Full transcript on How to Overcome Mold and Biotoxin Illness
Tracey: Thank you so much, Nik. I’m so happy to be here with you today. Really appreciate the opportunity.
Dr. Hedberg: Yes. Yeah. It’s gonna be fun. So why don’t we begin by talking about your personal journey with mold? And that’s gonna be the topic of today, mold and biotoxin illness. So why don’t you share your personal journey?
Tracey: You bet I’d love to. And really, my personal journey, Nik, really started with a professional journey in that I became very interested in neurodegenerative conditions and I completed Dr. Bredesen’s training, as you mentioned, The Bredesen Protocol to End Alzheimer’s. And Dr. Bredesen has sub-categorized underlying causes of Alzheimer’s, and one of those underlying causes he refers to as type three Alzheimer’s that’s really related to toxins. And he’s identified three categories of primary toxins. The first one is heavy metals and the second one is biotoxins. And in that category, biotoxins, certainly, mold is included and also tick-borne illnesses. And now even recently we’ve added COVID-19, especially from the standpoint of, you know, people who have had COVID-19 and they haven’t recovered. You know, we’re referring to them as long haulers. And I bring that up. I’ll tie that all in in just a minute. The third type of toxin Dr. Bredesen addresses are organic compounds. So there are things like herbicides and pesticides, things that we can be highly exposed to in the environment. It was interesting in that journey that I had that training and I started working with clients with all the subtypes of Alzheimer’s, little did I know that I would end up having my own personal experience. So I was assisting clients who had been exposed to mold, certainly, and then we ended up moving to North Carolina. It’s in the South. It’s very moist here, as you know, I know you live here too. So, you know, we’ve had a year of record rainfall here.
So I moved from Colorado, which was very hot and dry to the Southeast, which is living like in the tropics, really. We’re living in a rental house. And when we found the house, we were really excited because, for a rental, it looked really great on the surface. We just thought, “Wow. We found such a treasure in this house.” And I was able to set up my office in the basement, which happens to have…it’s kind of a partial basement, so it’s got some really nice natural light and big windows and I thought, “Oh, even for a basement office this is just great.” And got set up and started working. And after living in this house for about five months I just gradually started to get sicker and sicker. And it’s interesting that even though I was assisting clients who had biotoxin illness, and especially mold illness, certainly some people with tick-borne illness as well, it’s almost like I couldn’t see it in myself. And that rings true with people with biotoxin illness, the impact that it has on us neurologically can really impair our ability to think and process information. And so I certainly was becoming more cognitively imperative myself. I ended up gaining about 20 pounds almost overnight, which really bothered me as a dietician because I practice what I preach. I eat a whole foods, paleo-based diet and, you know, a big exercise fiend, and I hadn’t changed anything. So I’m just like, “Where the heck did this 20 pounds come from?” And then as I continued to get more sick, I suddenly was like not sleeping, like, I mean literally not sleeping. The insomnia was horrible, then exacerbated by hot flashes. And so I just continued down this decline.
I had to cut my work back by at least half. I really was becoming dysfunctional. And then this profound fatigue set in where I almost…I would be sitting at my desk working and I would get hit with this fatigue where I almost just had to, like, lie down in the floor. I didn’t have enough strength left in me to up the stairs and, you know, lie on the couch or even get in my bed. And I would curl up on the floor in my office and just fall asleep for two hours, you know, and it was really at about that point that I just thought, “My gosh, what is wrong with me?” And so I ran the tests on myself and discovered that I had really high mold levels. And we started… We had our home inspected. Our landlord happened to be very much on board with that and very supportive, and we found some pretty significant high levels of very toxic mold growing in this house kind of underneath the surface.
So I ended up leaving the home for about three weeks, my husband, who was not feeling, you know, the drastic health issues. And I would love to talk about that too, Nik, in that you can have people in the same household who, you know, one person can be very sick or a few family members, very sick, and then other people not sick at all. And we have theories around why that’s happening. But luckily, my husband maybe was experiencing some hormonal dysregulation and some issues, but I was able to go back to Colorado and stay at a friend’s house for three weeks. And our landlord’s very fortunate because my husband’s very handy and he was able to do a bulk of the remediation to making the house at least safe for me. And I didn’t mention too that I’d also kind of spontaneously developed asthma, which I never had in my life.
So it was interesting, you know, just getting out of the house and, you know, being in that safer place in Colorado, my asthma just went away immediately and I’d had to go… I went to see a doctor and I was using an inhaler here in North Carolina. And so I instantly started feeling better when I got out of this environment. But I ended up coming back and I was able to help my husband with some of the remediation. It really took us about three months total. And it’s been a journey. I mean, this has been really going on about a year and a half. And I would say that I’m about 80% improved, but I still have a little ways to go. So mold really did a number on me. Yeah. That’s an overview for you.
Dr. Hedberg: The immune system remembers, that’s one of the difficult parts about it. And you mentioned testing. So what does that look like for people if they suspect that they have a mold issue? Why don’t we start with home testing? Are there regional labs that will do this? Or is there, you know, a standard test people can get?
Tracey: You know, that it’s a tricky area to work in because it’s relatively new. And, you know, I don’t mind sharing with you that I’ve done a deep dive. I love learning. And then when something like this happens, I think, you know, “I wanna advocate for myself and my clients.” So I’ve recently attended three big deal mold conferences. I mean, it was really bringing the best in the world to these conferences and they were presenting on this very issue. And I mean, I do wanna come back to something you said, you know, how does someone, if they suspect they have mold, how do they start testing? And I wanna answer that question, but I would like to circle back around to how does someone know or how would they suspect they might have a mold issue? So I I’d like to come back and speak to that in a minute.
