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The Mystery Illness

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Our coconut kefir company was starting to make money after our products were on the market about 4 years. The upswing was occurring because more and more people were learning about the importance of gut health and fermented foods. Mike wasn’t stressing anymore about how to pay his employees every month, which was a huge relief to all of us! Then the following year we were contacted by a larger fermentation beverage company and after many months of negotiations, we were purchased and moving to sunny California so that Mike could continue making the products! This was such a wonderful opportunity to get our products in more stores, have better distribution, and help so many more people. The girls were super excited to move too!

We left behind our little one-and-a-half-story home in Minnesota, which was then bulldozed to the ground by the new owner. Our home had become quite moldy over the past year, and black mold covered the ceiling in our bathroom. We didn’t have money to remove it professionally, so every once in a while I would try to clean it, but it always grew back quickly. I knew mold was a health menace, but since we were moving and the house was being knocked down, I didn’t worry about it too much. The problem was that our move kept being postponed and we lived in the moldy house longer than we intended.

The first year living in beautiful California was not what I expected. Even before I moved, I started getting headaches, but I brushed it off and didn’t think too much about it. Now these headaches were increasing and I couldn’t figure out why. Living in our new home, I noticed differences in my bowels, specifically constipation, and I felt bloated after certain meals. My labs showed deficiencies in B12, Vitamin D, and some others, and my hormone levels had gone bonkers. I endured muscle cramps at night and my whole upper body felt inflamed for no reason. After a while, the headaches turned into migraines. At our old house, my hands became itchy at night. I'd seen several doctors multiple times about it, but they kept telling me I must be using lotion or something topical that wasn’t agreeing with me. Now my hands were even itchier than before, which made it impossible to sleep. I was also feeling anxious and depressed for no reason. There were days when I attempted to keep myself really busy because when I did have a free moment I would panic and crawl into bed to cry myself to sleep. This was NOT me at all!

My new doctor in California gave me supplements to try to fix my vitamin and mineral levels, but they weren't affecting my lab numbers. It reminded me of the time when I was giving Tula numerous supplements without trying to figure out the root problem. I tried chiropractic adjustments for my headaches but they didn't help. My chiropractor asked to see my latest labs and suggested I get tested for SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which I had never heard of. I found another doctor and took a breath test for SIBO. To my surprise, the results came back positive for a severe case of SIBO! I was treated for the next couple of months (you can go the antibiotic route or herbal route), along with eating a low "FODMAP" diet. FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates poorly absorbed in the small intestine and include fructose, xylitol, and certain vegetables like brussels sprouts and cabbage. This new diet did not include fermented foods and drinks, which can actually make SIBO symptoms worse for some people!

I started feeling voodoo-like shocks throughout my body, then came the piercing pain behind my eyes. My whole body felt inflamed and my muscles were stiff, to the point that it was sometimes difficult to walk. I had to start wearing an ankle brace just to move around the house, but I had never injured my ankle, so I was perplexed as to why it hurt all the time. Then the pain hit my shoulder. What was going on?

My doctor retested me for SIBO after I had been treated—and no surprise to me—I still had it. Then he ran some other tests and the results prompted him to ask me if I'd been exposed to mold. Well, yes, my last house had mold. But why were my symptoms worse when I had moved out? And why were my other family members okay? (Tula had constant swollen lymph nodes shortly after we moved in but her doctors never figured out the cause. She was also experiencing a lot of anxiety but I assumed it was the transition.)

My doctor wanted me to get our current home checked for mold, based on my labs and because my SIBO wasn’t going away. We had the ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) test done, which came back positive for mold. Returning for another visit to find the source of the mold, the mold remediation team found that the cupboard where the AC unit was installed had rotted wood around it coated with visible mold. Opening up the AC unit, they discovered it had not been installed up to code. They found putrid standing (black) water full of mold inside the unit. I was actually thrilled to find the mold so that there could be a light at the end of this dark tunnel! All of the symptoms and inflammation I was experiencing was actually CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) from mold toxicity. The first step was home remediation, then releasing the mold out of my body. I learned that mold can cause profound gut issues. Sometimes gut issues will be the first symptom people encounter after being exposed. I was given a DNA test that showed I have a MTHFR mutation in my gene, meaning I'd have a longer and more difficult time recovering from mold and other toxins than most people. The impacts of this go beyond just detoxing so if you would like to learn more here is a great video. The mold was professionally remediated and we bought air purifiers for our home (we use the Air Doctor). Supplements and herbs helped me to detox. There are also binders such as prescription medications, activated charcoal, and chlorella. I used acupuncture, practiced mindfulness, prayed, and visualized perfect health. I felt like a completely different person just one month later! My migraines never returned, my joint pain disappeared, my gut slowly healed, and I could finally exercise again! Tula’s swollen lymph nodes went down and so did her anxiety. Dr. Shoemaker’s website was helpful in my healing process.

© Copyright A Journey Off the Spectrum 2022

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