As promised, I wanted to share a few of the things that our family does daily…on this long journey towards a healthy someday. Many people have written and asked us what in the world you can possibly do once you are exposed to toxic mold, and I wanted to respond. Some days, I feel so miserably sick that I feel like the worst possible person to share what it looks like to fight for a healthy life.
On the other hand, I have logged hundreds of hours doing research on the best products and practices, and if I can help others skip putting in that kind of time…then this post is worth it to me. The last thing I have wanted to do on my sickest of days…is research the best kind of air filter or iron supplement for our family. Being sick from toxic mold exposure has felt like fighting for health with a gun to my head…but it has also made the things I have learned on this journey all the more valuable to me.
This post is long, and I apologize in advance for my lack of brevity. But when your immune system has been under constant attack for over two years….well, it takes a lot more than an apple a day to get healthy.
Before I begin though, I have one important caveat that I need to make about “being healthy.” In the temporal world we live in…I think that striving for health has it’s place. But we are also eternal beings, and in the eternal realm, I couldn’t agree more with Solomon…all of this striving is utterly meaningless and “Vanity, of vanities.” Because, no matter what you do and how hard you try…our days are still numbered. And our control over our health is limited far more than any of us would like.
I have a distinct memory of one morning in college. As I lay there in my dorm room, with the Chicago sun streaming down on me, I felt overwhelmed with my endless list of “unknowns.” What will I be when I grow up? Who will I marry? Will I ever get to be someone’s Mommy?
And then, all of a sudden, right there in that moment, I heard God speak. It wasn’t in an audible voice. It was just a whisper to my heart, but it meant so much to me.
I heard Him say…
As you lay here in the sunshine, before you even wake…
I SEE you…on your wedding day.
I SEE you…with your children.
I SEE every single moment, that is yet to come in your life.
You are stressed and worried, and fearful of many things…and I SEE.
It was a simple moment. Not even profound really. But it meant so much to me. And it began to permanently change how I looked at the many unknowns of my life.
And it’s still true. Probably, even more so now.
Because what I realize now, after almost two years of sorrow and suffering so deep that most days I still can’t even breath…is something that I hadn’t really understood in my college days.
As I laid there in my dorm room…He also saw the suffering.
He saw me in that cold hospital room, the moment the doctor told me that our precious Charlie had died.
He saw me as I left for the hospital great with child…and He saw that I had to come back home without a baby. Back, to the very home that took their lives.
He saw the next baby and the next…and my failing health every day in between.
And He sees the day I will join each one of them in my Forever life.
And it is because of all that we have been through, and because of all that He sees, that I am convinced that I can eat my gluten-free crackers, and take my endless medications, and breathe better in my filtered and much-improved air quality…but it is God alone who will sustain our very lives.
And God alone, who will eventually end them on the day He has ordained.
He has numbered my days. Just as He numbered every one of baby Charlie’s. And I believe with all my heart, that we cannot add or subtract a single moment of our lives…from the sovereign story He is writing. From the God who sees and plans it all. From the God who even now, is allowing me the very breath to write these words…and you, the very breath to read them.
I know this isn’t a popular sentiment, especially for American’s and our hyper-control mentality. But I will die on this hill. Being healthy…is my responsibility to the story God is writing.
It does not change the lines.
THAT being said…I want to be healthy. I want to fight with the sword I’ve been given. Just as God sent His people into real battles in real time…battles that He had predetermined they would win or lose, based on the story He was writing. But they still had to fight.
And so do we.
And so, with that in mind…this is our attempt to fight for health, as the mold ravages our bodies. The five things I most recommend. Our “Apple A Day.”
1. THE APPLES WE EAT.
We may as well start here. Since most of the world is in agreement that “you are what you eat.” The hardest part about toxic mold exposure…is what it does to your immunity. I am actually taking some of the very same supplements that people are given when they are diagnosed with HIV…because mycotoxins put your body in a permanently infected and inflamed state. All of that inflammation makes it impossible for you to fight off future infection, disease, and ultimately often cancer…and that is why toxic mold is such a dangerous thing.
For the last two years, our bodies have been under constant attack, and in a perpetually inflammatory state. And so, anything we can do to reduce inflammation or strengthen immunity…that is what we eat. I actually do make my kids eat an apple a day, and we try to eat “the rainbow” as much as we can. We also try to eat as much organic, pesticide-free food as possible, because those things really do add to the “toxic burden” we’re already carrying.
