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What is Mold Avoidance?
We started using the term “mold avoidance” after reading the book, A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance: Techniques Used by Hundreds of Chronic Multisystem Illness Sufferers to Improve Their Health.
This book contains methods that were very foreign to us. They even seemed a bit off the wall. I joined a Facebook group that was moderated by one of the book’s authors, and thought people in the group were doing pretty extreme stuff. Many were getting rid of all their possessions and leaving their homes in search of healing living environments. I kept up with the discussions and experiences that were shared in the group, and had no idea how meaningful their discussions would eventually become for us.
Fast forward several years, and yikes – we were living the strange phenomenon of hypersensitivity to mold toxins. Many people equate mold toxin hypersensitivity to peanut allergies. A small amount of peanut dust or oil can kill a person who is allergic to peanuts, and mold toxins are capable of causing the same reactions. It sounded like strange fiction to read other people’s reports. They couldn’t go in certain buildings, or purchase from specific stores, without severe adverse reactions. Experiencing it ourselves gave us a first-hand look at the “unraveling” of a life of comfort, and one wrong move could land us in the emergency department for life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.
We pieced things together, and realized how much of an impact our environment was having on our health.
Our church, our house, the homes of loved ones, our libraries, our grocery stores – everything became menacing. Our bodies were threatened by our everyday environments, and it seemed bizarre that such tiny particles (mycotoxins and mold spores) could wield so much power.
We’ve since made it through that tunnel of nightmares and are basking in the light on the other side (well my kids would say we’re baking in the light, but that’s because they’re adjusting to our move to the desert ?). Multiple anaphylactic reactions per day have changed to only a couple times a year. How did we do it?
A whole lot of God’s grace mixed with a bunch of mold avoidance!
Learning Along the Way
We made contact with multiple people that had experienced mold toxin exposure. Weeding through the details of their stories, we began to realize that mold avoidance techniques had the quickest, most positive outcomes. The people that were restored to good health after hitting rock bottom had all implemented some principles of mold avoidance. What initially seemed off the wall to us, became one of the only things that made sense!
We watched Ana Harris go from bedridden with constant anaphylaxis, to being able to do laundry, dance, and live life again! We had long, virtual conversations with Christa Upton, who continues to regain strength in the low-toxin home her family built. We learned how Kim and her husband, Trey, battled very severe health problems that were turned around by mold avoidance. We read how Julie Rehmeyer used her last ounce of strength to drag herself out of her home and camp in Death Valley. Braving the whipping winds, she found revitalization and renewed health in a matter of days. Their stories gave us hope that we could also find healing through mold avoidance, so we decided to give it a go.
In order to describe what mold avoidance means in the context of this blog, we came up with 3 basic principles.
The 1st principle involves figuring out what locations and items are problematic.
The 2nd principle practices avoidance of those problematic places and items to facilitate healing.
The 3rd principle stresses the importance of mindset and perspective, and how our thoughts about our circumstances can make all the difference in our healing journey.
Principle #1: Investigation – determining what is problematic
Our first principle of mold avoidance involves gathering concrete information. This helps us make decisions specific to our individual needs. By doing what we call a “mold sabbatical” (which is a fancy way of saying, “a vacation with brand new stuff”), people remove themselves from their familiar environments to determine if local toxins are impacting their health.
Some people will take small steps and do a “local sabbatical” in their home climate/region, while others visit a completely different climate (the desert is a popular destination). To be absolutely certain they are experiencing clean air, many choose to go camping for most of their sabbatical.
“A main goal of the mold avoidance sabbatical is to ensure that individuals get as free as possible of all exposures to these super toxins. If this is not accomplished, then the whole experiment likely will end up being a waste of time and expenditures.” A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance
To pull off a successful sabbatical, it is recommended that nothing be brought from the home environment. This means all new clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. We flew to our location with brand new suitcases carefully packed with all new items, and used a hotel room to switch to our new things. Medical supplies were tricky, but we were able to loan the proper equipment for oxygen needs for our son. We bought a cheap stroller that we unboxed at the airport, and sent new car seats to our hotel with Amazon Prime. We picked out the best-smelling minivan from the rental garage, and Whole Foods and Costco were our destinations for food items, camping supplies, and linens.
After removing the body from an environment that may be problematic, symptoms are then carefully monitored for changes. It’s not always an immediate change. Sometimes it takes days to realize sleep is better, or that there are fewer reactions to things that are troublesome at home. Some people don’t notice change until they return to their home living environment after being away, and then negative symptoms come back.
