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amie skilton mould

Today we welcome Amie Skilton to Wellness by Designs, an expert on mould and mould illness who has embarked on a mission to help people struggling with the effects of water-damaged buildings and who battle the ironic challenge of finding a safe and healthy environment to heal.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

  1. The prevalence of water-damaged buildings in the Western world
  2. How to identify mould without visible evidence?
  3. The need to take action early when one suspects mould illness to avoid becoming more severely affected.
  4. How to prioritise treatment in Mould biotoxin illness, a genuinely complex condition
  5. What are the symptoms and conditions associated with mould?
  6. How to balance appropriate assessment and remediation with the cost?
  7.  treatment guidelines

About Amie:
Amie Skilton – is a functional medicine practitioner of almost 20 years and a well-known educator in naturopathic medicine. For over 15 years, I’ve had the privilege of appearing on conference stages, TV sets and – more recently – laptop screens via Zoom. In that time, I’ve had the honour of presenting more than a thousand keynotes to functional medicine practitioners, integrative GPs, holistic pharmacists and the general public.

In 2017, I had the plot twist of my life. I developed an environmentally-acquired illness (CIRS or ‘mould illness’) and, amongst other discoveries, realised my naturopathic, nutritional and herbal toolkit was only as valuable as my environment was healthy.

I’m now a qualified Mould Testing Technician and continue studying building biology and the various ways in which the built environment has a profound impact on human health. So my educational repertoire has expanded to include environmental health hazards and functional medicine strategies.

Connect with Amie:

Website: whatthenaturopathsaid



Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs,” and I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Thanks for joining us today. Today we’ll be chatting with Amie Skilton, a naturopath who specializes in a very complex sort of satellite of symptoms, and that’s to do with mould biotoxin illness. So, welcome to “Wellness by Designs,” Amie, how are you?

Amie: Oh, good morning, Andrew. I am great. So nice to be chatting with you about this today.

Andrew: It’s so wonderful to be chatting with you because you are always, and I have to say this, you are always so giving of yourself. Indeed, you have helped me personally with regards to public speaking and things like that about centring yourself and being there for the audience, for who you are presenting to, and so I honour you with that, with just how much you give to people too. Not just your patients but also practitioners as well. Thank you for your work.

Amie: Aw, thank you. And I’m so glad to be bringing my experience in mould and mould illness here today, because I think with the growing awareness, is wonderful, but, unfortunately, there’s so much that’s misunderstood about it, and it’s not part of the general curriculum and education either in allopathic or naturopathic. So, yeah, I feel very lucky to be here today chatting with you and raising awareness with your audience.

Andrew: And I’ve gotta say, it’s an experience I do not envy you of. It’s something I have trouble grasping, I’ve gotta be honest. Because there’s so many rabbit holes which patients can fall down, and it can affect in so many multitude of ways. It’s not just a presentation like a rash, that means that disease, it doesn’t present like that. So I guess this is where we need to start without, you know, a whole… It’s not just a seminar, this is a course. But without going into that complexity, how do you prioritize treatment of patients?

Amie: Gosh. So there’s several stages that you have to consider with treatment. And primarily, if we can base it into two categories, you’ve got, while they’re still being exposed to a water damage building or a sick building, and once they’re out of it. And the unfortunate truth is whilst someone is still being exposed to a water-damaged building, and all of, you know, the microorganisms and the toxic stew that’s found inside, your options are pretty limited. And, in fact, many of the strategies that we would use to move someone through the ladder of healing from SIRS can have a counterproductive effect if someone is still being exposed.

So, even though it’s a very complex multi-system chronically acute condition, the hardest part is actually getting away from inflammatory triggers. And that’s really due to the prevalence of water-damaged buildings in the Western world. You know, in the U.S., it’s around 50%. I am strongly suspecting that’s the case in Australia.

I can tell you from house hunting in Sydney on one occasion that 93.5% of properties I examined for my own, you know, personal potential residency were visibly water-damaged. And 80% of the time, mould is not visible. So the hardest part is actually getting someone into an environment where they can heal, particularly if it’s their workplace, or it’s their workplace and their home because you’re sort of getting hit from both sides in that regard.

So, the priority is always getting into a clean and healthy environment, which doesn’t necessarily mean mould-free. You know, there’s an argument that mould is everywhere, and, yes, it is, but it’s toxigenic mould and a water damage building we’re trying to avoid. And then from there, people can actually move through the protocol for healing. So, a lot of people jump to, oh, what can I take? You know, what can I do? What diet should I follow? But I can tell you from personal experience and professional, the results are incredibly limited whilst you’re still being exposed, in fact, almost imperceptible, in many patients.

