Mold May Be Driving Your POTS: The Connection Between POTS, Mold, Nervous System Function, Gut Health, and Histamine

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) affects between 1 to 3 million people in the United States. POTS a type of dysautonomia that causes excessive tachycardia and other symptoms upon standing. Lying down tends to improve the fast heartbeat, lightheadedness, and feeling of fainting.

Addressing POTS can be complex. In my practice, I’ve found that there are usually an array of underlying health issues that can contribute to the condition and worsen symptoms. Nervous system issues, gut health problems, and histamine intolerance are common driving factors behind symptoms. 

Another potential underlying issue that’s rarely talked about is mold exposure. However, uncovering underlying mold exposure may be the missing piece you’ve been looking for on your recovery journey. Understanding the root causes of your issues is essential for finding the right strategies and a key to improving your health.

In this article, I want to discuss the connection between mold and POTS. You will learn what POTS is. You will understand the symptoms and causes of POTS. You will understand what mold is and the common symptoms of mold toxicity. I will discuss the connection between mold and POTS. I will also discuss the connection between mold, histamine intolerance, and POTS. I will also explain the connection between mold, gut health, and POTS. You will understand why uncovering mold toxicity, histamine intolerance, and gut health issues is important for addressing POTS. Finally, I will offer some strategies for addressing mold, histamine intolerance, and gut health issues to improve your health and well-being.

What Is POTS?

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a type of dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used for various medical conditions that are related to your autonomic nervous system (ANS). Your ANS is responsible for your body’s automatic functions. These functions include your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation, temperature regulation, and anything else that you don’t have to consciously think about. 

POTS affects somewhere between 1 to 3 million people in the United States alone and a lot more worldwide. It is a type of orthostatic intolerance (OI) linked to excessive tachycardia or abnormally rapid heart rate and other symptoms upon standing. In OI, the blood that returns to the heart upon standing up is excessively reduced in volume. This can cause lightheadedness, fainting, and an incredibly rapid heartbeat (an increase in over 30 beats per minute or over 120 beats per minute total within 10 minutes of getting up). Lying down tends to improve POTS-related fast heartbeat, lightheadedness, and feeling of fainting (1, 2, 3).

Though you may develop POTS at any age, about 75 to 80 percent of affected individuals are women between the ages of 15 and 50. Some women experience more POTS episodes or more severe symptoms before they begin their period (1, 2, 3). 

Symptoms of POTS

Symptoms of POTS may include:

  • Increased heart rate (30 beats/minute resting heart rates, increase to 120 or over when standing)
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Shortness of breath

symptoms of POTS

Causes of POTS

The exact cause of dysautonomias is not yet completely understood. While in some cases, they may be inherited, in other cases, it may be the result of a degenerative disease, prolonged inflammatory reactions, injury, or another disease. Symptoms often begin after pregnancy, trauma, major surgery, or a viral illness (1, 2, 3). 

Your gut health may also play a role, as well as mast cell activation. I have already written about the potential connection between POTS and other dysautonomias, small intestinal overgrowth (SIBO) and gut health, and histamine intolerance. You can learn about this connection here.

In this article, I want to discuss a less talked about driving factor behind POTS: mold. Mold exposure and mold illness can lead to a long list of chronic symptoms and health issues. One of these health issues is mast cell activation and histamine intolerance. You can learn more about that connection here. Another issue is POTS. Chronic mold exposure may be driving your POTS symptoms. 

Reducing mold exposure and improving mold illness may reduce your POTS symptoms as well. But before I get into this connection, I want to talk about mold and mold illness for a moment.

What Is Mold?

Mold is a fungus known for its ability to grow on almost anything and thrive under many conditions, especially in a warm and moist environment. There are many forms of mold. Some grow indoors, and some prefer the outdoors. There are about 1,000 species of mold in the United States, with the most common types being Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Alternaria, Memnoniella, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys.

Mold exposure inside buildings is very common. Mold particularly loves to hide and grow in your bathrooms, kitchen, basement, behind old wallpaper, under the carpet, and just about any area that are warm, damp, and wet. Areas with water leakage and water damage are also at high risk for mold.

Mold releases mycotoxins in the air and lead to consequent health issues. Unfortunately, these mycotoxins can spread far and wide. You may initially have mold in one tiny spot in your home, but its microscopic spores can travel far. You may breathe them in through the air. 

Chronic exposure to mold can be dangerous. It can lead to mold toxicity symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, headache, skin issues, respiratory problems, and nausea. Mold exposure and mold toxicity may also increase the risk of POTS symptoms. You will learn about the connection between mold and POTS once I go over the most common symptoms of chronic mold exposure.