Right now, we could really look at this two different ways. You could start by testing your home or if you suspect that you have mold illness, you could test yourself. And our best tests right now are urine mycotoxin tests. So think about it this way. Mold is an organism. I think we’re all familiar with it. We can picture mold growing on yogurt or bread, and it’s white, or green, or blue, and it’s fuzzy. So when mold grows, it needs substrate, like in the case of bread, that works. And then it also needs moisture. So if you have those two things combined, you can grow mold, but mold makes spores. Spores are very tiny and they can float around in the environment. I mean, just walking through a room or having your HVAC system running and circulating air, these spores will filter all throughout, you know, the area and then they can land on surfaces. And if those surfaces have dirt or substrate like wood and then also moisture, so in the Southeast, we have high humidity, so moisture is…it’s pretty easy to find. And then we certainly could have issues with a home like having, you know, water damage, leaky pipes, maybe a basement that’s not sealed well, maybe the foundation doesn’t have good runoff and the water seeps in and gets the walls just damp and wet and they’re behind drywall. And so there can be hidden sources of this, you know, moisture and substrate growing, but these spores are so small that they can move through drywall and they can filter around the air and they can grow mold in other places.
Another aspect of mold that a lot of people don’t realize is that molds produce volatile, organic compounds, and they’re just teeny, tiny particles and they can readily move through dry wall. And I mean, even they can move around easier than spores can, and these mycotoxins as volatile, organic compounds have the propensity to make some people very sick. If they’re associated with certain types of molds like black molds, really, anyone can get sick. But we’ve been able to identify that there’s this subset in the population and we’re estimating that it’s about 25% of the human race has, you know, a genetic insufficiency in the ability of their immune system to identify that there’s been this mycotoxin exposure and then be able to get rid of it. I mean, the other 75% of the population can have a mold exposure. And again, anyone can get sick, especially if it’s the real toxic black molds, but that 75% of the population could maybe, you know, get a headache or have a little fatigue and just not feel well and then they could go outside, get some fresh air, and they feel better.
That 25% is a very troublesome portion of our population because if you’re in that 25%, it’s almost like you’re a canary in the coal mine, that if you have an exposure to mold and mycotoxins and they enter your body via breathing or through food, through ingestion, they can even move in your body through your skin, then they accumulate there and oftentimes your body just can’t detoxify and get rid of them. And I really love that. You’re so knowledgeable about the immune system, because we are seeing this activation of, you know, the deep amygdala in the brain, the reptilian portion of the brain, recognizing that there’s a toxin in the body that the body can’t get rid of. And we’re seeing this production of a cytokine storm, very similar to what is happening with long haulers with COVID-19 and also people who have chronic tick-borne illness.
You know, we’ll see this chronic cytokine storm activation, and that 25% are people who can be just really dysfunctional. I mean, there are people that can end up on disability or, you know, in sharing my story, you know, someone who…very vibrant, full of life, very optimistic, and I’m just having to lie on the floor in my office. You know, it’s like… It was nuts what was happening to me. So, you know, we have to think about, you know, if you suspect something’s going on in your house, you know, you would maybe actually see water damage, you might see mold growing, or you might even notice kind of a mildew-y type smell or an odor. Oftentimes that’s really common in basements and people think, “Oh, that’s normal. That’s a basement.” I’ve even had clients that have had actual natural springs running through their crawl space, which is very problematic.
So you have to think about, is there a possibility that there’s a moisture issue in my house? And arguably, almost every house could potentially have a moisture issue. Less so, you know, in the dryer, more arid regions of the U.S., you know, like where I was from in Colorado, and you can still have water damage. But you can have moisture issues if you have an air conditioning system. And we’re really finding this issue called sick building syndrome, where homes have been built so energy-efficient and so tight. And then if you have an air conditioning system and if it’s undersized or oversized, or if there’s dirt in your HVAC system and then there’s moisture accumulating, we see that as a big source. So there are all these ideas you have to start thinking about, and then you start saying, “Well, am I testing because the individual person is not feeling well and they’ve got a chronic illness, they’ve got a myriad of mystery symptoms and we don’t know what’s going on?” or, you know, “Is that in combination with…it looks like the house has been exposed to water?” So we can look at two different scenarios there. And I’m gonna say from what I’ve learned recently, the best and easiest and most economical way to test your home is by what’s called gravity plate testing. So these are sterile Petri dishes that have a substrate in them that is favorable to growing fungus, not bacteria. So we can kind of encourage the growth of mold and different types of fungus, like even candida can grow on the substrate. And it’s pretty inexpensive. I’ve been working a lot with a company. And do you mind if I mention specific companies, Nik?
Dr. Hedberg: Oh, definitely mention them.
Tracey: Okay, great. And this is also coming from the conferences. These are from the world experts in mold are also recommending this, that you start by reaching out to a company called ImmunoLytics, and they offer these sterile gravity plates and they charge $33 per plate. So you go online and you choose the number of plates and you might decide, like where we live in the South, Nik. I have a lot of clients test their car because think of how often, you know, we’re running around and we get drenched and soaked and jump in our car and we’re wet and we get home and close up our car and go inside. And so, interesting. And I even had a client once, this is so interesting, that she had bought a used car and she didn’t know that it had a HEPA filter that needed…it was supposed to be replaced every time she had an oil change, and she didn’t know it was there and she’d had the car for about eight years. And she had mold illness, was very sick. And, you know, there was some minor things going on in her home that she remediated and had fixed. And then when we got…her husband had to do some work on the dashboard of her car and he had the dashboard pulled apart and he found this filter, and to access it, you had to pull the glove box out and then get in and remove this air filter. It wasn’t an easy thing to find and replace, but he pulled that out and it was covered in black mold in her car.
So with this company, ImmunoLytics, you know, you really have to kind of think about, “Well, do I wanna test?” If you’d have a basement, definitely, especially if it smells mildew-y. And then start poking around your house or your car. In your home, you might think about testing somewhere where you spend a lot of time like in an office or somewhere where you’re sleeping. And then definitely, you know, in a bathroom, I have a lot of clients in this area who don’t have a venting fan in their bathroom. And so if they’re showering, you know, mold just is readily gonna grow. And they’ll oftentimes tell me, “Oh, yeah. When I look up at the ceiling, I see some light brown spots or some, you know, light black or, you know, greenish spots on the ceiling and I definitely get mold in my grout and in the sealant around the tub.” And then I’ll also encourage them to poke their head underneath the bathroom sink and the kitchen sink, and if they smell anything mildewy or see any dripping, I mean, we definitely wanna be testing those areas.
