Because I know so many people who are dealing with this malady I am going to share just a bit of my story and what has helped me with health issues associated with toxic mold exposure. I hope you are encouraged. Please feel free to share this post with others on your FB pages and other social media accounts. The more we get the word out about environmental toxins the more people can be helped.
Before I begin I must clarify that I am not a doctor and what you will read about in this post is from my personal experience, nothing stated here is intended as medical advice.
I must also state that prior to my perils with environmental toxins and mold I was very healthy. I had no underlining health issues or ailments other than a herniated disk from a decade prior. I ate healthily and exercised daily. I had and still have no addictions to drugs or alcohol. I actually don’t drink any alcoholic beverages at all.
So How Did I Get Sick?
A few minor symptoms started after I started working in and old building. During that time, there were a few remodeling projects while leaks caused wet carpets to smell.
I began to feel lightheaded and have nosebleeds.
Fast forward some time and I started to feel really dizzy almost on a daily basis. I also had daily bouts of extreme fatigue, swelling, and inflammation. My memory started slipping so much so that I could not remember something that someone had told me minutes before. I noticed that my symptoms became far worse when I was in my office.
For the first few years, I pushed myself to work and left home from my office each day barely able to drive and deal with my responsibilities at home. I’d arrive home and crash in bed for several hours.
At work, I actually fainted a few times and dealt with a few bouts of subconjunctival hemorrhages. When this occurred I would rush to my doctor or to the ER.
I also began to run fevers (FUO – Fevers of unknown origin) each day after being at work for a few hours and had a very hard time breathing while in the office. I coughed constantly and wheezed almost daily (I do not have asthma, never have). I also was treated for walking Pneumonia several times during the first few years I worked in my office.
Around this time my doctor diagnosed me with a Mitral Valve Prolapse, PVCs, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia, POTS and Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. He said that my heart and lungs were acting abnormally. He sent me in to see a cardiologist and another specialist for testing and monitoring.
After long weekends as soon as I was back at work I started noticing a very strong and putrid smell every time I walked into my office and I also started noticing all kinds of chemical smells in the air as if they were assaulting me. I thought it was funny at the time when this happened but later learned that I was unmasking.
During this time, I had to stop using most essential oils and only used deodorants, moisturizers, and herbal beauty products that I made and sold at the time. I could not tolerate the smells of most products including popular organic brands. This new intolerance to smells and chemicals happened out of nowhere. At the time, I had no idea why my Christian Dior perfume and every other fragrance were making me so sick.
Getting back to the putrid moldy smell, it seemed to be worse in the evenings and early in the morning and dissipated a bit each afternoon when all the doors were open and the air was flowing freely. To help, I thought at the time that installing a HEPA filter and a dehumidifier in my small office space would keep me safer but that was a bandaid on a massive wound. The dehumidifier would fill up with 5 gallons of water twice a day. During those months the humidistat in my office gave a reading of 70% or higher.
Unable to function and desperate for an answer I continued researching and came across Dr. Rea’s work. I learned quite a bit more about fragrances and chemicals and what was happening to my body. I also mentioned my newfound symptoms to one of my doctors and I asked if he could run a few more tests. We began a period of rigid testing, both before and after going to work. Results were compared for noticeable differences in temperature, blood pressure, wheezing, CO2, and a few other things.
One of my doctors recommended that we hire a company to check the air quality in my office so we did our own tests first and we also had samples of the air and dust particles around all the air vents and walls taken by a professional.
The results were shocking and confirmed our suspicions. There was indeed a serious toxic mold problem in my personal office and also in other areas inside of the building where I worked.
After my doctors reviewed the results from the air quality tests they were alarmed and concluded that I was having some sort of reaction to a sick building. One of my doctors said that I needed to leave that office as soon as possible. During this time I also chatted with radio host Chris Fabry and we exchanged emails about his toxic mold experience in Colorado. You can watch a video about what happened to his family here. The video is entitled “CBN news report on a family of 11 who suffered tremendously from mold exposure.”
I discussed the air quality test results with the building where I worked only to be told that the air was clean and there was no issue. They lied to me and to my employer who was a tenant in the building.
