Mold Illness + Candida Overgrowth: My Story

I want to start this off with full transparency.. I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for months now. I kept telling myself ‘I can’t share my story until I am on the other side of this and I’ve fully overcome everything’. But your messages keep flooding my inbox asking what I’m doing to detox + heal myself naturally and I can’t deny that when I was in the depths of my health struggles, I wished I had a blog post like this to turn to for guidance and support.

If you’re reading this right now, chances are that you or someone close to you is currently dealing with mold exposure or candida overgrowth. And so my friend, this blog post is for you.

I must first disclose that I am a certified Holistic Health Coach with The Institute For Integrative Nutrition. I am not a medical doctor nor a naturopath (though I have worked closely with both for the past 6 months). I am also not giving health advice in this post. I am simply sharing my story and all that I have learned from battling these health conditions for the past 2 years of my life.

Ok, here we go.

The Background Story

From 2014 – 2016 I followed a primarily raw vegan diet, high in fresh fruits + vegetables. I’m not going to lie, when I first went raw, I felt an insanely positive shift in the way that I felt compared to the standard American diet I was consuming prior. My diet was pretty high in carbohydrates and I remember learning from people in the HCLF (High Carb, Low Fat) movement that the human body functions optimally on this diet because it runs on glucose. It made sense to me at the time and so I continued down that path for a couple of years, convinced that I was nourishing my body in the best way possible.

Flash forward to 2015 when I first moved to The Big Island of Hawaii. I landed on a fruit farm called Kanekiki where I lived in a small screened hut deep in the rainforest. I remember one of the first things I was told when I arrived was that I had to store my clothing and all personal belongings in an airtight plastic bin that was provided for me there. Everyone at the farm was encouraged to do this because mold was a massive problem in this damp, humid part of the island.

The first real sign of my sensitivity was shown to me when I was experiencing some congestion whilst living on the farm… Nothing too serious but it was definitely more than I had ever felt in my life up until that point. I infer the reason it wasn’t too, too bad was that the hut I slept in had constant airflow since it was screened in so there wasn’t the ability for the mold particles to be stagnant in the air as they would be if the room was enclosed.

After 3 months living in the hut, I moved into a utility van because it was a dream of mine to travel around the island and be completely location independent. When packing up my belongings, I remember being completely amazed by the fact that the few items that I did not store in the airtight container were legitimately covered in mold. This is something I never knew was possible until I was exposed to life in the jungle.

When I moved into the van, this is when I really started to notice my allergies take a turn for the worse. There were so many days that I was completely overtaken by sneeze attacks, itchy eyes, congestion, and brain fog. Though since I was living in the van, I did also spend so much time out and about, exploring the island. After a couple of weeks I started to notice that my allergies were related to being INside the van. I ended up staying in the van for 3 months. Saying goodbye to van life was initiated by my chronic allergies that were heavily impacting my day to day life.

After the van, I moved into an air conditioned apartment on the sunny, dry side of Big Island and my symptoms immediately improved. The van was still my only mode of transportation so I was still inside of it often and therefore did still experience ‘allergy attacks’ every now and then. A few months went by, I was feeling way better, but definitely not thriving. I decided to move back to the rainy side of the island because all of my friends lived over there. My congestion returned, and grew stronger. Keep in mind, I am still eating a diet very high in fruit at this time. The home I moved into was a fairly old home and very close to the ocean. During the 6 months that I lived in this space, I remember feeling like I was constantly sick with a cold or allergies but I had no idea what was causing it.

I started juicing a ton, trying to eat as “pure” as I possibly could to fight off the symptoms I was experiencing. But no amount of juicing or clean eating helped. I took prescription strength over the counter allergy medicine daily for 2 months straight (don’t recommend this) and it helped keep my allergies at a livable level until my body built up a tolerance and it no longer made an impact for me. I was also experiencing HIGH levels of emotional stress at this time (relationship probs) – which looking back on now I see how this was the perfect breeding ground for everything to flourish.