So for $33, you can order these plates and all you do is open them up. They’re sealed, take the lid off and leave them sitting out for about an hour, put the lid back on, and seal them with tape. And then you stick them in kind of a dark place, like a cupboard, for about three to five days and then you pull them out and look at them. And if you start seeing, “Wow. There’s a lot growing there. There’s a lot of numbers. There’s a lot of colors. There’s a lot going on,” then you go ahead and send them in to the lab and have them analyzed.
And there is a check mark on the paperwork with ImmunoLytics that you can ask to have the lab call you and go over your results with you. And they’re wonderful. I mean, my clients love talking to the lab, people at ImmunoLytics. And so it’s a really good way to just get a basic assessment. I’m gonna tell you and your listeners a trick about this company, and that is if you call their phone number and you tell them that you would only like to order the Petri dishes by themselves, they charge, I think it’s about 2.95. So it’s like three bucks to order these plates. And you just order the plates and pay shipping and then they come and, you know, you can get 10 of them if you want, you know, for 30 bucks plus shipping, that’s very reasonable. And then you put them out and then you only send in the ones that happen to be growing something, if they’re growing something for analysis. And then the company will even suggest that, you know, if you’re putting these plates out and, you know, maybe you put, let’s say, six out, and four of them are growing something but they’re maybe growing like one or two little spots on them after three to five days, that would indicate that you likely don’t have a significant mold problem in your house. But if you’re looking at that plate and it’s like covered or there’s multiple varieties and multiple numbers, then you definitely wanna send it in. And so it’s a little trick I’ve learned with cost-saving to just order the plates, see what grows, send in the ones that are growing something for analysis, and then you only get charged for those plates. So that’s a great way to start testing your home.
If things come back positive, then you really need to work with an expert, a mold remediation specialist. I mean, someone who can come in and do an assessment of your living space and then give you some ideas about what you need to do. And lately we are discouraging people from hiring someone who does both the testing and assessment of your home and the remediation because we’re just suspect that some of those people are…you know, they wanna find things because they wanna do remediation and it’s big bucks and big income for them. So you almost wanna separate those two out, if that makes sense.
Yeah. So that’s how we recommend getting started, testing yourself, your home. And if some of your listeners are interested, from the conferences I’ve attended, I have started compiling a list of very reputable mold inspection and remediation companies in the U.S., and they tend to…some of them are doing like video-based appointments. I’m not sure how that’s working, but they’re doing it in COVID times. And they’re very reputable. And I bring that up because not every mold testing or mold remediation company is the same. There’s a lot of them that haven’t been trained in the brand new, current information. So I do have a compiled list. And if it’s something that you want me to share with you, to share with your listeners, I would be happy to do that.
Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. I’ll put the ImmunoLytics link with the transcript and the show notes and a document like that, that you suggested.
Dr. Hedberg: So what about air filters? Is that going to help at all, like getting a good quality air filter in your house, in your bedroom, having that running all the time, or is that not going to make much of a difference?
Tracey: You know, if you have these mold spores and the mycotoxins, it can help a little, and it might be helpful for that 75%, but for the 25%, it’s not gonna make a big difference. I mean, until you find the source and get the source cleaned up and out of the space, it doesn’t do a lot. So it’s pretty problematic when there’s a mold issue for the people that are in that 25%.
Dr. Hedberg: Okay. And you mentioned…
Tracey: So I’m gonna… Oh, can I just… I’m gonna add to that, that, I mean, once you’ve found mold and you’ve remediated and you’re trying to really, you know, have good quality air, you know, I’ve heard… Have you heard this, Nik, that you can…you need the rule of threes. I’m trying to gather my thoughts around this. So the rule of 3s, in that you die if you don’t have oxygen within 3 minutes, you can go 3 minutes without oxygen, you can go 3 days without water, and you can go 30 days without food. And so that idea of making sure that the air that you’re breathing is good is a really big deal. And so, yes, you wanna have a really good filter. At the mold conferences, they were recommending a MERV 13 or higher. So that’s just a good number to have everyone kind of tuck in their mind that you wanna be looking for a good quality air filter and you wanna change it regularly.
And some people do feel better. I run an Air Oasis air cleaner in my office. It puts out a little bit of ozone, which bothers me, so I run it at night, and then during the day I move it to my bedroom. So I’m always cleaning the air in my environment now because once you have a sensitivity to something like mycotoxins, it’s very common that you also have other multiple chemical sensitivities. And I find that’s true for me. I have a real hard time, as a lot of my clients, you know, walking down the cleaning aisle of the grocery store, just the smells. Or if I have someone walk by me that even if I’m out at the park on a walk, and right now we’re trying to social distance with COVID, but if I have someone walk by that’s got real strong perfume on, or, you know, body care products, I mean, it makes me dizzy. It makes my head spin. And so I am focusing on keeping the air in the environment that I work and live in, you know, a little cleaner than it probably needs to be, but I think it’s been something important in my health journey. And I have a lot of clients who do the same thing. They make sure the air filter is good. They change it regularly and then they might consider investing in a good quality air cleaner. And there are some really good air filters.
Dr. Hedberg: And for the HVAC, you know, most of those just have about…it’s usually about 20 by 16, somewhere around there, size filter. Is there anything else that you can do there other than just changing it regularly?
Tracey: You know, we ended up getting a device installed on our furnace that’s an ionizer. And so it’s part of the intake of our HVAC system that as the air is coming into the system, essentially it gets ionized. The ionizer kills volatile organic compounds. You know, and we’ve done a… We did a really good job of cleaning up this home, but the fact of the matter is there’s some things that mycotoxins can stick in that are really hard to clean. So we just wanted that added assurance. I don’t have a lot of clients who go to that extreme, but it’s something that we did here.
Dr. Hedberg: And you mentioned urinary mycotoxin testing. Are there any particular labs that you recommend?