Knowing that they were obviously lying and seeing my health seriously decline, leaving my workplace became a priority and was ordered by my physician and by several other physicians and experts whom I consulted with during this time. Note that I was not the only person getting sick in the building where I worked. Others were experiencing different symptoms that seemed to worsen while they were at work. Several months before I planned on leaving, I traveled internationally to a location that had absolutely clear and crisp air. I wanted to see how my body would react. While reading Dr. Rea’s work and reading a booklet by Erik Johnson I was interested and decided to take what many call a Mold Sabbatical and kill two birds with one stone. I needed to travel anyway and a vacation was also something I needed, so we traveled internationally for a few weeks and I felt so much better. Still not 100% but nowhere as sick as I was in my office.
There is a lot more to this story as I worked about 8 years in that sick building and it destroyed my health completely. If you’d like to hear more about my story or learn about toxic mold and chemical-free living, please feel free to contact me for an educational consultation.
After leaving my moldy office I began my road to recovery and set out to continue avoiding mold and chemicals as best as possible. I dreamt of the day I would feel like my old self again. This is still a dream of mine! During all of these years working in a sick building, things like walking to my car became difficult. taking a shower took every ounce of energy and I’d have to rest or lie down afterward. Raising my hands to brush my hair or to cook or hug our children was unbearably painful. I spent almost every day with debilitating migraines, dizziness, abnormal heartbeats, fibromyalgia, intense fatigue, chronic pain, and chemical intolerances. Despite the health complications, my heart hurt more because of every moment I lost during those years with my children and my family.
I remember crying almost every day, it was a rough time. This period of daily sickness (before I left my office and for a bit after I left my office) has lasted a long time and is still an ongoing struggle for me but I am getting better, little by little. Although I am nowhere near as sick as I was while working in a sick building, my body endured so much exposure to various toxic molds and chemicals that some experts believe it may take me years to regain a clean bill of health while some say that complete healing is impossible. I believe that as I continue to avoid mold and chemicals I will be able to see improvements little by little.
Although I am not completely symptom-free I am so much better. I am no longer swollen all over my body which is a plus. I no longer have POTS. I no longer wheeze and I can walk without feeling like I’m about to collapse. The most remarkable thing is that just a few weeks after leaving my office my scalp stopped bleeding and cracking. Prior to leaving my workplace, I suffered for a few years with an awful swollen and itchy scalp and psoriasis. My skin would bleed daily and my hair and scalp would come out in chunks. While in the office my scalp and neck itched so bad my clothes would get covered in dried skin and blood from my constant scratching. It was really awful.
The pain and swelling were unbearable. I also developed sores and black and blue blotches on my legs that would itch terribly every time I was in the office. Although I still have these marks on my body they no longer get swollen or itch as they used to, but my struggles still continue.
The coughing, bloody congestion, heart arrhythmias, eye infections, fevers, and dizziness cleared up too after I left my office thank God.
Although it has been a really difficult time for my family and for me, I am so thankful to God for helping me through this process and equipping us with wisdom to manage my health. In all honesty, I remember moments during the years I worked in my office where I just wanted to die and no one seemed to understand what I was going through. My main comfort was prayer.
If I am in any way able to keep pushing forward, it is because of God’s mighty hand. Without his help, I know for sure that I wouldn’t be alive. Faith in God and in his word has kept me afloat during some awful storms.
So what have I done to help me on this journey?
For starters, I took a deep look into my emotional and spiritual health. I came to grips with the fact that I had to deal with some fear and anxiety about my condition that I knew could make my condition worse. I began to pray fervently and make a list of the things I was stressing about. I committed to doing my best about my situation and leaving the rest to God.
It may sound silly but when we panic or stress our bodies begin to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The body kind of hunkers down in what is known as the flight or fight response.
This response begins to trigger changes in our body which show such up as high blood pressure, muscle tension and inflammation, rapid heartbeat, increased sweating, and other symptoms.
Another thing I did was go through all past issues that had affected me. I thought long and hard and tried to analyze if I was harboring any resentment, anger, or sadness towards a person or situation. I tried to think of any hidden hurts that I hadn’t dealt with.
My goal in this process was to be free from anything that could make me sicker. It was a hard process and I learned a lot about myself. It is something I recommend that everyone does on a daily or weekly basis.
If you are an angry, sad, or temperamental person and harbor feelings of rage and resentment it can make you sick. It makes the world of difference to confess those feelings and be done with it. In my case, I asked God for healing and for forgiveness for anything that I found that was not right. Doing that has been liberating, to say the least.
Next, I focused on my diet.