Symptoms of Mold 

Signs and symptoms of chronic mold exposure and mold toxicity may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Symptoms of allergies
  • Chronic sinus congestion or runny nose
  • Asthma flare-ups 
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Throat pain
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin infections, rashes, and other skin issues
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nausea or digestive issues
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Mood changes
  • Brain fog
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Histamine intolerance or mast cell activation issues

symptoms of mold

Signs of Mold in Your Home

Do you have mold in your home? There are a number of signs you can look for, including:

  • Musty smell in your home
  • Rotten smell coming from the walls or the floor
  • Black or white, fluffy or slimy spots on your clothes
  • Spots, spores, fuzz, or other signs on your furniture
  • Spots, spores, fuzz, or other signs on or under your carpet or rugs
  • Black or grey spots or other signs on the grout between the tiles or elsewhere in your bathroom
  • Peeling or warped wallpaper
  • Spotted walls
  • Bubbling paint
  • Black spots or musty odor coming from your AC
  • Past or present water leakage (e.g., flooded sink or toilet, moisture in your water heater closet, or leaky water tank) or water damage
  • Flare-ups in allergy and asthma
  • Chronic respiratory issues
  • Feelin itchy and skin issues
  • Constant fatigue or muscle pains
  • Other symptoms of mold illness (as explained earlier)

If you think that there is mold in your home, you can use an at-home mold kit to test for mold. You may also hire a professional mold inspector, however, that may cost more money.

signs of mold in your home

The Connection Between Mold and POTS

Mold mycotoxins can enter your body through inhalation, eating mold-contaminated food, and through your skin. Mold mycotoxins can lead to pro-inflammatory cytokine production, chronic inflammation, and all kinds of issues. Some people believe that this can increase your risk of dysautonomias, such as POTS.

If you search the internet, you will find some case studies on functional medicine websites on functional medicine websites, doctors finding success with POTS patients once addressing mold. I have personally seen patients with POTS who struggled to see significant improvements despite dietary changes and supplementation. Once we realized that their home was infested with mold, we were able to address the issue through a protocol addressing mold and removing mold from their home. Addressing mold toxicity was one important piece of the puzzle that helped them to feel better.

There are three ways mold may increase your risk and symptoms of POTS:

  • Mold may affect your nervous system function and may lead to neurological symptoms, including balance issues and other symptoms associated with POTS
  • Mold may cause chronic inflammation, mast cell activation, and histamine intolerance, which can increase your risk and symptoms of POTS
  • Mold may also affect your gut health and increase your risk of gut infection, which may lead to neurological symptoms of POTS and histamine intolerance triggering symptoms of POTS

connection between mold and POTS

Let’s look at these three areas where mold and POTS may be connected:

Mold, Your Nervous System, and POTS

At this point, there hasn’t been any larger-scale research on the potential link between mold and POTS. However, some research evidence suggests that there may be a connection. There is increasing evidence that suggests that mold exposure may lead to neurological symptoms. 

A 2003 study published in the Archives of Environmental Health  has also found that living in a home with mold may lead to neurological issues (7). Participants experience neurological dysfunction, including balance issues, inability to walk straight with their eyes closed, and memory issues.

A 2009 study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health has found that mold and mycotoxin exposure from water-damaged and mold-infested buildings may lead to neurological and neuropsychiatric issues (8). They found that mold may lead to coordination, balance, and movement issues, which is a common issue in POTS when standing.

A 2020 research published in Safety and Health at Work has found that working at water-damaged and moldy hospitals exposes hospital workers to high levels of mold, which may affect their central and peripheral nervous systems (9). The study has found that, as a result, affected workers experience arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), brain fog, multiple chemical sensitivities, pain, and fatigue. POTS patients commonly experience arrhythmias. Arrhythmia from mold issues can also increase arrhythmia and rapid heartbeat from POTS. Increased fatigue from mold combined with fatigue from POTS may also worsen your condition.

A 2020 review published in Antibodies (Basel) has also found that mold exposure can increase inflammation, autoimmunity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and POTS (10). The review mentions a 2018 study published in Autoimmune Reviews. The study has found that mold exposure and mold hypersensitivity syndrome may be risk factors for POTS, chronic fatigue syndrome, and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) (11). Furthermore, a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and a 2020 review published in Clinical Immunology has both found that mold exposure-related autoantibodies may play a role in the development and symptoms of POTS and autoimmune dysautonomias (12).

