The Good News Is There’s No One “Right” Way. The Bad News Is There’s No One “Right” Way . . .
I am often asked about what supplements I took, treatments I underwent, and about “all the things” that I did to heal my body from mold toxicity. Many folks are looking for a clear, straightforward road map that they can follow and are hoping that I will be able to provide it. My blog is called “Mold Free Living” after all, right?
Every time I am asked for specifics on healing and detox, I first must make sure everyone knows that I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONER. Any response I can offer comes from personal experience and is not medical advice. My take is an “n = 1” point of view, so I am never sure how helpful any answer I give would be for the rest of the “moldy” population. The frequency with which I am asked detox and healing regimen questions makes me acutely aware of how many people are out there still struggling and just trying to get their bodies and their lives back from this whole mold thing, though. It also makes me acutely aware of how blessed I am to be doing so well after having been so sick and desperate. So, to lend whatever help sharing my experience gives to others, today I am going to circle back around to discuss the topic of healing, how long it took me to heal and my regimen, as it were, that helped me to get to today.
The Steps to Healing Before the Steps
First, the most important step—the step that had to occur before any healing of my body could meaningfully begin—was leaving the moldy environment that was making me sick. We did end up remediating our home by literally gutting it, but I had to leave and get to a safe environment with clean air in the interim. Second, but equally as important to understand, is that healing your body is going to look different for every single person. I mean that in the biggest sense of the word, but healing takes on a new complexity when mold-triggered illness or mold toxicity is being discussed.
Healing From Mold-Triggered Illness Isn’t Always . . . Easy
Healing from mold is complex, because mold affects EVERYTHING—and yes, I do mean everything. Mold toxins, once they become an inflammatory problem in the body can disrupt your respiratory, endocrine, nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems. Accumulated mold toxins can create autoimmune issues, bring sleeping viruses and infections out of hiding, and cause inflammation in the brain. Mold also tends to affect you emotionally: your relationships are tested when mold drives a wedge between you and others who do not see it as a problem, your sense of security is shaken when you feel like nowhere and nothing is “safe” anymore, and your identity can be lost when mold places you swiftly and decidedly into the “sick” category of person. Mold can even rob you of your home and belongings, and I don’t care how “minimalist” you are, losing everything stings—and kinda sucks.
When it comes to mold, and the concept of healing, it is important to step back and to digest the BIG picture for a moment, because it can be so far-reaching and deep. Thus, when someone is asking me about healing from mold toxicity and what to do and what supplements to take, I never ever feel comfortable just giving an answer. It is not because there isn’t an answer. Rather, it is because I’m afraid by telling someone else “what I did”, I’m not giving the the best advice for them or their unique situation. With mold, my truth and answers could be vastly different from your truth and answers. In other words, the pieces of me and my life that also had to be put back together for healing to fully occur may be entirely different from the pieces of you that mold has unhinged.
Pinpoint Your List What Needs to Heal for You to REALLY be Well
To give you a better feeling for what I am talking about in terms of the things I had to address to heal, here is my official list:
- I had my physical symptoms to deal with. For me, the most acute issues that came with mold toxicity were my sinuses (chronic sinusitis and facial pain), my digestion (malnourished, ulcerative colitis, recurring Candida), hormones (insomnia, period cessation, chronic fatigue), and viruses/parasites.
- I also had psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
- Relationally, I had a shaken and tumultuous marriage to deal with.
- Finally, I had a home to take apart, remediate and put back together, including belongings to sort through and dispose of, clean, or store.
That was MY list—although I am sure there is something I am leaving out. That was my list of the things that I had to address for true healing to take place.
Important Questions to Answer Before Reading Further
Because this post is going to focus on healing my body, I think it is important to give you a list of questions to ask yourself to help you better determine the pieces of your own healing puzzle. Asking these questions can lead you to the pieces of what I did to heal that could be worth exploring or speaking to your practitioner about for your own healing:
- How long were you exposed to the mold? If the exposure was brief, often just getting into a safe, mold-free environment can be enough to make a HUGE, noticeable difference in your health. If the exposure was longer than a month or two, healing your body can take some focused effort and treatment.
- How great was the fungal load and the mycotoxin load in your exposure? Part of this question is also what molds were you exposed to? For some, if the fungal load is large, but water-damage indicator molds are not present, healing can be a bit more straightforward and easier. If molds like Stachybotrys, Chaetomium, Alternaria, Mucor, etc. are present (HERE is a more extensive list, in case you are wondering), the mycotoxin load is also high and healing can be more difficult because the health issues are usually more complex and far reaching.