But one of the biggest things people with compromised immune systems can do, is avoid anything that causes further burden to your body…especially inflammatory foods. One of the most inflammatory foods is gluten…and my doctor highly recommended that anyone with mold exposure go gluten-free. When I finally stumbled into Dr. Hope’s office I weighed barely 105 pounds, and being gluten-free wasn’t really a good option at that point.
Now that I’m doing a little better, I’ve bit the bullet and given up gluten. It hasn’t been easy… especially for someone who really enjoys things like the Paris Baguette Contest. But I really have had less pain in my stomach and intestines, now that I no longer eat gluten. It is boring and hard and I really miss all that delicious food I can no longer eat…but anything I can do to reduce inflammation…feels like the right thing to do at this point.
I keep it simple. I have no interest in being a gluten-free, super-star chef. I found ten things I can eat…and I eat those. The hardest part for me has been snacks. So I’m going to share my five faves…
Every one of these are seriously good actually. I eat the granola bars and apple chips on the go, and have Mary’s Cracker’s with hummus, and these kale chips with avocado every day. Some days I eat it straight up with olive oil and garlic salt. Some days I make it into guacamole with tomatoes. But tomatoes are a mixed bag. There’s actually a whole slew of foods that contain mycotoxins (http://www.healingnaturallybybee.com/articles/foods32.php) so I have to limit my intake of these as well…and corn and tomatoes are two of them. But…you have to eat something. So these are my go-to faves.
The fact that so many people seem to be developing a gluten-intolerence does give one pause that something that so many people can’t tolerate…might not be all that good for any of us actually. (For more info on this, check out the book “Wheat Belly,” by Dr. William Davis.) And my doctor recommended trying going gluten-free for at least a few months to see if there was any improvement on the inflammation. Honestly, I’m hungry a lot. But I am still eating foods I like…I just need to eat a lot more of them, than I did when I was eating stick-to-your-ribs gluten delights.
Here’s a good article on that if you’d like to read more about inflammatory foods: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/inflammatory-foods-worst-inflammation_n_2838643.html?
2. THE WATER WE DRINK.
American’s total obsession with food has definitely turned food into the “health priority.” I actually think this is wildly imbalanced. The human body is 70% water and most people give little more thought to the quality of the water they drink…than buying a cheap Brita filter from Target. Unfortunately, the Brita just doesn’t cut it. Most cities add a heavy does of chemicals like Fluoride and Chlorine to the water we are drinking, which only increases our toxic burden. I’ve researched lots of other waters, but I’m a little skeptical of things referred to as “Miracle Water.”
We have found that the Berkey water filter is a reasonable and cost-effective way to get healthy, chemical-free water. Gizmodo did a good review on why Berkey is one of the best, and we’ve been really happy with ours. We have to fill it about five times a week. It’s easy to refill, and even our kids can get their own water, which is huge because water is one of the most important ways to flush toxins back out of your body after exposure. Our motto is, “Good things in, Bad things out.” And I’m not sure there is a more important product in the world…than good water.Gizmodo review on Berkey: http://gizmodo.com/our-favorite-kitchen-gadgets-1461169632.
3. THE AIR WE BREATHE.
Next to quality water, I am quite certain the second most important thing is quality air. This one hits really close to home for me. I cannot tell you how painful it is to think back on our life in our old house. We were eating healthy food, and taking quality vitamins, and getting good sleep and exercise, and meanwhile, every moment of every day…breathing air that was poisoning our bodies.
The number one priority is being sure that your air is SAFE and as mycotoxin and chemical-free as possible. The second priority is to keep it as clean and filtered as possible. And the third is to just get as much fresh air as you can every day.
First, is your air FREE OF as much MOLD AND MYCOTOXINS as possible? Absolutely no home…is completely mold free. Much like dust, mold spores move around with the air, and they are everywhere. In every home and every car, and on every porous thing. But…the goal is to limit the levels of mold growing in your home (and especially the levels of mycotoxins floating in your air) to a safe and manageable level for your body.
