Mold Testing 101
Updated: May 20, 2021
by Dr. Sarah Williams
Before we dive into testing, let’s discuss the symptoms that can be present if we are experiencing mold toxicity. Mold can affect various systems in our body so the effects are often widespread.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
Fatigue, brain fog, memory issues
Respiratory symptoms such as, cough, congestion, shortness of breath
Generalized swelling and weight gain
Frequent urination and increased thirst
Electric shock sensation
Joint pain/aches and muscle cramps
There are 2 main ways to test your body for mold exposure, but the one I utilize most is urine mycotoxin testing. This test helps examine what toxins your body has been exposed to because it reveals what toxins are being stored in your body. For the best results, we provoke the release of mycotoxins stored in your body with liposomal glutathione or a sauna session. This ensures that the toxins come out in your urine for us to analyze. Without provoked toxin testing, there is a possibility of false negative results because the toxins may remain stored in the body if you have issues with detoxification.
Real Time Labs has the most sensitive and specific urine mycotoxin test. They use ELISA (enzyme linked immuno-sorbent assay) technology, which is approved by the FDA and their lab is CLIA certified. Their test detects 16 different mycotoxins using specific antibodies. The test results are displayed in an easy-to-understand format, showing detection levels in a parts per billion standardized format. The results specify whether each mycotoxin is present, not present, or equivocal (uncertain), while showing ranges of detection for each.
Great Plains Lab also offers a urine mycotoxin test that is more affordable but less specific. This test uses LC-MS (liquid chromatography mass spectrometry) technology, which can’t provide concentration values for each mycotoxin present. It evaluates 11 different mycotoxins but this test has not been approved by the FDA or USDA.
Re-testing is useful and recommended once you remove yourself from the environment and detoxify.
Blood work for mold toxicity
Blood work is a useful tool that measures how your immune system is activated, and can further direct treatment and help to monitor your progress during detoxification.
Some of the components to look at in blood work include:
MMP-9: elevated levels have been associated with increased permeability of your blood-brain barrier which can contribute to poor cognition, brain fog, and/or memory issues
TGF beta: high levels represent an overactive immune system and chronic infection
VEGF: lower levels indicate decreased muscle endurance and blood flow, which can result in cell starvation and improper function
Complement 4a: elevation represents immune activation and inflammation which can result in chronic fatigue
MSH: decreased levels represent dysregulation in hormone pathways and reduced endorphin production, causing mood swings, fatigue, chronic sleep disorders, and chronic pain; MSH will be too low in over 95% of mold illness patients
ADH: low levels cause dehydration, frequent urination, excessive thirst, and rapid weight gain due to fluid retention
VIP: diminished levels represent decreased blood flow especially with pulmonary artery pressure, which can lead to shortness of breath
Anti-Gliadin antibodies: elevation indicates sensitivity to gluten and intestinal hyperpermeability
HLA DRB & DQ markers: the presence of these indicate genetic susceptibility to mold illness
Almost a quarter of the population is genetically susceptible to chronic mold illness due to the HLA-DR (human leukocyte antigens) gene. This marker prevents the body from being able to recognize and eliminate mycotoxins naturally. As a result, the toxins remain in the body and trigger a chronic systemic inflammatory response.
Genetics may “load the gun,” metaphorically speaking but it’s the environment that pulls the trigger. Even if you have the genetic predisposition, a significant amount of mycotoxin exposure is necessary to activate chronic symptoms. This is why people in the same environment respond differently to mold exposure -- each body and each immune system is unique.
Other tests that can be helpful in detecting toxins, but cannot diagnose mold illness alone, include MARCoNs testing and VCS testing. Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker is also a great resource for learning about mold toxicity -- his website is www.survivingmold.com.
If you are interested in learning more about work with Dr. Williams directly you can schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation with her here.
Don't forget to watch the full video that Dr. Mary hosted with 3 different mold experts - The Mold Guys (mold testing experts), Dr. Sarah Williams, and mold-cleaning expert, Lori Young.