Tracey: Yeah. So that’s a great, you know, next conversation piece. So we kind of talked about, if you suspect something’s going on in your home, what do you do? Well, oftentimes that’s usually the second step. With my clients, usually, the first step is that someone has been chronically ill, they’re not feeling well, and they’ve been to multiple doctors, they’ve ruled out everything. And oftentimes their general lab data, like a CBC, complete blood count, and a comprehensive metabolic panel, and general blood work usually looks pretty good. And so the doctor’s telling them that, you know, no one can have all these symptoms. And we can talk about symptoms in a minute. But, you know, no one can be this sick. This is in your head, you need an antidepressant. And that’s usually… I end up getting clients that are just like, “I can barely go to work. I can barely function. The doctor’s just telling me I have depression and I need therapy and I need an antidepressant.” And they’re saying, “I know something’s wrong with me.” And so we usually will start by a screening process. And so a lot of the information we have about biotoxin illness comes from… Have you heard of him, Ritchie Shoemaker, Nik?
Dr. Hedberg: Yes.
Tracey: Yeah. So he’s pretty famous in the Lyme world and biotoxin illness. And he really kind of did some groundbreaking work about 20 years ago with a big group of doctors. And I think he’s been amazing for people with chronic illness and chronic inflammatory response syndrome. What I’m finding is that a lot of these doctors now that are experts in this field started working with Ritchie Shoemaker and then they tended to, for various reasons, it sounds like there was a lot of personality issues. They all tended to break off and they’re doing their own thing now. But that foundational work from Ritchie Shoemaker, there’s some aspects of it that people still use, and one of them is a biotoxin survey.
And I would be happy to share this with you too. It’s not mine, it’s Richie Shoemaker’s. And a lot of these Lyme doctors will just run a basic biotoxin illness survey. And what it is is 13 bullet points, and next to the bullet points are these random symptoms. And you have people look at that, and if they are positive for symptoms in eight or more of these bullet points, then that’s a big indicator that, okay, someone likely has this chronic inflammatory response going on. Then the next step, if people are positive for that, you know, we like to start basic because mold illness can be very costly and I don’t wanna start urine testing someone unless I feel like I have a really good reason to do it. So I am doing a really good history. I’m asking them about possible mold exposures, even tick bites, because they can be kind of related. We’ll do that.
Biotoxin illness survey from Ritchie Shoemaker, if that’s positive, then I will have my clients do a visual contrast sensitivity test. And this is an online test. It takes about 10 minutes, it costs $10. So it’s pretty cheap. And it’s a test that was developed by the U.S. Military about 40 years ago and it’s still used with the Air Force. So it’s a validated test. It is not a diagnostic tool. So the biotoxin screen I just told you about is not a diagnostic tool. It’s an assessment. And then the visual contrast sensitivity test, again, is not diagnostic, but it’s a general assessment, and it’s looking at the cones in the back of the eye. And the cones can be heavily influenced by inflammatory cytokines. And you probably would be better at explaining inflammatory cytokines to your listeners than I would, but there’s this cytokine storm that happens, that it’s really this inflammatory response that even affects the body profoundly at the cellular level and at the capillary level.
And so think about the tiny capillaries that are feeding the back of the eye to provide oxygen and nutrients there. And if there’s all this inflammation going on there, and it really affects the cones in the back of the eye that determine our ability to see gray, white, and black. So it’s, you know, checking the ability of your eyes to be able to see this contrast. It takes about 10 minutes to set up your computer. You pay $10 and it assesses for essentially biotoxin illness and this cytokine damage going on in the back of the eye. And so then I’ll have my clients run that test, and if they’re positive for both those things and then maybe they know they’ve had a mold exposure, then I’ll move forward and move on to the testing.
A lot of the testing has been presented in these recent conferences, and to validate the information I received at the conferences I did attend, it’s called ISEAI conference. That’s an organization that’s I-S-E-A-I. So it’s the International Society of Environmentally Acquired Illnesses, and it’s the best doctors in the world. And a lot of them started with Ritchie Shoemaker, and they’ve broken off and now they just have a real heart and passion for helping people who are chronically sick. And so they’re leading the way for all of us and they say it’s very controversial. There’s one doctor, his name is Dr. Andrew Campbell, who is offering a blood test for IgG antibodies to mycotoxins and mold. It’s very controversial, and most of the doctors that I’ve been affiliated with and learning from do not agree with it at all. So that really leaves us with the only other way to really test the human body is through urine. And we know that mold mycotoxins can make metabolites that we can measure in urine and we can also actually measure these mycotoxins in urine.
So I’m gonna talk about three tests. The first one is really interesting and came up a lot recently in conferences, is running a urine organic acid test, and especially the one from Great Plains Labs, because Great Plains Labs, on their first page, they test for 76 different analytes on that test that they’re looking at in urine. And on the first page, the first nine markers have to do with fungal growth, but that tests…so it tests for candida and things that, you know, I think we think about a lot, but it also is testing for the possibility of mold colonization in the body. And this sounds a little gross, but think about the sinus cavity as being warm and moist. And even the gastrointestinal tract. So hollow spaces, the lungs, the sinuses, the gastrointestinal tract.
So we’re finding that if mold spores are ingested, we’re getting especially colonization of the GI tract. So the organic acid test from Great Plains Labs will test for mold colonization in the gut. For some people, their mold exposure is actually coming from mold that’s growing in their body. And if we can identify that and take care of it, then that’s really helpful information. So on a lot of my clients, I like to run that organic acid test in combination with another test Great Plains Labs offers, and it’s their urine mycotoxin test. So there’s really…there’s two good urine tests right now. One of them is by Great Plains Labs, and they’re using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. The other company is RealTime Labs or… Actually, there’s a third company that’s a little bit newer on the playing field, and it’s Vibrant Health, Vibrant Wellness. Both… Let’s see. RealTime and Vibrant Health are using ELISA testing through the urine. So they’re doing different types of testing. And the best mold experts out there are saying that both companies test…they test different things and they test in a different way, and if someone really wants good information, they really need to run both tests. And that gets costly.
You know, RealTime Labs, somehow they got approval through Medicare. So if you have a doctor ordering the test, so it has to be a medical doctor ordering, and if they know how to code it right, and RealTime Labs helps doctors with this, you can get that test 100% covered. Otherwise, they’re working on their pricing. It was $699 for that test, that tests for 5 mycotoxins, and they’ve been able to pull the price point down under $400 now and they’re being very competitive with Great Plains Labs and their test is about $350 for that test.