There are only two ways to find out how much mold (and more importantly how many mycotoxins) your body is burdened with on any given day. One, is to test your body. If there is any doubt in your mind that your air is not safe…I highly recommend getting a Urine Mycotoxin test done by Real Time Labs in Carrollton, TX ((972) 243-7754. ) They are extremely helpful and honestly, know more about mold and mycotoxin exposure than almost any doctor you could go to. They are great at giving referrals, and may be able to help you find a good environmental doctor or mold inspector in your area.
The other option is to get a mold test done on your house. This is a very mixed bag in my opinion, because most mold inspectors know absolutely nothing about myctoxins, and a good house inspection costs about $1,500 here in CA. But, our family is living proof that it doesn’t matter how healthy you are…if you are breathing poisoned air every moment of every day. So I believe it is worth getting your house, and especially your body tested, if you suspect exposure to these things.
Beyond a mold test…I highly recommend getting a good air filter. I am an obsessive duster. I dust and vacuum our house constantly in an effort to vigilantly clean the air we breathe. I was that kid…the kid who actually bust out the vacuum before my friends and I would play house. I really wanted, even my imaginary house to be sparkly clean.
All of that being said, I never realized how dirty the air we breathe actually is…until we bought an air filter. We have three in our house right now, and they are not cheap. But every single time I open the filter and see all the black dust caked in there, I am reminded that it’s worth it…that could be in our bodies instead. Here are the filters that we use…On the left is the Alen Paralada Air HEPA Air Filter, and on the right is the Austin Air Healthmate Jr. Plus. The important thing is that you get one that is HEPA rated. (Which means it can handle very small air particles.) The Austin costs a little more, but is worth it to me because it also uses activated carbon, much like the charcoal we put in our bodies every day. The Austin also does a better job of helping clean the air of chemicals and gases, but both are great filters. We bought all three of ours on Amazon, which is great because you can return it if you don’t love it. But if you do buy one, I can guarantee you that you will notice a difference in both dust level and air quality…and you will probably not want to go back after seeing such an improvement in the air you breathe.
Finally, since outdoor air is almost always cleaner than indoor air (unless you live by, say, a gas station or a freeway) the very best thing is to get outside. AS. MUCH. AS. POSSIBLE. We try to spend at least a couple of hours outside every day. We go biking, walking, running, hiking, beach combing…basically any excuse to be outside, and it has drastically improved our health. In addition to this, I am on four different compounded nasal sprays to help kill off the live mold still living in my nose. These sprays are absolutely necessary, but I have found that my health is most immediately affected by the quality of the new air I am breathing.
Honestly, when you stop and think about how many times a day you take a drink of water…compared to how many times you take a breathe…air quality hits you in a whole new way.
4. THE SUPPLEMENTS WE TAKE.
The reality of our world is that no matter how much healthy, pesticide-free, organic food we eat…we just aren’t getting enough nutrients to really arm our bodies with the vitamins we need. Studies have been done on the difference between whole food vitamins (vitamins made out of actual vitamin C, iron foods, real fish oil, etc.) as opposed to synthetic vitamins. It’s staggering. Almost all of the vitamins on the shelf of stores like Target and Walmart…are just filled with really expensive synthetic fillers. I buy all of my vitamins either directly from my doctor or at Whole Foods, and even though they are not cheap…I know that I am actually getting 100% of my daily allowance of whatever I am taking.
For a while I was taking upwards of 60 vitamins a day, and I have now cut back to 30 or so of the absolutely necessities. When you are struggling with toxic exposure, those are usually things like K-Pax “Fuel of Life,” and supplements rich in Zinc, Vitamin C, D, and B’s. I take a compounded injection of methylated B12 every day, and it is probably the one thing I am doing where I feel immediate results.
In addition to real, whole-food supplements, the other thing I take daily is probiotics. If you have been to an American medical doctor in the last ten years…you’ve probably been given an antibiotic…because they tend to hand them out like candy at a parade. It’s not that antibiotics don’t have their place…I really think they do, and I’ve taken three rounds of them this year alone. But…they not only kill off ALL of the bad bacteria in your body…they also kill off all of the good. And the good bacteria we need to fight off infection…comes back a lot slower than the bad. That’s where probiotics come in. They give the good bacteria a fighting chance to beat out the bad.
