How Mold Causes Inflammation

by | Apr 16, 2022 | Mold Illness

Many people who have been exposed to toxic mold will experience many symptoms such as inflammation in various parts of their bodies.

The reason this occurs is that inhaling the spores of mold (fungus) which contain mycotoxins, produces an immune reaction in humans that will often cause the body to go into fight or flight mode.

Once this mold becomes a fungal infection, it then triggers an inflammatory cascade of symptoms which are the first signals that your immune system has been activated to fight off this foreign invader.

Inflammation is one of your body’s defense mechanisms to protect itself by trying to remove the harmful toxic fungal pathogens from taking over.

Another reason why your body will become inflamed from mold exposure is from the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released by the mold spores as it consumes organic matter. This is one of the most overlooked and neglected symptoms by doctors, medical professionals, and inspectors.

As mold “consumes” it’s food, it releases a series of chemical reactions such as the production of carbon dioxide in both the air and also the body of an infected host. Essentially, they are being poisoned not only by harmful mycotoxins, but also by carbon dioxide.

People who suffer from a mold illness need to understand these basic, yet most important facts.

Much of their pain such as breathing problems, allergies, asthma, sinus infections, joint pain, stomach pain and body fatigue (chronic fatigue) are mainly a result of inflammation (swelling) in their body from a immune reaction that is attempting to go to battle with this fungal invader and the harmful toxins and gasses it produces.

This is mold illness and fungal infection 101.

If you get this basic concept, you can get on the right track to implement a health protocol to help treat your medical issues, and eventually cure yourself and/or your family.

So why does mold cause inflammation and what is the scientific proof?

It has been proven through many studies that mold mycotoxins are highly toxic and carcinogenic. They cause inflammation, allergies, asthma, joint pain, stomach pain, brain inflammation, headaches, cognitive deficits, emotional problems, cancer, and the list of symptoms can go on and on.

Mycotoxins are potent immunosuppressive agents that directly affect immune cells and also modify immune responses as a consequence of tissue damage elsewhere.

These diseases can also result in death if they are not treated properly.

According to one of the world’s premiere mold experts, Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), is the result of chronic inflammation produced by exposure to biotoxins (toxins produced from living organisms) that come from mold (mycotoxins).

These biotoxins travel through the body, distressing immunity, joints, the nervous system, and more. They change how you think, how you feel and even how long you live.

Dr. Shoemaker and his team of trained mold doctors have seen and treated hundreds of patients over the years. As a result of their research, knowledge and real world expertise, they are considered to be some of the most knowledgeable and talented physicians on the planet when it comes to fungal infections.

Shoemaker doctor, Keith Berndtson, MD had written in his 2013 research paper, “Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome,” that “The Fusarium toxin, deoxynivalenol (DON), and the Stachybotris toxin, satratoxin G, have both been shown to amplify inflammatory responses to food-borne bacterial pathogens.

Endotoxins from gram-negative bacteria sensitize macrophages, amplifying the innate immune response. These lines of research indicates that toxic molds and pathogens can interact to create more inflammation and cell damage than either factor acting alone.”

“Common biological toxins causing/contributing to chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) include exposure to the contents of a water damaged building (WDB) like mold, fungus, bacteria and other organisms such as tick bites, blue-green algae and certain varieties of fish.”– Dr. Michael Rothman, MDWellness and Shoemaker trained physician.

Dr. Tanya Edwards, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine, says that inflammation is now recognized as the “underlying basis of a significant number of diseases.”

Below I would like to show the scientific proof via various studies and research that proves some molds cause inflammation.

The science of mold and inflammation has been known since the early 20th century. In 1910,  Czech psychiatrist, neuropathologist, and an expert on dementia and Alzheimer disease, Oskar Fischer, proposed that foreign bodies in the brain, possibly fungi, provoked inflammation and amyloid plaques (see Eikelenboom et al., 2006; Goedert, 2009; Mar 2009 conference news).

