Part of my understanding of mold/fungus and its effect on the body has come from personal experience. The other parts have come from constantly researching and reading anything I can get my hands on about mold-related and environmental illness. After all, the whole reason I started this “cleaning for mold” blog was to carve out a niche where I could actually impart some wisdom—maintaining a healthy mold-free home—to others who have suffered or are suffering from similar illnesses. And, just like a small cleaning job that morphs into something much bigger and more involved, the topic of mold has expanded and deepened on this blog as I have learned more. The doctors, professionals, advocates and fellow mold patients I have met along-the-way have also provided wonderful information that continues to aid me and my family on our journey to better health. It has been so comforting to be able to reach out to so many other mold illness resources anytime my health or the health of my family seems to slip, or a symptom of mold exposure starts to arise again. At these times, I ask questions, consult with my physician, and begin online research to see if any new information helps me to figure out the root of the problem. If there is one thing I’ve learned about environmentally-triggered illness, it is that there is always more to the picture than just the immediate symptoms. Usually, one, singular approach is not the answer.
Some of my most recent research brought me to an excellent website: BetterHealthGuy.com. There is also an informative blogcast associated with the site. The reason for my finding this treasure trove of information was my research on some of the co-infections that commonly arise for individuals, like me, who become very sick, because of mold. I was interested in common co-infections for people who have been exposed to toxic mold, because, recently, I was hospitalized for infectious colitis that hit me hard and fast, and seemed to come out of nowhere. I had to have multiple IV antibiotics, and was left rebuilding my gut and immune system once again. I wanted to know if mold had made me more susceptible to this type of infection.
This is how I found “BetterHealthGuy.com.”
You may be wondering, is there an actual “guy” behind the “Better Health Guy?” Yes! As a matter-of-fact, there is! His name is Scott Forsgren, and he is no stranger to chronic illness.
In his twenties, Scott came down with a mysterious illness that caused a litany of symptoms–digestive issues, dizziness, blurred vision, low-grade fevers, joint pain, nausea, brain fog, extreme fatigue, tingling in his extremities, just to name a few. For months, he looked for answers and for doctors who could help him. Finally, he found Dr. Jesse Stoff, M.D. Dr. Stoff diagnosed Scott with EBV, Candida, from all of the antibiotics he had used trying to get better, parasitic infections, and multiple food sensitivities. After a 2-year, carefully coordinated plan with his doctor, Scott’s body seemed to respond positively to the therapy and medications, and he began regaining his health, little by little. Finally, he had tackled his mystery illness—or so he thought. Unfortunately, his first bout with poor health was just the beginning.
In 2004, Scott began experiencing health issues again. Within 6 weeks, many of his previous symptoms had returned. When he reached out to Dr. Stoff for help, he found him retired and no longer practicing, but willing to consult on his care with another nearby doctor. Once again, Scott was diagnosed with and treated for probable parasitic infections (although, when tested for them, the results were not conclusive), Leaky Gut Syndrome, Candida, and multiple food allergies. His body, like before, responded positively to the treatment, but this time, as soon as his treatment concluded, he began to get sick again. In other words, there was no reprieve. A cycle of 28 days of therapy, and then a steady decline back into illness, happened twice before Scott looked for answers in alternative healing.
Scott explored a BioSET™ evaluation, with the idea of having the practitioner test him for foods, so that he could then avoid them—at this point, he could not eat milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, soy, wheat, oats, barley, or rye, and was even beginning to be allergic to some of the supplements that had previously helped him. It wasn’t that he was clearly allergic to all of these things, but, rather that the MD he started over with felt that food allergies were the only explanation for his health problems at this point. At his first meeting with the BioSET practitioner, he was told that he should have his doctor explore Lyme disease and its related co-diseases, namely Ehrlichiosis, Bartonella, and Babesia. Unable to totally believe a potential Lyme disease diagnosis, Scott delayed going to his MD for the identifying blood tests. When he finally did, his blood tests showed antibodies for Ehrlichiosis and an indeterminate result for Lyme.