So experts, and I’m gonna mention a name here, Dr. Neil Nathan, he actually wrote a great book, it’s called “Toxic: Heal Your Body.” And I recommend all my clients read it, who have mold toxicity and/or Lyme disease. It’s a phenomenal book, but his preference is that both tests are run, then we get the most data from them. And then Vibrant Health, I’m not sure what to think about their test. Neil Nathan recently said he’s kinda sitting on it. He’s not sure how valuable he thinks their information is. So he’s giving it a little time. And yet I know some other big doctors in the mold arena, one of them is Dr. Jill Carnahan from…she’s a Institute of Functional Medicine-trained doctor. She has started doing the Vibrant Health testing. I have a couple of clients who see her and they’ve shared their Vibrant Health test results with me.
And they’re much more comprehensive, but it’s a bit controversial. So at this point I feel very comfortable having my clients run Great Plains Labs. And I’ll tell you that the reason why, Nik, is that great Plains is testing for 11 mycotoxins. RealTime Labs is testing for five, but they’re both testing for different things. And it’s rare that I find that I have a client who can afford both. So to give you an idea about this, RealTime Labs is measuring the mycotoxin called ochratoxin A, and trichothecenes, and aflatoxin, a whole group of them, and gliotoxin, and chaetoglobosin. And gliotoxin and chaetoglobosin are from black mold. They’re horribly toxic. And so it would be really good to know that information. When we’re looking at Great Plains Labs, they’re testing from zearalenone, some aflatoxin and ochratoxin and then one called sterig… Some of them are hard for me to say. So I’m gonna… Yeah.
Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. Microbes are tough.
Tracey: Right. I know. So my tongue gets wrapped around them a little bit, but it’s… And I try it again. Sterigmatocystin, and then roridin E, verrucarin A, enniatin B, gliotoxin, mycophenolic acid. And mycophenolic acid is a very interesting one, Nik, because it very, very dramatically suppresses the immune system. And it’s actually made into a drug. So people who have organ transplants actually receive mycophenolic acid in a prescription drug form to help with organ rejection. But then the other 2, so 11 total from Great Plains Labs, the chaetoglobosin, and then citrinin. And so if my clients are really limited in funds, I just go right to Great Plains Labs because at least we get the opportunity to look at 11 mycotoxins. It could be down the road that I decide, you know, that the Vibrant America that’s testing even more. I might end up going that route if we’re feeling really confident about the data that they’re providing. But I agree with Neil Nathan, if it’s possible, I want my clients running both RealTime and Great Plains Labs, but it’s rare that it happens. I really want my clients running an organic acid test and the urine mycotoxin test so we know if they’ve been colonized by mold and then we also know if they also have mycotoxins present.
Neil Nathan also advises that you provoke before these tests to get most accurate data. You know, when the body has a big toxic burden, it tends to take those toxins and tuck them in and hide them in safe places. And an example is fat cells, you know, are a safe place to stick these toxic substances in the body. And so we wanna encourage the body to start releasing some of those stores so we get a better idea of body burden. So Neil Nathan recommends taking 400 to 500 milligrams of glutathione AM and PM for 6 days, and then on day 7, doing the urine collection. He also recommends avoiding any binders at least three to five days before the collection because the binders can be binding the toxins and then you don’t get a good idea of, you know, what the body burden is. And he’ll also add a tip that it’s helpful to have some sort of heat exposure, so sauna, and it could be dry, or steam, or IR, or even a hot bath. So having some sort of heat exposure the night before you collect, you can really mobilize these toxins and get a better idea.
I wanna be cautious about that because I have a lot of people I work with that are highly sensitive to that load of…that’s a lot of glutathione. And I have a lot of clients who, just because they have biotoxin illness, they’re highly, highly sensitive and they can’t tolerate any glutathione. They might start, and I might have them even, you know, start a couple of days ahead and maybe try, you know, using some liposomal glutathione, such as from Quicksilver Labs. It’s a pump bottle. And, you know, they can just start with one pump and see how they feel, and if they just feel awful, then Neil Nathan’s recommendation is that you have them stop the glutathione and just go ahead and collect their urine and kind of skip that provocation.
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm. Interesting. So you mentioned mold growing particular body cavities like the sinuses, lungs, gut. I just wanted to mention as an aside for anyone listening with autoimmunity, any kind of growth like that of a microbe in those cavities is going to drive interleukin 17, which is gonna drive Th17 cells, and those are the cells that drive autoimmunity. And on top of that, when you drive Th17, you’re going to inhibit the Th1 system of the body, which is there to fight off infections like viruses and bacteria. So you’ll be more prone to activation of viruses like Epstein-Barr, herpes 6, and things like that. And then at the same time, when those two are activated, you’ll drive Th2, which is going to drive allergies and asthma. And you mentioned earlier in your story, you know, you just developed asthma, which you had never had before, and then when you were gone it went away. So that’s just, as an aside, some things to think about if you’re dealing with chronic infection other than mold or if you have autoimmunity.
Tracey: You know, and I really appreciate you tying that in, and I love the knowledge that you have about the immune system because, you know, you’re speaking to that a lot better than I could ever speak to that. And you’re right, when we look at overall health effects from mold, we certainly…you know, mold is a potent activator of mast cells. And so we will see people that have pretty significant and severe allergies and even asthma and we will see activation… You know, I’ve read in the scientific literature that it’s estimated that about 80% of us are walking around with low-level Epstein-Barr that we were exposed as kids and we’re walking around with it, and our immune system typically will keep it in check. But when something like this happens with mold and the immune system is suppressed, then we can see the immune system’s not looking out for us anymore, and we will see someone with chronic reactivated Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, we’ll see them having, you know, more frequent viral herpes outbreaks. And so we’ll see people just all over, they just feel awful.
