Even Medical Doctors Are Not Immune to the Devastating Effects of Environmental Toxins and Mold Illness

When a Stressful Medical Career, a Busy Life and a Moldy Home Collide to Create Debilitating Symptoms and Mold Toxicity

By Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

During my active practicing years, I found that every patient, regardless of their diagnosis, had a story to tell. Each story followed a similar framework with unique twists and turns along the way. All start with how and when they first became ill, progress to the effects their symptoms and illness have on their lives, and end with their search for solutions and the road to recovery.

I am intimately familiar with the patient story, because I too have my own mold illness story that I wish to share. I have learned that it is particularly helpful for me to share my story, because there is a false assumption that my being a doctor would somehow shield or absolve me from being hit with the debilitating effects of living in a moldy home. On the contrary, my knowledge of medicine and experience treating patients did not save me from the effects of a bad environment. It is also important to me to show patients that they are not alone. I want patients to know that sometimes their healers have also been there and can empathize with all that they are going through. So, it is with this intent, the intent to give you hope for wellness and perseverance to stay the course in your treatment plan that I am writing my mold story today.  Of course, everyone is different, and the presentation and duration can vary widely, but I hope some of what I share here is helpful to you in your journey.

My Mold Illness Story: Signs and Symptoms

In 2002, I was a very busy working mother.  I had an extremely active (and stressful) medical practice. I had irregular on-call hours, two preadolescent children, and a horse farm that I also managed.  Sleep was sporadic and proper eating and exercise were afterthoughts.

I came down with a sinus infection—my first one ever!  After two rounds of antibiotics, it was finally getting better, but I noticed a few weird things:

  • My fatigue was severe and debilitating, almost as bad as the bout of mono that I had in high school;
  • In spite of the fatigue, I simply could not sleep and was getting up every hour or so to urinate;
  • My leg weakness: The scariest part was that my legs were constantly numb and tingly all down the backs of both thighs. I actually scuffed the toes of all my shoes trying to drag my legs upstairs;
  • And, my  balance was impaired—I was wobbling down the hall of my office from one treatment room to the next.

As a result, patients began asking my staff, “What is wrong with Dr. Tanner? She looks terrible! Does she have cancer? Or MS?”

It is said that “a doctor who tries to treat themselves has a fool for a patient,” but that adage did not thwart me from running every test in the book on myself—all of which came back negative. I then had a physical with an internist who told me I was just overworked.

It was at this time that the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, of which I was a member, began their courses on the toxic effects of mold. I was clued into mold, and had considered it, but my house showed no visible evidence of mold. To officially rule out mold as the cause for my weird symptoms, though, I called a mold inspector/remediator out to investigate. There was the answer!

The Cause of the Mold in My Home

Our house was built in the mid-1980s, and, in an effort to conserve energy, had a foil wrap on top of the insulation as it was being built. This had created a huge humidity issue within the walls. In addition, because I spent so much time in the barn, I was unknowingly dragging more mold spores into the house from the barn each time I went back and forth. The mold in the barn was also a problem, because it flooded every time it rained. Thus, the cross-contamination contributed to high mold counts inside of my house as well. The growth on the mold test plates finally revealed what the eye could not openly detect!

Our house was not remediable without tearing it down to the studs. Until I could find a safe, mold-free home, we improvised by fogging several times with a botanical fogging solution to temporarily beat down the reproducing mold. Dehumidifiers were also placed to keep indoor humidity below 45% in an effort to keep mold growth at bay. Sadly, my husband did not believe that the house or the mold could possibly be the problem, because he lived there too and did not feel ill. Our marriage did not survive, but thankfully our children and I did!

My Mold Illness Treatment and Road to Recovery

Biologically, I had just become familiar with Dr. Dennis’s treatment plan (Environmental Protocol and Body Protocol).  The EC3 products were not yet available, but his commonsense approach to diet, to clean air and to nasal irrigation made an immense amount of difference in my health and symptoms. I began to get better, but the biggest part of my recovery was improving the air quality in my living spaces and getting out of the moldy home!!  It is so true, no medicine or treatment in the world will help if the air you are breathing is infected with mold.

My treatment plan included the following:

  • No sugar diet;
  • Daily nasal irrigation with Neil Med;
  • Oral probiotics, such as OrthoBiotic;
  • Intramax liquid vitamin/mineral;
  • Glutathione– at the time there was no liposomal formula but now Pure Encapsulations makes one that is far superior to what I had to use;
  • Phosphatidylcholine, which keeps the liver flushing and also helps correct damage in nerve cell membranes;
  • Activated charcoal and clay to bind toxins (GI Detox);
  • Far infrared sauna, which helps sweat out toxins deep in tissue.

