Will moldy cheeses, cereal grains, and coffee make you sick?
Or, does mold on food have little to do with how you feel?
If you’re dealing with chronic fatigue, mold illness needs to be on your radar. The same goes for other weird conditions like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, mast cell activation disorder, or multiple chemical sensitivities. Even though toxic mold is almost always at the root cause of these conditions, the source of that mold isn’t what you think.
Mold on your food isn’t the type of mold that’s going to make you sick.
The molds that produce illness are found in water-damaged buildings. Truth be told, what makes most people sick in a water-damaged building isn’t even mold. It’s most often a bacteria known as actinomycetes.
Today, we get to debunking the claim that mold on food makes you sick (it doesn’t!). Let’s get going!
Not all mold is evil
There’s good mold and then there’s bad mold. Good mold is what makes a stilton cheese taste divine. Bad mold makes you incredibly sick.
Fortunately, good molds and bad molds are found in very different locals. If you’re really ill – like chronic fatigue or multiple chemical sensitivities ill – you might be dealing with a condition known as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS.
CIRS is often triggered by mold. But the mold that does the triggering is not from your favorite blue cheese. Rest assured you can eat all the blue cheese your heart desires – even with a condition like CIRS.
CIRS is triggered by toxic molds from a water-damaged building. CIRS is not triggered by molds found on your favorite foods. A lot of the molds found on food – while not ideal – are not going to make you sick. At least not to the same degree of sickness as someone dealing with CIRS.
Moldy food 101
Currently, there are around 400 mycotoxins reported in the literature. These molds will occur in foods under natural conditions. There’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent it. Meaning that it’s not that your food is being mishandled by producers.
Some of the most common mycotoxins include aflatoxins, trichothecenes, fumonisins, zearalenone, ochratoxin, and ergot alkaloids. Mycotoxins are produced by different strains of fungi and each strain can produce more than one mycotoxin.
You can measure the amount of mold/mycotoxins you consume by analyzing a urine sample. (1, 2) When looking to the literature, there is an overwhelming amount of mycotoxins found in urine. This occurs in both healthy and unhealthy members of the population.
Take Patulin as an example. Patulin is a fungal toxin found in fruit juices. It’s almost impossible to find apple juice that doesn’t contain Patulin. (3) Yet you don’t hear about apple juice causing severe allergic reactions or GI distress after consumption.
That’s because Patulin, like most other food molds, is destroyed by your stomach acid upon ingestion. (4) If mold on food caused human illness, you’d see a pandemic. Yet billions of people eat moldy food every day. Most of whom experience little to no adverse effects.
It is estimated that at least 25% of foods are felt to be contaminated with mold worldwide. Assuming that’s true, you would expect anywhere between 1 1⁄2 to 2 billion individuals sickened by mycotoxins. (5) Yet that’s not what you see. Mold on food is not a common cause of illness.
Now, let’s get into the types of molds that will actually make you sick. Really sick. Some molds do trigger a chronic inflammatory response. But these molds aren’t found in food…
Will mold on food make you sick?
We need to start this section with the distinct separation between the condition known as CIRS and another condition known as a mold allergy. These two conditions are worlds apart. Click here to get into the weeds on that topic.
If you’ve visited an allergist and were told you react to molds, that’s a mold allergy. If you’re dealing with a tangled web of confusing, seemingly random, yet debilitating symptoms that no practitioner seems to be able to understand or piece together, you’re more likely to be dealing with CIRS.
A mold allergy is based on excessive antibody responses to exposure. It is not CIRS.
This post is written for those of you dealing with the latter. To the chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, IBS crowd – this post is for you. Know that mold on your food is not making you sick. Your strange array of symptoms was most likely triggered by a water-damaged building.
If you have a mold allergy, mold on food may worsen your sick. I’ll explain how to best avoid this below. If you’re dealing with CIRS, mold on food won’t make you any sicker.
A little more clarity on whether or not mold on food makes you sick
If you have a mold allergy that has been confirmed by an allergist, food molds may trigger symptoms. If you have a chronic condition like CIRS, food molds will not trigger symptoms.
How do you know which you’re dealing with?
