Mycotoxins and Your Brain

Mycotoxins are toxins derived from mold. These toxins have the potential to harm and even kill.

Mycotoxin exposure can come from both dietary and environmental sources. Dietary sources include spoiled food and environmental sources include living or working in water-damaged buildings, airborne or physical contact with outdoor molds, and airborne dust in buildings containing mold spores.

Individuals most at risk for mycotoxin exposure include those who live or work in older buildings, those who have known exposure to water-damaged buildings, and those with impaired immune responses or higher levels of oxidative stress.

Unfortunately, molds are often overlooked despite the prevalence within our homes and workplace environments.

In fact, the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported that 50% of commercial and residential buildings are estimated to contain toxic mold.

Meet Steve…

I’d like to share a story about a man we’ll call Steve. Steve was suffering from brain fog, and as a senior executive for an oil company, it was impeding his ability to work at full mental capacity. It all began with a feeling of anxiousness and confusion. He could no longer do multiple projects at the same time, and his word recollection eluded him.

Symptoms had been interfering in his quality of life for approximately a year and a half to the point where Steve had already been to the Mayo Clinic twice and had been seen by other famous clinics. Test after test did not indicate any signs of disease, but he clearly was having dysfunction.

Within two minutes of Steve walking through my doors, I asked him, “When did your basement flood?”

What the tests didn’t reveal, his complexion did. Steve had mold toxicity. Confirmed with a simple urine test, his mold levels came back sky high. Two years prior, his basement had flooded. He had hired a team to get the water out quickly, but six months later began showing symptoms of mold toxicity.

Mold had established itself in his home, and he was breathing it in every day.

Symptoms of Mold and Mycotoxin Toxicity

Mycotoxins can lead to a number of serious health concerns, including autoimmune disease and cancer.

There may be a higher incidence of autoimmune or neurological symptoms with mycotoxin toxicity.

There are 37 different neurological and physiological complaints that are associated with exposure to mold. Steve’s primary complaints were confusion, feeling anxious, an inability to think clearly, difficulty focusing, and problems with word recollection.

Mycotoxin symptoms are often general or vague, and difficult to associate with a diagnosis or disease state, and, therefore, may be overlooked during clinical assessments.

Conditions and symptoms associated with mycotoxin exposure include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chronic burning in the throat and nasal passages
  • Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Loss of balance
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Skin rashes
  • Eye irritation or tearing of the eyes
  • Headache and/or light sensitivity
  • Hearing loss
  • Heightened sensitivity to chemicals and foods
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Morning stiffness and/or joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Poor memory, difficulty finding words
  • Slower reaction time
  • Vision changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or bloating
  • Unusual skin sensations, tingling, and numbness
  • Increased urinary frequency or increased thirst
  • Disorientation and/or dizziness
  • Static shocks or metallic taste in the mouth

Testing for Mycotoxin Exposure

The Vibrant Wellness Mycotoxins Test is a urine-based assay for 31 of the most common mycotoxins produced by molds. This test is measured on a microarray platform to produce the most accurate and clinically relevant assessment of difficult-to-detect toxins that can cause serious disease.

Mycotoxins measured in the test reflect past and recent mold exposure in the diet and environment. Mycotoxins can colonize in various body systems. It can be seen in dental plaque, nasal passages, vaginal and urinary infections, within the heart valves, in your gut, skin or in middle ear infections. Some molds have the ability to form biofilms.

Biofilms can help offer a protective shield for the mycotoxins to colonize, such as in the nasal cavities. Biofilms can offer shelter to Lyme disease.

Results cannot determine timing or duration of exposure. However, the report does indicate whether the mycotoxin measured is a metabolite of food or environmental mold. The interpretive challenges for clinicians and patients are determining, and remediating, the source of environmental mold exposure.

Due to the common co-occurrence of Lyme and mycotoxin exposure from depressed immunity in affected individuals, as well as symptom overlap between tickborne diseases and mycotoxins, consider running the vibrant tickborne diseases panel along with the Vibrant Mycotoxins test.

Getting To The Root Of The Problem

The chemicals and spores released by mold disrupt your immune system and cause inflammation. It can cause infections to occur anywhere in your body; however, your brain is notoriously vulnerable to mold.

Kitchens and bathrooms are most closely associated with mold and mycotoxins. Think about the tracks along the shower door, your shower curtains, dripping water, and crevices that water seeps into. You could also be breathing it in through ventilation shafts. It could be lurking within and beneath your carpeting. And like Steve and so many others, it could be from a flooded basement.

I sent Steve home with directives to get a mold remediation specialist to eliminate the repeated exposure to the mold endotoxins that could be lurking in the drywall, his heating and cooling systems, his air filtration unit, and in those dark corners.

When you search for mold, don’t forget to look outside as well. It can even enter your house through the insulation from a leak on the outside of your house. Whether you live in a hot or cold climate or a wet or dry climate, mold exists. And when it is lurking in your home, just like Steve, you are repeatedly breathing it in.

