It’s not Lyme: It’s Mold Illness

Mold IllnessMany of my patients think it’s their Lyme symptoms returning when in fact, it’s a developing mycotoxin or mold illness.

Fungus is a healthy part of our bodies and microbiome. However, some molds in our environment generate toxic chemicals (mycotoxins and volatile organic compounds) that trigger allergic reactions, toxic responses, and immune system dysfunction. It’s a somewhat common condition for people who are also susceptible to stealth infections and chronic fatigue.

Symptoms of mold illness can mimic many other illnesses. Use this questionnaire to help you decide whether further testing is warranted.


Mold Exposure History:

  • Do your chronic symptoms improve significantly when you travel, camp, or spend days away from your home?
  • Did symptoms start after any change in your work or living space, such as bathroom or kitchen renovation?
  • Are your symptoms worse only when you’re in your car, workplace, or room in your house, for example?
  • Do you live or work in a building with past water damage (i.e water present for more than 48 hours ever)? Consider outside floods, roof leaks, clogged gutters, inside pipe leaks, leaking laundry machines or toilets.
  • Do any of your living spaces smell musty (e.g. old books), or is there visible mold or condensation on windows?
  • Does your home seem to collect more dust than other homes? (Dust mites like mold.)
  • Do you keep your indoor humidity level at less than 50%?
  • Are your air conditioning unit(s), humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and HVAC systems inspected regularly for mold?


Cluster Analysis of Mold Illness:

Mold illness is a multi-system, multi-symptom illness. Put a checkmark next to the line of symptoms if you have at least one symptom in the line, most days of the week:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness, difficulty assimilating new information, muscle aches, headache, light sensitivity
  • Memory problems, word finding difficulties
  • Problems with concentration
  • Joint pains, morning stiffness, muscle cramps
  • Unusual skin sensations, tingling
  • Shortness of breath, sinus congestion or nasal drainage
  • Cough, increased thirst, confusion
  • Appetite swings, body temperature regulation, urinary frequency/urgency
  • Red eyes, blurred vision, night sweats, mood swings, unusual pains especially “icepick” pains
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea or loose stools, numbness
  • Eye tearing, disorientation, metallic taste
  • Static shocks, vertigo

______ Total number of checkmarks

A positive cluster analysis for biotoxin illness is presence of 8 or more of 13 clusters. (Dr. R. Shoemaker)


Comprehensive Mold Illness Symptom Checklist:

Neurological symptoms:

  • Vertigo or frequently feeling off-balance
  • Memory impairment or “brain-fog
  • Sensation of internal vibrations or buzzing
  • Numbness or tingling that follows no pattern
  • Unusual tics, spasms, or seizure-like activity
  • Sudden and intense “ice-pick” or “electrical” pain sensations
  • Diagnosis of “POTS”, “Dysautonomia”, or tremors

Digestive symptoms:

  • Frequent unexplained diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, or abdominal bloating
  • Intolerance to refined carbohydrates, sugar, and/or gluten

Eyes, Ears, Nose & Throat:

  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Vision changes (e.g. colour vision, peripheral vision, blurry vision)
  • Light sensitivity (eyes or skin)
  • Chronic sinusitis, post-nasal drip, or history of sinus surgery or frequent sinus spray use
  • Chronic ear infections or congestion
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Red sclera (the white part of the eye)

Generalized symptoms:

  • Persistent unexplainable fatigue, especially with significant muscle or joint stiffness first thing in the morning
  • Symptoms as though you’re fighting an ongoing infection: Swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, chronic cough or shortness of breath, headache, muscle weakness
  • Symptoms of chronic dehydration, such as frequent static shocks, excessive thirst.
  • Chemical sensitivity (e.g. to perfumes, exhaust fumes, VOCs)

Medical history:

  • Histamine intolerance, recurrent hives, or multiple allergies
  • Recurrent fungal infection (e.g. vaginal yeast, “jock itch”, ringworm, athlete’s foot)
  • Bladder symptoms, such as Interstitial Cystitis, frequent urination at night time, “overactive bladder”, recurring bladder infections, bedwetting in children
  • Chronic vitamin D deficiency
  • Unusual reaction to steroid or antibiotic medications


Next steps for Mold Illness:

  1. Optic nerve function can be affected in some people with mycotoxin illness. A Visual Contrast Sensitivity test correlates well with this condition and is a useful adjunct screening test. You can purchase the test online ($15 USD) at Dr. Shoemaker’s website.
  2. Use my DIY home walk-through screening assessment for mold and sources of water intrusion. This home assessment should take at least 2 hours to complete.
  3. If all screening steps are positive, let’s discuss testing your home and body for molds and mycotoxins. A 2-week camping trip in a clean tent (i.e. away from your home) might also help elucidate the cause of your symptoms.


Additional Website Resources:

Dr. Jill Crista, Naturopathic Doctor in Wisconsin, USA

Dr. Jill Carnahan, Medical Doctor in Colorado, USA

Dr. Neil Nathan’s book, Toxic.

environment, fatigue, Lyme disease

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


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We respectfully acknowledge that Kingston Integrated Healthcare is situated on ancestral Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Since time immemorial they have cared for these lands and waters, and we are grateful. We recognize that a healthy environment is essential to the wellbeing of all people and all life.

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