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Three Ways Fungi Can Make You Sick and What You Can Do About It

Fungi are old. They evolved about 1.5 billion years ago. Compare that to human beings, which evolved only about 315,000 years ago. Fungi are ubiquitous, growing in nearly any damp location. And they can range in size from microscopic molds and yeasts to giant puff-ball mushrooms measuring five feet in diameter.

Mold Toxicity Treatment Tampa FLFungi produce microscopic spores that can enter your home through the tiniest openings in doors, windows, vents, and air conditioning systems. They can hitch a ride into your home on your clothing, shoes, bags, and even your pets.

Once inside, they spread throughout the home, floating freely through the air. They don’t need much to survive, just a little moisture and a place to grow — dust, paint, wallpaper, drywall, carpet, fabric, upholstery, insulation, you name it.

But that’s not where they do the most harm. Various fungi, along with their spores and toxins, can enter your body through the air you breathe, the food you eat, and any physical contact you may have with them, wreaking havoc on your health and well-being.

In this post, we explain what fungi are, explore the three ways they can make you sick, describe the various symptoms to look for, and encourage you to schedule the type of evaluation you need to get back on the path to optimal health and fitness.

Fungi, Yeasts, and Molds

Fungi are spore-producing organisms that are neither plants nor animals. They exist as single-celled organisms or they can form a mass of branched, fibrous cells, extracting nutrients from organic matter.

The fungi kingdom includes yeasts, molds, rusts, smuts (small flakes of soot or dirt), and mushrooms. Our focus in this post is on the two types of fungi that cause the most health problems — yeasts and molds:

  • Yeasts are microscopic and mostly single-celled organisms, although some varieties can exhibit multi-cellular properties.
  • Molds are complex multi-cellular organisms that usually grow in colonies.

The Three Ways Fungi Can Make You Sick

Certain fungi can make you seriously ill, and they can do so in more ways than one:

  • Like bacteria and viruses, fungi can cause infections, particularly in people whose immune systems are already compromised.
  • Some people are allergic to certain fungi and their spores.
  • Some fungi produce mycotoxins, which are harmful to humans. 


Various species and subspecies of fungi can colonize the body, causing infection. Most common are yeast infections. Under normal circumstances, yeasts pose no threat.

However, an imbalance in the body’s microbiome — the collective name for the community of microorganisms that inhabit the body — can result in yeast overgrowth.

These overgrowths cause different illnesses depending on where they occur, including the mouth or throat (thrush), vagina, sinuses, or intestines.

All of us house a microbiome within us that contains trillions of bacteria, most of which live in the intestines. A healthy microbiome keeps yeast overgrowth in check.

Dysbiosis occurs when populations of beneficial bacteria are reduced or when harmful microbes, including certain yeasts, overpopulate an area of the body.

Various conditions can contribute to dysbiosis, including these:

  • Overuse of antibiotics: Let’s suppose you’ve had multiple courses of antibiotics due to sinus infections, ear infections, urinary tract infections, vaginitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, colds, or any infection.

    It’s probable that your microbiome has lost resilience, and you are more susceptible to experiencing yeast overgrowth. This doesn’t mean antibiotics should never be used; it means that we need to use them more wisely.

  • Acid blockers: H2 blockers, which are commonly used to treat acid reflux, reduce the concentration of stomach acid, which is essential for killing potentially harmful microbes. This can result in imbalances in the microbiome.

  • Poor diet: Sugar and simple carbohydrates, such as those in most baked goods and pastries, feed yeasts, causing their populations to explode.

  • Stress: Sources of stress include bacterial and viral infections, as well as emotional/psychological stress, all of which can impair the body’s immune system, which plays a crucial role in maintaining a balanced microbiome.

When candida yeast overgrowth occurs in the intestines, it can weaken the intestinal lining, leading to a leaky gut.

This semi-permeable lining normally allows nutrients to pass into the bloodstream, but when gaps form in the tight junctures that form this lining, larger protein molecules can escape into the bloodstream and trigger an immune response.

This is often why many people who have candida yeast overgrowth lose tolerance to a variety of foods they used to be able to consume without repercussion, most notably gluten, dairy, and sugar.

