Mold, Weight Gain, and Weight Loss
Updated: Apr 15, 2022
When it comes to mold and weight, rarely do people make a connection.
I surely didn't when I became really obese in our home that was full of hidden mold and biotoxins at the time.
In the beginning, I was a pregnant first time mom, who until 7 months pregnant, barely had a baby bump.
When we moved into our new home I was around 2 months pregnant, until that 6 month mark, I stayed very small in the stomach area and I looked like a very fit mom. You really couldn't tell if I was pregnant I walked 3 miles home from work most nights, and worked out regularly at home to maintain a level of physical stamina I knew would be important to make it through natural labor.
When the six-seven month mark came around, I quickly ballooned up- it took the last ~3 months of my pregnancy for me to put on 35 more pounds. I visually looked a lot bigger. I attribute this to fat gain, inflammation , and the baby growing. The weight gain in the last 3 months of my pregnancy was intense for me to see. I justified it in the misguided way like many others do - it's just normal baby weight. It will fall off after the baby comes.
In reality, it may have been some of this, but it was also spring time- where everything is rainy and wet, and mold blooms like a motherfucker. So inside of my home, it was prime time for mold to grow, spores to grow, and me to breathe them in or ingest them- bringing them into the perfect environment to grow, my body.
My body was affected:
1) My body increased fat stores, because my body was trying to protect me: environmental pollutants/toxins are stored in fatty tissue as a means of 'locking them up' so they can't wander around the body doing as much damage.
2) Increased fat stores and toxins in the body directly lead to inflammation
3) Fatty stores and inflammation lead to leptin resistance
4) Leptin resistance causes disrupted signals to the brain and confuses your body in regards to 'feeling full' when eating
5) Without ever feeling full your body signals you to eat more
6) You continue to increase caloric intake while still being continually hungry which leads to weigh gain.
7) You also endure chemical and hormonal shifts internally due to mold which affect hunger cues, satiety, and metabolic changes. These all affect your weight.
8) Go back up to #2 and repeat, and repeat, and repeat...etc
(Me at 220 pounds right before we had our first child.)
From an original "normal for me" weight of ~170 (I am 5'10") I went up to 220lbs during my first pregnancy. A 50 pound weight gain. I lost 20 pounds post birth, and no other weight was coming off during breastfeeding, like I was promised by every mom-friend personal conversation, ad, or book assured me it would.
(This was the first indication that I began to process in how we truly are all bio-individual and that we should begin to let go of "shoulds" because there everything has shades of grey and affects each of us differently. A lot of major life events we will experience may have similar themes or optional outcomes but nothing is guaranteed to us as promised because our biology effects everything.)
So, hanging around at 200 pounds became my norm for a while as I settled into post partum, and I began to work out again. I strength-trained, ran distance at least 3 times a week, and did yoga. I ate mostly pretty well, as I was still vegetarian, so I thought I was winning, but I was a too-exhausted-to-cook-so-instead-I'll-eat-processed-foods vegetarian with an insane sweet tooth (from the mold and candida inside of me.) I also felt like I couldn't eat enough and was always hungry. But that's what people tell you to expect when you breastfeed. And sure, you need to eat enough to nourish yourself and a baby, but I was eating all the time and never felt satiated.
One of the things I did after having my first child was to run my first marathon. (I previously had run a half marathon while pregnant, and did pretty well.) I had done halves a few times before and wanted a challenge now. I wanted to rediscover my physical abilities, in spite of how I looked. I wanted to be supermom and push myself to limits I knew deep inside I could mentally and physically handle. I wanted to show myself that I could do anything if my mind was set to it. I wanted to know that my body was still capable even if I looked different. I trained for 2 months and completed my first marathon whilst weighing 200 pounds.
(After this race I'd spend the next three years navigating life as a stay at home mom, inside of the mold and biotoxin infested home- with our child, racking up more and more issues internally.
I'd experience a great number of other symptoms only to have them explained away with my being post-partum, or encountering our second preganacy, or adjusting to life as a new parent of one, and then later two kids. I would explain away my symptoms as me adjusting to SAHMing, or losing my identity as a human outside of being a parent. There were just so many symptoms, and so much writing them off.
