How Your House Can Make You Weak
By: Dave Asprey
August 14, 2012
A good friend emailed yesterday and said, “I don’t get it. My wife just got diagnosed with either Lyme or an unspecified inflammatory condition. What should I do?” I asked a few questions including, “Did you have a water leak in your house in the last year?” The answer was “yes.”
Without batting an eye, I bet my friend a huge grass-fed steak that an ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) air test from John and Laura at American Air Testing would reveal that their house had developed toxic mold. John and Laura helped me find mold in my home years ago. That outbreak – which created toxic mold spore levels 800 times higher in my kitchen than they were outside in the back yard – ended up kicking off chronic inflammatory conditions and strongly sensitizing my wife and me to gluten and milk products. The mold also triggers aggressive environmental bacterial growth.
I’ve seen other people unexpectedly gain 20-40 pounds in a few months after being exposed to environmental mold. Others move into a new office or a new apartment and then just don’t feel well – frequent headaches, sinus infections, unexplained allergies, and even hormonal problems.
Another close friend moved in with her fiancé and was shocked when her memory started to fail – she started struggling to find words and felt like her energy was simply gone. She was worried. An air test showed stachybotyrs, and a blood test showed a common (but unregulated) toxin called ochratoxin in her blood. She used the Bulletproof protocols to remove the toxins in a couple months (to her physicians surprise), moved to a mold free house, and had a healthy pregnancy afterwards. The ochratoxin in her blood would have certainly interfered with a healthy pregnancy. She was lucky she figured it out – the alternative would have been a downward spiral in health and performance for no obvious reason.
28% of people have a genetically influenced innate immune response that gets turned on by environmental mold, but it doesn’t turn off. That data comes from Dr. Shoemaker, one of the most innovative experts in treating all forms of biotoxin illness. If you’re one of these people, you get exposed, you get sick, and you stay sick. Sometimes they call it Lyme (and it may indeed be lyme brought on by the innate immune response allowing the lyme to proliferate), sometimes they call it chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia or multiple chemical sensitivity. It’s not. It’s one form of mycotoxin illness. It causes subtle changes in your vision.
The other 72% of people just get inflamed and may come down with a cold or sore throat and love handles and retain water, or maybe they get a headache or migraine and just have an awful day. Some of them may have no symptoms at all, but since mycotoxins in the environment are linked to cancer and heart disease, it’s still not a good thing for these people. They are fortunate because their innate immunity turns itself off after the toxic threat is gone, and when things calm down biologically, they return to normal.
The Bulletproof Diet and lifestyle are designed in part to remove things that tend to trigger neurological inflammation. If you are eating a perfect Bulletproof Diet and still have strange symptoms after a few months, it’s time to look at your house and workplace or even car. Musty smells are simply not ok. This goes double for kids rooms, as they’re more sensitive. Toxic molds release very small chemical poisons to keep other molds and bacteria from competing with them for food. Those chemicals have a direct effect on the body that is different than a mold allergy, and they persist even after mold spores are destroyed.
If your health changed after a roof leak or a broken pipe, it’s time to get your air tested. Three times in my life I’ve been exposed to these molds in my living space. I’ve been able to reverse many of the effects, but I’m still working on some others. Read on to learn what to look for.
As a child, I lived in a basement that had suffered a flood. It didn’t smell bad or have any visible damage or mold; it had just been wet once before my family bought the house. I had horrible asthma, rashes, and I was inflamed all the time, but the “smoking gun” symptoms for me were frequent nosebleeds – 10 per day sometimes – and easy bruising all over my body. These come from your body using all your vitamin C to protect the liver instead of using it to form collagen to make blood vessels that don’t leak. There was no visible mold anywhere.
In 1999 I bought my first condo. I didn’t know the neighbor’s water heater was leaking and had soaked a wall in my bedroom. The back of the wall was covered in black slime mold, almost certainly stachybotrys. In the time I lived there, I gained 30 pounds in a month after I’d already lost them using Bulletproof techniques. My brain function started to decline and I got chronic sinusitis again. My wife at the time started having intense nightmares, the kind where you wake up screaming. On a hot, humid night, the kind that makes mold spores have a party in your bedroom, she started sleep walking. While sleep walking, she carried on a conversation, grabbed her car keys, and got behind the wheel of her car. I didn’t know she was asleep, but thankfully she re-entered normal sleep in the car and didn’t kill anyone by sleep-driving.
Looking back, now I know a big change in dreams, especially nightmares, can signal a mold problem. These are psychoactive substances – even LSD is derived from a toxic ergot mold. I didn’t know enough about mold then to suspect my first house was the cause. I also became allergic to dairy; that species of mold cross-reacts with casein, the protein in milk. My subsequent brain scans showed toxic brain damage, and my immune system *really* didn’t like mold.
The final time I experienced mold was in 2006 when I was already very Bulletproof, eating 100% grass fed, and I’d been cooking a fertility variant of the Bulletproof Diet for my wife Lana for a couple years. Both of us had great health. Then, we replaced a dishwasher. The installer mentioned the past one had been leaking and it was damp under the counter, but “no big deal.” He was wrong.
Within 24 hours, my digestive function basically went away, and I went from normal digestion to developing room-clearing gas, the kind that was bad even with the top down in my Audi TT Quattro convertible (the one that I sold because it doesn’t fit car seats, damnit…). Brain fog came on with a vengeance for both my wife and me, and we’d sleep 12 hours but wake up hung over. Our young dachshunds stopped eating and became rail thin. This time, it took 2 weeks for me to figure out what was causing it.
John and Laura from American Air Testing came over and ran an EMRI test which discovered toxic penicillium spores in our kitchen. My wife Lana and I ran an immune testing company at the time, so we used our technology (with radioactive white blood cell counting) and found that the species of mold in our home caused a dramatic increase in white blood cell growth, but other molds didn’t. We were sensitized to the one growing in our kitchen, and it turned on our immune system in an awful way.
So we did what any sane people should do: we went on vacation to Scotland while astronaut-suited mold remediation people tore out our kitchen, down to the studs. They wet-wiped the entire house, dry cleaned every porous item they could (all our clothes), and steam-cleaned the rest. Then they sealed the house and scrubbed the air for a day, and tested again. They found no spores, so they put in a new kitchen. Then we came home and spent another 3 months regaining our health, which involved lots of liposomal glutathione – 500-1,000 mg/day – as well as toxin binding protocols. We were lucky to get our health back. Resilience comes down to technique, and I’m thankful that the Bulletproof Diet is all about building mental and physical resilience.
Even so, this event strongly sensitized my wife and me to gluten and casein; I’m far more sensitive than I was before it. I believe that one contributor to the dramatic increase in gluten intolerance is environmental mold. Mold is also linked to cases of autism, as my friend Dana Gorman, founder of the autism non-profit Thriiive, proved for the first time in a court of law, as explained in this story. Her brand-new luxury house was made from moldy lumber that ultimately caused her son’s autism.
In fact, it’s my experience that about 1/3 of available rental units in the Bay Area have mold problems. It helps that I’m a canary; I can feel my immune system respond – sometimes dramatically – when I go into a moldy building.
The point of all this is that you are an integral part of your surroundings and they are a part of the ongoing process that is your body. You are constantly making new cells and shedding old ones; your eyes that began reading this sentence are not the same eyes that finish reading it. Countless things that happen in your body are influenced by your environment, which is why optimizing your environment can make you more resilient and more Bulletproof. Making sure you are not swimming in toxic mold is a part of that.