For Nicole and Manoli, Co-Founders of The Living Fuel, Environment ALWAYS Comes First
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was May 17th, 2019, and I woke up unable to move the whole right side of my body. Pins and needles ran from the top of my head down to the bottoms of my feet. I sat at the edge of my bed and started to panic; I was disoriented and unaware of my surroundings in my seemingly unfamiliar bedroom. Little did I know that this day would be the beginning of the most pivotal next few years of my life.
Over the course of that week, I visited what felt like every neurological specialist in the state of New York looking for answers. These doctors were “best of the best” in their field, yet none could give me clarity or an actionable game plan. Luckily, during this time, I also stumbled upon an ENT who recognized my symptoms, and he decided to immediately test me for Lyme disease. When my results came back positive, I was absolutely floored. I had never heard of Lyme disease nor did I know what a long journey I was about to face in order to heal.
Throughout the next year, I tried to attack Lyme from many different angles with the guidance of over 10 different doctors. I finally had some success with one integrative clinic and overtime was able to keep my neurological symptoms at bay. Unfortunately, though, my other symptoms–constant immune dysregulation, sinus issues, food sensitivities, and brain fog–were not under control.
It was at this time that my partner Manoli and I decided to move out of our tiny New York City apartments and head to the sun in Miami, Florida. I had been starting to learn more about mold toxicity and its connection with Lyme disease activation but had not looked into it enough. We thought that a change of scenery might do my health some good.
Once in Miami, we moved into a beautiful building that was relatively new and fully furnished. Within just a week of living there, I felt a flood of my Lyme symptoms return. I had a low-grade fever, head pressure, and my energy levels plummeted. Luckily, around the same time, I began working with a doctor in Miami and after hearing my symptoms, he immediately ordered a Great Plains Mycotoxin Urine Test for my body and an ERMI test for my home.
My body came back extremely high for Stachybotrys, a very dangerous, toxic, black mold, and several other molds as well. Even more surprisingly, our brand new, beautiful apartment came back with dangerously high levels of mold–4 times the livable limit! Manoli and I couldn’t comprehend how this home could have mold, especially without a single visible indicator of it!
Over the next few months, Manoli and I consulted with several doctors and environmental experts. Pretty much all of them said the same thing. No matter how many supplements you take, no matter how clean you eat, no matter how much you are detoxing, you cannot heal from mold while living in mold. We also learned that, if we moved, certain porous items could be dangerous to keep and take with us, because those items could risk cross-contaminating a new, clean space. I think coming to terms with needing to let go of so many of our things was the hardest pill to swallow.
Now on the hunt for a safe place to live, we ERMI tested my parent’s home down the street. By God’s grace, it came back extremely low. I immediately packed my bag with only a few important items and left our apartment. Within just a few days of living at my parent’s home, I felt like a new person. My brain fog cleared, my body aches stopped, and I woke up with tons of energy. This made me feel like I made the right decision and gave me the validation I needed to keep going.
I will say that moving out of our apartment was one of my saddest days. Over 20 years of collecting items and clothing were down the drain; that reality hit me all at once. To heal my body, I chose to get rid of all of my porous items, which is every article of clothing I have ever owned. This may seem extreme, but for me, health was my top priority over any items that would be making me sick.
The hunt for a new apartment was also extremely stressful as finding a mold-free space was seemingly impossible at the time. We would ERMI test anything that checked the boxes for a healthy home, but with the market being so hot in Miami at the time, apartments would be taken before I could even get this $500 test back. It was frustrating and defeating, but after a few months of tests, viewings, and planning we finally found an apartment that came back with a low ERMI score and was everything we were looking for.
Like I said before, we decided not to bring anything from our previous homes into our new clean place and started completely new. We then began doing all we could to keep our home mold levels low by regularly cleaning and keeping the indoor humidity under 55 percent. We really leaned into our products by Micro Balance like our EC3 Mold Spray for anything that comes through the door, our EC3 Laundry Additive for all of our clothes, and our EC3 Air Purification Candles to reduce mold spores in the air. Another important piece to improving your indoor air quality is an air filter. (We love the Molekule and the Air Doctor.)