High amounts of sugar, High amounts of stress, + High amounts of environmental toxins (mold) are some of the top contributors to candida overgrowth in the body. And lucky me, I had all three.

After 6 months of living in this home I was reaching a point of extreme confusion and frustration with my health (or lack thereof). I thought I was doing everything right.. Eating clean, working out, plenty of water + sleep. But my health was deteriorating and I had no clue why. Was is pollen from Hawaii? Was it the vog in the air (volcanic smog)?

I flew to Connecticut to stay with my parents for a few weeks while I prepared to hike the Appalachian Trail. (Yes, if you couldn’t tell already, I genuinely enjoy adventures, new homes, + fresh starts). I thought for SURE when I left Hawaii my allergies MUST go away. But no, they remained. I started to feel hopeless. I struggled with chronic sinus congestion, headaches, and brain fog for the entire 3 months that I was hiking the trail. Thankfully my sinuses would clear out when my heart rate was up — so while I was hiking I felt fine. But as soon as I got to camp at the end of the day, the congestion would return full force and I could only breathe out of my mouth. This made eating, sleeping, and communicating with others extremely unpleasant and I started to feel more and more isolated over time.

When I returned to Hawaii after the trail, I moved into a brand new home overlooking the ocean (again, on the rainy side). My body was oddly not craving fruit like I imagined it would when I stopped eating tons of dehydrated hiker meals. Instead, I was intensely wanting TONS of greens and healthy fats. So as an advocate for intuition, I listened. My diet changed drastically. I began eating an abundance of greens both cooked and raw (lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, etc.) and my main calorie sources became avocados and cashews. Within one week of being off the trail and on this new way of eating, I felt the best I had in well over a year. So naturally, I continued to eat this way. I honestly felt incredible for a few months… until we approached the rainy season. This is when everything started to go downhill… fast.

The Escalation

With rainy season, comes mold. Living directly next to the ocean alone leads to an extreme amount of humidity.. But add relentless rain on top of that and you have the perfect environment for mold to grow. Hilo, Hawaii is the rainiest city in America (yup, even beats Seattle). It gets between 150 – 250 inches of rainfall each year, most of which is between December + March. The precipitation level inside my home was always 80-90% humidity.. And would get down to 70% with a dehumidifier. Mold became visible in the home in December of 2017 and this is when my symptoms began to multiply and intensify…

The Darkest Point

Over the next few months my health deteriorated and left me feeling completely hopeless. Most days, I fought through it, determined to keep my business running and keep shining light into the lives of others. Little did anyone know that I was struggling to take care of myself behind the scenes. I still didn’t know that mold was one of the main culprits, but I did know that it certainly wasn’t helping either. My boyfriend at the time started cleaning our entire 3 bedroom house on a daily basis in attempt to make the home environment a little better for my symptoms. He would wash the floors, counters, windows, doors, door frames, trim, and wash our bedding religiously too. But even with all of this cleaning, I was still deeply suffering.

My symptoms were no longer just chronic sinus congestion, headaches, and brain fog. But I was now also experiencing appetite loss, nausea, migraines, inability to articulate myself, and memory loss. I felt like I was losing my mind. I felt like a zombie unable to experience life. I felt like I lost my personality. I was too dazed and confused to take care of myself. I spent many days struggling to work behind a computer screen and it seemed like everything I accomplished took 10x longer than it used to when I was healthy. There were also many days that I couldn’t do anything at all. I would wake up in the morning feeling like I was legitimately dying. The pressure in my head and face was too painful to speak, go out in public, or even function in my own home. Towards the end of my time in this home, there were many days that I was bedridden. I would try to research in attempt to find out what was going wrong. But this process was not easy in the physical and mental state that I was in.. which just continued the cycle of suffering.

The Epiphany

It wasn’t until I took a trip to visit a friend in Ohio that I realized what was going on. In the 5 days that I spent out of my Hawaii home my symptoms improved slightly and I received enough clarity to question if maybe it was my home environment that was contributing to my decline in health.