In his 1907 paper, Alzheimer described the presence of plaques and tangles in one case of presenile dementia, whereas Fischer described neuritic plaques in 12 cases of senile dementia. These were landmark findings in the history of research into dementia because they delineated the clinicopathological entity that is now known as Alzheimer’s disease.(1)

Science Daily reported in 2012, “Infectious diseases are the world’s number-one cause of death, with pathogenic fungi being responsible for extremely dangerous infections.

Worldwide, more than €6 billion are spent each year on anti-fungal medications, and the total costs of the medical treatment of infectious diseases caused by pathogenic fungi are estimated in the order of hundreds of billions of Euros.”

“With infectious diseases, it is often not the pathogen itself, but rather an excessive inflammatory immune response (sepsis) that contributes to the patient’s death, for instance, as a result of organ damage. In intensive care units, sepsis is the second-most common cause of death worldwide.

In patients with a severely compromised immune system specially, life-threatening candida fungal infections represent a high risk of sepsis.”

“The working group led by Karl Kuchler in the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Infection Biology (Max. F. Perutz Laboratories at the Vienna Biocenter Campus) has now deciphered the molecular causes of life-threatening inflammatory reactions that are triggered by fungal infections: two highly aggressive types of phagocytes in the immune system (neutrophils and inflammatory monocytes), which however, also have a high potential for collateral destruction, mediate the inflammatory reaction during an infection with candida.

Certain interferons, the messenger substances used by the immune system, which are excreted during fungal infections, stimulate the influx of immune cell types to infected organs and lead to sepsis.”

“We have been able to demonstrate for the first time that the targeted blockade of this immune response with inflammation-inhibiting drugs can significantly reduce candida sepsis and therefore mortality,” says Karl Kuchler, who used an anti-inflammatory substance in the study.(2)

Mold Produces Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

As I mentioned above, there is also the gas byproduct known as carbon dioxide (CO2) that is produced by mold and released both into the air and the body. As mold “consumes” it’s food, the chemical reactions of enzymes, substrates and mold growth produce carbon dioxide, water, and volatile organic compounds.

Paul Armstrong, a researcher with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Manhattan, Kan., is studying the monitoring of carbon dioxide in stored grain. Armstrong says monitoring CO2 levels might provide more accurate results to detect if mold is growing.

“It seems like it is simpler,” compared with taking temperature and moisture levels, he says. As mold grows, Armstrong explains, it gives off carbon dioxide. Therefore, if there is a CO2 spike, there is likely an increase of mold activity.

Carbon dioxide sensors might be able to pick up hot spots of mold activity within a grain bin that other sensors may not be able to detect, he adds. While he knows measuring CO2 levels works, Armstrong is refining what the numbers mean.

“We can tell you something is not good. We can’t tell you how bad it is,” he says of using CO2 levels to monitor grain condition.

Normal air concentrations of carbon dioxide run about 400 parts per million (ppm), Armstrong says. In stored grain, CO2 concentrations can run up to 1,000 ppm. If the sensors read more than 10,000 ppm, he says, there is severe mold activity. If the readings are 2,000 to 3,000 ppm, there is some mold activity.”

CO2 is toxic in its effect. In an environment (home, work or outside) where there is a lot of CO2 in comparison to oxygen (O2), the CO2 tends to displace any O2 attached to hemoglobin, and vice versa. This means that the most important gas at that point is transported at the expense of the less important gas.

The blood is a transport vehicle for nutrients and wastes throughout the body. Cells use oxygen (O2) for metabolic processes, and the waste product of this is carbon dioxide (CO2). This CO2 and O2 balancing system works constantly, but if CO2 builds up in the blood, then the body reacts to remove the buildup.

When carbon dioxide increases in your environment and body, it creates carbonic acid and your cells are deprived of oxygen, which then causes the carbon dioxide in the blood to increase, and become acidic. As this acid builds up, the pH in the blood decreases, and these toxic wastes accumulate in the body resulting in inflammation.