I am happy to report that since moving into a mold-free space, my symptoms have reduced significantly and I feel amazing. I am on a protocol for mold toxicity which includes binders and daily detox through saunas and rebounding. I feel that the true learning lesson here is that environment is everything when it comes to chronic illness. I was doing everything in my power to heal, but I was living in an environment that was making me sick.
Because of our experience (Manoli has his own story that he will share next), Manoli and I founded a wellness consultancy, The Living Fuel, to help those going through similar health struggles. We now coach clients on healing from mold toxicity and other chronic illnesses. The world of chronic illness is dominated by the feeling of sheer helplessness. My aim is to give compassionate guidance to those struggling that I so desperately wish I could have had when I felt lost with my health. I have now made the mission of helping others my life’s work.
My name is Manoli, and my story begins in New York City. During my first year in New York, I was doing everything wrong. I was working a high-stress consulting job, partying late on the weekends, eating out almost every meal, drinking tap water, and exposing my body to a high load of environmental toxins like EMFs, plastic, toxic chemicals, etc., you name it.
As you would expect, my body started to wear down, and I quickly started to get all of the “itis’s”…tonsillitis, cystitis, and you guessed it, sinusitis as well as a host of other issues like hypothyroidism and autoimmunity. I had no idea that my lifestyle was putting so much stress on my body, even though it was giving me all the signs. To solve the health problems I was experiencing, I started seeing western doctors and antibiotic after antibiotic, I was not feeling any better. I was just putting a Band-Aid on my illness and only making matters worse.
After over a year of chronic health issues and frustration, I decided to change things up and started seeing natural medicine practitioners and integrative doctors to get to the bottom of what was really going on. I quickly began to realize that my lifestyle and diet weren’t all that great, and despite me exercising 4 days per week and cooking a few times a week, my body needed more help. I started with an anti-inflammatory diet plan, similar to Whole 30, and put a larger emphasis on good sleep hygiene and nutritional supplementation. Within 6 months of sticking to my plan, my thyroid bounced back, and my bladder flares became less frequent, but my sinus issues still persisted, so I dove deeper.
I started seeing an integrative ENT, and he took a look at my MRIs and suggested I avoid surgery since he did not think it necessary to solve my sinus issues. In fact, he suspected my sinus symptoms were gut-related and specifically tied to Candida, so he put me on a yeast detox protocol, had me do daily nasal rinses, antibacterial sinus sprays, and an entire array of supplements. About 6 months later, there were still no major improvements in my airway obstruction and in my recurring infections. After all of that hard work and time, I pretty much gave up on solving my sinus issues and figured I would have to live with it.
A few years later, as Nicole mentioned above, we left NYC and moved to Miami into a beautiful, brand new, top-of-the-line, and unbeknownst-to-us, mold-infested apartment! This only made things worse–more sinus infections and more sickness. It was then that I started to piece things together and realized that all of my apartments in NYC were water damaged, were more than 60 years old, and had ALL of the signs of mold. So, like Nicole, I did some testing. The Great Plains Mycotoxin panel showed that I did have mold in my body. Once I knew what was causing so many of my health problems, I attacked it from all angles with my new integrative doctor in Miami. We killed, cleansed, detoxed, and rebuilt my gut and body over the course of 5 months. I broke out in acne at one point, had detox headaches, restless, sleepless nights, and even managed to get COVID through all the madness. I made it out alive, and have never felt better. My brain fog, sleep, and energy levels are at their all-time bests. My thyroid issue went away completely as did my chronic “itis’s” and the autoimmune markers on my labs. I now am only a few weeks out of the mold protocol and will be monitoring my mycotoxin levels and doing more labs this year.
If you can relate to my story, I hope you do not waste your time with quick fixes as I did. I hope you can get to the bottom of what’s going on. I finally found the cause of my health decline by getting real lab work done to investigate my gut and what was going on in my body. It seems that mold was the main driver for me, and all the stress I was putting on my body in New York definitely didn’t help much. If you think your environment is making you sick, you aren’t crazy! Mold is everywhere these days thanks to drywall and less-than-optimal building practices. You don’t always see or smell mold either as was the case with our Miami apartment. Mold can be living behind the walls in a brand new building. It only takes some water intrusion to get it started. So take the time and make the investment to check your current environment for mold, or, before you jump into a new lease, take the time to test the home BEFORE you sign anything or move in, especially if you suspect you have a chronic illness.