- Are you completely out of the mold now? If you are in a safe, mold-free living space, healing usually comes easier and faster. If you are still being exposed, it is difficult to detox and/or to heal. This is so true, that many mold-literate doctors and practitioners will not treat patients who are still knowingly being exposed. This is because they know from clinical experience that no amount of treatment or medical intervention can compete with the toxic onslaught that is still occurring.
- What other health conditions are you also dealing with as you begin to heal? This is a particularly important question to ask yourself, because if the mold seems to have caused most or all symptoms you are dealing with, getting out of it and addressing it can help to clear a large part of the body burden. On the other hand, if you had underlying health issues before the known exposure, and the mold has exacerbated or made those symptoms worse, you may have a longer road ahead of you. Treatment and detox sometimes move slower and in more gradual steps to not make other conditions worse.
- Do you have relationships and a support system to help you? If you have family members and/or friends to help you leave, clean, find a new place, or just to take on some of the physical or financial burden, healing can obviously be much easier. On the other hand, if you are the only one in your home who is sick or you are at odds with a partner or spouse about addressing mold for your health, healing can be much more difficult and drawn out.
- How committed are you to doing what it takes (environmentally, mentally, and physically) to get your health back? Don’t just blindly answer this question! Really and truly think about it. Are you committed to doing what it takes to get better? It is okay if you are not. You just need to be honest with yourself, because how committed you are does influence the length of time it takes to heal. At my first appointment with Dr. Dennis, he looked me and said, “You do a little of the protocol, you will get a little better. If you commit and do all of the protocol—environment and body—you will get a lot better.”
What I Did (Warning–It is a Lot.)
Now that you have asked yourself those questions, here is the rundown, in as complete a form as I can provide, of the interventions that helped me to heal my body. (Quick disclaimer: Please do not take any of this as medical advice. Please also discuss anything you decide to do with your own trusted health/medical authority. I also still consider myself a “work in progress” and am always working to better myself, improve my life, and increase my energy levels; therefore I still actively seek the guidance and advice of practitioners to help me with diet, supplements, environmental and lifestyle choices.)
- I started with the basics of clean air, clean food, and clean water. It is difficult, maybe downright impossible to heal without establishing these three things first. You must give your body some foundation on which to rebuild. For air, obviously this is getting to a clean, mold-free environment. For food, I did very well using the Kaufmann Diet as my framework for antifungal eating. For water, I stopped drinking and using tap water for cooking. I replaced it with purified or spring water. All these interventions helped to stop promoting the growth of fungus in the body.
- I tested for and began addressing my nutritional deficiencies. I was quite malnourished and had to stabilize my body before I could start “treating” or “eradicating” anything. Two products I used and still use today are IntraMin and IntraMax. They were easily absorbed and worked very well for me.
- I used home oxygen therapy to help my body prepare for and open up for detoxification. Everything, every cell slams shut, because it is designed to do so when under attack by toxins, like mold. When I did treatments, I used a face mask with 100% O2 at 10 l/min for 1 hour 2 times per day. This also helped me to begin exercising more to initiate some sweating and to stimulate an increase in heat shock proteins to protect my body and central nervous system from stress. Exercise was and is HUGE for me. Being able to move my body everyday in some way, shape, or form, pushed my recovery forwards in ways it is difficult to fully describe. I kept thinking I couldn’t “workout”, because I was sick and the energy wasn’t there, but movement and exercise doesn’t have to be working out. Just somehow get your heart rate up and do something with your body. Even if “more than nothing” is your motto, I assure you, it is a LOT more than nothing for your recovery. (Note: HERE is a more in-depth article I wrote about the use of oxygen therapy for mold-related illness.)
- I had in-office antral lavage of my maxillary sinus to remove pus and to fully irrigate and rinse my sinuses. I had this procedure multiple times to help to clear me of infection. I later had to use Rx antifungal nasal sprays and nebulization to help me get rid of the fungal sinusitis that was leading to the acute sinus infections. Once my sinuses were free of infection, I was able to maintain with daily saline nasal rinsing, CitriDrops Nasal Spray, and Sinus Defense. (Note: This procedure has no relation to removing mycotoxins with a cyclone irrigator under general anesthesia as described by Dr. Dennis in the Toxic Mold Summit.)
- The Sinus Defense is also something I used and still use to keep co-infections at bay. I struggled with low IgG subclasses, which supports co-infections and viruses, like Lyme, Epstein Barr, CMV, and herpes. The product also contains Transfer Factor for molds such as Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cephalosporium, Cladosporium, Curvularis, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Helmenthosporium, Mucor, Penicillium, Geotricum, Trichoderma, and mycotoxin IgG antibody frequencies, which makes it a helpful immune system builder against subsequent exposures.
