For Brandy Cummings, the future looked bright.
After working in a stressful bank job, she was now starting her first position in her chosen career field, nutrition. She would be visiting schools to teach kids how to eat healthfully.
But that very first day in her new office, she felt ill, dizzy and just not right. She thought perhaps she was coming down with something, but she continued to feel sick and exhausted day after day.
“I remember not really being able to focus and feeling like I wasn’t really fully present in life,” she recalls.
Soon severe vertigo started, forcing Brandy to miss days of work.
For help, she reached out to her doctor, who passed her on to an ear nose and throat specialist (ENT).
“The ENT diagnosed me with Meniere’s disease, but I didn’t think that was right,” Brandy says. Meniere’s is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause dizziness.
At one point, she tried Dramamine, an over-the-counter motion sickness medication. It actually made her feel worse, leading her to believe that it wasn’t Meniere’s disease.
Frustrated, she went to a naturopath, who began a host of tests to find the root cause of Brandy’s illness. Testing uncovered adrenal issues, nutrient deficiencies and genetic clues, including finding the MTHFR genetic mutation. Those with the mutation are typically worse at detoxing environmental and other toxins from the body.
The naturopath began Brandy on adrenal support and supplements to replace key nutrients.
Soon, Brandy felt considerably better, but still not back to her previous energetic self.
For dizziness, she found relief with an approach at her chiropractor’s office. Atlas orthogonal uses a machine, placed behind the ear, that sends waves through her neck to straighten out her Atlas vertebrae.
“That could kind of get me out of a really bad stretch sometimes,” she says.
With all their efforts, Brandy felt about 80 percent better. But still, she would be hit with occasional setbacks. Over time, the good days were stretched fewer and further out, forcing her to miss more work.
“I had to call into work. I couldn’t be a wife. I couldn’t participate in life at all. I couldn’t shower. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom. I was just totally debilitated,” she says.
Suspecting Mold Toxicity
Using her nutrition background, Brandy began researching on her own and talking with her network of peers. Soon, she came across information about mold’s impact on the body. Given that she was working in a historic building, and that the symptoms began simultaneously with her new job, mold seemed the likely culprit.
Studies have found that those exposed to mold may have higher levels of mycotoxins in the blood, which can cause a range of symptoms, from respiratory issues to chronic fatigue.
She found an eye test online, which is supposed to help diagnose mold toxicity. She failed the test, indicating mold exposure.
A hunt for mold in her office building uncovered a source: visible mold in the building’s basement.
“It kind of made me feel a little better because I was like, ‘This is a really plausible answer,’” she says. “At least, I had an answer. It’s really frustrating being really sick and not having an answer.”
The school district, however, didn’t have the resources to remediate the mold.
Neither her doctor or her naturopath were very familiar with mold illness, leaving Brandy to find answers on her own.
Adding to the physical distress, in 2017 Brandy suffered a miscarriage.
Despite the debilitation, Brandy went ahead and attended an industry conference, PaleoFX, which was held in Austin that year.
She was excited to hear some of her favorite industry heavyweights speak. But her illness overwhelmed her to the point where she simply went outside and slept under a tree.
Once back at home, she’d hit her breaking point and quit her job.
“I’m either going to die or I’m going to get better,” she says. “And honestly, at this point, either one is fine, but we need to go one way or the other.”
Next, she turned to Ryan Frisinger, a health practitioner whom she had met at PaleoFX. She knew he was particularly knowledgeable about genetics and mold, and savvy with complex cases like hers.
Brandy met with Frisinger virtually, covering her exhaustive history in an initial three-hour appointment. He ordered additional tests to understand more about her genetic makeup.
She also explained some of the things that had triggered or exacerbated her illness – starting the new job, the trip to Austin, taking a hyaluronic acid supplement, and a Gua Sha massage.
Considering all those clues, Frisinger suspected mold toxicity. All those factors could contribute to a spike in symptoms. Mold counts had been particularly high in Austin that weekend.
A previously stressful job, and her genetic profile, could explain why she was impacted more than others in her office.
A Mold Protocol
With guidance from Frisinger, Brandy began a very customized protocol based on her symptoms, lab tests and genetics:
She followed a paleo diet that also limited foods with lectins, such as legumes. Additionally, she eliminated some of the foods that didn’t agree with her genetic profile, including foods high in sulfur. Those include cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and kale, along with garlic and onions – the latter two being exceptionally tough to eliminate from her cooking regimen.
She also started on various supplements to replenish low nutrients. She took vitamin D to support her mitochondria and boosted vitamin D with walks where she tried to expose as much skin as possible.
Her supplement regimen included minerals, fish oil, P5P, liposomal GABA and gut-healing aids.
A Cleaner Environment
For a cleaner environment, Brandy and her husband added air and water filters in their home. She also “charged” water on her back deck. According to Frisinger, by putting water in a glass jar, the sun would restructure the water energetically.
To remove toxins, Brandy took oral binders. She also invested in a far infrared sauna, where she could aid detox by sweating.
The costs were adding up, but Brandy felt like she was on the right track. She was wholly dedicated to getting better.
“It was really like a full-time job to go all in and I was 100% compliant,” she says.
An Energetic New Mom
And soon, the payoff came.
“After maybe a month or so of that, I was feeling of amazing,” she says. “It was like a switch had been flipped. I felt present for the first time in years.”
The previous year, Brandy had gained 50 pounds suddenly with the mold exposure. Now, weight began dropping off.
Then, Brandy got pregnant again. With that, she paused the detox and some of the supplements, and switched to supporting the pregnancy. Brandy went on to give birth to a baby girl, who is now 20 months old.
These days, Brandy experiences a touch of vertigo on rare occasions. When she finishes nursing her daughter, she plans to pick back up some of the protocols that she began with Frisinger.
With regained energy, Brandy returned to school for her master’s degree in human nutrition and functional medicine. Now, she runs a nutrition practice, Pivotal Origins, where she helps others fill the gaps in support from preconception to postpartum.
After the mold madness of the past few years, she offers hope to others.
“You are so not alone, even though everybody might be telling you you’re crazy or it might seem like nobody’s listening to you,” she says. “There are practitioners that are really well-versed in this stuff and that can help you and there are answers. Your body wants to and has the ability to return to homeostasis.”
Listen to my podcast interview with Brandy:
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like: Pittsburgh Woman Tackles Mold Toxicity, Lyme Disease and Hashimoto’s.
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