I want to share my story and experience with mold exposure in hopes that you can avoid the same difficulties I went through. Or at the very least, it may help you put the puzzle pieces together and see the importance of avoiding exposure to mold in your home and workplace.
The back-story that led to my realization of mold being a problem, other than it is stinky.
By age 29, I had been diagnosed with four autoimmune diseases. In order of diagnosis; Arthritis, Sarcoidosis, Mild-Tricuspid Pulmonary Regurgitation, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. After realizing one day that I didn’t know what these diseases truly were, and I owed it to myself to know, I went to my local public library for answers. Though I had been told that the disease symptoms were irreversible, part of me hoped to somehow find that there was a way to stop their progression. Maybe the information was tucked away in a collection of obscure health books and it wasn’t spoken of often because it was too difficult to achieve, or the research was too new.
Reading and research pays off in rewarding you with good health.
I began to research about Hashimoto’s Disease first; I wanted to relieve my daily dependency on synthetic hormone replacement. I began with reading Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: a Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism which pointed to food choice and a condition called Candida albicans overgrowth or Dysbiosis as a possible underlying trigger to the autoimmune disease symptoms that I was experiencing. Long title for a book, but it is very valuable to finding answers to a reason for the illness. The dietary suggestions given by the author are similar to the diet styles of the The Paleo Diet and Candida Diet suggestions by the book The Yeast Connection. I followed a blend of these diet principles, and after a couple of months, test results showed that my need for hormone replacement was completely gone.
Talk about feeling empowered!
Wholesome, low-sugar, and anti-fungal foods helped my body regain control and start to function better. This changed my mindset, my spirit, and I began to trust myself and my own abilities much more. It also sparked an unquenchable desire to learn more about health and wellness, my true calling.
Next I began to discover how mold and imbalanced gut bacteria, not just candida overgrowth, had led to unwanted autoimmune disease symptoms.
I had always lived in homes with mold growing in some area of the house. I grew up in middle Tennessee, it is humid and the perfect breeding ground for endless varieties of fungus and mold. My attitude toward mold was this, “It stinks, and it’s ugly, but that’s all there is to it.” I didn’t understand the possible health hazards and danger associated with breathing in mold spores. I didn’t have a typical respiratory reaction to mold exposure (coughing or sneezing) so I believed that my body was not sensitive to mold spores. Along this same time, I began learning the connection between the gut microbiome and the immune system. (1) For many years, I used antibiotics liberally for colds, acne, just-in-case, and a reoccurring bout of strep-throat that antibiotics couldn’t rid leading to a complete tonsillectomy. I used a variety of NSAID pain relievers almost daily for arthritis pain in my knees. As an adult I was treated with several broad spectrum antibiotics for an infection over a two-month period. I spent five years on birth control, and two years on synthetic hormone replacement. What I didn’t know at the time of using these treatments for infection, pain, and hormone regulation; each one was quietly destroying my gut microbiome. (2) What I thought was an unfortunate coincidence of ageing connected to weight gain (even though I was in my early twenties, maybe I just age faster than others), really was connected to the destruction of my microbiome. (3) It’s hard to say which caused the problems first: mold exposure or the treatments that risk damaging gut microbiota. However, it is safe to say they were both contributing to dysbiosis, my continual degradation of health and balance, and I wanted to learn how to correct the choices I had made.
When the mold exposure had become too much.
The home I was currently living in, while researching about diet and it’s link to autoimmune disease, also had extensive mold growth – to say the least. The roof would occasionally leak during heavy rains. The basement had a crack in the foundation and would leak excessive rainwater in. It was annoying, but I didn’t understand just how dangerous it was to live in an environment like that, yet. For this particular year, 2013, it was Spring and the spring-time rains came in force. This house had been my home for two years previous and it had never leaked as aggressively as it did this time. Water came in from the roof and basement in buckets. I am certain God had His hand behind this because the mold in my house started rapidly blooming and it became undeniable to me that I needed to move.
Every bit of progress that I had made dietary-wise was quickly gone!
Three months of progress from eating healthy meals, it was all washed away with the rain. Rashes that I had cleared away started forming again. I hadn’t been wearing glasses for weeks, they had to go back on. My mind was abruptly opened to mold exposure as an underlying cause to everything that was wrong. The extensive and rapid mold bloom also initiated new symptoms. I couldn’t focus and developed a muscle twitch when I had to spend three hours or more in the home. I uncontrollably clinched my teeth, my hands shook, and I felt a level of irritation to my nervous system that kept my whole body tense. Pain would radiate in my bottom front teeth, and along my left temple to my jaw. Pain pulsed along my back under my shoulder blade. Unexpected bursts of various emotions would surface. My hair began falling out in clumps. At this point, I didn’t care if I had to sleep in a tent, I was out of there! Looking back on this experience, each symptom surfaced over a few weeks time and by the end, I finally accepted that it was crucial I leave that environment.
Now I go back to the library for help on how to remove the mold from my body.
So far, I have found the diet connection to autoimmune disease, learned that mold is dangerous, yet I didn’t know how I was going to remove the mold that was residing in my body from the exposure. While waiting for a new place to live, I was able to move into a hotel, and luckily this hotel was free from mold damage. During my waiting time, I searched for books to teach myself how to remove the mold from my body. This is when I found the Alkaline Diet, and how foods and herbs can be used to help your body naturally cleanse itself. I also discovered a scientific research jackpot giving me confidence that my observance of the mold and it’s effect on my health was completely correct. Researchers at the University Medical Centre, Ljubljana, Slovenia found correlation between patients with sarcoidosis and fungal exposure in their homes and workplaces. (5) Sarcoidosis is one of the autoimmune diseases that I had been diagnosed with. Again, more validation that diet, mold exposure, and inadequate gut bacteria were at the root of why I had developed so many unwanted health symptoms.
