I’ve been a pretty healthy gal most of my life. An athlete since I was five, I played soccer and then volleyball in college. I was always very active and vital, and I didn’t really have any health issues. As an adult, I’m a full-time wellness blogger, researcher, and journalist. I run a wellness website, and am active on various social media platforms. My husband is a CrossFit coach, and we’re both really into fitness. Health is extremely important to me. It’s a passion, a hobby, and my job.
When Things Were Bad
About three years ago, my husband and I moved into a moldy house. We didn’t know there was mold at the time. It was an older house, built in the 1950s, and the basement had flooded multiple times. It never occurred to us to worry about mold.
Like so many people who have experienced a flood in their home, we only checked to see if the water had caused any structural damage. We didn’t think about the air quality or mold exposure.
Not long after we moved into that house, I started to get sick. I felt tired and had brain fog and joint pain. I wasn’t sure if it was because I’d been training too hard — or maybe I just needed new shoes. Besides, athletes are trained to push through the pain and keep going, so that’s what I tried to do.
The worst symptoms occurred when I ate. No matter what I put in my mouth, I would have a histamine response — an allergic reaction to the food. It was almost like I had a hangover right after eating. I got headaches and had itching all over my body. And even worse, after just two bites of food, I would get the most distended, bloated belly. It felt like I’d chugged a gallon of water.
I was trying not to eat foods that would trigger a reaction, so I had to cut almost everything from my diet. If I fasted, my body wouldn’t react. So not eating became almost a weird sort of remedy at the time. But I think this approach also made me very nutrient-deficient, and that likely made me sicker.
The Tipping Point
I usually know what my body needs to be healthy, and I normally know how to adjust what I eat to feel better. I tried eating vegan, and I had been eating paleo for about 10 years at that point. I was making all the tweaks to my diet, but nothing alleviated my symptoms. Eating just wasn’t fun anymore. I was stuck with very limited food options and pain afterward.
Because of the inflammation in my body, my knee hurt so badly that I was convinced my leg was broken. You could see the water retention in my face — I looked inflamed.
I was so discouraged because I was no longer able to do what I love. I was an athlete, and I had to give up running. My husband and I have a black lab named Kona who’s like a daughter to us, and it was a struggle even to take her out for a walk.
On top of all of this, I felt like an imposter. I’m a leader in wellness, always talking to others through my blog about being healthy, but I wasn’t well myself.
My life just wasn’t what I wanted it to be — and I didn’t know how to help myself. I couldn’t even eat, and my body was yelling at me. So eventually, I just threw my hands in the air and decided I needed help with this.
We all want to feel good, even though we go about it in different ways. I wanted to do it in a holistic way that aligns with my system and my body. I decided to follow different aspects of traditional Chinese medicine and support qi and flow in the body. So I went to see a functional practitioner.
I had a lot of testing done — bloodwork, saliva, and urine. It turned out I had three kinds of mold in my blood, and that had activated the Epstein-Barr virus in my system. I was becoming more sluggish, and my lymphatic system was backed up. I also developed hemochromatosis, which is iron overload. They told me that I was on a fast track to an autoimmune condition if I didn’t get treatment.
It was a relief at least to know what was causing the storm in my body. My friends and family were trying to be supportive, but they were confused. Nobody understood what was going on. They were used to more-traditional, Western medicine, and that model of medicine doesn’t really entertain mold exposure as a reason for getting sick. So I felt like I was swimming upstream in terms of getting them to understand. It helped finally to have an explanation and some answers.
My husband wasn’t affected like I was, so there must have been something in my body that made me more susceptible. But he was supportive because he could see how sick I was. So we moved from that moldy house a few months after my test results came back. Now we live in an apartment where there’s been no prior flooding. And the next house we buy will be new construction. We’re taking things a little more seriously where water damage is concerned.
A Bit of a False Start
The functional medicine practitioner told me to take a few natural herbs and a lot of alcohol-based tinctures. It was very hard for my mind to understand why it’d be okay for me to have alcohol. That seemed histamine-inducing. I decided to do what the practitioner recommended, but it was like putting fuel on the fire. It only made me worse.
There I was, doing everything I was told to do, and it wasn’t helping. I was frustrated. But I’m intuitive and kind of a rule breaker. I have no problem saying, “I don’t care if my doctor told me to do this” if it isn’t working. So I stopped taking the tinctures.
Finally Finding Solutions
I knew that I needed to give my body some tools to fight off what was making me sick. I follow a lot of practitioners on social media, and through their recommendations, I finally found exactly what I needed to work through my health issues. I focused on drainage first, and then detox. I also included natural herbs to help my body through the process.
It took a while, but I feel great now. There’s still room for improvement, but I feel about 85% better than I did. I don’t have any of those symptoms anymore: I don’t have joint pain, and I can tolerate more foods. I even began passing a bunch of parasites, and my energy levels just keep going up.
When I look at how far I’ve come, I’m in disbelief. You go for so long feeling bad that feeling good again seems almost too good to be true. But it doesn’t have to be!
It’s kind of crazy how life will present you with things that you may not understand in the moment, but afterward, you see the benefits.
Now that I’m feeling better, I recognize the lessons that I learned from being sick. I wouldn’t trade the chance it gave me to be able to relate to people better and have more compassion for those who aren’t well. I wouldn’t have learned that unless I’d gone through it myself.
What I Would Tell Others
Listen to yourself. You have to do what feels right for you, regardless of who told you to do what. Yes, we can respect people who are well trained, but also, you have to leave some room for individualism. Trust yourself. Trust that your body is communicating with you, and if you listen, you might start healing.
That’s been the ticket for me. If I hadn’t done that, I think I would still be suffering. Up until the point of finding some relief, there was no lack of effort. I was trying everything. It was just a matter of finding what was going to give my body what it needed.
Also, be open to sharing after you’ve gone through it. We need more authenticity and real people sharing real stories. I think that can be an invitation for others to trust themselves during their health journey. If you have a gut feeling about your own wellness, don’t just silence it because someone is telling you something different. Stay committed. It’s a roller coaster, but don’t give up on yourself.