(Note: Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by Ixodes ticks. The actual disease is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. An infected person’s symptoms vary and can present in any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart. Many people never knew they were bitten or infected, until symptoms of the infection arise. Symptoms vary and include, but are not limited to, a bull’s eye rash at the bite site, flu-like illness, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, sleep issues, and muscle pain. For more information, visit Lymedisease.org.)
The next step was to visit a Lyme disease specialist, where his Lyme disease diagnosis was confirmed. His test results also showed exposure to Bartonella and exposure to Babesia. In other words, Scott did have Lyme disease and all of its primary co-infections. Now that he knew what he was dealing with, the road to recovery could finally begin. As of today, Scott is living a full, healthy life. He is now in “maintenance mode”—still working on his health, but doing limited herbal antimicrobials to maintain progress. He now feels much more in control of his health destiny and, most of all, empowered by all of the information he absorbed along the way. According to Scott, setbacks are sometimes our most valuable teachers. If it hadn’t been for his relapses, he would’ve never discovered and been properly treated for Lyme disease.
So, what does Scott’s background and website contribute to the mold discussion? Well, as it turns out, an awful lot. Not only did Scott have Lyme disease, but he, for 10 years, had been living in a moldy environment, which had made his symptoms worse and prevented his healing to a great extent. It was not until reading Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s book Mold Warriors, that he made the connection. Scott left the moldy environment and many of his belongings behind to better his health—a brave, but highly necessary decision. Ever since, Scott has thrown himself into learning as much about mold/fungus and mycotoxins as he can. As a result, he has published many articles on the subject and is considered an authority on the undeniable relationship between the presentation of Lyme disease and environmental illness. In fact, today, Scott has suggested that the mold issue was likely a far bigger factor in his chronic health challenges than Lyme ever was.
Lucky for me, Scott agreed to answer some of my more mold-specific questions for the blog. I thought that by picking his brain and linking back to his website that I could also, hopefully, help some of you too.
To that effect, here is my exchange with Scott. If I neglect to ask about something that interests you or you would like more in-depth information about any of the topics we discuss, please reach out to Scott directly or refer to his website.
Me: Before reading Mold Warriors, did you ever suspect mold was making you sick? When you were living in the moldy environment, were you aware of your symptoms worsening? Would you improve at all away from your apartment?
Scott: It was shortly after the book Mold Warriors came out in 2005 that I first started to understand the impact of mold. It took a couple of years before I, with the help of my doctors, figured out that mold was an issue. Once I had positive ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) results in my living environment, I broke my lease and moved within about 2-3 months.
Most people with true biotoxin illness do not notice a difference immediately when they leave the environment, as the toxins from the WDB (water damaged building)-environment continue to circulate. If someone has a mold allergy, they may notice an immediate difference, but generally speaking, that is not the case with biotoxin illness from water-damaged buildings.
At a minimum, if one were leaving the environment, they would also need to be on binders to reduce the reabsorption of toxins, in order to start to observe a shift. So, I can’t say that I noticed a difference when I was in or out of the moldy apartment. I knew the apartment had water-damage. I knew it had mold. However, until Ritchie Shoemaker came along, no one had made the connection for me to the health implications of living in a water-damaged building. It was an important revelation for my own recovery. Many of us owe Dr. Shoemaker a huge debt of gratitude.
Me: How long did it take you to get the testing done in your apartment and to decide to leave it? Was it a difficult decision? What, if anything, did you take with you?
Scott: Once I had the ERMI results and blood tests that also showed antibodies to mold (allergy; not biotoxin illness), I moved almost immediately. I properly washed all my clothing and got rid of mattresses, couches, pillows, and anything else porous that could not be washed. I discarded a number of my books; though not all of them. I did not have to throw away everything, though there are some people that need to be even more particular about what belongings may still trigger a response. We’ve also learned a lot more about mold illness over the past ten years since it impacted me personally.