Mold, Histamine Intolerance, and POTS

Another potential link between mold and POTS may be histamine intolerance. Chronic mold exposure leads to ongoing inflammation, which may increase your risk of histamine intolerance. Chronic inflammation may force your mast cells to over-produce histamine in order to protect your body from mold mycotoxins. If your body is unable to keep up with all the excess histamine, it can lead to histamine intolerance and related symptoms.

According to a 2007 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, mold mycotoxins may increase histamine response and allergy and asthma symptoms (12). According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, mold exposure and mold illness can increase allergic response (13).

Research suggests that prolonged inflammatory reactions due to histamine intolerance and mast cell activation may increase the risk and symptoms of POTS. According to a 2005 study published in Hypertension, MCAS and POTS is a common doubled-diagnosis (14).

Histamine is a chemical that is responsible for a variety of functions in your body, including getting rid of allergens as part of your immune response, communicating with your brain, and triggering stomach acid release for optimal digestion. In a healthy body, at normal amounts, histamine release is beneficial. 

To get rid of excess histamine body releases enzymes to break down histamine build-up. However, if your body has too much histamine and/or your body doesn’t have enough DAO enzyme, it cannot clean up the extra histamine, causing a buildup. If you have MCAS, your body cannot turn off the release of histamine leading to histamine intolerance (15, 16). 

Histamine intolerance means that you have too much histamine, which can lead to various health issues. Symptoms of histamine intolerance include fatigue, headaches, irregular heartbeat, acid reflux, digestive problems, cramps, itching, sleep troubles, and anxiety. You may notice that some of these symptoms are very similar to symptoms of dysautonomias and POTS.

This is not surprising, considering your entire body is connected. However, this also means that your symptoms can drive each other. Chronic inflammation, histamine intolerance, MCAS, and POTS can turn into a vicious cycle with chronic symptoms.

Mold, Gut Health, and POTS

Chronic mold exposure can increase your risk of gut health issues, including gut infections. Mold mycotoxins exposure may compromise your intestinal immunity. This may lead to a susceptibility to viral, bacterial, and parasitic gut infections. A 2013 review published in Toxins (Basel) has found that ochratoxin, a mold toxin, may trigger viral gut infections and increase the effects of gut parasitic infections (17). The review suggests that treating underlying mold toxins is just as important as treating these gut infections.

But if mold can drive gut infections and gut health issues, it may also contribute to related nervous system symptoms. Your gut is in constant communication with your central nervous system (CNS) through the vagus nerve and autonomic nervous system (ANS). According to a 2018 review published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the microbiota-gut-brain axis is a two-way communication system (18). Your gut health can affect your nervous system and your nervous system health can affect your gut.

Understanding the connection between the gut and the nervous system may help to understand neurological and neurodegenerative issues.  If your enteric nervous system inside your gut experiences imbalance, it affects your autonomic nervous system as well and can lead to chaos all over your body. According to a 2017 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, your gut health may play a role in neuropsychiatric issues (19). 

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) may increase your risk of various chronic health issues, autoimmune conditions and neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and fibromyalgia. Stress on your immune system can also cause an increase of norepinephrine from your sympathetic nervous system. This will result in a flight-or-fight reaction. Since your gut microbiome balance is also closely connected to your nervous system, a gut flora imbalance may lead to serious issues. 

Gut bacteria imbalance is stress on the body and can result in the release of norepinephrine. As a result, SIBO can lead to dysautonomia symptoms, including symptoms of POTS (20, 21, 22, 23). One study by Dr. Lenny Weinstock has found that 27 out of 35 patients (69 percent) with POTS also had SIBO. Connecting the dots between these research findings, it is critical that POTS patients get tested for SIBO and receive treatment for it if they have it (24).

To add to the issue, gut infections and other gut health problems can drive histamine intolerance and mast cell activation, which, as you know, may contribute to POTS. Your gut is full of histamine receptors. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem. However, if you are experiencing gut health issues and gastrointestinal diseases, the expression of these histamine receptors can be altered (25). 

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Physiological Pharmacology has found that both leaky gut syndrome and gut inflammation can lead to a gut bacterial imbalance that may contribute to histamine intolerance (26). According to a 2016 study published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, about 30 to 55 percent of people with digestive issues also have histamine intolerance due to the overgrowth of histamine-producing bacteria (27). 

A  2010 study published in the Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine has found that SIBO, which is a specific type of gut dysbiosis, can lead to a lower or loss of tolerance to dietary histamine (28). A 2010 review published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology notes that the symptoms of histamines and SIBO often overlap, indicating that at least some people have both conditions (29). 

