Healing my body and mind post mold exposure has been a journey of epic of proportions for both me and my family. It seems that each month of exposure equates to a year of health struggles and recovery. As I write this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be on the other side, and having many more unimpaired and flourishing days, than down, sick days.
As integral to my recovery as Dr. Dennis and his mold protocols (HERE is a link to my post about Dr. Dennis and his unique approach to mold treatment) are holistic medicine and naturopathic medical doctors. My healing would not have occurred without the opening of my mind to a “different” way –consulting with professionals outside of the mainstream medical community. (Fortunately for me, Dr. Dennis is a medical doctor, who also employs holistic medicine and supplementation to heal his patients from mold. He never just treated my symptoms, but treated the source of my sickness.) Now, the more I learn about my body and rely on products, like the homeopathic products and supplements from MicroBalance to maintain my health, the more I desire to disseminate that info to other people who are also struggling with biotoxin illness or other chemically-related illnesses. Many times, the introduction of a supplement that the body is lacking or deficient in, or eliminating a food additive, or detoxing an unforeseen compound, like heavy metals, can be just what the body needs to make that jump from recovering to healthy. Simple adjustments can sometimes promote BIG solutions in our health. That is precisely why I am introducing you to my “guest” in this post today.
Today’s post features an extraordinary and gifted holistic medical doctor, Dr. Eric Wood, ND, of Visionary Health in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Dr. Wood is licensed naturopathic doctor, as well as an author (The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, Scientific Fat Loss, and Longevity Secrets), educator, nutritionist, supplement consultant and internationally recognized speaker. He earned his doctorate from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and completed specialized training at Harvard University’s Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, HIV/AIDS care through the Sherbourne Health Center/The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and Georgetown University’s Food as Medicine program. He works with clients in his private practice and in Florida’s Physical Health Complex, as well as around the globe via phone and video conferencing. His fields of concentration include anti-aging and weight loss, integrative oncology, infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, and biotoxin illness, just to name a few. He is also an Associate Professor of Mind, Body Medicine at Mind Body Medical University (California) and is an Instructor of holistic nutrition at Hawthorn University. Always in pursuit of advanced training, he has completed intensive schooling in European Homotoxicology and Biotherapeutic Drainage, Environmental Medicine through the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and in Biological Medicine. I guess it’s safe to say, Dr. Wood is very passionate about his profession and stays very busy.
Now that you know so much about his qualifications and training, I want to get a little deeper into my reasoning for wanting to connect with Dr. Wood and to interview him for the blog. In other words, why did I think he could help you—folks concerned with mold/fungal-related issues and illnesses. Well, for one, I have become very interested in liver detoxification as of late, and the importance of incorporating liver detoxification into my protocol as I continue working to purge the mycotoxic/toxic load from my system—Dr. Wood is extremely well-versed in all areas of this practice. But, more importantly, Dr. Wood is a naturopathic doctor who has taken a special interest in mold patients. He goes deeper in his treatment of toxic mold than many practitioners, and continuously monitors inflammation markers and the normal bodily functions in his patients to make sure their treatments and their lifestyles are keeping them on a path to total wellness. Dr. Wood realizes that mold patients are on a continuous recovery cycle, where they must stay vigilant about their environments and their body’s reaction to them.
So, without further ado, here is my interview with Dr. Eric Wood of Visionary Health in Fort Lauderdale, FL:
Me: Hi, Dr. Wood, I’m so happy to be interviewing you today about your approach to treating mold-related illness in your patients. I recently read that you are completing a fellowship with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker in Mold/Biotoxin Illness. Dr. Shoemaker’s approach to environmental illness is truly groundbreaking, and I love that more doctors are looking to his knowledge, experience and protocols for guidance in their own treatments.
I guess the most intuitive way for us to dive in here and to talk about your approach to mold is to essentially start from the beginning—for example, when a patient first comes to you for what they think is, or are health problems related to mold exposure, at this initial visit or consult, do you do testing to determine the mold toxicity levels in their bodies?
Dr. Wood: If at all financially or logistically possible for a client, yes. Unfortunately, many of these tests are difficult to get traditional doctors to order and/or are not typically covered by insurance and thus, can cost many hundreds of dollars. So, while it is definitely ideal to get them, not everyone unfortunately can do as many as I would like.
Me: Ok, so in an “ideal” situation, what types of tests do you recommend?
Dr. Wood: I would include urinary mycotoxin testing, visual contrast sensitivity testing, and a battery of blood tests such as anti-diuretic hormone, melanocyte-stimulating hormone and a bunch of other highly specialized blood tests.
Me: Does mold-related illness always present itself in lab tests?
Dr. Wood: If you know what to test for and do enough testing, almost always at least something will show in one or more than one of such tests.
Me: Do most patients who come to you know that mold exposure is the root of their problem? Or, do people often come to you with other symptoms that haven’t seemed to respond positively to any traditional medicine, and then come to you as another medical avenue?