This process aids in becoming “unmasked,” which is a common term used in mold avoidance discussions. This means that the body has been removed from its “threats” long enough that it is now able to distinguish between environments that don’t promote healing, and environments that do.
The investigation process is not one to be taken lightly. We strongly suggest that some forethought be put into the “after sabbatical phase” since the return trip could result in an increase of debilitating symptoms. Some people realize they do fine outdoors in their home area, but not inside, and some struggle in their climate no matter what. We also know people that have recovered in clean indoor environments even though they’re sensitive to the outdoors. It takes trial and error to determine what is best for each individual.
Principle #2: Specific Avoidance – staying away from troublesome items and locations to allow for healing
“Regardless of whether toxic mold is a cause of their health symptoms, individuals who are hyperreactive to mold toxins may benefit from decreasing their exposure to those toxins. People do not have to believe that gluten or other trigger foods are a cause of their myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic Lyme disease, Gulf War illness or fibromyalgia in order to benefit from eliminating those foods from their diets. Similarly, if toxic mold exposures are serving as a trigger that make people feel worse, then eliminating those exposures may help them to feel better.” A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance
We believe this principle of avoidance is best enacted after a sabbatical and unmasking has taken place. When a person knows what is bothering them, they can avoid the locations and items triggering symptoms. The goal is to restore the body’s ability to handle “normal environments” again by lowering the toxic load enough to heal. We know this is possible because we’ve lived it. ? Maintaining a clean, healthy space is crucial, so there’s a safe environment for healing.
It’s typical for a hyper-reactive state to develop after a mold sabbatical, and this can be viewed as a helpful tool if trying to avoid the toxins wearing down the body. However, hyper-reactivity is not easy. It can be very difficult to make it through this phase with a proper mindset.
Principle #3: Perspective Analysis – positivity and rejecting a “victim mindset” promotes healing
Recognizing that these challenges are phases in our return to health is an important part of the journey. Many people preach the “power of positive thinking,” and that’s definitely a good practice, but we’re going beyond that to say our bodies experience physical changes based on how we think.
Scientific studies reinforce the concept that “we are what we think.” Difficult circumstances can lead to discouragement, but staying there and dwelling on those negative thoughts and emotions can slow a body’s ability to heal, and even completely sabotage it.
If we adopt a “woe is me” mindset, it causes negative changes in our bodies down to the cellular level. Debbie Hampton says:
“There are thousands upon thousands of receptors on each cell in our body. Each receptor is specific to one peptide, or protein. When we have feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, excitement, happiness or nervousness, each separate emotion releases its own flurry of neuropeptides. Those peptides surge through the body and connect with those receptors which change the structure of each cell as a whole. Where this gets interesting is when the cells actually divide. If a cell has been exposed to a certain peptide more than others, the new cell that is produced through its division will have more of the receptor that matches with that specific peptide. Likewise, the cell will also have less receptors for peptides that its mother/sister cell was not exposed to as often.”
Establishing habits of expressing gratefulness, communicating our love, and having confidence in who we are and where we are headed, creates proteins that root themselves in our very being!
Thoughts not only alter cells, but they can also change the physical structure of the brain:
“Every thought you have causes neurochemical changes, some temporary and some lasting. For instance, when people consciously practice gratitude, they get a surge of rewarding neurotransmitters, like dopamine, and experience a general alerting and brightening of the mind, probably correlated with more of the neurochemical norepinephrine.” “As a thought travels through your brain, neurons fire together in distinctive ways based on the specific information being handled, and those patterns of neural activity actually change your neural structure.” How Your Thoughts Change Your Brain, Cells, and Genes
Even in the most extreme cases of sensitization to mold toxins, our cells and brains are being impacted by our thoughts. Our brains can hang onto toxicity from our thoughts without us even realizing it. We’ve benefited from Carolyn Leaf’s “21-Day Brain Detox” program that changes our thought habits, and as a result changes our brains (which affects the entire body).
We don’t want you to think we’re saying it is possible to “wish away” a toxic environment. If someone is living in mold or toxins, we recommend changes be made to those living conditions as quickly as possible. If severe symptoms drag on when a clean environment is attained, we do see limbic brain retraining (DNRS or Gupta for example) as very useful tools to help the brain stop causing reactions to benign substances. Mold toxins can make the body start attacking everything, including the foods we need and our own bodies. That response can be calmed with limbic retraining, but from those we know that have used it, they need to be in a clean environment for healing to be lasting.
These principles of investigation, avoidance, and perspective analysis have helped us land us where we are today. Our health is much improved, we are thriving in clean indoor environments again, eating foods and going places without reactions, and have the strength to do things without exhaustion.