My motto is “enjoy life, but always keep one foot on the path to health.” As a 30-year survivor of stage IV melanoma, this way of living has served me well. But not long ago I faced another health battle that made me feel like I was fighting for my life again.
A Health Scare
When we first moved to Idaho from Montana, we rented a house while ours was being built. This house was only about 7 years old – airtight, like new construction often is. After a few months there, I started having trouble breathing when I was running. It got so bad I couldn’t walk up the stairs without wheezing. Then one day, when I went out to our home site to do a little clean up, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and I had no energy. I thought I was having a heart attack, so I went to the ER. But my heart looked strong, so they sent me home. I decided to go to a doctor I knew in Seattle for a thorough workup – chest x-ray, EKG, the whole 9 yards. Everything came back normal. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and I honestly felt like I was dying.
Finding Hidden Mold
A friend suggested it could be mold exposure. Idaho in the winter has some of the highest mold counts in the country, but I knew it had to be more than outdoor mold affecting me. We had the house tested and the results came back positive for black mold. They found it in the bathroom next to the shower and under the baseboards from an old leak. And new home construction is so airtight, the walls can sweat on the inside and be covered in mold, but you can’t see it. We moved out of that house a couple of weeks later, and I started feeling better almost immediately.
As with everything else, I researched and read everything I could about mold sickness. It turns out it’s far more common than I realized, and many people have symptoms as severe as mine were. Most common are shortness of breath with fatigue like I had, but since mucus from your airways gets into your stomach, gastrointestinal complaints are also common. Less common are the neurologic symptoms like headache, weakness, vertigo and memory issues.
If you’re experiencing symptoms like this, even if it’s not visible it’s a good idea to test for mold. The cheap kits you can buy at the hardware store don’t differentiate between outdoor and indoor molds in your home, so don’t waste your money. If you want to do the test yourself, you can order a kit to do an ERMI test from Mycometrics. If you think you’ll need to get your insurance company involved, then hiring a building biologist is your best bet.
Road to Recovery
The first thing you have to do if you’ve been exposed to toxic mold is to get out of that environment. Anything porous, like paper or clothing, carries mold spores in it, so mold experts say it’s best to leave these things behind. As far as supplements, I had a lot of success with oil of oregano and high dose Vitamin C, but a lot of protocols out there also strongly recommend a binder like charcoal or clay along with good liver support. It’s important if you do take a binder to avoid constipation, it slows down your detox. Magnesium is a safe choice to help get things moving again.
People who already have other fungal issues like candida are more susceptible to mold illness, because the environment inside the body is already set up for fungus to thrive. It’s important to address the candida with diet and supplements at the same time as you treat the mold. Keep diet clean and full of sulfur-rich foods to encourage glutathione production, and cut out the sugars, processed foods and foods known to have mold toxins in them like peanuts, grains, and cheese.
I stayed on the oil of oregano for a year, and it took a couple of years for me to really feel good again. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight; persistence pays off when it comes to mold sickness and toxic mold exposure.