The other priority, which is maybe not so much about treatment, but really accurate diagnosis, is choosing the right biomarkers to test and doing them in the right order in order to arrive at a diagnosis so that you can confidently move forward with treatment, but without financially devastating someone. I did all of the blood biomarkers myself, bar MMP-9, and it was $2,000.

So, you know, for some people, $2,000 might be better spent on a tent and, you know, getting out into nature and away from the mould and actually just seeing… And maybe some basic binders and detoxifying, you know, agents just to see if there’s an improvement rather than wasting…well, not wasting all that money, but spending all that money to arrive at a diagnosis and then not having funds left to actually get away from the mould or, you know, purchase some of those things that are actually really helpful.

So, as a clinician, you know, and clinicians that are listening, we’re always weighing up that, I guess the return on investment for clients, but certainly, for anyone listening to this who suspects they might be dealing with mould illness, that’s something you wanna really work with your practitioner on also just to, you know, be selective so that you can get enough information to move forward, but without overdoing it where you could be spending your money elsewhere. So…

Andrew: That’s a huge issue. And particularly when we’ve got such a dichotomous country in Australia, you know, the fire and the flood. Wow. Not four years ago, basically, the eastern seaboard was on fire. Now the eastern seaboard is in flood. And when we’re talking about mould damage, there’s a real conundrum about, well, where do you go to, to escape it? Because the next place is mouldy. You spoke just about buying a tent. Tents get mouldy when they’re packed up, la la la la. So you get onto this treadmill or…yeah, treadmill of how do you escape the mouldy environment? Should we, instead, be looking at mitigating, as you said, toxigenic mould or avoiding toxigenic mould?

Amie: Yeah, that is definitely something that must be considered really carefully. And it depends on, you know, where the moistures come from, what toxigenic moulds are present in the home, whether someone has the HLA predisposition, genetically speaking, or not, and also, just how bad the home is in general. So in some cases, and also that’s made more complicated by, if you are a tenant renting a property versus someone who owns a property.

So if you own it and you have the money, you can get a medical-grade remediation done. But that is a huge undertaking. And, you know, you also have to find somewhere else to stay while that happens. And, sadly, it’s actually not a guarantee that your home will be tolerable once it’s done. Sometimes it is, and that’s great, but it involves often gutting a home, sometimes even replacing structural elements if they’re made from timber and literally starting over again, like burning all of your stuff and then buying again.

Now, if you’ve been exposed to toxicants for too long, and that includes, you know, microbial toxins in a water-damaged building, you can then develop secondary multiple chemical sensitivity, and then you have to be mindful of what paints you’re putting in, what building materials you’re using, the off-gassing of new furnishings. The whole thing can be, even if financially it’s a doable project, it can be really tricky. But it is the devil you know, and I think, oftentimes, it’s a good option to explore, especially when you can, you know, upgrade the health of your home by doing so. But if you’re a tenant, unfortunately, although we have… Actually, we’ve just officially adopted the ANSI IICRC standards as far as, you know, mould remediation goes. But they were the standards that we referred to without any of our own.

But, unfortunately, it’s not a legally enforceable standard. And so what I see, and this is one of the areas I work most in, is with people who are renting a property, there isn’t any way to force the landlord to remediate to the grade that you might need for your health. In fact, remediate, almost at all, Victoria have recently, in recent years, improved their tenancy standards. And there are, now, everything’s been upgraded a little bit, but what I’m finding is commonly the best you can hope for is breaking the lease with no penalty, maybe getting some compensation, and then moving on. But if you don’t know what to look for in a new property, some people end up, well, more often than not, out of the frying pan into the fire, into another water-damaged building. And so it’s actually, it’s the housing crisis people aren’t aware of.

And certainly, in certain regions, like where I am in the northern rivers where there’s elevated humidity almost year-round, most properties are impacted to some degree or another just because of the microclimate. And that’s, you know, not taking into account any potential flooding, maybe roof leaks that have happened, burst pipes, you know, degraded waterproof membranes.

So, you know, there is a whole group of people who are living in their cars or living out of tents who are doing so because, you know, they’ve either been financially ruined from this experience or they just cannot find anywhere to stay that doesn’t make them sick. And indeed, even the basics of life like the shopping centre in my local area, multiple roof leaks. And ironically, the health shop is the worst affected. I can’t actually browse in the health shop without getting sick. And that was before it got flooded earlier this year.

