I have shared our story with many of my patients and friends in the last 4 months. I want to share our story with everyone who can benefit from it in his/her quest to feel optimal, feel better, and have more energy.
I consider myself very fortunate to have found functional medicine as it definitely helps me to take care of my family and myself. Knowledge is power and I love data that I can get from the functional lab testing and how it helped me save my family and myself from future health problems.
So, how did we find out that we had mold in our house?
It all started when we bought our NEWLY remodeled 25-year-old house 5 years ago. The first rain came down in August and we ran from one window to another putting empty buckets under the leaks to contain the dripping water. Of course, we called the roofers – they came, they patched it up, they looked at the discoloration and said it should dry up and left. We called the roofing guys several times in the last 5 years to patch our roof – not one mentioned that we should change the roof and seal it all together. Instead, they kept charging us $500-600 for each repair (approximately 45 minutes of work:). Definitely, the prices I charge do not even come close to what plumbers, roofers, and AC repair costs. Yet, our health is deemed to be less important than fixing our car or roof or plumbing… Sorry for the diversion.
I have been studying functional medicine for the last 6 years and it involves visiting workshops and conferences. All the tests I recommend to my patients I try on myself and my family. All the tests I study as they are complex in interpretation and what is the point of doing the test if you do not know how to apply it to the patient’s situation? I have been following Great Plains Laboratory for a long time and eventually, I was lucky to be able to attend their workshop on Mold toxicity and Organic Acid test interpretation. I got their Mycotox test and came home all excited about doing it! Two weeks later I got the results – my body was actively getting rid of the most dangerous mycotoxins, such as Ochratoxin A, Mycophenolic Acid, and Chaetoblobosin A! (see the pic below and the effects these mycotoxins may have on the body).
Below are the detrimental health effects that could happen to people who were exposed to molds and their mycotoxins. Ochratoxin A is also prevalent in grains, some fruits, nuts, legumes such as peanuts, and even coffee! Organic coffee is better than conventionally sourced coffee, as organic coffee has less pesticides, but, therefore, it has more mold!
At that time I could not even understand what all that jibberish meant: the feeling of overwhelm, anxiety, and panic set in and I could not think straight. I can relate to my patients who come to see guidance for mold remediation and mycotoxin detoxification. It IS OVERWHELMING! It costs lots of money, it is discouraging to know that the house you loved so much is actually harming you and your family. But the focus should be on the positives: we found mold via calling the mold inspector and showing her where we suspected water damage. Great Plains Mycotoxin test also persuaded my husband to get on board, it was the proof that it was not in my head, that no healthy person should have levels that high in the body and that we need to find the source of exposure and remove it. Just putting the “Kill-It” sealant or bleach as some contractors suggested is not going to remove the mold! The profession swab test, as well as air vent test showed that we had HIGH counts of spores from Stachybotrys chartarum (black mold – very dangerous), Chaetomium globosum (even more dangerous than Black Mold), Penicillin, and Aspergillus. All these are molds that produced Chaetoblobosin A, Ochratoxin A, and Mycophenolic Acid. The toxin from Black mold Strachybotrys was not found in my urine as this mold has very heavy spores that limit their ability to just float in the air and produce mycotoxins or becoming inhaled. Once the black mold is disturbed (which happens during the mold inspection process), the mold “feels” threatened and starts shooting its’ spores in the air.
Now, I could put two and two together – my absent-mindedness in the last 5 months, my short-term memory impairment, inability to come up with the right word when needed, and other cognitive deficits that are called “Mild Cognitive Impairment” by the neurologists. Now I knew it was not in my head and I also could not blame hypothyroidism, which could be an escape-goat when you don’t know what to assign your symptoms to. Our 2-year-old also kept having a weird patch-like rash on her legs that came and went: we ruled out food allergies, gluten, and dairy allergies, as well as environmentally no new detergents or synthetic clothing. Fast-forward: once we moved out of our house the rash disappeared 90% within the 1st week! She has not developed cognitive impairment and her temper tantrums were obviously just 2-year-old tantrums! But her symptoms were significant for mold allergy! I had a chance to do the Mycotox and Toxin Exposure test on her once we moved back into our house after 56 days living in Airbnbs and hotels while it was going through the remediation process. I do not have a baseline level of mycotoxins for her while we lived in our unremediated house, but you can see that even after 2 months of remediation and extensive cleaning of our house, she still has a somewhat high level of Ochratoxin A. My husband is the last one to test next week as he had no reliable symptoms and for him I chose to do a glutathione challenge to move the toxins from the adipose tissue into the bloodstream and test after that. My suspicion that he most likely accumulated the mycotoxins in his adipose tissue and, thus, had no obvious symptoms. Or, it may be that “The dilution is a solution to pollution” as men are usually bigger than women so they have more body surface to the same amount of pollution that comes into their bodies so it gets “diluted” with less obvious symptoms.
