How Mold Can Wreak Havoc on Your Home and Health: A Story of Detox and Healing

In 2013, a majority of cities along the Front Range in Colorado, from north to south and east, were flooded. Weather reports called it a 100-year flood. Rivers and streams swelled to epic proportions and water rushed down our mountainsides at a treacherous pace into the flatlands beyond. Farmlands were ruined, homes destroyed or flooded and the trails that locals love so much were ruined. I rolled up my sleeves and helped to form a non-profit to assist local farmers in restoring their land. All in all, I was lucky because my home was untouched. Mold exposure was the furthest thing from my mind.

floods and mold exposure
Denver Post photo credit, 2013

Little did I know, the flood left a filmy residue of mold in its wake and found a home in my body. Years later, while being treated for another serious toxin exposure to carbon monoxide in 2019 and 2020 (it had not been a good year), my naturopathic doctor suggested I might have also been exposed to mold. A diagnostic test proved he was right. Symptoms were vague – inflammation and leaky gut mostly – and not at all what I assumed mold exposure symptoms, as I had no lung issues or asthma. It’s taken many months of treatment and will likely take many more to heal from this exposure.

I was admittedly naïve. Here in Colorado, we live in an arid climate so I thought my environment must be mold free. I have since learned that mold can live anywhere. All it needs is moisture and dust residue to feed it. Micheal Rubino, president of President of All American Restoration, and author of The Mold Medic: An Expert’s Guide on Mold Removal,  set me straight. “There is a misconception that mold only appears in a home after flooding or in high-moisture environments,” says Rubino. “But it can impact any home in every state, indoors or outdoors. The average person takes 20,000 breaths per day and if mold spores are present in the air, it can make you sick.” He says that more than half of Americans suffer from sensitivity to mold and don’t know it. I was one of them. “The good news: you can do a ‘home detox’ to breathe and be healthier,” he says.

The first step in a home detox is to understand how easily mold exposure can happen. I thought the only dangerous mold was black mold. Anything else, like the bits of pink slime in the shower, was simply mildew. Mold comes in a rainbow of colors and it’s microscopic. “Mold is between 2 and 4 micrometers,” he says. “This means that it is invisible to the naked eye. This also means that by the time you can see it growing on your wall, there’s a lot of it!” Within 12 to 24 hours with the right conditions, mold can quickly spread.

I also thought that bleach was the only definitive way to get rid of mold. Long ago I tossed out all toxic-cleaning chemicals from my home. Even mold wasn’t enough to make me go back. Though there is no shortage of “green” cleaners to choose from, I wasn’t sure if they worked. Rubino recommends a botanical cleaner Benefect Decon 30 (available on Amazon), which is made from antimicrobial plant extracts and is even safe for food surfaces. In this pandemic era, it’s reassuring to know that it not only removes mold, but also kills bacteria and viruses.

bathrooms and mold exposure

While we often think of mold as forming in damp basements, window wells and from floods or plumbing leaks, Rubino says that mold lurks in smaller, less obvious places. It can form in coffee makers, front load washing machines, toilet tanks, toothbrush holders, bathroom rugs and even between your dishes if they aren’t dried off.

“If you see mold perpetually pop up when cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, it may mean there’s a bigger problem than what you see on the surface,” says Rubino. He recommends hiring an experienced mold inspector to help identify if there is a problem.  “Learning what the species is and how much is present will give you an idea of what you need to do to solve once and for all. Mold spreads very easily so it’s important to be safe than sorry and remove as quickly as you can so it doesn’t spread and contaminate other areas of your home,” he says.

Rubino has seven recommendations for detoxing your home from mold, mildew spores, dust, viruses, pollen and even pet dander:

  1. Install a whole home purification system into your HVAC equipment that can filter out particles. His favorite is Healthway’s Super V for its ability to filter out particles to the nanometer. 
  2. Regular housekeeping to remove household dust. Household dust can contain many of these smaller particles that bind with mold. 
  3. Switch your vacuum to a certified HEPA vacuum to prevent small particles from passing through the filter and recirculating back into the environment while you clean. 
  4. Buy cleaning products that contain both surfactant and disinfectant to help separate particles from surfaces at the same time it disinfects. As mentioned, his favorite is Benefect Decon 30. 
  5. Change your filters on all mechanical systems and clean all duct work annually with someone who is certified by the national air duct cleaning association. This helps contain the amount of particles that are constantly recirculated. 
  6. Be proactive against water damage events to ensure bacteria and mold do not increase the particulate matter in your home, such as: 1. monitoring humidity levels, 2. installing leak detectors, and 3. monitoring any waterproofing conditions in sub-grade environments.
  7. Be reactive when you have a water damage event and ensure the area is mitigated properly. Keep in mind bacteria can be present and mold can grow in as quickly as 24 hours. 

Mold Exposure and Hidden Health Issues

Mold can lead to many different types of health issues, the more common asthma and lung disorders, but it can also lead to chronic inflammation, autoimmune and metabolic disorders. Studies show that genetic variants make some people, especially children, more susceptible to the health damages caused by molds.

The symptoms can include the following:

Allergies

Appetite and thirst changes

Asthma

Body temperature changes

Brain fog

Bowel and urine frequency changes

Dizziness

Headaches

Inflammation

Joint pain and stiffness

Light sensitivity

Mood disorders

Nasal congestion

Numbness

Rashes

Sneezing

Sore throat

Lastly, those with underlying conditions may be more susceptible to illness from mold exposure, such as individuals with allergies, asthma, COPD, autoimmune disease and other chronic ailments.

From my experience, I recommend that if you suspect you’ve been exposed to mold, don’t try to manage the problem by yourself. Detoxing from toxin exposure is a complex process that takes time to repair. A home detox kit might make you feel better temporarily, but it isn’t precise enough to get rid of specific toxins nor individualized enough to address the way mold toxicity has impacted your health. My advice is to find a naturopathic doctor, because they are trained to both address the complexity of toxin exposure and systematically rid the body of mold and other toxins one step at a time while also working to reverse tissue and system damage you may have sustained.

Find more resources from the National Association of Environmental Medicine.

Find a naturopathic doctor here.

Low Toxin Living Video Classes

Learn more in the Institute for Natural Medicine Housecall Video Series, Low Toxin Living. Naturopathic doctors offer advice on ways to reduce toxins in your life and how toxin exposure can lead to illness. It’s an important topic, please have a notebook nearby to take notes. There is a lot of good information you won’t want to miss.


Kimberly Lord Stewart is the content and marketing director for the Institute for Natural Medicine and author of Eating Between the Lines (St. Martin’s Press). She is the founding editor of Today’s Practitioner and has served as an award-winning editor and contributor for food, lifestyle, health and wellness publications in the consumer and trade sectors.

Micheal Rubino is President of All American Restoration. In his book, The Mold Medic, he provides vital guidance to allow you to live a happy, healthy, mold-free life. Rubino shares his insight from years in the field and also brings in a clinical nutritionist to explain common health effects of mold and toxins. Topics covered include how mold impacts the body when you’re predisposed to conditions such as leaky gut syndrome, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Autoimmune disorders, Lyme Disease, and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and how allergies develop. He is a council certified Mold Remediator by IICRC and ACAC and a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker for the Indoor Air Quality Association.

This article is sponsored by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following  initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.