- I used OptiCLeanse GSI by Xymogen to detoxify my liver. My liver enzymes were elevated, so this was a key piece of my recovery.
- I took Acetyl Glutathione (300 mg, 2 times per day). Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and becomes depleted due to environmental factors and other stressors. Without glutathione on board, the body will often not release toxins from the tissues for excretion. Most people with mold illness also have impaired detoxification abilities, so supplementing with glutathione becomes helpful. I also nebulized glutathione. Taking NAC was also helpful for me as it is a precursor to glutathione.
- I used and still use CellTropin to combat fatigue and support my pituitary and endocrine system. Endocrine disruption is a problem with any toxic exposure. Depending on the severity of the damage from mycotoxins, sometimes homeopathic support, like CellTropin is just enough to get the body back on track. For others, growth hormone may be necessary to get the body fully recovered. This would need to be tested and determined by your doctor.
- I took 10 mg of Melatonin each night before bedtime. This is a high dose, but I needed it at the time. Melatonin really helped me to protect and recover my brain. I did not respond well to DHA and fish oil supplements, so melatonin was helpful for me. I wasn’t sleeping or thinking straight for an awfully long stint, and my adrenals were totally tapped out and needed reprieve.
- I did occasionally use a binder—GI Detox worked well for me and did not cause side effects. I mostly utilized the binder when I moved onto my final step of full-body antifungals.
- I used full-body antifungals, bile builders, and proteolytic enzymes to break up biofilms and to treat my digestive system. This has been the longest road in my recovery thus far. My digestive system was wrecked. I started with bitters, proteolytic enzymes, and the binder. The idea was to stimulate the bile, break up intestinal biofilms, and catch the toxins for excretion with the binder. Once I was doing well with those, we introduced Candida Rid and CitriDrops Dietary Supplement intermittently. I worked up to the indicated doses. I had to stay on these for a few months off and on to full clear everything out. I now cyclically take antifungals to help keep things on track.
- Finally, for rebuilding my gut and to help with my ulcerative colitis, I took Colostrum, Dr. Zach Bush’s product ION, and VSL #3 sachets. These are all products I still take and rely on today.
- Other things that were helpful overall were magnesium, high-dose vitamin C, phosphatidylcholine, NAC, milk thistle, and quercetin.
Long post, I know, but I wanted to try to cover as much as I could. I hope someone out there finds it helpful. What I do not want is for you to read this and think that you NEED everything I stated and everything I did to get better. Like I said before, we are all so different. Our bodies heal differently and getting out of the mold may be enough for you. At the end of the day, treat your body kindly and encourage it to heal with your thoughts and words. I wish I had known that when I was sick. I think kindness and understanding for my body and its struggle would’ve gotten me a lot further than many of the supplements and interventions ever could.
Hi Catherine, Thank you for your post. Can you clarify if you did all these steps at the same time? And if not, how long were you on each step before adding in a new thing? My system is hyper sensitive to pretty much all supplements, vitamins, & binders. I’ve tried a mold diet in the past- but it made my insulin issues and adrenal fatigue worse. I’m starting to see a new Dr, & he wants to put me on a diet like this again & focus only on diet for a while. While I understand this approach, I feel discouraged bc I’ve done this diet before for months and just got sicker and sicker. And having such a severely restrictive diet really depressed me. Did you have supplement sensitivities?
Did you eat any healthy grains in your diet? I believe rating so fee grains made me sicker.
Thanks for your response.
Diet-wise, I did and still do best on a whole-food approach. I stay away from lots of sugar or anything packaged, but try to eat the meats, fruits, and veggies that feel good for my body. If you are sensitive to everything, I would highly suggest making sure you are not still being exposed to mold. Mold exposure sensitizes you to everything and makes it very difficult to heal. Check you car and your work space too. The exposure could be anywhere, so make sure to cover all of your bases. As for the detox steps, I did many concurrently, but started with reminerlizing my body and improving nutrution status before doing to much to make my body begin dumping toxins. I also started moving my body regularly. All of the things that protect the liver and encourage bile flow are also helpful to establish first. You want to be pooping, peeing, and sweating without trouble before you liberate toxins so that they can be flushed out. Definitely work with a doc, which it sounds like you are. I hope this helps. Take care and I hope you feel better soon.
I have loved reading some of your articles and I believe you are just brilliant at explaining all of this.