We also think that this is that tie in to Lyme disease, it’s suspected. And this came out in the ISEAI conference. It’s suspected that about 50% of us are walking around with some sort of insect-borne illness, and that our immune system, if it’s healthy, just keeps it in check and it’s no big deal. But when you go through something like mold toxicity or even…I think you well know this, Nik, too, that even, you know, highly stressful events can suppress the immune system. So it’s not just mold, but, you know, you can get an activation of these tick-borne illnesses and it could be classic Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, or it could be one of the co-infections. There’s many of them. But we can see someone who all of a sudden is testing positive for Lyme disease and they might be saying something that, “Well, I remember a tick bite when I was six.” Or, “I don’t even ever remember being bit by a tick.” But we know that other things like fleas, ticks, mites, other bugs carry tick-borne illnesses. So we think a lot of us have the possibility of having these microorganisms in us that when the immune system is suppressed, then we see this activation. So I often am seeing my clients that have biotoxin illness in the form of mold and then they’re also testing positive for Lyme. What I find really interesting is that it’s…and this really speaks to the work that Neil Nathan has done, is that addressing the mold is a big deal, and if we can address the mold and support the immune system, oftentimes the immune system can come in and help the body go back to suppressing these viral-type infections or tick-borne bacteria, and we don’t necessarily have to go into these big treatment protocols, you know, for all of these other types of infections in the body.
Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. Homo sapiens, I mean, we are really walking bags of microorganisms but we pile on top of that usually significant trauma history, going back to childhood, into adulthood, major, major stress, environmental toxins, poor diets. I mean, you just keep piling things on top of it, and then certain people will just break down, and the immune system just can’t keep up with a lifetime of accumulation. So what about other diseases? I mean, I mentioned autoimmunity and then, you know, you mentioned asthma and some other things, but are there any other conditions that really stand out to you that someone might be thinking they have mold?
Tracey: Absolutely. So certainly the viral load, like we talked about, and then if someone has mast cell activation disorder or just really horrible allergies, if they have a lot of methylation dysfunction, and I know that that’s kind of a broad category that might affect, you know, their ability to make the SAM-e, that’s the major methyl donor in the body and there’s a lot of repercussions from that. Cancer, some of these mycotoxins actually are carcinogenic in the body. So we suspect it there. Reactivation of, you know, viral, bacterial parasitic-type infections. We’ll see limbic system dysfunction, vagal nerve dysfunction, so people who are predisposed to like chronic SIBO, chronic gastrointestinal problems, maybe they’ve had multiple courses of SIBO protocols, and it could be prescription antibiotics, you know, the Rifaximin and Xifaxan, and they’ve maybe done some herbal protocols and it’s just like, it’s refractory, it keeps coming back, and that you just can’t seem to get their guts sorted out.
We really think a lot of this is happening because of the ability of, you know, mycotoxins, tick-borne illnesses, and even we’re thinking COVID-19 in those long haulers initiates the cell danger response. And you, again, probably can speak more to cell danger response than I can, but really it means that at the cellular level, if the human body is fearful, like in fight or flight mode, it’s thinking that there is something terrible going on and we have to be in this protection mode all the time. And we’re finding even that people who get their home remediated and they, you know, get their body, you know, get support for detoxification, and essentially they shouldn’t have symptoms anymore will still have symptoms and that we have to work on some sort of brain retraining. And there are a couple of programs, you know, that Neil Nathan recommends DNRS, it’s the Annie Hopper program, dynamic neural retraining system.
And then I think it’s Ashok Gupta, he has the Gupta program, which is a different neural retraining program. They’re a bit expensive and they don’t necessarily resonate with all my clients. Some really don’t like the Annie Hopper program because it’s standing in these circles and she wants you doing these activities and reciting things for a couple of hours every day, and I just have a lot of clients who are like, “I don’t have that kind of time. I don’t wanna pay for the program. And I feel goofy, you know, putting these circles on the floor and stepping into them.” And so the Ashok Gupta, the Gupta program is more based on…it resonates more with me. I’m a yoga teacher, and he really works more from a meditation standpoint. I still have people that just can’t afford them, but they need that neural retraining. They’ve got to help their brain learn from that, that deep reptilian amygdala, like, you know, danger response that everything’s okay and I’m okay and I’m in a safe environment and you need to calm down, you need to stop making these cytokines. And so there’s even a basic book, it’s called “Neurosculpting.” I don’t remember the author, but it’s on Amazon. And a lot of my clients will just get that book, and they’ll read the book on kind of retraining their brain to help their body realize that they’re safe. I was wondering too… Oh, go ahead. You were gonna say something.
Dr. Hedberg: Is it “Neurosculpting” or “Neural Sculpting”?
Tracey: I think it’s neuro, “Neurosculpting.”
Dr. Hedberg: “Neurosculpting.” Okay.
Tracey: Yeah. I’ll look it up.
Dr. Hedberg: Great. I’ll look that up and link to it.
Tracey: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s a really…it’s a great book. But I was wondering if it would be helpful for your listeners to hear the myriad of symptoms that can be associated with biotoxin illness.
Dr. Hedberg: Yes, definitely.
Tracey: Okay. So you have to tuck in here, it’s quite a list.
Dr. Hedberg: This way they can go on Google and be extremely afraid after Dr. Google tells them what’s wrong.
Tracey: Well, and we all joke, you know, that you go on Google, Dr. Google, and in the end, everything leads to cancer, right?
Dr. Hedberg: Right.
Tracey: Yeah. So I think it’s good to know, and I like that biotoxin survey. It’s really helpful, but I will read this list to you. So fatigue and weakness, muscle aches, cramps, unusual pain. And this is very specific. You’ll hear people talk about ice pick pain, or lightning bolt pain, or they’ll even refer to it as electric shocks. And I had electric shocks. It was weird. They were running up and down my legs. And we think that happens from electrolyte imbalances caused by biotoxin illness. Headache, sensitivity to bright light, eyes tearing, and blurred vision. People will talk about tunnel vision as well and chronic sinus congestion or propensity to having chronic sinus infections that just can’t clear up. We’ll see a cough, chest pain, shortness of breath. We’ll see people complaining about abdominal pain and chronic, irritable bowel syndrome.