And so, you know, even picking up medications or going into a health shop or getting food, like, you know, thankfully the COVID click, you know, and delivery to the boot is a thing now. But life can become extremely difficult. You know, people buying clothes or maybe a mattress that’s been stored in a warehouse that’s, you know, been leaking and it’s mouldy. You know, I’ve had one client, the most unwell human I’ve ever supported through this. And it was complicated by lime also, but she was actually in a coma for years and bedridden for almost a decade. And, you know, we had to coordinate a trip to… You know, even the chemical sensitivity in the state she lived in she had to leave. And we coordinated a trip to Tasmania, but trying to find an Airbnb that wasn’t water-damaged. She had to send through, you know, sleeping bags and clothes to off-gas for a month prior to a friend’s place, which also wasn’t the best.

And, you know, this is an extreme example. But she was so unwell that the smell of coffee would trigger seizures. And, of course, she was flying from WA where there were two rounds of, you know, refreshments on the plane. So we had to, you know, work out separate oxygen, you know, supply. Anyway, it can become a nightmare. And so, one of the hardest things that I see is people who are reluctant.

And I get it because I have been there, reluctant to take action when they first become aware of it. And I can give you so many examples where people have been unwell then have said, “I’ve identified there’s a mould problem,” but, of course, with the rental crisis we’re currently in, they’re sort of like, “Oh, it’s not a good time to move. There’s nothing out there.” And then a year late, they’re even sicker and can’t even tolerate, you know, a manmade building at all anymore.

So it’s a very distressing thing to navigate on top of feeling like death and like nothing’s functioning properly neurologically or physically. So, I certainly hope our chat today… I don’t mean to scare anyone, but knowing, you know, the signs, the symptoms, the early warning signs, maybe what to test for, even though it can feel very overwhelming, can, honestly, save you so much time and life force and stress in the long run if you can just, you know, start taking small steps.

And, you know, that’s also why I created, not to plug my course, but just for one second, I created a course to teach people how to prevent mould at home because so much of the mould that I see is because people don’t know how to manage moisture in the home or don’t know what the right action to take is after a leak or a flood, and so, inadvertently, we are making our homes sick by accident because we don’t know better. And that is just such a shame, and everyone’s just hopping from one water-damaged building to another, you know, certainly getting to that point. So it’s tricky, Andrew.

Andrew: And, of course, you mentioned binders before, and this is where, you know, I get confused, or is there overlap, you know, with SIBO and gastrointestinal disorders?

Amie: Yes. Oh, 100%.

Andrew: If you’re not going to spend thousands on testing, where would you start with therapy? Would you start with herbs and nutrients that build up emotional resistance? Would you look at the immune system? Would you look at the gastrointestinal system because 60% to 70% of your immune system resides there? Where do you poke the bear first?

Amie: So part of like what determines the way forward is whether someone has the genetic tendency or not. And so, you know, I’ll usually check for the HLA status, do a VCS test, which is free, and then allow what their symptomatology is telling you about where the inflammation is affecting them to guide treatment. But certainly, mycotoxins damage the gastrointestinal lining and your microbiome. So some sort of gut support, even something as simple as, you know, colostrum and probiotics, would be advisable. But the number one thing I would say is gentle binders and liposomal glutathione. And those things can be implemented even if someone is still being exposed.

So with binders, I usually like to do binders for at least a couple of days, maybe up to a week before introducing liposomal glutathione because binders act like a sponge in the gut, collecting whatever’s coming through from the bile. And so you’re just really just taking the edge off, just the top off the overall toxin load. Now, the thing with someone who’s got the genetic, I guess, predisposition whilst mycotoxins are toxic to everyone, you see a much quicker and much stronger response and a much slower recovery time in those individuals, which, you know, means the protocol really has to be a lot more robust to get them a timely recovery. But certainly, regardless of all of that, I would say different binders have a different affinity for different mycotoxins.

There is an argument for doing a mycotoxin test, but I feel like in the scheme of things, you’re throwing money away. If you can just use a combination of natural binders, things like activated charcoal, pharmaceutical-grade bentonite clay, you know, micronized zeolites, you know, there are other things that you can use as well that could be combined amongst those things. But they would be the heavy hitters, if you like, start low and build up. And that will just start to sort of pull toxins out rather than allowing that in intrahepatic recirculation to, you know, just, I guess, slow down the elimination. And as long as there’s no reaction to that and they’re having regular bowel motions, which can be tricky, because IBS is a really common outcome of mould and more water damage building exposure, you might wanna address that if it does start to block them up or they’re having trouble, you know, drinking enough water.