I take multiple probiotics, multiple times a day, as well as Fish Oil, and gluthione in both oral and nasal form. Gluthatione is something your body naturally produces that aids in detox, but I take more to help draw the mold out of my body and into my intestines where it can bind to the activated charcoal I’m taking. (I like the charcoal sold by Vitamins Because, or the Cocconut charcoal by Bulletproof.) And here is my favorite probiotics, and the oral form of glutathione I take…
5. THE BAD STUFF OUT WE GET OUT…through any and every means.
I’ve talked a lot about the “good stuff” we try to put in our bodies, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of “Bad Stuff Out.” There’s basically only three ways to get bad things like toxins and bacteria and chemicals out of your body…once they get in. You either:
1. Eliminate it out through your intestines.
2. Flush it out through your mouth or nose.
or… 3. Sweat it out, very slowly, over time.
At the risk of sounding like the elderly people I used to visit in the nursing home…BM’s are a huge part of being truly healthy. Your bowels really do bind up and flush out so many toxins, and one of my nutritionists highly recommended a bowel moment for every meal you eat. I know that may sound absurd, but I really think things like chelated magnesium supplements, magnesium epson salt baths (Dr. Teal’s Lavendar salts are my favorite), coffee, and prune juice really do help keep your intestines healthy and free of the junk that eventually plagues your whole body if left there indefinitely.
Some toxins don’t even make it to your intestines, but rather take up permanent residence in your nose. Reid, Emma, and I all had nasal swabs done that showed rare colonies of mold growing in our noses…the same molds that were found in the Mold House. Because of this, and the fact that it takes at least nine months to kill off live mold and fungal infections…I take multiple nasal meds every day. I also do the Neli-Med sinus rinse three to four times a day, and even more often when I have a sinus infection.
Finally, whatever toxins do not make it out of your body through those two methods…well, they just live there. At a cellular level. Or in your brain, where so much of mold and mycotoxins tend to dwell permanently. That…is where sweating comes in. Unfortunately, I don’t sweat. I haven’t even owned deodorant since high school…because I just don’t need it. It was because of this, that my doctor recommended we buy a sauna. You can find cheap ones online, but if you want to be sure that it is safe, and that the wood used is actually toxin free…the good ones are expensive. But we have found that it is the only way I can actually sweat toxins out of my body, and it has been worth it for our family.
We got our sauna from Heavenly Heat, and it has both a coal sauna and a far-infared unit inside. For the last five months I have gone in the sauna for 30 minutes almost every day (sometimes twice) at 160 degrees, and it really is the time I feel the very best. I. Sweat. Buckets. And, best of all, it has helped open up my sweat glands so I can actually sweat now, even when I am just going for a run or riding a bike.
Most importantly, sauna’s strengthen your heart. It is actually quite a work out sitting in a 160 degree box for 30 minutes, and I can tell a major difference in my runs since I’ve begun using the sauna. I can run for a really long time, for someone who’s only exercise for the last six months was sitting in a sauna watching cooking shows on TV. A sauna isn’t for everyone, but for people who have trouble sweating, particularly people like me who have MTHFR (a genetic blood disorder that an estimated 60% of the population has some form of)…anything you can do to open your detox pathways…is really something to consider if you want to be healthy and toxin free.
And that…is what we do. Our apples a day. There’s more, but those are the basic “Fab Five.”
Honestly, I’m exhausted from writing about it. And I’m really exhausted from having to live it. Every. Single. Day. Two years ago, I would never have described myself as a “health nut.” But…I really believe that these things are critical when you have significant toxic exposure. And, probably even if you don’t.
I encourage you to take what you want from this, and dismiss what you don’t. But I promise you this…if you actually DO every one of these five things...you will feel better than you do right now. And if you don’t…well, I’ll send you a box of my favorite gluten-free granola bars and my apologies.
In the end, more than all of these products and practices though…I know it is the Lord alone who builds the house. Our bodies are His temples…and we can only do so much. Ultimately, He is the one who does or does not grant us health.
We would so appreciate your continued prayers for our family as we walk this long hard road towards healthy. Some days, I feel good. Most days…I don’t. Some days, I feel absolutely miserable. I am learning that the same God who gives us the good days…also gives us grace to endure the bad days.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support. Most of these things would not have been possible for us to do or buy…were it not for the love and support of so many people who have loved us through this time. And we are so grateful for you.