Sinus Inflammation

A Mayo Clinic study implicated fungus (mold) as the cause of chronic sinusitis, an inflammation of the membranes of the nose and sinus cavity.

Mayo Clinic researchers say they have found the cause of most chronic sinus infections — an immune system response to fungus. They say this discovery opens the door to the first effective treatment for this problem, the most common chronic disease in the United States.

An estimated 37 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sinusitis, an inflammation of the membranes of the nose and sinus cavity. Its incidence has been increasing steadily over the last decade.

Common symptoms include runny nose, nasal congestion, loss of smell and headaches. Frequently chronic inflammation leads to polyps, small growths in the nasal passages which hinder breathing.

“Up to now, the cause of chronic sinusitis has not been known,” say the Mayo researchers: Dr’s. David Sherris, Eugene Kern, and Jens Ponikau, Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat specialists. Their report appears in the September issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Fungus allergy was thought to be involved in less than ten percent of cases,” says Dr. Sherris. “Our studies indicate that, in fact, fungus is likely the cause of nearly all of these problems. And it is not an allergic reaction, but an immune reaction.”(3)

Lung Inflammation

Mold (fungus) causes inflammation in the lungs and air passages. Fungal pneumonia is an infection of the lungs by molds (fungi) such as Stachybotrys and Aspergillus.  Aspergillus fumigatus causes is an infection or allergic reaction known as aspergillosis.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is an allergic reaction that happens to some people after exposure to Aspergillus fungus.  ABPA is more common in people with cystic fibrosis or asthma because they tend to have more mucus in their airways.

Pulmonary aspergillosis is most likely to develop in people who have chronic lung disorders or damaged lungs. These people are likely to have abnormal spaces in their lungs where the fungus can grow.

The fungus can also rarely infect sinuses and ear canals. The mold spores can colonize (grow) inside lung cavities that have developed as a result of chronic diseases, such as tuberculosis, emphysema, or advanced sarcoidosis.

The fibers of the fungus might form a lump by combining with white blood cells and blood clots. This lump or ball of fungus is called an aspergilloma or mycetoma. In some cases, a fungus ball may be present in other organs of the body.(4)

Stachybotrys chartarum, AKA black mold has been linked to building-related respiratory problems including pulmonary hemorrhage in infants.

A 2003 study titled, “Intranasal exposure to a damp building mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, induces lung inflammation in mice by satratoxin-independent mechanisms,” had shown that Stachybotrys chartarum, AKA black mold causes lung inflammation.(5)

Inflammation of the Gastrointestinal Tract (Stomach and Gut)

A 2011 study titled, “Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization,” shows how the fungus Candida is associated with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and delays healing of inflammatory lesions and that inflammation promotes colonization.

“Candida organisms commonly colonize the human gastrointestinal tract as a component of the resident microbiota. Their presence is generally benign.

Recent studies, however, show that high level Candida colonization is associated with several diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Further, results from animal models argue that Candida colonization delays healing of inflammatory lesions and that inflammation promotes colonization.

These effects may create a vicious cycle in which low-level inflammation promotes fungal colonization and fungal colonization promotes further inflammation.

Both inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal Candida colonization are associated with elevated levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17. Therefore, effects on IL-17 levels may underlie the ability of Candida colonization to enhance inflammation.”

Gross Lesions Inflammation and ulceration of the skin and mucosal surfaces of the oral cavity and upper gastrointestinal tract are the most commonly reported lesions in domestic animals and were observed in affected sandhill cranes (Fig. 37.5). Gross lesions described in sandhill cranes also included subcutaneous fluid over the head and neck (Fig. 37.6) and multiple hemorrhages and pale areas in skeletal muscle.(6)

Joint Inflammation

Fungal arthritis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of a joint caused by a fungal infection, and is called mycotic arthritis.