Also adding electrolytes to water because of the issues with dehydration would be important. And if they’re having a regular bowel motion, they’re not having symptoms of, you know, detox pathway overwhelm like headaches, nausea, skin breakouts, body odour, things like that, then I would introduce liposomal glutathione. And again, start at a low dose and then build up. And the reason I love that is glutathione works on the three phases of detoxification and also supports the kidneys, which also take a massive hit with mycotoxins, supporting phase one, two, and three, which, you know, we’ve got phase one active in the lungs and in the skin too.

And, of course, topical contact in inhalation is a major route of exposure more so than oral when it comes to a water-damaged building. So that’s sort of ground one, that’s like step one on a treatment protocol. And in addition to that, if they’re having symptoms that you can also support them where there are some things you can include, so, for example, mould illness or SIRS is not a mould allergy, but often they are occurring concurrently. Someone might have respiratory symptoms, cough, sneezing, itchy throat, runny eyes, itchy nose, things like that.

So you could use, you know, vitamin C, Quercetin, things that stabilize mast cells and help with histamine production, I would absolutely include a potent clean fish oil as well. It is something that’s used in the later stages of this first protocol to reduce specific inflammatory markers. However, there’s no contraindication to starting it upfront, so you could absolutely pop that in there too to support, you know, neurological health and really, I guess, try and mitigate some of those inflammatory mediators.

But you have to actually be very careful not to use strong antioxidant herbs in those beginning stages because the pathway by which antioxidants stimulate what we know or refer to as antioxidants stimulate pathways that actually trigger an antioxidant response from the cells, and in essence, they’re actually just very mild free radicals. And so when that pathway is working, they have a significant net antioxidant effect on our body and are very beneficial. But the pathway that gets blocked by mycotoxins is Nrf2.

And so what we would normally think is, you know, as you and I as a clinician, Nrf2, you know, stimulating herbs as being good, very dangerous for someone who is currently impacted by mycotoxins, which is, again, why those things come later on down the track when you are, you know, being treated for mould or if you’re treating someone for mould.

So, it’s a real dance and, you know, for some symptoms people might have would be more neurological. So you could certainly include, you know, herbs that improve circulation to the brain, and that would be helpful if someone’s got nerve pain or neuro seizures. You could include nutrients that are supportive for, you know, nervous tissue health. But there’s not a lot else you can do apart from gentle symptomatic support until someone’s out of the situation.

Andrew: If you were going to talk about the most common symptoms versus the least common symptoms, what do you find patients present with mostly? We’re talking like brain fog, fatigue, or, I mean, you mentioned pain there as well.

Amie: Yeah.

Andrew: And it sort of smacks us like a chronic fatigue syndrome-type picture.

Amie: Well, there is a school of thought that chronic fatigue syndrome is actually entirely caused by mould. Now, when you look at the physiology of chronic fatigue syndrome, we see, you know, inflammation damaging mitochondrial function, and, therefore, ATP production isn’t what it could or should be. And arguably, you know, there are other things that we could be exposed to that would cause that kind of high-grade inflammation.

So I wouldn’t be willing to go so far as to say all chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia is related to mould. But what I would say is if you have those conditions or you’re a clinician who’s identifying those things, you should be aware that in a study that looked at the connection there, in 90% of cases, there was a current or past exposure to a water-damaged building. Fatigue was present in 90% of patients with water-damaged building or sick building syndrome. And in urine samples, 93% of them were positive for at least one mycotoxin. So when you’re looking for the root cause of something, this would be the primary agent for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Same goes with fibromyalgia. I had both of these things when I was in the middle of my mould illness experience. And we know that, you know, 75% of fibromyalgia patients report being fatigued, and it’s of course logical to think being in chronic pain is tiring. Yes, it is, but it can also be, and likely will be a result of mitochondrial failure or difficulties producing enough energy. We also know that there are chemokines that are triggered and found high in the cerebral spinal fluid that are also triggered by mould and driven by the interleukin that actually is triggered by mould exposure too, and it may be in these patients where we see, you know, higher incidents of autoimmune disease with water-damaged building exposure too.

So you’ve got, I guess there’s kind of three main categories, if you like. In fact, I’ll send you a link. I’ve written an ebook on, like, the 14 sort of major ways mould can make people sick, but chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are big ones. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is another red flag for me as a clinician. So someone who’s sensitive to gluten but isn’t a celiac sufferer or isn’t yet a celiac sufferer. So that kind of the big ones. Also gut issues.

