Maintaining Compliance With Lifestyle Changes and the Hard Work Required to Heal From Mold
As a practitioner and a patient myself, I understand that being 100% treatment compliant on an ongoing basis can be difficult. With functional and environmental medicine, the patient is primarily in the driver’s seat, because a commitment must be made to make necessary lifestyle choices for complete healing to take place. With mold-triggered illness, though, the commitment can be overwhelming as it spans indoor environmental changes, air quality improvements, diet, exercise, and other significant life alterations required to get better. Thus, support and explanation from the practitioner are crucial. Patients need support and tools to believe that, indeed, they will get better, and that they are capable of taking the necessary and sometimes difficult steps to make it happen. And even when a patient “buys in” and embarks on their journey to healing, maintaining treatment compliance for the long term requires continual dedication and planning.
Healing Is Not Always Easy
I think we would all like a magic pill that can offer an instant solution to a problem, but mold-related illness is anything but simple which makes strategies for healing more complex. Because each patient is different and may have a different response to treatments and therapies, the details of each treatment plan may vary from one patient to another. I do believe, though, that every patient requires lifestyle changes, which involve “must-d0s”, like maintaining clean indoor air, drinking clean water, and consuming clean food, all of which have been brought up frequently in previous articles. HOW we manage to maintain those pillars of health is through several systems which, I believe, must involve ongoing education, goal setting, and feedback. Working with the right practitioners or coaches can become instrumental in success.
Education, through reading, courses, and research, helps a patient to understand the rationale behind the suggested changes in lifestyle. Obviously, there will be different opinions and ideas with regard to any particular topic, so try to focus on easy-to-digest materials; the goal is not to overwhelm but to inform. It is also helpful to have different formats of education available–videos, reading, podcasts, and webinars–because everyone learns differently. I also try to encourage my patients to never be timid about asking questions! If a practitioner does not have time or a desire to answer your questions, you probably are not with the correct professional to guide you in your healing journey. In my opinion, questions are a sign of interest and personal investment in the solution. Without questions, we can never arrive at answers, so keep asking!
Goal setting is a step that many patients and practitioners forget or neglect to mention. I think we may be so focused on the problem at hand and on the desire to be “well” that the incremental steps and their importance may not be given the emphasis that they deserve. How some of the needed changes can impact day-to-day life needs to be addressed as well. An example is dietary changes, especially in a household of others who either don’t need to or don’t desire to make any of the same changes, such as changing to a gluten-free or low-sugar diet. Setting smaller goals to work up to a bigger change, like substituting berries for a sweet dessert, or the addition of one vegetable a day may be more doable than a “ do-everything-at-once-without-a-plan” approach. Writing down goals in a notebook can also help with personal empowerment and accountability. This exercise can help you see how far you have come and how your goals are changing over the course of your journey. While the journey may feel daunting at the beginning, I find that setting, achieving, and reviewing goals empowers and strengthens a patient’s resolve and desire to stick with the long-term plan.
Have you ever made a to-do list? Do you find that checking things off the list makes you feel both accountable and accomplished as you get the items done? I find that any way of organizing a treatment plan keeps patients less overwhelmed and more compliant. Sometimes the supplements, medications, and treatments become unwieldy by the sheer number and times of day needed. Writing down a chart or schedule and posting it in a conspicuous, prominent, and noticeable place is very helpful. Either labeling the lids or caps of supplements or meds with the number and time of day when taken or loading a pill organizer weekly is good. If doing sauna or oxygen therapy, planning well ahead of time when this will be done makes the treatment a scheduled event which you are much less likely to forget or decide to forgo.
Feedback is the next step in maintaining compliance. Certainly, personal journaling and noting improvements or setbacks is extremely helpful in ascertaining if the treatment plan is working or not. Then, sharing that information with your practitioner is extremely important. As we navigate the path of treatment, your response to the plan helps to formulate steps forward. Part of that feedback may have to do with the food diary, responses to certain foods, sleep, exercise, recovery, and so forth.
When it comes to feedback, I do find that certain wearable devices and digital apps and tools are remarkable in assessing and quantifying feedback. While we need to know the subjective improvements, such as how one feels, being able to see how the body is responding is quite important. I have found the Oura ring to be particularly helpful in looking at heart rate variability, sleep patterns, exercise recovery, and even nighttime oxygen levels. There are numerous apps that are available which can help with behavioral change and mindfulness. A few ones I like and use are HeadGear, Drink Water Aquarium, and Lifesum: Food and Macro Tracker.
Even Doctors Have Trouble With Compliance
Treatment and recovery from mold-related illness is a journey. I don’t think any of us have a free license to breathe dirty air or to eat and drink with abandon, but truly, you can recover and live a “normal” life as long as you take care of yourself and are mindful!
With that said, I will share with you a personal story of recent times. As I have mentioned in previous articles, I became ill from mycotoxin exposure years ago while in my 40s. Thankfully, I recovered my health and, now in my mid-60s, consider myself to be in excellent health. However, a recent trip and the aftermath of it made me realize the necessity of not letting my guard down. During my travels, we visited many fascinating historic sites, but I realized, only too late, that many had substantial water damage. At first, I felt a little “off” but was determined not to allow this to interfere with my travel experiences. Furthermore, I neglected to irrigate my nasal passages to prevent mold spores from reaching my sinuses upon return to the hotel. My dietary habits during this trip were likewise a little laxer than usual as I allowed myself to experience local cuisine. I also did not take my probiotics or other supplements as my schedule was haphazard. Topping all of this off were a couple of long airline flights with lots of that recirculated air! Within two weeks of my return, I sought help from Dr. Dennis for tinnitus, nighttime mouth breathing, and snoring. A scope of my sinuses in his offices revealed, in his description, a “shag carpet” of mold and candida. So, it was back to antifungals, more diligent detox, nasal irrigation with CitriDrops twice daily, and antifungal nasal sprays. Today, I am doing fine. My point in telling you all of this is that some, if not all, of my aftermath sickness, could have been prevented if I had diligently followed the protocols that I knew to do when exposed (irrigate and spray) and to take my probiotics and follow my diet, even while traveling. We all fall off the wagon, the importance is that we realize it and understand we can get back to our good baseline if we follow the rules, get our organization going once again, and stay the course!