Learn More Here: Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Its Connection to Toxic Mold

Environmental molds, which are common in water-damaged buildings, are another source of chronic health issues. When you’ve been exposed to mold over time, your immune system loses resilience, allowing the mold to colonize your body.

Mold exposure leads to inhalation of spores into the lungs, swallowing of spores into the digestive tract, and exposure through the skin.

We are all exposed to mold — just as we are exposed to bacteria and viruses — but living or working in a water damaged building can shift a person’s microbiome into an unhealthy direction and cause a loss of immune resilience.

Of course, water-damaged buildings aren’t the only source of mold exposure. You can also be exposed while in the great outdoors — for example, while raking leaves or mowing your lawn.

A particularly nasty mold called aspergillus can colonize the lungs, forming tangled masses called fungal balls, and can even spread to the blood vessels and beyond.


Some people have ordinary IgE-mediated mold allergies where exposure to certain molds causes an elevated immunoglobulin-E response. These IgE-mediated allergies can be detected through a skin prick or blood test, making them easy for most physicians to diagnose.

Mold Toxicity Treatment Tampa FL

Symptoms of ordinary mold allergy include hay fever, runny nose, red eyes, and fatigue. These symptoms can usually be managed with simple allergy medications.

An ordinary mold allergy is a cause for concern, but it only scratches the surface of mold-related illness.

Unfortunately, most physicians are not trained to recognize the very common mold illness or inflammatory response resulting from exposure to mold in a water-damaged building.

Once a person has developed severe enough allergies to mold —generally in the setting of chronic exposure to a water-damaged building or home, past or present — a series of immune responses can be set off, leading to mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). 

Pro Tip: For more about MCAS and its connection to today’s topic, read Dr. Matt Lewis’ article Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Its Connection to Toxic Mold.

Mast cells are present in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, nose/sinuses, blood vessels, nervous system, and skin. They secrete histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes, among other chemical messengers, as part of the body’s immune response — a response that naturally causes an inflammatory reaction. Because mast cells are located throughout the body, activation of these cells can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Skin flushing
  • Hives
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hypothyroid (low thyroid hormone)
  • Unexplained neurological symptoms that may impact cognition and memory

Patients with MCAS don’t simply react to a specific mold. Instead, they may react to certain medications, fragrances, temperature changes, specific foods, or alcohol. Sometimes, they experience dramatic flare-ups. In other cases, symptoms may be more subtle and chronic, such as fatigue or brain fog.

In some cases, the patient is already aware that mold is causing their health problems, while in others, we need to make that discovery together. 

Testing for mast cell activation syndrome is done through a series of blood tests that can detect the chemicals that mast cells release when activated. 

Mold Toxicity Treatment

Notably, among the primary contributors to the chronic nature of mold illness are toxic elements found in water-damaged buildings or homes. Mold spores harbor mold toxins. Many of these can damage the liver, kidney, digestive tract, and nervous system, including the brain.

Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys are all molds common in water-damaged buildings, and each produces a number of toxins. One such toxin from Aspergillus is gliotoxin, which suppresses the immune system.

According to at least one study, gliotoxin can initiate an autoimmune condition resulting in neuroinflammation impacting the brain. This is often why patients with mold illness have a hard time with word recall, focus, and short-term memory.

A urine mycotoxin test can validate the presence of mold toxins, including gliotoxin, in the body. 

Diagnosing Fungal Illnesses

To properly diagnose and treat a fungal illness, your doctor needs to assess for all three components of illness by answering the following three questions:

  • Is there colonization or infection?
  • Is there an allergy or mast cell activation? 
  • Is there mold toxicity leading to chronic inflammation? 

You may have one, two, or all three of the above. In our experience, most patients have at least two, and many have three.

If you are experiencing any unexplained or undiagnosed symptoms, we strongly encourage you to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with a clinic that fully understands all the possible causes and contributing factors.

You may be suffering from a fungal illness, hidden infection, hormone imbalance, or something else entirely. Only a thorough evaluation that examines your health history, family history, and lab results can unravel the mystery and light the way to effective treatment protocols.

If you’re in the Tampa Bay, Fla. area, we can help. Please schedule your initial consultation today.


Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about fungi is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.