Me: Upon leaving, did you feel any immediate benefits to your health?
Scott: No, I can’t say that there was an immediate change, but I do think that treatment overall became much easier after getting out of the environment. I stopped antibiotics for Lyme the same year that I left the moldy environment and never had to go back to them. I may not have been able to do that if I had stayed; it’s difficult to know.
The second time I had a major exposure to mold over a period of time was in 2015, and after having been doing very well for some time, I had a profound increase in inflammation. I went through a hundred or more injections for pain in my neck, shoulders, and spine before I identified the source of the exposure. When I left the environment and added more significant binders to my program, the inflammation returned to my baseline within weeks.
Me: What did you do specially to treat your body for the mold exposure once you left? How long did that treatment take? Was your mold exposure treatment done in unison with your Lyme disease treatment?
Scott: I won’t be entirely precise here as it has been ten years now, and I was treating both Lyme and mold. I had a period of doing Cholestyramine (an FDA-approved drug for lowering cholesterol, also used to bind bile salts and biotoxins in the small intestine, so that they cannot be reabsorbed, but excreted in harmlessly in stool. The biotoxin cannot return, unless the person is re-exposed.). But, I also did many natural binders such as zeolites, bentonite clay, various charcoals, chlorella, and others. If someone has Lyme, my experience is that they still need to treat the Lyme, but doing so while still exposed to mold is nearly impossible – an uphill battle. Getting out of the mold first, treating for mold illness, and then working on Lyme seems to be the best approach.
Me: Can you speak a little about your adherence to The Shoemaker Protocol? How did it influence your treatment for your mold exposure? How has Dr. Shoemaker’s view of the biotoxin pathway changed the way you thought about Lyme disease and what you needed to do to regain your health?
Scott: The protocol has evolved over the years and was a little different when I went through it initially. I removed myself from the exposure, did Cholestyramine, treated MARCoNS (an antibiotic-resistant staph, frequently experienced by people with chronic inflammation or biotoxin illness), supported detoxification with various modalities, and had a brief period where I used VIP (Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide often used to correct chronic inflammatory response syndrome in biotoxin illness patients). I can’t say the VIP helped; though today, practitioners seem to be more rigid about the things that must be done first in order to make it work optimally.
At the time I went through the first mold illness, the Shoemaker Protocol was the model from which my doctors primarily worked. When I had the second exposure in 2015, I worked with a practitioner that blended the work of Shoemaker with that of Dr. Joe Brewer and Dr. Neil Nathan.
I had some significant impairments in my HLA-DR testing being both multi-susceptible and Lyme-susceptible. For me, this meant an increased focus on detoxification including various binders, drainage remedies, coffee enemas, FIR sauna, and other tools to maximize excretion of toxins.
Having had mold illness did not for me discount the reality of Lyme disease, but it did lead me to the conclusion that when mold is an issue, it should generally be addressed first. This doesn’t mean you can’t be treating for both simultaneously, but removal from ongoing mold exposure is critical and has to happen early.
Me: How did your body respond? Did you feel your Lyme disease symptoms dissipating as you ridded your body of the mold mycotoxins?
Scott: I wish it were that black and white, but I don’t think it ever really is. Mold and Lyme are two of dozens of issues that many people need to address. This is where something like the MSIDS (Multiple Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome) model from Dr. Richard Horowitz can be very helpful. I had dental cavitations, I had emotional work to do, I had dietary changes to make, I had detoxification to do, and so on.
I do think that getting out of the mold, however, clearly led me to more stable and higher ground.
Me: How important in your current regimen is continuing to address mold and fungus in the body? Do you still detox? Do you still get tested regularly to see if you have mycotoxins in your body?
Scott: Your question is an interesting one.