Here’s a list of symptoms commonly experienced in mold allergies:
- Runny nose
- Dry or scaling skin
If you have the unfortunate experience of getting a fungal colony taking up residence in your nostrils, you’ll like experience inflammation of the nasal pathways, watery eyes, and/or postnasal drip.
Here’s a list of some of the more common symptoms associated with CIRS: (5)
♦Fatigue ♦Weakness ♦Aches ♦Muscle Cramps ♦Unusual Pain ♦Ice Pick Pain ♦Headache ♦Light Sensitivity ♦Red Eyes ♦Blurred Vision ♦Tearing ♦Sinus Problems ♦Cough ♦Shortness of Breath ♦Abdominal Pain ♦Diarrhea ♦Joint Pain ♦Morning Stiffness ♦Memory Issues ♦Focus/Concentration Issues ♦Word Recollection Issues ♦Decreased Learning of New Knowledge ♦Confusion ♦Disorientation ♦Skin Sensitivity ♦Mood Swings ♦Appetite Swings ♦Sweats (especially night sweats) ♦Temperature Regulation or Dysregulation Problems ♦Excessive Thirst ♦Increased Urination ♦Static Shocks ♦Numbness ♦Tingling ♦Vertigo ♦Metallic Taste ♦Tremors
CIRS and mold allergies are worlds apart. Mold allergies are annoying. CIRS will change your life – and not in a good way. If you have CIRS, moldy foods are not what’s making you sick. But if you have a mold allergy, you may want to pay attention to the next section!
Is your food moldy?
A lot of the food you eat contains mold. Some, more than others. Fortunately, the molds found on most foods are different than the molds found in water-damaged buildings. It’s the molds found in water-damaged buildings that you need to watch out for. They’re the ones that make you sick!
Mold on food comes about via three different pathways:
- Warehouse-based growth
Warehouse-based growth is what manufacturers try their best to control.
The main category of moldy foods to watch out for is grains. (6) Whole grains are the main culprits, including:
Alas, going organic is not going to save you when it comes to mold on your food. Even organic grains are shown to contain molds. (7)
If you have mold illness, can you eat whatever you want?
Just because mold on food isn’t what’s making you sick does not mean you have free license to eat whatever your heart desires. If you’re dealing with CIRS, you’ve probably found that the types of foods you actually tolerate is minimal. Many of my CIRS patients come in tolerating only 5-10 foods. Everything else worsens their symptoms.
If you’re dealing with a complex illness like chronic fatigue syndrome, your first step towards reclaiming your health should be dietary change. Below, I list some general practices on what to eat if you’re dealing with mold illness:
- Eat as much meat and seafood as you like.
- Eat all the vegetables you tolerate.
- Limit fruits to those of the berry varieties.
- Avoid grains. Especially gluten.
- Avoid refined and processed foods. Especially refined sugar products.
You can also check out my article on the best diet for chronic fatigue syndrome for a deeper dive on how you should eat when dealing with a chronic illness.
What about all the foods containing lots of mold?
I’m sure you’ve come across a list on the internet that identifies the ten moldiest foods! The article then went on to describe all the ways these ten foods make you sick. Listen, unless you have a mold allergy (most of you don’t), mold on food isn’t going to make you sick. Even those of you with debilitating illnesses like chronic fatigue or CIRS will not be made worse by consuming moldy foods.
The mold toxins on food are different than the mold toxins in a water damaged building.
Mold on food will only make you sick if you have a mold allergy. For everybody else, there is no issue with consuming moldy foods.
Here’s a list of foods commonly thought to contain high levels of mold:
- Dried fruits
- Conventional coffee
- Wine and beer
- Nuts and seeds
If you have a mold allergy, I’d recommend eliminating the above food categories. If you have CFS or another chronic illness, you don’t need to worry about the above foods. Instead, you should be focusing your efforts on consuming whole foods. Whole foods are foods that rot. If your food can sit on your shelf for months, it’s not going to help your fatigue. Period.
Now you know the truth behind mold on food – it’s not as bad as you think it is. Water-damaged buildings are the real problem.
It’s time for me to hear from you!
How has mold on food impacted your health?
Leave you answers in the comments section below!
If you really want to know what foods are negatively impacting your health, be sure to check out my digital product, Stop Feeding Fatigue.