We faced the choice of remediating and selling the house and finding the new one or remediating and moving back in. We did our due diligence and threw away everything we could not wash with Borax: plush toys, some books (the rest I packed into the plastic bins), washed ALL our washable clothes and stored it in the plastic bins too, threw away my favorite plush couch and my favorite new armchair and ottoman. We also lifted and threw away all the carpet on the second floor just to find out 3 more places where the previous owners concealed the mold growth with just painting it with a sealant “Kill-it”. I genuinely hope they just did not know better, but nevertheless, they should have disclosed the mold in the SPDS! If my husband were not diligent in following the protocol of true mold remediation and left the carpet in place, we would have never found the other concealed spots! We would also move back in and, most likely, our daughter and I would start having symptoms again and at that point, we would, probably, just collapse from anger and anxiety and not knowing what to do about it. We could also decide to sell the house with the carpet thinking the house was remediated. After all the work that was done in our house, I believe it is the safest house in the Valley and we learned to love and appreciate the safety it gives us now.
In the last 3 months, we have seen more than 15+ houses in our attempt to find a better and safer house and we were greatly disappointed. Knowing what we know now about water damage after talking to at least 3 remediation companies that gave us quotes for remediation, we realized there was no perfect house. In one house in our area, we could not even go inside the basement – we could smell the mold and the real estate agent told us it was the new carpet. In 2 other houses, we saw discoloration on the ceiling. In several other houses, we noticed popping through the walls nails which means there was water in the walls at some point which caused the expansion of the wall and the nail popping and the only way to find out if there is mold there would be to cut the drywall and see. New houses are more likely to have no mold invasion, but only if they were constructed properly. In the last months, 2 people shared that their new houses were not constructed properly and they had leaks and subsequent mold growth and remediation in their houses.
Currently, my almost 3-year-old is going through a gentle detox and supplementation of vitamins and nutrients that she is deficient in to optimize her struggling mitochondria and to improve the detox of Ochratoxin A. Personally, I am using a more strict and rigorous protocol for mycotoxin detox. It is overwhelming to remember to take charcoal away from other supplements and food twice a day, and for the most part, I am on top of it. It is also financially challenging because the detox protocol should be followed for at least 3 months before retesting with the Mycotoxing test from Great Plains. But I already feel a huge difference in lifting my brain fog and feeling better.
You can see that our girl’s mitochondria are struggling to stay healthy and strong during the detox of mycotoxins and she needs nutrient support, such as Coenzyme Q10, B Vitamins, etc. to help her mitochondria deal with the toxic stress that was imposed on her tiny 30-pound organism.
A mitochondrion is an organelle found in large numbers in most cells, in which the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur. Mitochondria are the working organelles that keep the cell full of energy. They are known as “powerhouses of the cells”.
Combining the nutrient and vitamin support with a low-sugar and low-fructose diets, and the diet that is rich in detoxifying cruciferous veggies, healthy fats, and protein instead of the SAD (Standard American Diet) full of carbs and bad fats will help our almost 3-year-old stay free of significant symptoms from the mold exposure while gently detoxifying her from the last of mycotoxins left in her body.
So, after reading my report, are you still convinced that there is no possibility of mold in Arizona because it is dry here?
If you are struggling with unexplained symptoms, where your labs are “normal” but you still feel horrible, look around inside and outside of your house, just like we did. Get help, the longer you stay in a poisonous environment, the harder it will be to reverse the damage done to your body!
I provide consultations, evaluation, and treatment of mold illness. I have been there and I am slowly recovering from it myself and my whole family!
Zhanna Tarjeft, FNP is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and a founder of Sprouts Health Functional Medicine Practice in Gilbert, Arizona. Her articles are a matter of personal opinion and do not constitute direct medical advice. All conditions are unique and require the direct review and care of your own physician. To book an appointment with Zhanna Tarjeft contact her at (480) 550-9551