I don’t know if you can help but I believe I have Candida overgrowth and suffering with a lot of digestive issues, very bad abdominal pain, GERD, heartburn, IBS. I recently bought a second hand car, and my symptoms have started when I first started using the car. although there is no visible mould on the car and is ‘clean’ and modern, however, the owner currently lives in a mould house so I believe as he previously used the car I may be getting exposure every time I go into there. I experience chest pain as soon as I go in the car also.
I have booked a professional anti-bacterial mould free/ deep clean valet which I’m hoping will help, and is 3 hours of work. Would you recommend this and would you recommend not using the car if I feel the clean did not help?
The environment I’m living in is ok, there is no visible mould.
A deep clean of the car sound like a good idea. I would also make sure the change the cabin filter and possibly have the heating and air system cleaned. If you still feel sick after doing those things, I would sell it and try to find a car that does not cause your symptoms.
I am trying to recover from mold exposure from our home. Thankfully the real exposure was only for a couple of months. When we first got out of the house (we moved in with my mom) things got better within a month or two. I would say I felt about 80% better overall. Now it has been 5 months and symptoms started again. However my mom has also had a lot of water in her basement too. I’m feeling all the symptoms coming back. We’re looking for a new house and I have no idea what to do- I don’t want to go into the exact same problem, and I feel like I am sensitive to it now. Your blog has helped a lot tho. Thank you so much for sharing all of this information.
It sounds like you are definitely being exposed in your Mom’s home. Is the water in the basement a new occurrence? It seems like you would not have felt better before if the mold levels there were also high when you moved in. Anyway, mold in basements and crawlspaces is always an issue inside a home as well because of the stack effect and negative pressure. This dictates that the air on the lowest levels of a home is essentially sucked inside and migrates upwards. So issues like mold spores and mycotoxins are in the breathing air in the upper floors of a home if they are present in basements and crawlspaces. Thus, the air down there matters! When looking for a new place to live, I have a post on my blog that may be helpful: https://moldfreeliving.com/2018/08/11/building-renovating-to-prevent-mold-and-optimize-indoor-air-quality/ It goes into a lot of what to look for. I hope this helps.
Hi, I know this post is from quite a while ago and I’m hoping you will have some helpful suggestions. For some reason the spacing on my phone is messed up so please pardon any randomly capitalized letters. I started having some reaction to chemicals and mold sensitivity about two years ago. But it wasn’t until I moved in October 2021 I had just started a new job that I was having a daily issue. The apartment that I moved into clearly has something that is bothering me but I’m not sure what it is. I will be moving from this apartment in the next couple of months and that will eliminate said problem. Unfortunately, my job is also causing me a problem and I’m not sure what to do about it. This is a job that I really need and I’m in the middle of a divorce. I’m a teacher and I work at a school and I’m concerned that if I move schools I may very well have the same problem in another building. I’ve worked in many schools in the past, but I did not have this challenge until now. I don’t believe these are harmful levels of exposure in the school building. As for the apartment I’m not so sure. But these are exposures that my body should be able to handle and I am not. People are being exposed to low levels of mold often especially where I live in New York City. So I am writing to you to see if you think that there is a way I could get past the issue at work with the understanding that I need to move my apartment. Moving to a different school building may cause other problems. Please share your thoughts with me if you happen to see this message I appreciate your help and support
Mold is the great disruptor, unfortunately. It is a master antigen and causes the body to start to overreact to just about everything. Whether the exposure is at home or at work, it is going to be difficult to calm the storm of reacting until you get the bulk of the exposure removed from your life. I am not sure about your daily schedule at work, but are you predominantly in one room? Is there any way for you to employ techniques to make it safer for you? Are you able to open windows, use an air purifier, and maybe even fog your room with EC3? Any plants or aquariums should be removed from the room. If you can see any visible mold or water damage, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask for those things to be checked and or fixed. Since without testing there is no way to know the extent of the exposure at your work, my best advice is to focus your energy on getting into a safe and mold-free living space. Control that. Make that as safe and as conducive to your healing as possible. THEN, do whatever you can about work. Maybe even wear a personal purifier if they will allow it. Maybe with the lessened mold exposure at home, your body will start to feel better even with the work issue.
Am frightened and do not know where to begin.
Here is a great resource with TONS of articles and help.
I have spent two years and gone to many different kinds of doctors to find out why I felt so ill. Finally found out I had been sleeping in bedroom after a huge flood on carpet two years earlier . Seven kinds of mycotoxins in me and I am almost 78 and already have non Hodgkin’s lymphoma add thyroid disease. Just began working with naturopath and taking Detox..
I hope you are feeling better now. It is never, ever too late to heal.