Because in America, that's what we do. Unless something is acute- we rationalize it away as something that doesn't matter enough to truly warrant medical exploration and treatment, or we medicate it away until it becomes a larger problem.
...and I don't like medication, so I ignored it all.
Three years and a couple months later:
I joined up a team of friends as we completed our annual Tough Mudder event, (one that I'd had to sit out of during pregnancy the year before.) It felt so good to be active, and I had a good time, but all the while I had these deep seated- ...feelings. I had been wrestling with them for years at this point.
I didn't understand how I was running and training, and weight lifting, and doing yoga, rowing, and eating less, and no still fat was coming off. I was feeling tired of waiting for my body to catch up with how physically strong I felt inside. Why was I still so fat? Why was I always hungry? Why did my skin feel so tight. Why when I ran, did my body slough back and forth like a sack of wet flour around my core of bones and muscles? Was this really what life after having kids was supposed to be like?
Midrun, I turned to one of the people in our group, (who was more of an acquaintance than a close friend), but I still knew him to have a very understanding nature.
In that desperate moment I needed to spill the deep secret I had been carrying around for a long time:
"It's the weirdest thing, and I don't understand it... I feel like I'm running in a fat suit.
Like my outsides don't match what is inside of me. I feel muscular and solid inside, while all around me I'm just trapped in this huge suit of fat. I literally feel like it is stretching me and my skin could split open at any second because it is so tight."
In hindsight, this was probably a lot to dump onto someone else, especially 10 miles into a 12 mile adventure/obstacle race where we were all beginning to get fatigued, but he handled it with grace and again assured me again that it was probably residual baby weight and that my body would recover eventually with time.
This was a profound moment in my life; specifically when it comes to my reflecting on my health and wellness.
That moment always stuck with me because I felt like it was my first time acknowledging out loud that I knew something was deeply wrong. Until that moment, I'd held it in like a weird dirty shameful secret- my body felt wrong. I wrestled with thinking that and allowing myself to know I really had a problem. I didn't understand myself anymore. I didn't know what it was though, and I didn't know what else to do.
(my team crossing the last obstacle right before the finish of Tough Mudder)
A year later, I went back and ran the race again.
My teammates were too busy to join me this year, but I really wanted to go and do this activity for myself. I ran alone.
I finished the race, with me at my heaviest- 233 pounds. I got extra cheers from people along the course as I did obstacles because people just couldn't seem to believe someone so fat could have so much stamina and athletic ability.
(climbing "Everest" the halfpipe obstacle)
(at the finish)
After the finish and drive home, my body's energy stores quit after that race.
It was my last physically active hurrah for a long while.
My mitochondria were now also fucked, a thing I didn't learn about until much later on.
(me at my heaviest 233lbs)
When you think of mold, rarely does weight gain seem to be a topic of discussion. Normally people relate mold to allergies or lung infections.
Your average allopathic doctor almost certainly doesn't know about this.
That is because mold effects everyone differently based on biology and other factors, but can be a driving factor in your inability to lose weight, or to generally look and feel inflamed.
"Leptin is a hormone released from the fat cells located in adipose tissues. It sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain. This particular hormone helps regulate and alter long-term food intake and energy expenditure, not just from one meal to the next. The primary function of leptin is to help the body maintain its weight, but because it comes from fat cells, the amount of leptin in your system is directly connected to the amount of body fat you carry. This can create a conundrum. If you add fat to your frame, leptin levels will increase. If you lower body fat percentage, then leptin will decrease.
Why is this a problem?
Well, leptin is sometimes called the satiety hormone. It helps inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so the body does not trigger hunger responses when it does not need energy. However, when levels of the hormone fall, which happens when an individual loses weight, the lower levels can trigger huge increases in appetite and food cravings. This, in turn, can make weight loss more difficult.