Dr. Wood: Many patients have a suspicion, due to their own research or hear of someone else having a similar problem and finding out that it is mold, or sometimes patients come thinking they have chemical sensitivities or Lyme disease (which can have some parallel symptoms), so often times, yes, but not always. This is NOT a well known condition in the medical community (holistic or conventional), and it’s not even recognized by insurance companies as a ‘real diagnosis’.
Me: Are there common threads in the way mold illness presents itself in your experience? From my experience, one of the hardest things about getting the help and the answers we needed was the fact that I had very different symptoms from my husband and son. For example, my symptoms were mostly sinus-related, whereas my husband’s were more digestive and hormonal, but my son’s were everything, from neurological issues, to joint aches, to allergies. We were a mess. The interesting thing was, though, that when we finally found a doctor who pinpointed the mold, and helped us to treat it, we ALL got better.
Dr. Wood: As the biotoxin pathway indicates, mold or biotoxin illnesses (which include tick borne illnesses and certain species of toxic algae) can affect someone and present in a myriad of ways. So while there are some common symptoms, they can vary considerably from one person to the next due to a medley of reasons. Symptoms can range from primarily brain fog, cognition/memory issues to extreme fatigue, neurological/neuropathic pain issues, rashes, sinus problems, respiratory problems, urinary changes, hormone changes, digestive problems and more.
Me: So that leads me to asking about once you pinpoint the mold, where do you start, in terms of treatment?
Dr. Wood: Well, if at all possible, starting with testing and that includes testing the home environment. One MUST get the home cleaned/treated properly to get well; otherwise it is a losing battle. During the time this is going on, I will typically start making dietary changes and implement supplemental supports to help the bowels and routes of elimination/detoxification to improve and to support better clearance—all in preparation for more things to come, once the environment is cleared.
Me: How to you go about implementing your mold protocol? Have you found a general approach that works to get most people back to functioning, or is each case entirely different, with different therapies and supplements?
Dr. Wood: There are definitely common denominators, which include addressing many of the issues Dr. Shoemaker notes, but due to my unique training as a naturopathic doctor, where I was steeped VERY deeply in a holistic, first “do no harm” approach, I also draw upon other research and practitioners’ approaches, which tend to go deeper into things from a natural, nutritional and functional medicine perspective.
Me: So, being a holistic doctor allows you to incorporate more lifestyle-type recommendations in your protocol, like types of foods, colonics, saunas, etc.?
Dr. Wood: Absolutely, and for that, I’m VERY thankful for my training and specialized experience and observation that has given me a multi-dimensional and broad perspective on helping people via multiple ways.
Me: Was the brush that you had with toxic mold in your own home what brought you to really want to go deeper into your work with mold detoxification and treatment?
Dr. Wood: Actually no. One of my very first patients in practice in 2008 in Minnesota after I had finished medical school had both toxic mold exposure and Lyme disease. Boy, was she in rough shape. Her unique pathophysiology led me to first do a fellowship with the ILADS foundation in 2009, where I trained with integrative and holistic Lyme specialist doctors, and then, when I moved to Florida later on and started seeing more major numbers of [mold affected]individuals, this got me interested in looking into getting some specialized mold training. Our own home experience with this in 2013 accelerated that desire to come to fruition.
Me: In your exposure, was your health affected? If so, what kinds of symptoms did you experience? What treatments helped you? Do you still experience any residual effects of the mold exposure?
Dr. Wood: Thankfully, very minimally. Because of what happened, our mold was contained in a closed space behind our dishwasher, and there was little air circulation and thus, no broad exposure in the rest of our dwelling, so we actually never knew there was a problem until the day before Thanksgiving in 2013 when our dishwasher broke, and we pulled it out to examine the problem. We discovered that a pipe had burst in our wall months earlier and had caused a mold bloom all along the inside of our outer house wall. We then had to move out of our home for approximately a month while we had remediation and home repair done to cut out the wall and to tackle the mold problem. I do recall getting respiratory irritation and burning when we had to come home to the house during that month while the home was being remediated. Thankfully, there have been no further issues since then, health-wise or home-wise.
Me: That’s so good to hear. It is wonderful when the problem is confined and can be totally fixed like that. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t the same type of situation. Now that we have had that significant exposure, I wonder, how much do you feel that prior exposure or an accumulation of inflammation in the body and toxins has to do with the way a person reacts to mold?
Dr. Wood: It’s important to understand that many illnesses operate on the ‘”threshold principle.” Mold illness is highly linked to one having certain genetic predilections for not being able to clear these noxious poisons from their body, but one’s level of other toxins, like heavy metals, and overall functionality of the bowels and liver/gallbladder detoxification system will and can highly influence how bad someone is, how long it takes for them to improve, and how fast/slow they will be able to improve their current situation. Like is the case with almost illnesses, it is HIGHLY important we understand the importance of maintaining a strong, vital, internal ‘terrain’ that makes us much less vulnerable to all kinds of illness by way of healthy living practices.
