Florida leads the nation in a number of things, including being the most favored destination for people who are retiring. It’s also the most popular state for new business formations —outside of Delaware, which is a business formation mill. And the Sunshine State is also No. 1 for something called Education Freedom, which enables students and parents a choice of educational options that best meet their needs.

We could go on and on with these “best in the nation” accolades, but this post deals with what we consider one of Florida’s least laudable attributes: mold. Hands down, Florida is No. 1 in nation in mold.

Mold problem in the state of Florida

According to a March 2024 study, Florida scored 38.76 out of a possible 40 on the FDP Mold Index. Mississippi ran a close second at 38.66 and Louisiana came in third with 38.52. FDP’s mold index is based on four key metrics that can be attributed to higher chances of mold growing inside and outside the home:

  • Average rainfall
  • Average temperature
  • Average humidity
  • Average age of homes

Each metric accounts for 10 of the total 40 points.

These scores are no surprise to our medical team here at PROVOKE Health. Many of our patients live in Tampa and other areas in South Central Florida, and their initial visit to our clinic or via a virtual appointment is often because they’re seeking relief from symptoms commonly related to mold exposure. These patients typically have already consulted with conventional medical practices without receiving much, if any, relief. Some of these medical practices don’t even offer a clear diagnosis.

At PROVOKE Health, we provide relief through a highly personalized protocol that addresses everything from in-home testing and mold remediation to blood draws, detoxing, and treating any mold/fungal infection. We calm the inflammatory response and restore health and function to the body’s nervous system, which is often impacted by mold exposure. And while we don’t test homes or perform mold remediation ourselves, we have a list of trusted companies that do as part of our treatment protocol.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Toxic Mold Exposure

Mold exposure can cause infections, especially sinus infections, as well as overwhelm the body’s natural detox mechanisms. Infections and toxins can cause chronic inflammation, which produce symptoms that are vague and difficult to trace back to a clear underlying cause unless you’re a trained medical professional who knows what to look for. Symptoms of mold exposure include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Allergy or asthma-like symptoms (congestion, runny nose, sneezing, rashes/hives)
  • Anxiety, depression, or irritability
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic pain
  • Digestive issues
  • Skin rashes or irritations
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Food intolerances
  • Metallic taste
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities or other areas of the body
  • Poor memory
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Mold exposure can even be a complicating factor in Lyme disease and Long COVID

Many of our patients come to us after having performed some of their own research online. Some of them tell us they found articles and videos about mold illness from pioneering physicians in the field, including doctors Neil Nathan, Richie Shoemaker, and Andrew Campbell.

Diagnosing Mold Toxicity (or Ruling It Out)

We use a variety of methods to diagnose or rule out mold toxicity. We start with a close and thorough case history, listening carefully in order to identify and document symptoms and identify risk factors that can help us trace symptoms back to their root cause. If symptoms point to a possible link to mold exposure, we order lab test to confirm or rule out mold as the likely cause.

Mold illness affects each patient differently and can impact any system in the body — nervous, respiratory, digestive, immune, endocrine (the chemical signaling system of the body), and other systems. That’s why a thorough case history and testing are so important.

The tests we use differ from patient to patient based on their symptoms and case history. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • General: General labs including thyroid hormone and function tests, complete blood count (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) and tests for autoimmune markers and vitamin/mineral levels. An ultrasound of the thyroid may be warranted if you have symptoms or clinical signs of autoimmune thyroiditis, a common outcome of mold exposure.
  • Quest or LabCorp: These tests check for exposure to common molds, mast cell activation, endocrine function, chronic inflammatory response, and gastrointestinal markers.
  • Mymyco Lab: This test looks for circulating mycotoxin antibodies found in a patient’s body from possible exposure to a water damaged home or building.
  • Real Time Lab: This urine test checks for mycotoxins being excreted from the body from possible exposure to a water damaged home or building or overconsumption of mainly cereal grains, which can be high in mold.
  • Mosaic Diagnostics: This urine test looks for the metabolic waste byproducts of yeast and bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A positive result may indicate candida or yeast overgrowth as well as intestinal dysbiosis, often a byproduct of exposure to mold toxins and the subsequent loss of immune resiliency.
  • Brain Imaging: Brain imaging looks at the structure and function of the brain to identify any abnormalities. The brain is often a target of mold illness, producing symptoms similar to those of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). To be specific, a Brain MRI with NeuroQuant can be helpful in identifying brain abnormalities associated with volume loss or inflammation.

Warning: Silent inflammation in the brain often contributes to brain fog, fatigue, headaches, and post exertional malaise (feeling exhausted after exercise).

Treating Mold Toxicity: PROVOKE Health’s Personalized Approach

Treatment for mold toxicity is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Effective treatment must be personalized for each patient in order to address the root causes and any long-term damage caused by the exposure and the body’s response to it.

For all patients, treatment begins by eliminating exposure — testing and mold remediation for water-damaged buildings in which the patient spends time. This is usually the home, but it could be a school, a patient’s workplace, or somewhere else they visit often. In some cases, the patient may need to avoid these places permanently or at least until successful mold remediation has been performed.

Our personalized treatment protocol may include one or more of the following(and possibly additional treatments):

  • Mold detoxification protocols: Natural and prescription binders and intravenous (IV) protocols that support the body’s natural detox mechanisms. Binders are chemicals that attach to toxins and enable the body to remove them more easily.
  • Antifungals: To treat any mold/fungal infections. Molds commonly infect the sinus passages and the gut.
  • Nebulized glutathione: To restore lung health and function when lungs are impacted.
  • Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN): To calm an overactive immune system thereby reducing the risk of developing an autoimmune condition or a worsening of the condition.
  • Peptide therapies: Peptides build back immune resilience and reduce brain inflammation — two of the most common and difficult to treat aspects of mold exposure. (See our previous post “The Power of Peptides in Reducing Brain Inflammation.”)
  • Support and education: To help patients on their journey to recovery. Our own Dr. Lewis (that’s me, the author of this post) has personal experience with mold illness and can provide insights on recovery both from his own history and from his experience with thousands of patients.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of mold-related illness described in this post, I encourage you to consult a functional medicine practitioner or other medical professional who has a solid track record of successfully diagnosing and treating patients with mold exposure.

Many conventional practitioners do not recognize mold illness. They run the usual blood tests, and when the results all look normal, they may conclude that nothing is wrong. Or they may arrive at a vague diagnosis, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or depression. As a result, you fail to receive the treatment you need, and you continue to suffer. We can assure you: It’s not all in your head. Effective treatment is available.

Don’t settle for anything less than feeling your best. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing at PROVOKE Health in Tampa, Fla. Dr. Lewis has 20 years of experience practicing nutritional and holistic medicine. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), Dr. Lewis has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa and elsewhere.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about the mold-related illness is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this blog post should be construed as medical advice from Dr. Matthew Lewis, Functional Healthcare Group, PLLC, or PROVOKE Health, nor is this blog post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this blog post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this blog 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.