What made the substantial difference to me were IV treatments with Phosphatidylcholine and glutathione.  While both can be used orally, the IV treatment directs them into the blood stream immediately.  My symptoms began to subside.

Ongoing Health and Recovery Post-Mold

Overall, I was ill for nearly 8 months.  For years afterwards, I was extremely sensitive to any mold in any environment. If I encountered mold, my ears would begin to ring, and my balance would go out the window with increased exposure. But, as time and cleaner living have continued, my mold sensitivity has gotten much better.

What we all need to remember, though, is that once you have been made ill by mold, you never have free license to live just anywhere. Always be mindful of the health of your indoor environments and never take your recovery for granted! Your health is a gift and should be guarded and respected as it is the most valuable thing that you have.

I also recognize the importance of how much current knowledge of the ill effects of mold has grown and how that knowledge has shaped new products and tools for those suffering. For example, if the EC3 products that are available now had been accessible when I was ill, I am sure my recovery would have taken less time.  I could have done so much more to make my environment safe than I was able to do then. Just being able to spray down surfaces, wash clothing to clear spores to mitigate daily exposures, and fog regularly to keep spore counts down inside have been wonderful for tools for keeping me healthy. In addition, having Sinus Defense in my toolbox has made this journey much easier, because my ability to take a “mold hit” is much greater and my resilience and recovery time has improved. I don’t have to live my life worried that mold will take me out. I just go into every situation prepared and armed with the knowledge of what to do to help myself should I be exposed.

Comments? Questions? Or, maybe you have a mold story to share? We also love your feedback and suggestions for future articles. Please comment below or write to us at newsletter@sinusitiswellness.com. In addition, all supplements referenced in this article without direct links can purchased at https://wellevate.me/susantanner/.

About the Author:

Catherine Fruechtenicht is a freelance writer, blogger, and former magazine editor. She currently dedicates her time and resources to running her blog www.moldfreeliving.com, where she discusses practical tips for health and wellness for the growing population of people dealing with mold- or environmentally-triggered illness. Having dealt with chronic and debilitating symptoms caused by mold in her own home, she shares expert information, tips, and experiential knowledge from her and her family’s journey back to wellness on her blog to help others find hope and healing.


  1. Pam August 22, 2019 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    How long did you do this protocol for ?

    • Susan Tanner August 24, 2019 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      I began getting better in about 6 weeks. But, I had been ill for over 4 months before starting it. Fogging my belongings and getting out of the house made a huge difference.

  2. Pam Allgood August 2, 2019 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    If you are looking for a mold doctor, it is Dr Donald Dennis in Atlanta. My husband was at the end of his rope and we saw Dr Susan Tanner (who is absolutely wonderful) but she told us within the first 30 minutes of our appointment with her that it was mold and the best expert was Dr. Dennis.
    My husband saw both of these doctors for several years and I credit Dr Tanner for initial diagnosis and Dr Dennis for providing the ongoing protocol.
    Seven years later my husband is much better but we still run dehumidifiers and air purifiers 24/7 because we live in an old (200+ years) house that was remediated but could succumb to mold again as it it total wood construction inside and out.

    • Catherine August 3, 2019 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Thank you for writing. Both Dr. Dennis and Dr. Tanner appreciate your comments and recommendation. Everything you said is also so important to share with others suffering from mold-related illness, as being recovered and healthy is an ongoing process and once you have the exposure that takes you “over the limit” and makes you sick, you must always be diligent and vigilant when it comes to mold. It may seem frustrating and never-ending, but it keeps you well. Hope you are both staying healthy.

  3. Anonymous July 30, 2019 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    How can I be tested for mold exposure! I worked for 3 years where mold was in the heating & air system! The man I worked for became ill with breathing issues & tired all the time! Lots of issues but he passed away! I’ve been sick for the last 3 years & drs can’t find anything with several test they’ve done! I’m wondering if my sickness could be mold exposure! Please tell me how to get tested! Thanks! Where’s this dr located?

  4. Laura L Rauch July 30, 2019 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Wow now I know what is causing my ears to ring when I go certain places was always afraid to say anything because a lot of people already think I am crazy in my life why are people so resistant to acknowledge that mold will do terrible things to your health not just allergy symptoms? Wish my family would educate themselves because some day they may find themselves in my shoes.

  5. Ann Thompson July 30, 2019 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Dr. Tanner is one of the most compassionate doctors around..My husband and I were both patients of hers. She is precious!

    • Catherine July 30, 2019 at 4:17 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for writing! We are so happy to have her contributing to the newsletter. Her writing will be a regular feature.

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