We’ll see diarrhea, joint pain, tendonitis, morning stiffness, people just waking up, and they just like, “Oh, I can’t move my body getting out of bed.” And we’ll see a lot of different cognitive impairments, specifically difficult…you know, difficulties with recent memory, hard time assimilating new information, trouble word-finding, you know, used to be able to calculate a tip and handle numbers and you’re like, “What’s wrong with me?” Confusion, sustaining concentration, disorientation, and people will say, “I have brain fog and I can’t figure it out.” They’ll be very sensitive to light touch, possibly. And not all these symptoms fit everybody, Nik, but, you know, the effect that these cytokines have on everyone’s system makes this very individual. But oftentimes we’ll have people that have like half of these symptoms or at least a third of them. But we’ll also see mood swings, appetite swings, sweats, night sweats, difficulty with temperature regulation. And, you know, this is someone who, you know, the classic doctor, even a good functional medicine provider, like you, you would have done a good thyroid workup on them. And even though you’re optimizing their thyroid, they’re not coming around.
They’ll see numbness, tingling, and random, like they can’t even put a finger on it. They’ll feel vertigo, have a metallic taste in the mouth. They oftentimes have excessive thirst and frequent urination. These will be clients that, you know, I used to see them in my office and they would come in with a big jug of water and they were just sipping water the whole time, like they couldn’t quench their thirst, and then they were running, you know, in an hour appointment, they were running to the bathroom three times. And so almost like fluid goes straight through them. And it’s because of the effect that mycotoxins have on the pituitary gland and affecting antidiuretic hormone is really low and not working well. And then we’ll see sensitivity to static shocks, so people who touch a doorknob, or light switches, or car handles, or, you know, someone kisses someone and gets a little shock. They’re highly sensitive to that. We’re seeing impotence, low libido, menorrhagia, which is really dysregulated, very heavy menstrual cycles, you know, undiagnosable nausea and vomiting. And then, you know, so those are big symptoms and that’s quite a list. I mean, what do you think about it, Nik?
Dr. Hedberg: Oh, yeah. I mean, it makes sense immunologically, all those symptoms, and how it’s going to affect the…you mentioned the limbic system earlier, and then the hypothalamus, pituitary. Yeah. That all makes sense.
Tracey: Yeah. So Neil Nathan has spoken to this fact who that mold toxicity is often missed and misdiagnosed. So he says to, you know, just really have it on your radar, that if you’re ever seeing a client or a patient and they’re telling you they have fibromyalgia, you need to be thinking about mold. And he also talked about someone coming in who’s diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or anything that’s atypical. And I’ve had this happen. I had a client come to see me who, she was diagnosed with atypical MS and we’ve discovered it was mold. So atypical MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and also straight up Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We’ve had some dramatic stories of people fully healing from, you know, a serious form of dementia like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease because they had mold toxicity. And it’s not a… I don’t wanna give people false hope. You know, those are complex illnesses. And oftentimes when I work with clients in that area of dementia, oftentimes they have multiple things going on, and that we can get them some degree better by discovering something like biotoxin illness. Anytime you hear about someone having asthma, chronic sinusitis, and then even psychiatric issues, like anxiety, depression, people will talk about depersonalization, like they have no sense of self anymore. They have cognitive impairment, mood swings, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those are all things that when you hear that, you need to be thinking, “Wow, have I asked this person about mold exposure?” Or, “Maybe I need to do that biotoxin survey and have them do the visual contrast sensitivity test.” Those are big flags.
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm. Excellent. And you have a case study that you wanted to talk about. Why don’t we get into that?
Tracey: That’d be great. This is a recent client. I thought your listeners might find this interesting to just kind of see what this might look like in a real-life scenario. This is a man that I recently started working with. We were just going on, like, the two-month mark. He’s 51 years old. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. So there’s a lot of rain there, and he lives in an older home, and they have done a lot of work to remodel the home, you know, and they love it. They’ve lived in the home for a while, but some background information on him is he has been seeing multiple providers over the last three years for horrible restless leg syndrome. And he’s seen some really good providers. I mean, these are really savvy, some doctors, naturopathic doctors, and they have done all the basic stuff you would think of with RLS. I mean, they’ve had him try low dose naltrexone. They’ve gotten…you know, he’s on a…did a real good elimination diet. They fixed his gut. They discovered he had a parasite. So very thorough workup. And this man is, in the last three years, sleeping about four hours a night. He is so exhausted. He’s working from home, and really the lack of sleep and the RLS are his predominant symptoms along with having arrhythmias. And he’s even had some surgical procedures done. He’s had ablation done to his heart because of these arrhythmias, which that can be a symptom of mold illness as well.
You know, and then looking at his lab data, he also…this is something that I’m seeing in people that have real severe mold illness to black mold. He is very anemic, but his ferritin level is through the roof. You know, and we know that ferritin is an acute phase reactant. So if there’s some sort of infection or high level of inflammation going on in the body, we’ll see ferritin elevated. With him, it’s in the presence of very low iron and very anemic. But really, for the most part, I mean, his platelets are low. And for the most part, the rest of his labs actually look okay. Multiple doctors, multiple workups, and then something else I found so interesting about him is that he is married and his wife’s health is pretty good. He has two daughters. One of the daughters is diagnosed with celiac disease and the other daughter has been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. And if your listeners don’t know what that is, it’s a…a lot of joint lax, laxity, and very hyper-flexible, hyper bendy. And that actually, I didn’t mention it before too, but Ehlers-Danlos is associated with mold illness.
So when I first started working with this man, right away, we did the symptoms cluster analysis, that biotoxin screen I told you about, and he was positive for 10 out of the 13 symptoms. So we went ahead and… I mean, I’ll read his specific symptoms. He has fatigue, problem finding words, weakness, achiness, difficulty with new knowledge assimilation, concentration problems, joint pain, morning stiffness. He’s got tingling in his skin and heightened sensitivity overall to everything, to smells, to light, to noise. He’s got sinus congestion and chronic nasal drainage, his body temperature, very dysregulated. Once he gets cold, he can’t warm up. And he’s got diarrhea and loose stools and experiences excessive sweating and mood swings. So all this is going on, you know, and he’s trying to be functional and support his family.