The gut microbiome shield.
Here on the other side, having learned more detail about the importance of gut health and the bacteria that live within. Reading the book The Microbiome Solution was life changing for me, and opened my mind to the importance of a healthy gut microbiome. I am now making life choices to intentionally strengthen my immune system and support a better balanced gut microbiome. I use essential oils that have scientific evidence supporting their assistance in keeping gut bacteria balanced. (4)
I have learned how to protect myself from the effects of mold exposure.
Since my time of living in the mold house, I have been exposed to mold by visiting other buildings that I needed to go in. Before I enter these buildings, I always apply a diluted amount of essential oils near my nostrils, mouth, ears, cheeks, and temples. I smell lovely, but it is intentionally placed at these points that are open to help stop the mold from having any affect on my body. Frankincense has been the best at helping me to avoid the symptoms of mold exposure. If it’s possible to avoid a moldy building, that is best, but sometimes that may not be an option. I still react to mold, and will know almost immediately that it is there (which can be a blessing in disguise). Now the reaction is not as harsh or long lasting, so long as I am not staying for an extended period of time.
There may be a bacterial reason for why some of us have stronger reactions to mold exposure.
I believe, had my gut microbiome been stronger I wouldn’t have felt the effects of being exposed to mold as strongly. This doesn’t mean that living in a home with mold is safe, even when your gut health is strong. But this may explain why some of us can go in a building with mold growth and feel fine, while others may feel tired and spacey for the rest of the day – the difference in each person’s gut microbiome would dictate the response. If you do react quickly to mold, consider yourself lucky, a canary in the coal mine for the rest of the group. At the same time, consider the health of your gut and how you may strengthen it with the addition of raw vegetables, fruit, probiotic foods, essential oils, and herbs.
Mold exposure is one of the first aspects of a person’s lifestyle that should be examined for possible causes to poor health.
My research findings and dietary experimentation since the moldy house have led me to the belief that disease and poor health sit on a foundation of mold and fungus exposure, inadequate gut bacteria levels, dehydration, and improper diet choices. Mold and fungus will suppress a person’s immune system. (6) Add on top of this, a poor diet and nutritional deficiencies caused by selecting acid forming foods as the majority of the persons diet. You now have the perfect recipe for unwanted symptoms that may be observed and classified as a disease. (7)
Exposure to mold and it’s danger’s is garnering more attention.
Many people are becoming more aware that the underlying cause to their poor health is the mold growing in their home or workplace. I have compiled a Pinterest folder with research and articles that link poor health to mold exposure, along with websites that offer information about mold and how to avoid it.
If you think that mold exposure is your problem too, there are support groups on Facebook for help with avoiding exposure to mold and environmental poisons. If you would like one-on-one guidance for how to reverse the mold exposure, look for a doctor of functional medicine that has experience with treating mold exposure patients. Of course you’re always welcome to join the Alkaline Diet Support group for suggestions on the dietary aspects of supporting your body’s ability to remove mold from it. The movie “Moldy” can help with motivating you to take action if it seems too challenging to make the necessary changes in your life to avoid mold exposure.
Please be safe and take care of your body.
It is interesting to observe how we can live in an environment that may be aggravating unwanted health symptoms, especially if these symptoms come on slowly, and never notice how obvious it is until you have been removed from that environment – a bit of the boiling a frog analogy. I know that not everyone can pick up and move from their home immediately, but keep this in mind, no material belongings in this world are worth more than your happiness and health. You can’t take any of it with you when you leave this Earth. If my only option was to live in my car, I would have done it. Do anything and everything you can to follow God and protect the body that He has given to you, you only get one.
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- Round, June L., Mazmanian, Sarkis K., “The gut microbiome shapes intestinal immune responses during health and disease”, Nature Reviews Immunology 9, 313-323 (May 2009) |doi:10.1038/nri2515. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4095778/
- Syer SD, et. al., “NSAID enteropathy and bacteria: a complicated relationship.” J. Gastroenterol 2015 Apr;50(4):387-93. doi: 10.1007/s00535-014-1032-1. Epub 2015 Jan 10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25572030
Turnbaugh, P., et. al., “A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins”, Nature 457, 480-484 (22 January 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07540; Received 29 June 2008; Accepted 14 October 2008; Published online 30 November 2008, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7228/full/nature07540.html
- Joshi, Rajesh K., “Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Ocimum basilicum L. (sweet basil) from Western Ghats of North West Karnataka, India”, Ancient Science of Life, 2014 Jan-Mar; 33(3): 151–156, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264302/.
- Terčelj, M., et. al. “Fungal exposure in homes of patients with sarcoidosis – an environmental exposure study”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3036600/
- Edmonson, D. et. al. “Immune Response among Patients Exposed to Molds”, Int J Mol Sci. 2009 Dec; 10(12): 5471–5484. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3036600/#B7
- Chutkan, Robynne. “The Microbiome Solution“, Penguin Random House LLC, New York, NY, 2015. Chapter 5, pp. 47-91, Dysbiosis – Do You Have It?