When the body is functioning properly, excess fat cells will produce leptin, which will trigger the hypothalamus to lower the appetite, allowing the body to dip into the fat stores to feed itself. Unfortunately, when someone is obese, that individual will have too much leptin in the blood. This can cause a lack of sensitivity to the hormone, a condition known as leptin resistance. Because the individual keeps eating, the fat cells produce more leptin to signal the feeling of satiety, leading to increased leptin levels. This is a similar mechanism seen in diabetes with sugar and a hormone called insulin. Low levels of leptin are rare, but can occasionally occur. Without leptin, the body thinks it has no body fat, and this signals intense, uncontrolled hunger and food intake. This often manifests in severe childhood obesity and delayed puberty.
Recent research has shared something interesting. Leptin is susceptible to the balance of the gut microbiome and toxins. When the gut microbiome is altered from dysbiotic flora, we see an increase in leptin resistance, potentially making it much harder to lose weight. The question may arise, “What came first? The obesity or the poor gut health?” Poor diet and increased calories can cause a person to become obese and over time alter the gut microbiome to make it harder to lose weight, so really they happen almost simultaneously and seemingly synergistically, in most cases, to amplify leptin resistance.
Another recent finding is that mold toxicity can induce leptin resistance. This occurs when toxic levels of mold enter your body and either alter your gut microbiome or alter your leptin receptors. Either of these have can have the same effect and hinder weight loss. This one is more of the patient being an innocent bystander to the toxic effects of the environment and gaining weight or not losing weight because of it.
So, what can we do about these setbacks? Well first and foremost, with any problem involving toxins or the gut, we have to address the diet and lifestyle. Avoid inflammatory foods, and increase anti-inflammatory foods, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and taking certain supplements can help overcome leptin resistance. There is also testing available that can show your doctor if mold is elevated in your body, from there we can work at supporting the body to get rid of the mold (and candida), which in turn may help leptin resistance."
^^^^^^^^^Above section taken from https://gatewaynaturalmedicine.com/how-mold-and-gut-health-can-affect-your-weight/
See also this quick chart:
^^^ Taken from https://blog.131method.com/how-to-repair-leptin/
Before I knew that my issues were mold related, I strictly cold turkey jumped onto AIP paleo myself for 2 months and lost 60 pounds. While that was probably a great move in theory for me to begin reducing inflammation and starving the mold and candida in my body,
I actually went through hell because:
- things inside of me were dying and fat stores were being depleted thus releasing a metric fuck ton of toxins into my body before I understood the intricacies of detoxing correctly- so I was recirculating toxins 24/7. Very painful. Very debilitating. Absolutely made me feel like I was dying at all hours of the day, every day for months.
- I was MCAS reactive to foods now and I didn't know it as such- so my body was responding very poorly to everything I was eating, until I started removing foods and ended up whittled down to around 30 foods I could eat "safely," ...meaning without actual anaphylaxis or extreme gastrointestinal pain and voiding.
(-There was more hell during this period, but I'm trying to finish this post quickly before my kids get out of nap.)
I ended up losing 80 pounds in the first 4 months of treatment total, and having body image issues I had never ever had before, because I just looked so drastically different, so quickly, and also felt so shitty.
Finally I researched enough and found my integrative doctor to treat my many wild issues and she began to educate me about what the fuck was even going on in my body. It's been a long road of understanding and working on listening to my body's symptoms- which are actually its attempts to communicate to me about my health.
As I began my wellness journey I shot from one extreme of weight to the other.
From too fat to too thin.
It wasn't intentional. I was working with an integrative dr. and a nutritionist team at Buffalo Dieticians.
It was just how fucked up my body and digestive system, (and other systems) had become from mold and mycotoxins.
(me at my very lightest weight 143, 90 pounds down from my heaviest. I lost most of the curves from my body, and my new size small or medium clothes hung off of me. This was not an intentional look. This was mold-induced issues in my body leading to an eventual cascade of reasons that weight fell off of me.)
(me 5' 10" at 143 pounds just trying to figure out how to dress in ambiguous comfortable clothing, really missing having any boobs or butt at all but trying to stay positive)
(When I first finally began being able to put on weight again, finally about 4 months ago, I celebrated finally having enough "gut" for it to lip out over my shorts again.)
