to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis. Common symptoms of Gulf War Illness are similar to CFS and include:
- Muscle pain
- Cognitive challenges
It is thought that Gulf War Syndrome is caused by infectious agents like pesticides and or chemical weapon exposure.
Perhaps toxic mold is also playing a role here too?
Much like CFS, Gulf War Syndrome is difficult to diagnose. Just like CFS it’s only diagnosed when all other illnesses have been ruled out.
But a recent study also found people with Gulf War Syndrome have decreased levels of VEGF, IL-7, and IL-16. This preliminary research suggests that there may very well be future lab tests that can objectively determine whether or not you have CFS.
Mold, inflammation, and fatigue, oh my!
Let’s be clear, it’s very difficult to diagnose CFS properly. The diagnosis is based on symptoms. And it’s often handed out when doctors don’t know what’s causing your fatigue. Toxic mold or CIRS, on the other hand, is very easy to diagnose.
Raising low VEGF is just one of the many steps involved in treating CIRS. But often it’s the part of the treatment that brings about the greatest improvement in energy levels. And now you know why – VEGF is essential to supply your tissues with oxygenated blood. If that doesn’t happen, you’re going to feel fatigued.
How do you increase VEGF?
You can check out my previous post about the best supplements for chronic fatigue. Below, I’ll offer my thoughts on three ways to improve VEGF. Improving VEGF levels may very well be exactly what you need in order to improve your fatigue!
But please note, before treating low VEGF you need to get rid of the toxic mold and CIRS in the correct order.
The only way to fix your low VEGF symptoms (and therefore fatigue levels) is to identify the root cause. Often, lowered VEGF is caused by toxic mold illness. If mold is the root cause of your fatigue, you need to find a mold-literate practitioner to help guide you back to health. Properly remediating toxic mold illness (CIRS) is a complicated, multi-step program. You need to find a practitioner who has experience in mold illnesses.
Before you start increasing your VEGF levels, it’s incredibly important to be screened for cancer. VEGF increases the number of blood vessels and therefore the amount of blood flow to an area. While this is great for fixing chronic fatigue, it can have a costly effect if you have cancer.
Cancer needs a healthy supply of blood to thrive. As a tumor grows, its cells require more and more oxygen. Blood flow delivers oxygen. If your blood test shows elevated levels of VEGF, it could indicate cancer. So, before amping up your VEGF, please ensure you’ve been properly screened.
Increasing VEGF levels
After you have addressed your mold illness you can start on your low VEGF.
There are three ways to increase your VEGF levels:
If you’re familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you may have heard of baicalin. Baicalin is also known as Huang Qin. Baicalin is from the Scutellaria baicalensis root. It is a common ingredient in TCM herbal preparations used to treat strokes, and recent research has suggested that baicalin may also positively effect VEGF levels.
There isn’t a lot of research about the best dose of baicalin for CFS. Baicalin does have a long history of safe use (more than 1000 years) and has been studied for the last 30 years. One study found that low doses of baicalin increased blood vessel production (likely increasing VEGF levels). But the same study found that high doses of baicalin slowed down blood vessel production.
Chinese herbal medicine suggests that your dose should be between 15 and 60 grams per day. I recommend running VEGF levels before and after you start baicalan to determine exactly what your dose should be. I recommend taking a lower dose of the herb to improve your chronic fatigue symptoms.
2. Angelica (Dang-Gui)
Dang-Gui is one of the most common herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In China, Dang-Gui is often combined with a second herb known as chuanxiong to assist patients with ischemic heart disease. In ischemic heart disease, there is a narrowing of the arteries. This results in a reduced amount of both blood and oxygen – two resources your heart needs a lot of!
Dang-Gui and chuanxiong improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart by stimulating an increase in VEGF levels.
The combination of Dang-Gui with chuanxiong created an increase in VEGF levels in rats who had recently experienced a heart attack. Dang-Gui on its own also increased VEGF levels in rats, whereas chuanxiong on its own lowered VEGF levels.
These studies were done on rats, so we can’t make strong conclusions on how Dang-Gui (and/or chuanxiong) may improve chronic fatigue symptoms. This preliminary study certainly shows that these herbs may help treating CFS via improved VEGF levels.
When you exercise, you create a state of oxygen deprivation in your muscles. The more intensely and/or frequently you exercise, the more adapted your muscles become to functioning with less oxygen. The way your muscles adapt to the stress of exercise is thought to be (at least in part) through increasing VEGF levels. Higher levels of VEGF improves blood flow to the muscles, allowing them to train harder or longer before fatigue sets in. Exercise is a great way to increase VEGF levels. The best part is that VEGF increases whether you’re a well-conditioned athlete or a sedentary senior.
Exercise can be frustrating for anyone with chronic fatigue syndrome. One of the hallmark symptoms of CFS is something called post-exertional malaise. Post-exertional malaise is when you feel even more exhausted after any form of exertion. In severe cases of chronic fatigue syndrome, patients cannot even stand upright without worsening their fatigue.
Please avoid graded exercise plans (GET) as they have consistently been shown to worsen chronic fatigue symptoms. Instead, focus on the smallest amount of movement you can do without aggravating your symptoms. This may be as simple as clapping your hands or snapping your fingers. Consistency is key. Do whatever movement you can comfortably do every day. Even this small amount of movement will improve your VEGF levels. Stay consistent. It will help improve your fatigue.
Ok, now you know how mold exposure can cause fatigue. VEGF could be the key to finally improving your energy levels!
Now, I want to hear from you!
How has mold affected your energy levels?
Leave your answers in the comments section below!