Me: Is there anything that can be done to lessen that inflammation, or to prevent it from occurring in the first place?
Dr. Wood: Yes, but often times I liken this to the idea of “peeling the layers off of an onion.” There are many things that have to be addressed and done in sensitive individuals and after mold sickness. The system will be ‘primed’ to react later on much more quickly for quite some time, so individuals will have to be quite careful about new environments, and if they start feeling ‘funny’ or get a feeling a building isn’t good for them, I advise that they get out right away. As little as 5-10 minutes in a bad building can set off the inflammatory cascade again!
Me: What are your thoughts on the mold gene or HLA gene that determines whether or not mold will make you sick? Can anyone get sick, or is it only the people with the mold gene?
Dr. Wood: While these toxins are not good for any of us, those with the wrong HLA genotype will be much more likely to have long-standing difficulty and illness, because of the impaired detoxification ability to clear such toxins. Those without the mold gene are much more likely to bounce back once out of the environment and are less likely to get as severely ill when in it, as they more readily clear the toxins via the phase I and II detox pathways and the bowel.
Me: So, should we all go get tested to see if we have the mold gene? Would that help?
Dr. Wood: The testing would help you identify whether you were at risk for being more likely to get severely affected, but from a treatment standpoint, it’s unlikely to change much as we can’t change those genetics. We can only optimize whatever ‘genetic lottery’ any given individual was born with.
Me: Let’s talk liver detoxification and mold. I have recently become very interested in the idea of detoxifying and cleaning the liver as an aid to combating illness from toxic mold exposure. How important is this?
Dr. Wood: Extremely. I talk about the importance of detox all the time to my patients and students and readers. It is a woefully misunderstood topic that we all need a whole lot more knowledge of and focus on in our daily lives. The vast majority of individuals are dealing with some degree of heavy metal toxicity nowadays, and those with poorer detoxification genetics are setting themselves up for illness later in life, due to lack of knowledge and uneducated medical professionals never delving into this extremely important area.
Me: Would detoxifying the liver alone make much of a difference in recovery?
Dr. Wood: It will support and accelerate recovery and lead to heightened overall health.
Me: Should we all be doing liver detoxes to prevent reactions to mold?
Dr. Wood: We should all be intelligently and strategically detoxing ALL the time to some level, because unbeknownst to many, we are getting chronic exposures to toxins all the time via tap water, the food supply, the air, personal care and cleaning products and more. The list of noxious chemicals and the directions from which they are coming nowadays is truly horrifying when you investigate deeply into this due to lax environmental standards and lack of public knowledge.
Me: Now, since my blog is called “How to Clean for Mold,” and I know that you are a proponent of removing yourself from the moldy environment or remediating that environment to a point where it tests as safe, what sort of mold-cleaning products, or devices do you use and stand behind?
Dr. Wood: I don’t advise patients/clients to ever clean their homes themselves [for toxic mold], because this is a very high-risk activity of stirring up mycotoxins which can make them extremely ill. I’ve had a number of cases come to my office, because they tried to this and then got extremely ill. So I only advise to have one’s home professionally remediated, because these poisons truly are that dangerous. The chemical components in mycotoxins have some similarities to those comprising Agent Orange, to put it into perspective. It is simply too high of a risk in my book to try and do this. Of course, one has to do post-testing after remediating to ensure no substantive residual levels are left, and to ensure a clean/clear environment for one trying to recover.
Me: What is something that you wish you could teach people about mold exposure and its effect on the body?
Dr. Wood: We need to raise awareness and public knowledge on many levels—from a building standpoint with contractors/property owners, insurance needs to recognize this is a true illness, medical training needs to acknowledge and know something about it to help more people. And, we all need to be treating our bowels and livers like gold, because they are our primary routes of excretion and detoxification. The vast majority of people nowadays have major problems in one or both their liver/gallbladders and/or their stomach/intestines, which compounds exposures to things like mold.
Me: What is something you do or a supplement that you take to lessen the harmful effects of mold on your body?
Dr. Wood: Doing things like cultured foods, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and milk thistle are highly relevant for the vast majority of us to routinely support the liver/gallbladder and the stomach/intestinal systems with.
Me: Thank you for ALL of this valuable information. You have much to teach from the insight that you have developed outside of the constraints of conventional medicine. Your help and knowledge will allow people to piece together the puzzle of what is going on with their health. That is such a gift!
I hope you enjoyed and learned something new from this interview. I plan to share more about liver detoxification as I learn more about it and delve deeper into the practice for myself. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Also, if you would like to contact Dr. Wood, I have listed all of his contact information below. He makes himself available to patients, who cannot travel to see him, via phone and video conferencing, so don’t let distance keep you from getting his medical care and advice, should you need it.
As always, be well!
Office Number: 954-228-9510
Main Reception: 954-566-0444
TO BOOK AN APPOINTMENT: Go to Dr. Wood’s website and click on the Online Scheduler also located on the homepage, select your appointment type, press continue at the bottom of the page, and follow the prompts.
2544 N Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305