This doesn’t mean that everyone with SIBO will have histamine intolerance. While, SIBO, other gut health issues, and histamine intolerance often co-occur, this is not always the case. Some people with SIBO, never develop histamine intolerance. Some people with histamine intolerance do not have SIBO or other gut infections. However, testing for underlying gut infections is just as important as testing for underlying mold illness if you are dealing with histamine intolerance. Checking for signs of mold exposure, mold illness, gut infections, and histamine intolerance may uncover important pieces of your POTS puzzle and may help your recovery.

Symptoms of mold illness, SIBO, other gut health issues, histamine intolerance, MCAS, and POTS can all overlap. Some symptoms, such as fatigue, may characterize all issues. Other symptoms may characterize only a couple of them. However, when these issues coexist, symptoms can drive each other, leading to a complex problem. To improve your health, you have to address all areas of the puzzle.

Recommendations for Mold, Histamine Intolerance, Gut Health, and POTS

If you’ve been exposed to toxic mold and experiencing symptoms of POTS, I have good news for you. You can resolve your symptoms by using simple natural solutions. Here is what I recommend: 

Remove Mold from Your Home and Reduce Mold Exposure

First things first, if you have mold in your home, you need to remove it (unless you can move to a mold-free home!). If the mold-affected area is over 10 square feet or 1 square meter, call a professional mold remediation specialist. The problem is bigger than you can handle on your own. However, if you are only dealing with a smaller area, you can probably take care of it yourself.

You may try these self-removal options to take care of your mold problem:

  • Try a mix of one teaspoon of baking soda and 2 cups of water to use on affected surfaces
  • Use undiluted white vinegar on hard surfaces in your bathroom and kitchen
  • Use a 50/50 mix of ammonia-water solution as a spray. Leave it on the affected surface for 2 to 3 hours them rinse it well.
  • Use a bleach solution mix (one cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water) on affected areas without rinsing.
  • NEVER mix all-purpose cleaners or bleach with ammonia. They can create toxic fumes that can be dangerous to your health.

Don’t forget about addressing any underlying problems that may drive mold:

  • Remove any moldy and old rugs, carpeting, paint, or wallpaper
  • Clean or dispose of any moldy shower curtains, clothing, and other items
  • Fix moisture leaks and water damage issues
  • Reduce indoor humidity and keep it between 30 and 50 percent
  • If you hang your clothes to dry, ideally, do it outside
  • Always wipe down wet tiles after you shower
  • Keep the detergent compartment of your washing machine open
  • Make sure your home is ventilated well
  • Use a high-quality indoor air filtration system
  • Check your indoor plants and keep the mold off of them
  • Clean and repair the roof gutters of your home
  • Direct any rain or melted snow or ice away from your house
  • Keep your home clean
  • Check for signs of mold growth regularly and address any mold immediately

A word on exposure at work:

Unfortunately, mold exposure may happen at your work. At least half of the buildings in North America are affected by mold. This can be difficult if you are unknowingly exposed. If you can use a high-quality air filtration system at your office or office area. Talk to HR and encourage them to do regular mold checks and use prevention strategies. If you notice any signs of mold, speak with HR immediately. If there is an ongoing mold issue at your job, you may want to consider looking for new employment if it’s possible.

Get Tested for Mold Toxicity

If you have symptoms of mold toxicity or have been exposed to mold, it is important to get tested. Working with a functional medicine doctor, like myself, can help you with this. Just schedule a consultation today.

Detoxify Your Body from Mold

If you have been affected by chronic mold exposure and mold toxicity, you need to detoxify your body from mold. Here is what I recommend:

  • Check house & workplace for mold exposure (consider ERMI test)
  • Get body tested for mold toxicity
  • Detoxify Your Body from Mold
    • Hydrate well
    • Support detoxification through sweating ie. infrared sauna
    • Consider working with a practitioner to help with mold protocol
  • There are various other products I use to address mold depending on the person’s history and tolerance to supplements.
  • Recover Your Body from Histamine Intolerance and MCAS
    • Eat a low-histamine diet
    • Support your liver
    • Consider histamine supporting supplements like quercetin, nettle & others. My HistoRelief supplement has a blend of these ingredients & more.

Support Your Gut

Chronic mold exposure and mold illness can lead to gut infections and gut health issues. Gut microbiome imbalances and gastrointestinal problems can increase the risk of histamine intolerance and POTS. If you are dealing with gut imbalances, supporting your gut health is key.