Within 10 minutes of walking back into my home my symptoms came back full force. It was now clear. I bought at-home mold tests (petri dishes) and collected the air in my home, let it sit for 5 days, and then sent it in to be tested at a lab. The results really put things into perspective for me. There were 3 toxic molds airborne in my home. Cladosporium, Geotrichum, and Penicillium. With the little insight that I currently had surrounding mold, I was determined to learn more + conquer this. But to my dismay, it was not as easy as I thought it would be.

The Remedy
Some of the things that I implemented immediately in attempt to remediate the mold:

  • Ozone Machine (kills mold + mildew + purifies the air)
  • Dehumidifier (pulls humidity out of the air, making it harder for mold to grow)
  • Ozone Bath (skin detoxification + accelerates healing)
  • Hyperbaric Chamber (stimulates blood flow, increases oxygen concentration in cells)
  • Infrared Sauna (skin detoxification + stimulates circulation)

After a few weeks of implementing these techniques/practices I received little to no relief with my symptoms. This led me to wonder what else was involved. If I was doing all that I could to remedy my external environment, maybe I needed to also make some changes with my internal environment. What else could I change in my diet to assist my healing? I started to research about how diet + mold allergies are intertwined and to my surprise there were SO many resources online pointing me in the direction of ‘the mold diet’. I dug deeper + started to implement it.

The main things that I was eating that were not a part of the mold diet were nuts (because unless stored properly, nuts often become moldy before we consume them, in my case, this was furthering my symptoms by feeding the fungus within my digestive system). I removed nuts from my diet and experience a little bit of relief but not too much… I knew that if I really wanted to get better I needed to make some bigger decisions.

  1. I had to move out.
  2. I had to seek professional help.

To me, moving out didn’t mean just finding another home in Hilo, Hawaii… because literally all of my friends' homes had mold in them too – everywhere on the rainy side did. I wasn’t about to take a chance in another Hawaii home. I potentially could have moved back to the sunny side of Big I. but there were currently high levels of vog from the volcano that just started erupting again. I knew that if I really wanted to give myself a good shot at healing I needed to move somewhere with extremely clean and dry air. Within a matter of days I found an apartment to move to and booked my flights to Colorado. I couldn’t believe my time in Hawaii was coming to an end… but I didn’t see any other option.

The Detox

Around the same time I moved I also started working with a Naturopath, Jaqi. She works side by side with a medical doctor and is very science based in her approach. From the first call I had with her I felt supported and reinspired in a new way to gain my health and vitality back. We started with a full panel of blood work + blood analysis under a microscope — which both provide deeper insight into what was going on than my symptoms alone could provide.

Basically, my health was a mess.

My candida levels were through the roof. Hormones were out of balance.

And I was either low or “low normal” with pretty much everything else…

There was a lot of work to be done.

I started following a nutrition and supplement protocol specific to my blood test results and began feeling better within a matter of DAYS. I was hooked, and eager to stick to the protocol and watch my health improve before my eyes. After around one month my congestion was almost entirely gone. I could breathe through my nose for the first time in years! My appetite was coming back, and cognitive function too. I still didn’t feel entirely back to my pre-mold illness self but I was definitely making progress, and it was happening fast. After 3 months of sticking to my mold free diet and taking my supplements routinely, I felt unstoppable. I received another full panel of blood work and was literally head over heels excited to know that my candida levels had gone from HIGH infection to no infection, and almost all other levels had improved as well. I was ecstatic to have proof that I was successfully healing.

The Relapse

Little did I know how sensitive my body still was to mold. I thought for sure if my blood work showed how much I improved, I would be fine to return to Hawaii for a short trip. I was so, so wrong.