I already had been following a very healthy diet for years and consumed mainly organic greens, vegetables, sprouted grains, and lots of raw greens. I avoided all GMOs and synthetic ingredients. I also consumed small amounts of grass-fed, pastured animal products from time to time.
So I really did not have to change much but one thing was unavoidable, I had to give up all grains, sugars, and some carbs because at the time they seemed to bother me. This will be different for everyone. Removing grains was the hardest part as I loved eating sprouted grains like quinoa on a weekly basis. I am also a very dedicated cook and I develop recipes for various dietary protocols, so when I am creating a new recipe, everything I need is made from scratch. Losing a lot of my fun and comforting foods was very hard. Making sprouted bread and eating it with raw cultured butter is definitely one of the things I miss the most. But the change was necessary so I got over it fairly quickly.
As part of my dietary change, I began to add larger amounts of raw foods (think carrot and lemon juice) and probiotics into my daily diet. My idea in all of this was to starve any fungus in my body and eliminate pathogens trying to take up residence where they don’t belong! As a side effect I hoped to reduce the swelling, water retention, and inflammation I was dealing with after leaving my office.
To give you an idea of my diet here is what a typical day looks like for me:
-a glass of water at room temperature with my probiotics and turmeric
-¾ cup of soaked sprouted oats (my only cheat) or raw goat or cow yogurt (cultured for at least 24 hrs to eliminate lactose) topped with sprouted cashews or almonds. I also make a large fruit and green smoothie using raw greens, strawberries, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and sprouted pumpkin seeds. I might bake a flour-less muffin to go with my smoothie and with that, I am all set until lunchtime.
-a cup of homemade broth (broth is an amazing food full of nutrients and minerals. Great to heal the digestive tract and soothe upset stomachs)
-veggie mash (instead of mashed potatoes)
– grass-fed or pastured meats if tolerated
– mixed greens salad without commercial dressings (instead I use coconut oil, lemon juice and sauerkraut on top)
Cultured strawberry and mango ice cream (lactose-free)
-Vegan cream of broccoli or cauliflower with wild Mahi Mahi and nut biscuits
A Bit Regarding Supplements
I am not a fan of supplementing or taking 25 pills every 3 hours. I believe that the bulk of our nutrition should come from our diet and from herbs. However, when your body is slammed with toxins and in a state of chronic illness, supplementing can really make a difference because toxins cause malabsorption issues so it takes higher amounts of beneficial vitamins and nutrients to help the body heal.
Here are a few of the supplements and herbs I have taken and still take:
Bentonite Clay (mixed all ready for drinking)
Bentonite Clay (for bathing)
Pau D arco
Herbal Cleanse for Parasites – A note about parasites. If you have left a moldy environment and you are still very sick, think parasites. Parasites can harbor mold toxins inside so eventually, you have to work on eliminating them, but this shouldn’t be the first thing targeted. Supporting our digestion along with our kidneys and our liver is super important before we start killing things and detoxifying. We must also support our lymphatic system and make sure that our lymph is moving.
As the herbalist mama that I am, I also made and still make my own herbal extracts to aid my body in cleansing and to support my kidneys, liver, cells, immune and lymphatic system. Below are a few commercial brands with similar ingredients to what I make from time to time.
It seems like a lot of changes but in my case, I was not been able to afford the medical treatment recommended by my doctors so I had to start doing the best I could to help me feel better. I wrote my own protocol and have seen really great changes after leaving my office.
I know that a big part of my inflammation, coughing, wheezing, dizziness, and psoriasis going away was the fact that I left the contaminated building where I worked. Although diet, medical treatment, and supplements will help with recovery, nothing is more important than removing yourself from an unclean and unsafe environment. This is the most important step and must not be avoided! I’ll also add that I had to trash clothing, books, and porous furniture from my office. I didn’t take anything home with me because I didn’t want to contaminate my home and the mere smell of those things made me sick.
No matter what your situation is please know that there is always hope.
These years have been very difficult but there is always light at the end of the darkest day. No winter lasts forever and no night is so dark that the morning sun does not appear. I have to constantly remind myself of this because on hard days I just want to give up and that’s OK, but I don’t ever want to get stuck in hopelessness because I know from experience that it will drain all of the life out of me.
So for today and every day, I just live one moment, one hour, and one task at a time because it is all this broken body can handle right now.
God Bless You!
For other helpful resources on Toxic Mold check out the links below.
Mold 101 & Testing Info