Follow a healthy gut-friendly diet rich in greens, vegetables, sprouts, low-glycemic index fruits, herbs, spices, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish, and wild game. If you are not dealing with histamine intolerance, you may add some probiotic-rich fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented herbs, yogurt, kefir, or kombucha. However, since fermented foods can drive histamine, if you have histamine intolerance or MCAS, avoid these foods.

If you are dealing with both histamine intolerance and gut health issues, I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner (like me) to test your gut and see if opportunistic bacteria, yeast overgrowth, parasites, H. pylori and/or leaky gut can be what is driving your histamine issue. 

Support Your Body with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Healthy Lifestyle Strategies

Following a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and following healthy lifestyle strategies, such as moving your body, reducing stress, and sleeping enough, are critical for your recovery. I recommend that you follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet. Remove inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oil, artificial ingredients, gluten, food sensitivities, deep-fried food, junk food, and overly processed foods. Eat lots of greens, vegetables, sprouts, herbs, spices, fruits, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, pasture-raised eggs, fresh wild-caught fish and seafood, and wild game. Drink plenty of water, at least ten glasses per day

Move your body throughout the day. You may try dancing to your favorite songs, taking a stroll in the park, stretching regularly, and playing with your kids or pets. Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes five days a week and move your body regularly. I recommend getting 10 to 15K steps in a day if you can. Add resistance and strength training to your routine. 

To reduce stress and improve sleep, I recommend practicing breathwork, meditation, positive affirmation, journaling, yoga, grounding, and time in nature for stress and anxiety reduction. Taking an Epsom salt bath is another great way to relax your muscles, calm your mind, and detoxify your body. Make sure to sleep at least 7 to 9 hours a night.

Recover Your Body from Histamine Intolerance and MCAS

As you’ve learned, histamine intolerance is a common consequence of mold exposure or mold-related gut health issues and a common underlying issue behind POTS. If you are dealing with histamine intolerance, addressing mold toxicity and eating an anti-inflammatory diet won’t be enough.

If you have histamine intolerance or MCAS, I recommend that you follow a nutrient-dense and low-histamine diet. Eliminate all histamine foods for one to three months. After this Elimination phase, slowly re-introduce them one by one following The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan. To understand each step of this simple yet refined system, I recommend that you read my book, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan: Getting to the Root of Migraines, Eczema, Vertigo, Allergies and More where I explain everything about histamine intolerance and each phase of the plan in detail. You will also find my favorite low-histamine recipes to nourish your body. 

To support your body and reduce histamine intolerance, I recommend HistoRelief. It is a synergistic blend of nutrients, including Tinofend®, quercetin, nettle leaf, vitamin C, and bicarbonate salts, that provides natural support to balance your immune response, inflammation reduction, and histamine release.

mold, histamine, MCAS, and POTS connection

Final Thoughts

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) affects between 1 to 3 million people in the United States. It’s a form of dysautonomia that causes an abnormally rapid heart rate and other symptoms upon standing. Mold exposure, nervous system problems, gut health issues, and histamine intolerance are common driving factors behind symptoms. Addressing the underlying causes of the problem is key for improving your health.

I recommend that you follow my strategies for addressing mold, histamine intolerance, and gut health issues to improve your health and well-being.

If you are dealing with mold illness, histamine intolerance, MCAS, POTS, or other chronic health issues, I invite you to schedule a consultation with us. We can help identify the root cause of your condition and recommend a personalized treatment plan to repair your body and regain your health and well-being. Schedule your consultation here. You can also get started on your own with my Histamine Online Program.

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EXPLORE THE RECIPES, THE STORIES, THE METHODS AND CHANGES TO GET YOU BACK WHERE YOU WANT TO BE.

DR. BECKY CAMPBELL

Hi, I am Dr. Becky Campbell. I work with men and women who’ve had a health set back and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach optimal health so they can perform their best in their careers and be fully present with their family again.

Your Thyroid and Mast Cells: The Connection

Health issues rarely come in one. Your body is an interconnected system of cells, organs, tissues, hormones, and so on. If one thing goes wrong, chances are it will affect other areas of your body too. This is the thing with your thyroid. Thyroid disease doesn’t just happen on its own. Your diet, lifestyle, and

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Lectins and Histamine Intolerance: The Answer to Your Symptoms

You’ve cleaned up your diet. You removed refined sugar, gluten, and refined foods. There is no junk food near your kitchen. You started following a low-histamine diet. Yet, you are still having symptoms. You might’ve noticed some symptoms subsiding, but others are sticking around. What can be the issue? If you are still experiencing symptoms,

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