The idea of mold in the body or testing for mycotoxins is not supported by the Shoemaker work as I understand it. This is where Joe Brewer’s work comes into play. There is a lot of debate here. I have talked with some people that benefited from anti-fungal therapies; though Dr. Shoemaker makes the point that pharmaceutical anti-fungals may create MARCoNS-resistance. Thus, I prefer herbs and other non-RX tools here like colloidal silver.
I do something to detoxify almost every day. It is the biggest focus of my ongoing health maintenance program. Ionic foot baths, sauna, coffee enemas, castor oil packs, Biomat, PEMF, etc. have all been helpful tools. I also have detoxification as a focus of my nutritional supplement protocol, and I continue to take binders.
As for measuring mycotoxins in my body, I did personally find RealTime Labs to be very helpful. I shared that experience here: http://www.betterhealthguy.com/realtime.
Me: Since it is difficult to separate the symptoms associated with mold and mycotoxin exposure from those associated with Lyme disease, what would be your advice for someone just starting to explore the reasons behind their chronic illness? In other words, knowing what you know now, would you first address biotoxin exposure, or should it be the other way around, as in what layer should be peeled first for someone to get well?
Scott: Biotoxins come from both mold and Lyme and can trigger the CIRS Biotoxin Pathway. I do think that doing a Mycometrics ERMI test of home, work, or other frequent environments should be a first step. I wish I had known about the impact of mold years earlier as it may have made my journey less difficult. Creating an environment for recovery is critical, and I do not think most people will recover with daily, ongoing mold exposure. This doesn’t mean everyone has to move, but specific steps are often required to improve the air quality and reduce or eliminate water-damaged building toxic exposures.
Me: Do you see an upswing in the medical community and their general willingness to test for and evaluate patients with chronic illnesses for mold exposure? Why do you think there is so much resistance when it comes to identifying an illness as actually being caused by an environment or a toxin, rather than as just symptoms to alleviate or to treat?
Scott: Unfortunately, I have not seen a lot of progress here. The certified practitioner list on SurvivingMold.com is growing, but there are still less than two dozen certified practitioners in the world. We need many more as this is such an important issue.
I suspect some of the resistance is the potential financial cost addressing the issue. If 25% of the population is susceptible and 50% or more of buildings are unsafe for that population, that’s a huge issue. I also think medicine in general is better at alleviating symptoms that it is at looking for underlying, root causes.
Me: What are some things you do on a daily basis that you feel are paramount to maintaining your health?
Scott: I start each morning having had 8-9 hours of sleep. Then I move into my “Power Shake” with healthy proteins, fats, collagen, minerals, phospholipids, fiber, and other nutrients to fuel my body.
I do still take a number of supplements for ongoing detoxification support, antimicrobial maintenance, methylation support, and other key nutrients. I continue to support my body for KPU using zinc and other co-factors.
I try to do something like PEMF, ionic foot baths, sauna, Biomat, castor oil packs, or similar at least 3-4 days a week.
I avoid gluten and eat a nutritionally-dense diet.
I also work on minimizing my stress levels and doing something each day that aligns with my purpose and passion for helping others.
Me: What are some of your favorite products and supplements that you are using right now and why? Any mold/fungus specific products that you’d like to recommend?
Scott: I am a big fan of binders like Takesumi Supreme and BioPure ZeoBind.
I use several formulas from Beyond Balance and have found their products to be very helpful for me over the past many years both for microbial support and detoxification support.
Melatonin has been incredibly helpful for me over the years, and I continue to use it in liposomal form based on Dr. Klinghardt’s work and how it may also support detoxification.
I use UVB light therapy twice a week to support Vitamin D levels and provide immune support. I try to keep my Vitamin D level around 100.
Other than the binders, I am not doing anything specific for mold or fungus, but I did do Researched Nutritionals Transfer Factor ENVIRO for many months, and I think it was helpful.
Me: Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope this information goes on to help my readers and to give them hope for their own health battles.
As you can see, this interview opens up many new topics for discussion on the blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and questions. What topics would you like for me to cover?