Today’s Mold Talks guest is Dasha Agoulnik, a registered dietician and fitness and gut health coach. Dasha’s career involves helping athletes solve their gut problems, which often has to do with imbalances from mold exposure. Even though she was familiar with the effects of mold, it wasn’t the first thing she thought of when she began developing health issues.
Luckily, as a practitioner herself, she was all-too-familiar with the medical realm and began the lengthy process of narrowing down what was causing her symptoms. It’s safe to say she was thoroughly surprised when, instead of helping heal her clients from mold exposure, she was now going to have to focus on healing her own body.
Our chat today touches on Dasha’s journey with mold exposure as a practitioner, and how it affected her life. From battling with an apartment complex over how to properly remove mold and advocating for her health, Dasha experienced firsthand how frustrating dealing with mold exposure can be. Fortunately, she’s now managed to remove herself from the exposure and is focused on healing.
"I think the whole point of me sharing my story, and what I hope comes across with this, is that you're literally never alone. Like, whatever you are going through, even practitioners, even doctors, whoever it is, like, we get it. We deal with the same things. We're all human. We deal with the same exact issues. And so, I have complete empathy for whoever comes to my doors."
Dasha wasn’t new to the idea of mold exposure affecting health. As a dietician who specializes in helping athletes get their bodies into balance, she’d seen firsthand what environmental exposures like mold can do to someone’s health.
Still, when her list of symptoms started to develop, mold wasn’t the first culprit she thought of. She figured that after just moving into a brand new apartment complex, mold couldn’t possibly be the cause of her health issues. Instead, she figured it must be just some type of flare-up from her Celiac disease. As a dietician, though, not knowing for sure what was triggering her digestive issues, brain fog, and chronic fatigue irked her-she knew exactly how her body should be operating!
Refusing to accept her issues as the new normal and trusting that her body was alerting her to something being wrong, Dasha dove into finding an answer. She reached out to other practitioners for help but was told that her problems were panic attacks, making her quickly realize that she would have to become her own health advocate.
"If your doctor says you're fine, just double-check with someone else who might not think you're fine and actually believes you."
Fortunately for Dasha, her career was in the medical realm! After running a series of labs and tests, she eventually narrowed her problem down to mold exposure, which must be coming from her brand-new apartment.
After conducting an extensive search, she found the problem area in her AC system. A pipe had burst and the area was covered in mold.
"So, I found the mold. I was like, okay, confirmed, I told my apartment complex. They saw it. They were like, 'Okay, we bleached it out.'"
Her symptoms initially started getting better, but after coming back home after traveling for the holidays, her health started to take another downward turn. She alerted her apartment building multiple times and let them know how her health was being impacted by the continued mold exposure, but they refused to do more than the initial bleach treatment.
"They didn't do anything. They said, 'There's nothing there. Because we can't see anything, it's not there.'"
When she couldn’t remember a lesson plan, could barely get through meetings, and continued to battle feeling violently ill, she knew that something had to be done. She ordered a few Petri dishes that immediately showed the presence of mold and immediately sent them to the apartment complex management team to take a look at. Then, she moved out.
Before leaving, she took the time to go door-to-door to her neighbors to let them know her situation and to warn them of the health effects. It turns out, many of them had already started experiencing symptoms similar to Dasha’s. While she’s still in contact with these individuals, she’s now staying with her parents and focusing on healing.
For others going through similar situations, Dasha recommends trusting your instincts.
"Never put your health second to anything. Ever."