Today’s Mold Talks guest is Alicia Swamy, a thought leader in health and wellness, a mold illness advocate, and co-founder of the Exposing Mold Podcast, among other titles. Since her battle began with mold years ago, she’s dedicated her life to pushing the conversation forward about indoor mold growth, exposure, and mold illness. As she says, society rarely considers our indoor environments when thinking about health, and that needs to change.
Her journey with mold shows exactly why. Alicia suffered from mold toxicity and the symptoms that went along with it for over a year before she even considered the possibility of an environmental contaminant being the culprit. By refusing to stop searching for answers and trusting that she was indeed mentally sane, she finally discovered the newly renovated home she and her husband recently purchased before the COVID-19 shutdown was to blame.
Their chat touches on every aspect of Alicia's journey, from the incredible lows to the highs of finding answers and beginning to heal. She highlights how important it is for environmental contaminants to make their way into the national spotlight and just how much they can affect our health. She now centers her life on helping as many other people as she can so that they don't have to continue to suffer as she did.
"I got sick from mold, and it's just been a really, really crazy journey."
Alicia was sick off-and-on for most of her life. A go-getter by nature, she‘s always on the move and pushing herself to accomplish even greater heights, which isn’t always the best for a healthy immune system. However, with a background in health education, she knew everything her body needed to stay in balance, from nutrition to fitness and supplements.
When she moved into a newly renovated home with her husband, though, her health started to take a marked decline, even after she worked so hard to take care of her body. The COVID-19 lockdown is what she believed tipped the scales towards her feeling so unwell. For the next year and a half, she would battle a list of symptoms that debilitated her everyday life.
"Even in my health education training, we're not talking about air quality in the home. We're not talking about environmental factors. It's all about what we control, you know, our exercise or diet, and you know, it just never ever occurred to me."
She attempted to see various specialists and naturopaths, but no one could seem to pinpoint what was triggering Alicia to feel so unwell. Every test they took just came back negative, and the doctors suggested she try anxiety medication to solve her problems. Some even suggested that she wasn’t mentally well and should seek help. The entire journey made her realize just how flawed the current medical system is and how many doctors fail to search for the root cause of the problem.
To make matters worse, Alicia’s health continued to spiral throughout this long process. At one point, she felt like she wouldn’t make it past her 33rd birthday. She could barely walk around the block without feeling like she was going to pass out or experience a heart attack.
It wasn’t until she stumbled upon a few Facebook groups discussing mold that she began to consider whether this fungus was to blame. Intrigued by a potential answer, she immediately went to a doctor who could test for mold indicators, and every test came back positive for mold.
"There was only one thing that we could point to that was new, and that was the home. And even though it was remodeled and looked beautiful there, obviously there was something going on. I never knew as a first-time homebuyer that dormant mold could be an issue... Everyone's telling us that dormant mold is fine."
After getting their home tested, it turned out that a slow drip in their kitchen sink had led to a serious moldy problem. Alicia realized at that moment that she wasn’t crazy; something was actually going on in her home environment that was triggering her list of symptoms.
Armed with the answer to her problems, Alicia began the long journey to healing. Unfortunately, she and her husband experienced failed remediation, and to get better, she was forced to leave her home. For months, she and her husband lived out of their car and traveled across the west coast, moving from one camping spot to another. Finally, though, Alica’s body got the opportunity it needed to heal.
"We got out and we did what we needed to do, regardless of the circumstances, of you know, leaving our brand new home that we bought, just to get well. Sometimes it takes these situations where you have to be brave, you have to be courageous, and you have to just value yourself and your life and not only are you helping yourself, but if you're in a toxic situation and you're having symptoms but your family member isn't having symptoms, it doesn't mean it's not affecting them. It means that they're probably one of those individuals where they're not sick, but all of a sudden they have they get cancer or they get something crazy where it's life-threatening and it's too late. And so, being a hypersensitive individual, I don't see it as a downfall. I see it as an asset for me to understand that, you know what, like, I'm in these toxic situations, my body's telling me right away. I have built the intuition to understand that and now I can navigate my life in a more healthful manner."
Now, she’s using her experience to help as many others as she can get through mold exposure and the health problems that go along with it. She co-founded a podcast as well as various other actions to push the topic of mold forward and help shine a spotlight on this major health issue.
"It was a horrendous experience with little to no help, with little to no information on the internet. So, I really wanted to come to a solution and find the people that understood this. Find the experts that know what's going on. Find the good remediators like you that really understand and that are going to be honest and say, ‘Look, you know, we've remediated your home, but you're still sick. I don't know if we can continue.’ We need that level of honesty and we need to find those people amongst the vast sea people that are you know, either uneducated or don't understand. I really feel like we're turning a corner here. We're really starting a mold revolution."