As I said, mycotoxins damage the microbiome, they damage the microvilli, so escalating food allergies and intolerances, pain, and all of those IBS symptoms are commonly induced by a water-damaged building. Some other things we see are those, like, skin rashes. Now, it can be eczema, of course, and children living in homes with water damage are 15 times more likely to have moderate to severe eczema. We also know that eczema severity is directly correlated to the extent of water damage in a home. I actually never had eczema as a child, but developed eczema while I was in a water-damaged building, which has now resolved on its own. But also fungal skin issues, other weird rashes, dry skin, you know, itchy things, but also respiratory issues, including asthma.

So we know that mildew or a musty odour in a home is associated with both childhood and adult asthma. And up to 60% of atopic individuals are actually allergic to fungi anyway. And there’s even evidence that shows, you know, an elevated ERMI test, which is a way of assessing how mouldy your home is, in infancy is a predictor of asthma in children at seven years old.

So, you know, the literature hasn’t gone so far as to say mould causes asthma. Currently, there’s a few papers that say that, it mostly says exacerbates or makes it worse or increases the risk for it. But I also had my one and only asthma attack as a result of mould, and I’m not an asthmatic. So, you know, certainly, for me, it caused an asthma attack. And, you know, thankfully, that hasn’t hung around, but because a sick building or a water-damaged building is a repository for all kinds of microbes and a shifting microbiome and toxins, one of the other things that we see that is also probably one of the most common red flags is just chronic cold and flu symptoms. So runny nose, getting colds multiple times a year, having things escalate from, you know, a cold to pneumonia frequently.

Certainly, for me, you know, when I was travelling a lot for work, I would always wake up with a sore throat. And I would always travel with, you know, natural lozenges and a herbal throat spray because as a presenter, I can’t afford to lose my voice. And I always blamed it on the plane, dry air, or people’s germs on the plane. And then when I obviously went through this experience and learned how to identify mould, it was actually only about five or six places throughout Australia I could stay at and not get sick. But whenever I stayed at those, I never got a sore throat again.

So it wasn’t the plane at all, it was mouldy hotels, you know, the air conditioning, the ventilation is poor, humidity is high, and it was actually the accommodation that was responsible for that and not the plane at all. So chronic respiratory stuff is a big one. And then, of course, you’ve got SIRS, which is, you know, primarily limited to about 25% of the population, but that’s just a whole other weird barrel of symptoms. So you can have all of these things and have SIRS as well, which is just horrific. But for, you know, so let’s say 75% of the population, these are the things that you will likely notice if you are either working in a water-damaged office or living in a water-damaged home.

Andrew: Okay. I’ve just gotta ask a question there. You said 25% of the population, that’s not the total population, that’s the population that present with biotoxin illness, is that right?

Amie: Yeah. So at the moment with the data that we have, it appears 25% of the human population have haplotypes that make them vulnerable, particularly vulnerable to this. So one in four people would become much sicker much quicker in a water-damaged building than the other three. And basically, what’s happening there, for anyone who’s curious about how this works, is we have two elements to our immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system, and the innate immune system are the first responders. And I’m obviously putting this very simply, so if you’re an immunologist, don’t come at me. I’m explaining it, you know, for everybody.

But the innate immune system are the first responders. They show up all guns blazing and cause a lot of damage, inflammatory damage, although the inflammatory mediators are designed to call in the adaptive immune system. So they sort of get on the scene, you know, raise the alarm, shoot first, ask questions later, kind of thing. And then when the adaptive immune system crew turn up, you know, the inflammation gets dialed down and a more nuanced and specific approach to the pathogen or the injuries then take in. And the way it works with toxin exposure, whether that’s manmade toxicants or microbe-made, in this case, in someone whose genetics are fine, let’s call them fine, they have a response, but the innate immune system responds for a finite period of time. And when the adaptive immune system comes and they tag the biotoxins for elimination, and then the other aspects of the adaptive immune system clear it and it’s moved out of the body.

Now, in one in four people, the haplotype is such that the adaptive immune system is blind to the toxins. And so you’ve got one half of the immune system setting everything on fire going, help, help, we’ve got a problem. And the other half going, eh, well, can’t really see, we don’t see what the problem is here. And so nothing gets done and the toxins persistently create an inflammatory response, an acute inflammatory response that then becomes chronically activated. And so the challenges, obviously, these are toxic to everybody, but the challenges for those of us with, you know, mould-susceptible genes is we need a lot more help to move the biotoxins out and dial the inflammation back down.

