In 2022, a TikToker named Terrin gained popularity for a series of videos about his health. She said she battled health issues for about two years and wondered if there was a root cause for all her symptoms: thinning hair, chronic pain, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, adult acne, and anxiety. , depression, fatigue, high cholesterol (despite a strict and healthy diet), and more. She saw a range of doctors, including a gynecologist, allergist, ENT (ear, nose, and throat), rheumatologist (autoimmune), and dermatologist. The assessments and tests helped her somewhat – she learned that she had food allergies, androgenetic alopecia (a common form of hair loss), and a positive ANA test. (An ANA test detects certain antibodies in a patient’s blood, and a positive test usually means the patient has an autoimmune disease.) However, Terrin has never been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and she never felt fully satisfied with her doctors’ answers. She told her TikTok followers that she thought her doctors were missing something.
In September 2022, Terrin posted a video in which she claimed she had finally discovered the root cause of all (or at least most) of her symptoms. “I have mold in my house,” she said, adding that she had taken a test called the mycotoxin test. “No conventional doctor has helped me figure this out. Every conventional doctor I’ve seen has been scratching their heads.” So what is mold toxicity? Read more about Terrin’s condition and case below.
Understanding Mold Toxicity
ParsleyHealth.com defines mold toxicity as the symptoms a person develops after exposure to mold. There is no specific timeline as to when mold toxicity sets in – it depends on the species of mold and a person’s susceptibility to it. In general, people develop symptoms if they are allergic to mold or if the mold emits mycotoxins (toxic chemical compounds).
Parsley Health notes that many symptoms are linked to mold toxicity. These symptoms are divided into two main categories: immune reactions (such as runny nose, itchy skin and exacerbated asthma) and “chemical and inflammatory reactions”. Chemical and inflammatory reactions are much harder to identify than mold reactions, and they include brain fog, anxiety, chronic pain, dizziness, tinnitus, digestive problems, fatigue, and symptoms that sound like hormonal imbalances.
The Problem of Diagnosing Mold Toxicity
Megan McElroy, PA-C, a physician assistant at Parsley Health, notes that there aren’t many human studies linking chronic inflammatory symptoms to mold toxicity. This lack of evidence may make traditional physicians cautious about diagnosing mold toxicity in their patients. Also, very few people are diagnosed because there is no standard for mold testing or treatment and because every patient experiences mold toxicity differently.
Indeed, Joseph Pizzorno, ND, editor of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Diary, writes that conventional medicine recognizes mold toxicity as a respiratory condition that causes rhinitis, exacerbated asthma, coughing, and wheezing. But the World Health Organization does not recognize non-respiratory symptoms. Dr. Pizzorno argues that non-respiratory symptoms, while difficult to trace back to mold toxicity, are “considered important indicators of mold problems in the integrative medicine (IM) community.”
Why Mold Toxicity May Have Caused Terri’s Symptoms
Parsley Health explains that mycotoxins (the chemical compounds emitted by molds) can trigger a cytokine response in the body. Cytokines are small proteins that communicate with other cells in the immune system. some cytokines stimulate an inflammatory reaction, while others calm the reaction. When inflammatory cytokines constantly activate the immune system, this chronic inflammation can lead to a wide range of symptoms.
There is evidence linking chronic inflammation to the symptoms Terrin experiences. 2020 research published in The Journal of Inflammation Research suggests that chronic inflammation is a major cause of androgenetic alopecia. HarvardHealth.com notes that chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation.
AriaIntegrativeMedicine.com reports that inflammation can lead to hormonal imbalances because the body releases cortisol (the stress hormone) during stressful situations and consistently high levels of cortisol can lead to changes in other hormones. A scientific article published in Frontiers in immunology argues that both depression and fatigue are linked to increased inflammatory activity in the body. As noted earlier, however, there is not much evidence that directly links mold toxicity to these symptoms.
Regarding Terrin’s hypercholesterolemia, a 2006 scientific study found that people exposed to the mold sometimes had “cholesterol abnormalities.” The review authors hypothesized that mycotoxins interact with cholesterol in the body and “reinforce” existing cholesterol abnormalities. Ultimately, the authors concluded that people exposed to mold may be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. But as the review is nearly two decades old, more research is needed to support this theory.
What does all of this mean to you? While there are many possible causes for the symptoms Terrin listed (thinning hair, chronic pain, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, adult acne, anxiety, depression, fatigue, high cholesterol), a mold toxicity test or home inspection can get you closer to a diagnosis. Keep in mind that false negatives and false positives on mold toxicity tests are common, and these tests are not covered by insurance, per Parsley Health. A home inspection by a certified mold inspector can give you more accurate answers.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before proceeding with any treatment plan.