Today’s Mold Talks guest is Lauren Keller, a nurse practitioner, certified midwife, and mold survivor. Like many suffering from mold toxicity, Lauren had no idea how much this indoor contaminant could impact her body until she moved into a rental house while getting her graduate degree. It took some time after the chronic symptoms initially developed before she realized that something wasn’t quite right in her body.
What followed were years of misdiagnosis, even though she was a professional in the medical realm. From depression, multiple sclerosis, and Lyme disease, Lauren heard it all and underwent a million and one tests to try to prove it. It took a random encounter for her to start going down the rabbit hole of environmental factors like mold as possible culprits. Luckily, she stuck to her instincts that something wasn’t quite right and eventually realized it was mold toxicity that was causing her ongoing issues.
From there, she began the long journey of healing, and she continued going down the rabbit hole of the effect environmental factors have on health. Her passion for the subject led her to not only a career change but also a move halfway across the world. The entire experience shows that even though someone’s in the medical world, that doesn’t mean that they can’t suffer from mold illness because of the general lack of understanding and awareness of this indoor contaminant.
"I think sometimes the best practitioners in the space are people who have been through it because we can literally put ourselves in your shoes because we've been there and we’ve had all those really crazy, weird symptoms that they tell you are all in your head."
Lauren’s experience with mold began after moving into a rental home while getting her graduate degree in Georgia. While the home had visible mold issues, she explained that because few people discuss mold and the effect exposure can have on health, she never thought anything of it. Even while in medical school, Lauren said she never once had a class about this indoor contaminant.
Over the next two years, she would continue to develop a wide range of chronic health symptoms that got worse and worse as time went on. From fatigue so bad that she slept for 20 hours a day to tremors, difficulty swallowing, and headaches, she suffered through a series of debilitating reactions that slowly began to affect her everyday life. It wasn’t until after she graduated, though, that she realized it wasn’t the stress and fast-paced student life causing the issues. Something else had to be afoot.
"Of course, I went through all of the Western medical realms and got no answers. MRIs, barium swallow studies, EMTs… the whole friggin thing."
The doctors she saw tossed around some ideas for a diagnosis, including depression and multiple sclerosis, but no one could figure out what was truly wrong. Their main idea was that it had to be something in her head.
"I think eventually I was depressed because I felt so bad all the time. I couldn't start my career. I had virtually no life because I was so tired. It ruined everything: all my relationships, my work environment. And so, I think in the beginning, no, I didn't feel especially depressed. I just felt like something was happening and someone needed to figure out what it was. A year in, though? Yeah, I probably did have depression."
At one point, she went down the rabbit hole of Lyme disease, tested positive, and then became even more ill after the series of antibiotics to treat the condition. Later on, she considered whether the flu or a virus might be at play because she continued to feel sick even after moving to Alaska. Looking back, she realized that moving with her contaminated items prolonged her exposure.
Again, no one brought up the idea that an environmental factor like mold might be at play. Still, to this day, she’s not sure what led her down the path of mold. Being that it was around 2011, social media groups and blogs weren’t really a thing.
"I don't even really know how I stumbled on mold. I can't remember who it was that I was talking to or what I came across, and I was like… mold. Well, we did live in that house for two years where I got sick, and it was super moldy. But, that couldn’t be it. I still wasn’t convinced. So I started going down the rabbit hole and started going to a lot of naturopathic conferences. I went to Lyme conferences. I just started researching what really makes people sick and why everyone seems to have Lyme disease and no one ever gets better. Even if Lyme is a smart bacteria, it just didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me why that would just be it. And so that brought me into mold, and I realized that we were living in massive amounts of mold. I wish I could go back to that house and test because I'm just so curious."
Her desire for an answer is what finally led her down the path of healing. She learned about mold and the terrain theory. While Western medicine taught her to destroy the bug that led to the problem, the terrain theory taught her that the body can get overwhelmed by toxic environmental factors like mold and heavy metals. This overload of toxins can lead to chronic symptoms that won’t go away, no matter how many antibiotics are taken.
"Unfortunately, in today's medical society, mold is this fringe thing that no one ever talks about. Instead, it’s, 'That mold around the shower and kitchen? That's no big deal. That's just normal mold.' And it's just… it's weird. How is nobody talking about it?"
The entire experience showed Lauren just how little attention this indoor contaminant receives. From the confused looks from her coworkers in the medical field to building architects, no one thought that mold was a recognizable problem. Several times over the years, Lauren struggled to find someone to take her seriously.
"The whole personal responsibility piece is also kind of a slap in the face. The first time you realize that nobody is responsible for this and nobody cares about you the way that you care about yourself. So, when I got out of the mindset that somebody else was going to fix my issues, everything got better because I knew I needed to learn the information. I needed to rely on myself and I needed to find the right people to do the job, whether it’s building-related or remediation. It's freeing in a way, but also terrifying, because there's no fallback."
Eventually, she got sick of the situation and moved away from Western medicine. After moving to Spain, she started her own clinic dedicated to helping counsel people on how to heal from toxic exposure and get their bodies back into balance. For those out there experiencing mold exposure, she recommends working on the foundations of health and continuing to stick with a detox regime that works for them.
"Don't lose hope; that's what I see most often in this community; people lose hope. There's so much hope out there and so many things you can do for your health, so many different ways you can go with it. And so, just don't lose hope. Things will get better."