Andrew: Okay. So from what you’re talking about and the commonalities of symptom presentation with so many other conditions, as I’ve said before, SIBO, you know, you’ve mentioned autoimmune conditions. We’re talking about quite common haplotypes here. We are mentioning things like asthma, blah, blah, blah. Is mould biotoxin illness really a sort of, how do I word this? A presentation of erosion of resilience so that you’ve got these other things and they’re normally handled or normally a nuisance, let’s say. That’s a really glib comment. But… And then you’ve got a water-damaged building where water, and it’s not just initial water damage or water that comes and goes, it’s water that sits and creates an issue, correct?

Amie: Mm.

Andrew: And then this sort of chronic mould issue occurs that sets people over the precipice. Is that really what happens with mould illness? So people with asthma, for instance, here’s an example. So I’ve just come back from holidays. At one stage, we stayed in a camping ground caravan park, but we stayed in a cabin. Great no worries. But when we turned on the aircons, the aircons had not been maintained and I acutely smelt this mould coming out. And that night, I had to take my asthma puffer a couple of times.

Amie: Yep.

Andrew: Now, I don’t have, I hope, I don’t think. I don’t have mould biotoxin illness, I have asthma. And it was in inflamed by that, whereas, other people, they just, they go over the precipice. Is this really what happens with biotoxin illness?

Amie: Yeah. So, what you’re experiencing with the asthma symptoms is just the natural immune response to inhaling particles that shouldn’t be in your lungs. And so, you know, for anyone who maybe doesn’t have asthma, maybe it would trigger a cough. You know, I was in a bar on Saturday night, dark, you know, underground thing and just immediately started coughing. You know, no asthma for me, but that was just it’s an airborne irritant, but that is the, I guess an allergy reaction. Whereas, with mould illness, it’s a combination of your being poisoned by the environment and your immune system is burning you down to the ground trying to deal with it.

So I suppose I wouldn’t term it an erosion of resilience because that suggests you could build up resilience to it. And if you have the haplotype that I do or one of the mould haplotypes, it’s just not a thing. If you have a blind spot there, that will always remain. Now, one of the ways that we’re, you know, described is the canaries in the coal mine. And really, our bodies are an early warning system for others that the environment is toxic. And, you know, I’ve come to see it as a blessing. But I also have had the means and the resources to heal and get into a healthy home. So when you’re in the middle of it, it sure isn’t. But what that means is mycotoxins damage the brain, they damage the kidneys, they damage the liver, they damage your gut. And for someone like me, it damages so much more violently that I become aware the environment is bad.

But for someone who doesn’t have those genes, they might arguably live, you know, in a water-damaged building for a lot longer and then be diagnosed with kidney cancer or some sort of gastrointestinal cancer. You know, some mycotoxins cause skin cancer, and because they’re not feeling sick in the environment, they just put up with it. Put up with the mould or maybe put up with the smell if there is a smell or, you know, paint over it. But the thing is, you know, mycotoxins are poisonous to everybody. It’s just in a subset of us, our bodies respond really badly. So, yes, you can support your organs, glands, tissues, yes, you can build resilience.

One of the big things that, you know, you can obviously do is remove all other source of toxicants in your life. And, of course, everyone’s on their own journey with that. But I can tell you as someone who ate 100% organic, didn’t use any synthetic personal care products, filtered her water, you know, didn’t live on a main road, like you couldn’t have done anything further for my physiological resilience at the time that I was exposed, and I went down like a ton of bricks. So is it helpful? I’m sure. Is it what allowed me to recover maybe a lot quicker than other people? I believe it did help.

And thank God, thank God for that. And maybe that’s also why I’m not permanently damaged like some people are, but there isn’t any vitamin, herb, food, lifestyle thing that if you have the haplotype, will prevent you from becoming sick from it or that will help you, you know, out-supplement or out-lifestyle a toxic environment. Sad. It’s sad, but true. Trust me, I tried. I took so many supplements, and, yes, they helped, they kept my head above water, but they really only drove me back towards good health once I was in a healthy home.

Andrew: Yeah. Look, I’ve gotta say, from being very confused to, I have to say skeptical, and then slowly realizing the issue when I interviewed, and forgive me, I can’t remember her first name. Her last name was Hudgins. I’m coming up with Victoria Hudgins. Natalia. Natalia Hudgins.

Amie: Ah, yes.