And to me, it really was a red flag hearing about his other family members also not doing well, except his wife’s doing fine. You know, so these two daughters that are related to him, especially the one with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. So he went on and did the visual contrast sensitivity test and he ended up being positive for biotoxin illness and nutrient deficiencies on that related to his vision. And so we just…just yesterday, I mean, the timing is good here. Just yesterday I got back his organic acid test and his mold test results, and the mold test results are…I haven’t actually contacted him yet. So I’m gonna be calling him later today, but he has got two potent black molds in his system, the mycotoxins from these molds. And one, I just am like, oh, breathing a sigh of relief for this man because he’s ready to have to go on disability. I mean, he really can’t function anymore and is just so depressed and so desperate. So I’m really looking forward to contacting him today.
And the next step is that we’re gonna…I’ll have him reach out to ImmunoLytics and we’re gonna start with testing his home and I’m also gonna help support…get him started on a detox protocol, which is gonna be really challenging because he’s so sensitive to everything. His diet is incredibly limited, multiple food sensitivities, multiple allergies to foods, medications. And so what really might have to happen, the ideal scenario for this man is that he and his family should probably leave their home. And even if that means that they find an Airbnb that, you know, they feel is pretty safe and they at least get out of this environment for maybe two or three weeks just to see how they all feel, that would probably be an important next step while they’re also doing the ImmunoLytics testing to see, you know, what’s going on in the home, and then we’ll move forward from there. But he actually might have to get out of that environment before we can really start working on a detox protocol for him.
Dr. Hedberg: Mm-hmm. Interesting. Well, that’s great. And he finally has some answers, which I’m sure is just gonna help him psychologically because, you know, these people have been told, you know, by so many that either there’s nothing wrong with them or it’s, you know, just something psychological. So are there any other areas you’d like to cover, any final parting thoughts?
Tracey: You know, I wanna give people a message of hope, and I feel I have the empathy because I’ve been through this and I understand that mold toxicity is a tough one because it opens the door to, you know, you’ve got to support your body’s ability to heal and detoxify. And we have good strategies for that. We have really good information now about how to upregulate liver detoxification and stimulate the gallbladder. And, you know, we get rid of these toxins primarily through the liver, dumping them into the small intestine where we can bind them. And we also know that sweating, we actually have studies now where we’re measuring how much, say, ochratoxin A, that’s on mycotoxin, how much of that is in sweat. So we know how to open up detox pathways and we also are learning now how to help people in a more economically way, identify possible mold problems in their living environment or their car, like we said, and I wanna give people a measure, you know, a sense of hope.
And I hope my story is one of a sense of hope. And while I’m gonna say that I’m 80% back, I still have a little ways to go, but at least I’m, you know, back at work full-time, doing what I love with my job and, you know, very much engaged in my life again. And I really… It’s interesting, and I’ve had a lot of clients explain this to me too and I definitely experienced this, that when I was so down and out and I didn’t know what was going on, I would just have these profound moments where I felt like I was dying. And it was beyond tears. I mean, it was so deep, like, within my soul, and I’ve never felt anything like that. I’m an incredibly optimistic and upbeat person. I mean, I’m always, you know, turn the lemons into lemonade and I have never experienced anything like that. And I wanna give people hope who might be experiencing something like that, that there could be this underlying cause and there could be a chance to fix it. It can be costly. And, you know, I got a little frustrated at the conferences I attended because a lot of providers were asking these experts, “What do you do when someone can’t afford to have their home remediated or can’t afford to move?” And they didn’t have a lot of good answers for that. And it’s almost like mold illness is for people who have resources, right?
Dr. Hedberg: Right.
Tracey: Because there’s not a lot of support. You know, the government doesn’t recognize this as being a big problem. And so oftentimes it’s people, you know, finding the right provider who can guide their process. And I do have a lot of people who do their own remediation, but there’s some people too sick to do that. But in the end, I guess I’m kind of like, you know, talking about some negative things again, but in the end, there are a lot of possibilities for improving health and getting to the bottom of situations. And I’ve had clients do really crazy things. Like I had a client that was in a terrible apartment and their landlord was not helpful and they had to get out of it. And so they were able to live on a houseboat, you know, she and her husband, and it was, you know, not well-sealed and it was really cold, but it had a lot of fresh air in it, and they felt a lot better in the houseboat until they could find a better living situation. And I worked with another woman who was very sick and her husband didn’t understand. I get this a lot because there will be one person in the family who’s really sick and the other people in the family aren’t, especially if it’s a partner, and in this case, it was the husband. And he was saying things like, “What’s wrong with you?” You know, “I’m fine.” You know, “Why are you so sick?” You know, “There’s something always wrong with you.” And, you know, and not necessarily meaning to be hurtful, but it was really hurtful, and this woman felt terrible. And she did a lot of reading and studying and she really felt like there was a mold problem and then she did mycotoxin testing and she was really high. But the husband just, like, was really planning this fee saying, “This isn’t a problem. No one else is sick.” You know, “This can’t be a real issue.” And she ended up sleeping in a tent in her backyard and she felt so much better doing it.
Eventually, her husband came around and they tested the house, found a lot of mold. And one of their kids was a little sick too. And, you know, the kid had, you know, chronic asthma, and the kid got better. And so there’s this dynamic around all this too, around interpersonal interactions and emotions, and then when someone doesn’t feel well, how do they fight for themselves? So I really like empowering people and helping people see that…like I can’t wait to talk to this client of mine and just say, “Gosh, I think we have a solution.” Or, “I think we know what’s going on with you.” And I have a lot of people who are in tears and they cry because finally there’s an answer. But then moving forward with what do we do to find the source, do the remediation, help the body detoxify, it can be a journey. If clients have significant mold toxicity, they can be on a mold detox protocol for probably a minimum of 6 months and up to 18 months. And it all depends on how they tolerate it as well.
Dr. Hedberg: Right Yeah. It’s a long road, no matter who it is. Well, this has been fantastic. Tracey, how would you like people to find you online?
Dr. Hedberg: Great. Yeah. We’ll post that in the transcript as well. Well, thanks for tuning in, everyone. This is Dr. Hedberg. Go to drhedberg.com and search for mold illness, and you’ll find a full transcript of this interview with all of the links and resources that we mentioned. So take care, everyone, and we will talk to you soon.
Tracey: Thanks so much, Nik.
Dr. Hedberg: All right. Take care, Tracey.