Working through removing mold and candida from my body has been a long and meticulous process. I am at almost 2 years of working on it, and am about 78% better. Better from literally being at death's door, so it still feels like miles from where I was when I was "totally heathy" before mold, before children, before adulthood,- but honestly, who's to say that anyone really is totally healthy.
I am still working on trying to reconnect with the idea that my body can be thin, that my visual look can be thin, (which to be honest was how I was most of my life until pregnancy and being a mom.) Though I am thin for my height, I have finally been accumulating some strength again; therefore, I am relearning that shape and size do not necessarily equal ability, and thinness is okay as long as I am eating healthy and recovering.
I have always been proud of my strength and athletic abilities, and now need to marry the natural "look" of myself with my abilities, and appreciate them for what they are.
I am working every day on rediscovering that grace and appreciation for myself in a body-image type way.
Dealing with Extreme Weight Gain and then Extreme Weight Loss with Mold and Co. has been one of the most uncomfortable mental battles during this journey because the understanding that my mind always had about my body's known form and its abilities were broken.
My mind and body weren't in sync, they didn't make sense, and I didn't know myself anymore. It was mentally scary for me until I finally had answers. It lead to some body image stuff I never had ever before in my life, and every person commenting on my weight during this whole journey has been like taking arrows to the chest. I either completely avoided mirrors for weeks, or would stare at them for half an hour at a time trying to figure out who the hell was in there looking back at me, and what they were actually capable of.
People initially commented how "good" I looked when I dropped 80 pounds rapidly. They didn't comment on my hair loss, or the huge dark rings on my eyes, or how slowly I had to walk because I had muscle atrophy, or when my POTS would make me wobble and sway whenever I stood up or sat down on the sidewalk to try and play with my kids.
People see thin and wish for it themselves, and/or they associate it with wellness.
People see what they want to see, and they don't like to hear about it when the truth isn't good. I have always made it very clear to people when they congratulated me on my new weight and size, that I have a horrifically serious medical condition that was the cause and that I would never wish anyone to lose weight the way I did.
People trigger me when they ask me when I'm going to gain back weight, or ask my why I haven't gained weight back yet. People scoff at my limited diet and ask when am I going to be able to eat "real food" again now that I am doing a bit better in recovery. (The irony here is that I only eat "real food" now, they are referring to the standard American diet which is a fucking nightmare for people with chronic illness.)
People trigger me when they say things like, don't lose anymore weight, when in reality I eat carefully considered meals of around 1200-1500 calories at least in each meal of which I have 3 a day. I have malabsorption issues lingering, I have leptin issues lingering, I still have mold and mycotoxins in my body, I am still dealing with candida. It took me at least 6 years to get into this position, it's going to take a while to get out of, and because my illness is mostly invisible to people, my weight and body shape are the thing people comment on most from their perspective of my illness.
I'm not fat enough for some people to be comfortable looking at my body because it is very thin, bony, and lacking mostly all of my curves/muscle to be proportional for my height.
but I'm thin enough for other people who tell me my body looks good, that I can wear anything now, and tell me that now I truly have the body of a runner.
I'm not fat enough for some people who constantly ask me when I am going to gain weight again, and remind me with distress in their eyes on every visit that... I am really thin.
but I am thin enough for other people to ask me what diet or method I used to lose much weight. I see satisfaction in their eyes as they roll them over my body in assessment.
Social commentary on Weight is a fucking stupid thing to have to waste any mental capacity on in general in this world, and I hate that now because of mold I feel like I have to right deal with talking about weight now.
Health and wellness are by far and large the bigger issue at hand than weight. All shapes and sizes can have health. Health is what matters.
We have nothing else if we do not have health.
If you or anyone you know are going through mold illness and co. and dealing with weight gain or weight loss- you are absolutely not alone. It will affect most of us in one way or the other, and unfortunately some of us will deal with both scenarios.
The beautiful news is this:
We are alive in a time whereby we know why these things are happening. We have strategies to work through fixing them. We have outlets and safe spaces to contact each other through to talk through our feelings and experiences with other who get it.
If you need someone to reach out to, I'm here.