Andrew: When you see that photographic evidence, her story was presented on television. And when you see that photographic evidence that is not related to anorexia nervosa nor bulimia, nor eating disorders, when you see that, I mean, catastrophic erosion of vitality, it really opens your eyes to there must be something else happening. I guess the issue, the complexity is, and this is where you require an expert like yourself, is what is that erosion due to? You need somebody like a detective to unravel all of the intertwined chords and say, okay, we are getting down to, this is possibly the reason. I guess the controversy arises with, well, how do you identify it as opposed to something else? And again, this is where it requires the expert. Yeah. So can I ask… As I’ve said at the beginning, this is such a complex issue. It requires a dedicated course, not a webinar, not a weekend. This something quite in-depth, but can you take us through just a couple of quick things before we have to leave?

Amie: Of course. Yeah.

Andrew: What not to do. What not to do. So when you are cleaning up mould, because we’ve experienced that recently, all of us in Australia.

Amie: Yes. Yep. So, all right, so here’s a few guidelines on dos and don’ts. And maybe I’ll start with just what the treatment protocol looks like, so, you know, you’ve got an idea of what to expect. One of the things that, you know, we usually would recommend is a shift in diet. Now, the haplotype challenges lie within the celiac gene. So we call the celiac gene the mould gene. And because of the relationship there with gluten being so inflammatory almost without exception, we would say go strictly gluten-free. And interestingly, most people feel better for that. And also, I mean, I’m gluten-free now also, but I’ve had periods being gluten-free and periods of eating it. And I can notice I tolerate it more when I’m in a good environment and I start to react more badly when I’m in a problematic environment.

So, definitely go gluten-free. We also like to recommend a low histamine diet as well because typically, you know, histamine is one of those inflammatory mediators that’s released and triggered by a water-damaged building naturally because the innate immune system uses it to call in the adaptive. And also a low-amylose diet. And that actually comes from Richie Shoemaker. Amylose is a type of carbohydrate chain that actually triggers two inflammatory markers, or contributes to them, you know, with mould illness.

So cleaning up the diet in that respect and avoiding things that we know are commonly mouldy or might harbor mould, coffee, sadly, is one of those. Using binders and liposomal glutathione, of course, is a really great start. And anything to stabilize histamine. We also like to sort of check for antibodies and things at the stage, again, because of that chronic activation of the innate immune system, autoimmune markers, if not, conditions are very common in those that are exposed to a water-damaged building.

Even things like milk thistle can be protective. B vitamins can be really helpful for phase one and phase two. So these would be really kind of simple gentle things to include. So good quality activated B vitamin and some glutathione and binders. Even in acetylcysteine, that’s a really popular one, particularly, some people suit that better than using glutathione, but it helps to break up mucus and support the body in other ways. And even nasal sprays, whether that’s saline or a xylitol-based one can be really helpful. And then anything that reduces inflammation and other inflammatory markers like fish oil can be helpful, and electrolytes. So they’d be sort of the basic things that you could comfortably begin, ideally under supervision, but would also be things you could safely use if you weren’t yet seeing a clinician.

And then environment-wise, so there’s a few, I guess, things, that I could share with you. Regardless of where you are, you need to monitor and manage the relative humidity. So what I mean by that is if you are in a home, you should have a thermo-hygrometer in every room. And ultimately, the range of relative humidity you need to keep your home in is really between 45% and 55%. Anything lower than 40 is too dry for human health. And we start to see mucus membranes and skin suffering and propensity for infections start to rise.

And anything over 60%, we see dust mites and mould beginning to grow. So dust mites at 60%, aspergillus species at 66%, and then from 70% onwards, it’s chaos. And, you know, just looking at mine at 67%, it was 81% the other day. So as soon as you see it come outside or start to creep towards 60 and over, you need to start drawing the moisture out of the home. And that primarily will involve using dehumidifiers.

Now, some air con units have a dry mode. Of course, your air-con must have been sanitized and disinfected within the last six months, otherwise, it’s probably just gonna blow mould out. So get that done first. But I don’t find dry mode is enough for most homes, especially not in tropical subtropical areas or places like Sydney when, you know, it’s built on an aquifer. So as soon as it warms up, all of the evaporated moisture rises into the air, and there’s just too much volume. So if you are, you know, camping to avoid mould or you’re living in a car, a portable small dehumidifier and a thermo-hygrometer for your tent or your vehicle would also be crucial. Because, otherwise, you know, more than a few days of elevated humidity, your mattress is gonna start to go mouldy. You’re gonna start to have mould, you know, growing in that space too, and it’ll become problematic for you again. So that would be my number one thing to prevent it.