I flew to Maui for 4 days and stayed on the sunny side while I was there. I felt entirely fine and was honestly just blissed out to be back on the islands. Then, I flew to Big I. where I stayed back in Hilo with some friends for 5 days. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes after walking into my friends home that I had an insane headache, unbearable congestion, debilitating face pressure and good ole’ brain fog. My heart broke. How could this be? My health had improved so much! Why were my symptoms SO intense? I immediately texted my naturopath for advice. She advised me to alternate through a few supplements that help pull out toxins. I did this right away and it relieved my symptoms within 30 minutes. Thank. God. But after a couple of days went by everything crept back in. I was a mess. And so disheartened.

The Surrender

On the flight from Hawaii back to Colorado I realized that I had to simply surrender. Feeling upset about what felt like a relapse was not going to help me get better. It was only keeping me stuck in negative emotions. Which we all know does nothing for healing — if anything, it just makes it more difficult.

I gave myself permission to feel sad for a little bit. But I knew I had to make peace with the fact that I’m not fully better yet. I had to remind myself that it’s ok I haven’t achieved optimal health. I had to comfort myself and lean towards positive emotions instead. So naturally, I shifted my focus to gratitude. I tried to think about alllll of the things that were going well for me. I felt so thankful that I made the decision to leave Hawaii when I did. I felt thankful that my blood work had improved. And I felt thankful that I had support along the way from Jaqi. No, I’m not where I want to be health wise — but I’m not where I used to be either.

One thing's for sure is that I’m not giving up.

I feel more determined now than ever to break out and try new things. I am here to grow, evolve, and achieve optimal health. I’m currently feeling so inspired to learn more about the brain.. Neuroplasticity, neurotransmitters, mitochondrial stimulation, cognitive enhancements, and biohacking my health.

Every day I try to remind myself that my current struggles will one day be my greatest gifts.

I hope this story has helped you in some way or another. Whether it taught you something new, helped you understand your personal or friend’s diagnosis better, or by simply reminding you that you are not alone.

If you have any questions pertaining to my story please leave a comment down below and I will do my best to respond to as many as I can.

If you have a health condition that you are seeking support + guidance with, you can contact my naturopath here.

Sending you infinite love,

~ Alyse

5 Steps to Setting New Year’s Resolutions

For many of us, New Year’s Day represents a fresh start to ambitiously create the changes we hope to see in our life. With the previous year behind you, you may be feeling unstoppable in all that you desire to create.

In honing in on your heart song to decipher all that it is calling for this year to come, how can you best move forward to honor all it yearns for?

Sadly, most people who make resolutions, despite their initial determination and larger-than-life drive, abandon them well before the arrival of spring.

Your dreams and resolutions are far too important to watch them fizzle out without being actualized.

Follow these steps to create the positive habits necessary to see real changes in your life that stick!

Get Clear on Your Vision

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Tony Robbins

Of course, the first step in advancing towards our goals is getting clear on our aim.

What is it that you want to create and foster in your life?

To support you in visualizing the goals you wish to achieve, consider what it is you hope to manifest in regards to these areas of your life:

  • Health
  • Environment
  • Career
  • Relationships
  • Home
  • Money

What does abundance look like in each area of your life?

I want you to daydream here. Imagine relevant, attainable goals that you can bring into fruition these coming months.

Think affirmatively.

Instead of approaching your goals setting with a mindset of what you’re trying to eliminate from your life, focus on what good you want to ADD to your life. This approach supports us in combating potential feelings of lack, scarcity, and deprivation on the road of achieving our greatness.

Allow yourself to visualize your greatest dreams without bounds or limitations.

As you paint a mental picture of your aspirations write them down in your journal, sketch it out, share it with a loved one who will support you in your process or create a dream board.

First Things First

Instead of pursuing resolutions with the mindset of achieving them cold turkey, understand that the positive changes you are striving to make in your life will be achieved as a gradual process.

Working against ingrained habits is a work in progress.

So eliminate the expectation for things to change overnight or immediately. Instead, tackle your resolutions through stages and steps, by first achieving baby steps that will better prepare you for the greater difficulties that come with the change.