How to Regain Your Brain After Mycotoxin Exposure

I gave Steve the protocols I use in my book You Can Fix Your Brain and in my “Brain Masterclass” to help him regain his brain health. A few months later, he reported a vast improvement. His mental clarity had returned, and with it his confidence at work.

Because of the ability for these molds and mycotoxins to colonize, you can rid your environment of mold and still continue to breathe in mold everyday if it set up shop in the lining of your nasal passages. This means that you need to break up the biofilms that coat and protect the toxins in order to take it that one step further.

In my book You Can Fix Your Brain, the subheading is “Just One Hour a Week to the Best Memory, Productivity, and Sleep You’ve Ever Had.” That’s not a cutesy title I picked out. It’s the best method I have found for making substantive change and improving your health. Inch by inch, always moving forward, keeping your eye on the prize – your health.

One of the things you have to keep in mind is that while your body is fighting off the exposure to mold and mycotoxins, it is still having to deal with all the other toxins you come in contact with. The sad reality is that we are living in toxic soup, and it is up to us to clean up our little piece of the world. It isn’t just mold that your body has to deal with. It’s the toxins in your shampoo, detergent, air, plastics, water, and food.

So while it is imperative that you eliminate the mold immediately, you also need to help support your immune system by eliminating some of the other assaults against it in order to reduce your toxic burden.

I created a course that was a complementary resource for the book You Can Fix Your Brain.  In my “You Can Fix Your Brain Masterclass”, I provide you with tools that help you learn where to look for those environmental toxins in your home, and teach you how to make simple swaps to support the health of every single person that lives in that home. It’s not just you that breathes in that mold. Anyone that enters that house does, and some people have a deadly allergy to it.

Why Functional Medicine Is Superior

We don’t need to stay sick. Steve could’ve taken a pill for anxiety or a pill to help him focus, but he still would’ve been breathing in toxins every day. They would’ve kept accumulating doing more and more damage until one day, it isn’t brain fog; it’s dementia or fibromyalgia or respiratory problems.

Steve was smart. He sought out the reason behind the symptoms. He got to the root cause and eliminated it. He applied a few practical strategies and allowed his body to do what it was so eloquently designed to do: heal.

The way that our immune system protects us, and this is true not just for humans, but for every living species on the planet, is with an innate immune system, meaning it’s built into the body. It’s innately there as part of life and the innate immune system creates cytokines. They’re like bullets to attack whatever it considers to be a foreign agent, something that’s a threat. What’s important for humans to understand is that we have the exact same body as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. We use our brains more and we’ve developed more creature comforts, but we have the exact same body functions as our ancestors. What did our ancestors’ immune systems have to protect them from? Bugs, parasites, viruses, molds, fungus and bacteria. That was it.

Your body is capable of fighting mold. If you accidentally ingest it or inhale it, it initiates this response. However, if your body continues to breathe this in, your body calls for a stronger defense. This is for chronic insults that your innate immune system felt it could not protect you from well enough to snuff out the problem.

This is when we see chronic conditions occur, like chronic sinusitis, or cognitive dysfunction.

So many people struggle for years with symptoms. They look at the symptoms as the disease — they have it backwards. The disease is a symptom. It’s your body crying out for you to stop whatever it is that is causing the problem so it can resume the day-to-day healing.

Once you have this paradigm shift, health care is never the same. You begin to ask the right questions that help you attain health instead of treating disease. And, like Steve, you actively choose not to go down that rabbit hole of taking pills that help you focus while you continue to subject yourself to mold and mycotoxins as they destroy your brain.

You’ll start to ask the question, “What is the root cause of this symptom I am experiencing?” Then you can address the real problem (the mold), not just the symptoms (brain fog, anxiety, and the many other symptoms caused by mold and mycotoxin exposures).

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Coriolus Versicolor

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Fo Ti

Fo Ti, a revered Chinese herb also known as He Shou Wu, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Traditionally used for promoting vitality and longevity, Fo Ti may contribute to maintaining healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system performance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with supporting liver and kidney health, as well as fostering a sense of overall balance


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Maral Root

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Purple Lapacho

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Holy Basil

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Reishi Mushroom

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Astragalus Root

Astragalus Root, a powerful herb, is respected for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its immune-supporting properties, Astragalus Root may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. Additionally, this remarkable root has been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, heart health, and supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

Asian Licorice Root

Asian Licorice Root, a versatile herb, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Known for its adaptogenic properties, it may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable root has also been linked to promoting healthy digestion, respiratory function, and supporting the immune system.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a revered herb, is prized for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. With adaptogenic properties, it may assist the body in managing stress and maintaining harmony. American Ginseng has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and supporting the immune system.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, a robust herb, is admired for its potential to support overall wellness. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has been linked to promoting mental clarity, healthy energy levels, and increased endurance.

Peruvian Maca

Peruvian Maca, a nutrient-packed root, is celebrated for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Maca may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This powerful root has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, endurance, and supporting hormonal balance.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra Fruit, a unique berry, is renowned for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Boasting adaptogenic properties, it may help the body adapt to stress and maintain equilibrium. Schisandra Fruit has also been linked to promoting healthy energy levels, mental clarity, and supporting the body’s natural defense


Acai, a nutrient-dense berry, is recognized for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Rich in antioxidants, Acai may help support the body’s defenses against environmental stressors, while promoting healthy energy levels and vitality.