Obviously, things like ventilation and sunlight are helpful. Drying things out, making sure things are really dry before you put them away. You know, when you’re shower and cooking, making sure the steam is being vented to the outside of your home. But when it comes to dealing with an existing mould problem, the hard and fast rule is mould needs to be removed, not killed or covered up. And so, you know, I would never use bleach ever. And depending on what surface has been impacted by mould growth will depend on your approach. And again, this is something you really should consult a certified mould testing technician or building biologist to get recommendations specific to you. But these guidelines will just give you a sense of what to do. And, therefore, when I tell you what not to do, you’ll understand why.

So, if the surface is a non-porous surface, let’s say it’s bathroom tiles, or it’s a glass kitchen splashback or windows or aluminum window frames, or it’s glass or ceramic, a damp microfiber cloth is actually enough to physically remove it, and then you can dry it thoroughly. I personally like to use warm water with a bit of dishwashing detergent, a splash of white vinegar, and a little bit of clove oil because I’m extra like that. But killing mould will trigger its defensive response and mycotoxin production, which is why if you’re particularly sensitive, just using a damp microfiber cloth is fine. It’s the physical removal. And on non-porous surfaces, mould can’t dig their roots in, so it wipes off easily.

If it’s somewhere like white tiles and grout, you can use, like, a hydrogen peroxide water blend to help restore, like, the visual appeal. And I would use that in place of bleach just because the combination of bleach and mycotoxins creates, like, a super chemical that’s really poisonous. But when it comes to semi-porous and porous items, you actually have to cut it out. So on a practical level, let’s say it’s growing on your couch. Obviously, you can’t cut a chunk of your couch out and still have a usable couch. So it either goes in the bin or, you know, I had one client who, it was her grandmother’s like, you know, heirloom vintage antique things. So what she did was she just stripped off all the fabric and foam and had the whole thing reupholstered. But given how cheap furniture is these days, sometimes you’re probably just better off replacing it.

If it’s your mattress, same thing, that has to go in the bin. In fact, mattresses and pillows would be the number one priority because that’s where you are sleeping eight hours a night, give or take, and breathing in, you know, all of that straight into your airway and actually contacting your skin. That would be a much higher priority than, say, a floor rug, for instance. A baby high chair that’s plastic should be okay. The thing is mycotoxins actually can absorb to surfaces. So even though it might be mould-free, the chemical has sunk in. Think about, like, if you spilled turmeric on your kitchen bench, and then it just, the yellow stain, it’s like it’s absorbed into the stone. This is what happens with the chemicals. So, yeah, things like if there’s no visible mould, you might be able to just clean it and be okay. But porous things that have foam, which the spores get trapped in, I’d get rid of.

And then often what I’m guiding people to do is actually, you know, storing their stuff with things like moisture-absorbing units in a climate-controlled area and actually just allowing themselves to recover a bit before they bring all of their stuff out. And then, you know, I guide people to remediate things properly, but sometimes if they’re still reacting, at least they can discard it then knowing they did all they could to try and, you know, restore it. And it means you’re not sort of dumping things up front, which can be very traumatic for people.

So, yeah, if you want me to point you to a reference, the ANSI/IICRC guidelines are the ones that we adhere to as building biologists and certified mould-testing technicians. That being said, the documents are about $500 to purchase. And you then have to navigate that on your own. And if you’ve been affected cognitively, it’s probably a bit hard. I think you’re better off, you know, engaging someone who’s, you know, actually studied that and let them guide you.

Andrew: Gotcha. We will definitely be putting all of these acronyms up on the website. So there’s the VCSS, is that right?

Amie: Oh, the VCSS

Andrew: BCSS.

Amie: No, no, no.

Andrew: And what was the guidelines you spoke of just then?

Amie: Yes, the ANSI/IICRC S520 and R520. So, I’ll send you all the links to those.

Andrew: We’ll put them up on the website.

Amie: Yeah.

Andrew: That’d be lovely.

Amie: Yeah.

Andrew: Amie, thank you so much for taking us through this confronting and confounding condition, which is more than one condition. I’m sort of picking up. But, anyway. Thank you so much for taking us through this today, and it’s great that we have somebody at the helm like yourself. And there’s also Lisa McDonald; there’s Nicole Bijlsma. Sorry, Nic. Stumbling on your name there. So it’s great that we have these captains to guide patients and guide indeed practitioners to find out more in an ethical way and to see how we can help patients sort of recover from this debilitating illness. Thank you so much for taking us through this today.

Amie: Thanks, Andrew. Appreciate your time.

Andrew: And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Of course, you’ll find all of the show notes and the other podcasts on the Designs for Health website. I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook. This is “Wellness by Designs.”

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