For example, let’s say you set a goal to go to the gym every day beginning New Year’s Day. However, if you weren’t going to the gym at all previously, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

While I certainly will not stand in your way if your determination is driving you to such great heights, know that we are more likely to achieve our goals if we begin with feasible and palpable first steps.

For each goal category, write one tangible and achievable first step you can take towards your goal. Set realistic first steps knowing that each one you take brings you higher and higher up the mountain of habitual change.

How can you start today?

Assess Your Patterns

Despite our purest intentions and motivations, often, we find ourselves in patterns, environments, and situations that don’t support us in achieving our greatness.

Just like a seed planted into soil, we have infinite potential in our ability to grow and evolve.

However, if the circumstances aren’t ideal, just like a seed in poor soil, deprived of adequate water or sunlight, we’ll be limited in our capacity to blossom and flourish.

So ask yourself, do the people, places, and things you choose to surround yourself with support your goals?

If you’re striving to live a more aligned, balanced and healthy lifestyle, do the people you choose, the activities you share and the places you gather in reflect your visions of your optimal life?

If not, it may be prime time to reassess who and what you surround yourself with.

Have faith and trust that when your own words, actions, and choices align with and support your desired destination, you will attract and only accept the relationships, environment and past times that support you too.

“The people you surround yourself with are excellent mirrors for who you are and how much, or how little, you love yourself.” -Jen Sincero

Be Flexible

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” –Confucius

If you are fluid versus rigid in your pursuit towards your greatness, you grant yourself the flexibility to adapt the path in which you actualize your resolutions. When being too rigid in our goals, if we fail to reach our initial expectations we are more likely to feel burdened with a sense of failure and quit before we truly ever begin.

For example, if your initial goal was to eat healthier by replacing one meal a day with a salad, but you find that you just can’t stand salad, instead of chucking out your resolution, find an alternative route to achieve it. There are many ways to actualize the goal of a healthier lifestyle, even if it's not achieved the way you originally intended.

If you approach your desired changes through broad adjustments versus specific behaviors you’ll be able to experiment and adapt in the means in which you achieve your goals.

Give yourself permission to accommodate the path towards your objective as you go. Each step brings you closer to understanding what lasting change looks like for your unique life, desires, and ambitions.

Celebrate Your Progress

“By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you’ve achieved- and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses – you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgement and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward toward higher goals and accomplishments.” Jack Canfield

In the pursuit of our greatness, many of us fall prey to the critiques and heavy-handed judgments of our inner critics. While it’s more than acceptable to set our expectations and goals for ourselves as high bars to reach, it's counterproductive and down-right unkind to beat ourselves up when we don’t reach our far-reaching destinations.

Put down the bat and pick up a feather.

There’s no joy on our journeys towards our highest selves if we can’t find room to celebrate our efforts along the way.

If you find yourself stuck in a spiral of self-criticism, take a glimpse in your rearview mirror, reflect on all that you’ve lived and all that you’ve conquered, and allow the sheer wonder of how far you’ve come to remind you of your capabilities.

Celebrate the small victories. Be gentle and encouraging to yourself. Be your number one fan and cheerleader.

On Your Way to Greatness

While creating the changes we wish to see in our lives can at times feel daunting, a skillful understanding of how we achieve it creates room for it to be an awe-provoking unraveling towards the highest version of ourselves.

Keep yourself anchored in the knowing that you are leading and living a life of growth and evolution. Contrary to what others may say or think, your life is not a sprint, but more like a marathon.

Can you pace yourself throughout the ebbs and flows of striving towards your ambitions? Can you love and embrace yourself through all the transitions and change? Can you cultivate earnest efforts, firmly built upon the confidence that the merit of your actions can and will bring results?

“Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.” Les Brown

What is possible is only as infinite and expansive as you’re willing to allow yourself to dream.

Dream and vision without bounds. Surround yourself with the right conditions, people and practices to expedite your growth. Wrap yourself with your own words, thoughts, and actions of encouragement, appreciation, and love.

You are on your way, blossoming and unraveling into all you’ve always been designed to become.

Let’s make 2019 our best year yet!