Himalayan Goji

Himalayan Goji, a nutrient-rich fruit, is valued for its potential contribution to overall wellness. This superfood is believed to support the immune system, promote healthy energy levels, and aid in maintaining balance within the body. With its antioxidant properties, Himalayan Goji may help protect cells from environmental stressors.

Gotu Kola

The main group of components in gotu kola is the triterpenes including asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to positively influence brain plasticity which means a much sharper you.

  • Exhibits significant wound healing ability, Improves microcirculatory parameters, Sedative and anxiolytic properties, Antidepressant, Re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging:

Water Hyssop

Best known as a neural tonic and memory enhancer this powerful herb increases cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter modulation.

Green Tea Extract

Healthy energy producer and one of the more researched and promising supplements. It upregulates fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. In recent years the consumption of Green Tea Extract has shown to help prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease because of it’s preventative effects on chronic inflammation.

  • Helps with weight loss by increasing a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well
    as fatty acid breakdown:
  • Decrease cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, has strong free radical-scavenging
    activity inhibiting LDL oxidation, reduce the adhesion molecule expression, has antitrombotic activities by inhibiting platelet aggregation: 

Mikania Guaco

“Guaco” is Sun Horse Energy founder Dan Moriarty’s favorite herb, and the reason why he’s still alive. Traditionally, it’s a well-known herb for snake bites, scorpion stings and other venomous creatures. Guaco acts as a non-steroidal bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways without steroids. As a result of guaco opening up the airways, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are better able to accept oxygen transfer and get rid of carbon dioxide. In Brazil, Guaco syrup is one of the most popular herbal medicines used to treat the symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis, cough and hoarseness.

Osha Root

A traditional Native American herb, Osha is also known as “Bear Root”. Native Americans noticed that when bears emerged from hibernation, the first thing they did after being in a state of torpor for 4 months was not feast on salmon or drink water, but rather, dig up osha and eat it. Why? It decongests and wakes up the lungs. Native Americans who used Osha were able to run further, and treat their colds and congestion. Modern research studies suggest Osha may support the immune system by offering protective effects against oxidative damage.

I want to thank you for your existence. I want you to know that functional medicine has changed my life, well the life of my autistic son. So much so that I plan on taking the Functional Medicine Health Coach Certificate and work with my new friend who is now a Functional Medicine Doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine and spread the word on GI testing and how finding the underlying issues will help eliminate autistic traits. 

I hope to be able to meet you one day so I can share this great news with others. Changing my son’s diet has changed him. Food is medicine!! By the way, I’m cooking my rutabaga. I’m Italian and never grew up with these. With love.

Rita Mastrangelo

I found you on YouTube a couple of weeks ago and I’m hooked. I listen to you a couple of hours every morning. I am being tested for celiac disease and have been gluten-free for a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of your insight.

April Renee

Just wanted to tell you that you’re amazing! You are helping so many people all over the world! Including me! Thank you so very much, Dr. Tom O’Bryan!

Patricia Puddle

Good morning Dr. Tom, Would just like to say thank you! This time last year I was going through a hell of a time with my gut. Terrible indigestion on a regular basis, feeling as if I had eaten a boulder and the tiredness was doing my heed (scottish for head) in! With two young girls being tired is not an option!

I went to the doctors on a number of occasions and they decided to prescribe omeprazole to mask the problem, sorry help my problem. I decided taking these drugs was not an option for me! So I started googling the life out of it!! Low and behold you started popping up!! Oh and Gluten intolerance! 

Your advice has been second to none! You have in my case really simplified what gluten does to my body and now that I have cut it out (which as it appears in lots of foods, some I can’t understand) I have found that my symptoms very quickly reduced and now I’m a year down the line they have gone for the vast majority of the time!! For that I’m truly grateful. I now follow you on YouTube and Instagram, which continues to educate me and the importance of gut health. I look forward to your future advice. Yours faithfully,

Gary Christie

Black Ant Extract

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Siberian Ginseng

This well known adaptogen has been proven to reduce cardiovascular stress, lower and stabilize blood sugar to healthy levels, and encourages a more efficient lipid metabolism.

Pine Bark Extract

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Lion's Mane

A very yummy and medicinal mushroom is a well established candidate for brain and nerve health because it triggers neurite outgrowth and regenerates damaged nerves. Lions Mane has been extensively studied for its neuro-health properties.


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Referred to as the women’s ultimate power herb, by some herbal enthusiasts. Used in India for at least 3,000 years, Shatavari, is structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. Some researchers have concluded shatavari can be a highly effective alternative to synthetic hormone replacement therapy for peri- and menopausal women.

Chaste Tree Berry

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Bulgarian Tribulus

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  • Various pharmacological actions, including nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects:

Ginkgo Biloba

In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in disorders like Dementia disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disorders.

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