The fungus could be dormant within the body for a long period before it gets activated. The infection sometimes occurs as a result of an infection in another organ such as the lungs, and is commonly caused by fungi traveling through the bloodstream and reaching the joint(s). The large joints are most often affected, and tend to get worse very slowly.

It is said to be a rare condition, but joint pain is a very common symptom that people experience after they have been exposed to mold.

My son has suffered from joint pain for over a year. Every doctor we had seen (over 10) would not listen to us when we mentioned that we had lived in a moldy home for 5 years and that possibly his pain was related to a mold infection. Yet, not one of them could diagnose my son, nor did they do the proper testing to rule out a fungal infection.

Brain Inflammation

Inflammation in the Brain in my article, “Mold May be the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease,” that researchers found mold inhalation had caused brain changes and inflammation, and also activates an innate immune response triggering microglial activation with resultant behavioral dysfunction.

“Researchers are linking inflammation to an ever-wider array of chronic illnesses,” reports Newsweek’s Anne Underwood. “Suddenly medical puzzles seem to be fitting together, such as why hypertension puts patients at increased risk of Alzheimer’s, or why.

A November 2014 study of mice titled, “Mold inhalation, brain inflammation, and behavioral dysfunction,” was developed by researchers to show a mouse model to determine how mold exposure can lead to neurobehavioral dysfunction.

The researchers had formed a hypothesis that mold inhalation, like bacterial infection, activates an innate immune response triggering microglial activation with resultant behavioral dysfunction.

In the study they had shown how the fungus, Stachybotrys, causes brain inflammation, memory loss, anxiety and behaviorial problems in mice. Here is a summary of the study:

Our basic hypothesis is that mold inhalation, like bacterial infection, activates an innate immune response triggering microglial activation with resultant behavioral dysfunction. There is controversy over whether only toxic molds, like Stachybotrys, cause health problems, or if exposure to skeletal elements common to all molds is sufficient.

We therefore compared mice treated with 1) intact, toxic Stachybotrys spores (IN), 2) extracted Stachybotrys spores that had their toxins removed and proteins denatured leaving skeletal elements (EX), or 3) vehicle (VEH). Mice were treated with relatively low spore doses 3X per week.

Inhalation of both spore types caused striking deficits in contextual memory. Inhalation of EX spores also caused deficits in spatial memory. Inhalation of EX spores significantly increased anxiety, while inhalation of IN spores significantly increased fear of an auditory cue previously paired with a mild footshock.

These changes in behavior were correlated with measures of increased brain inflammation.

Deficits in contextual memory were correlated with numbers of amoeboid microglia and microglial size in the dorsomedial dentate gyrus.

Spore inhalation increased numbers of cells in the hippocampus expressing the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta). Increased numbers of cells expressing IL-1beta in hippocampal CA1 were positively correlated with spatial memory deficits and increased fear.

Mold exposure also affected two of three stages of neurogenesis. Inhalation of EX spores decreased numbers of immature new neurons in the dorsomedial hippocampus expressing doublecortin, while IN treatment decreased numbers of adult-born BrdU-labeled neurons that matured and expressed NeuN.

Our data suggest that respiratory exposure to any mold, not just the particularly toxic ones like Stachybotrys, may be capable of causing brain inflammation, cognitive deficits, and emotional problems.” (7)


  1. PubMed: Oskar Fischer and the study of dementia
  2. Science Daily: Molecular causes for life-threatening fungal infections in case of sepsis unraveled
  3. Science Daily: Mayo Clinic Study Implicates Fungus As Cause Of Chronic Sinusitis
  4. Cleveland Clinic
  5. PubMed: Acute inflammatory responses to Stachybotrys chartarum in the lungs of infant rats: time course and possible mechanisms.
  6. PubMed: Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization
  7. Mold inhalation, brain inflammation, and behavioral dysfunction
  8. * Other sources can be found by following the blue links in the article


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