Despite my vast amounts of knowledge on health, my own has been declining. As such, I have undergone some radical life changes. I’m two days away from my 53rd birthday, my children are not so dependent on me anymore, and at long last I am getting back to me.
Years ago I tested very high for mold sensitivity, to all molds. Somewhere along the line I developed that. But I was stuck with my family situation and filed the info under “deal with later” in my brain. Well that was probably about 10 years ago and I am reopening that file.
My health significantly worsened after living in a very moldy house for a while. I moved out but everywhere I lived in the PNW it seemed mold was a constant companion. Fortunately, I am not one of those people who becomes acutely sick, and I credit my functional medicine knowledge, genetic predisposition, and luck for that. But I was gradually worsening with fatigue, chronic sinus issues, exercise intolerance, weight gain and weight loss resistance, and increasing neurological “glitches,” primarily my right foot rhythmically cramping and my balance worsening.
So I did something drastic and left the PNW for the high desert, getting rid of most of my belongings in the process. Although this was primarily about mold, it was about other facets of health: Being outdoors in nature more and not in a city, having more joy and passion in life, and being true to my life path. These are all facets of autoimmune management and recovery from chronic illnesses such as mold illness. When you’re a mom, living for others becomes your default mode, but my health was now banging on the door to get back to my own self-care. My Great Plains Lab Mycotoxin illness test results and my nasal swab test for staph, both positive, were the kick in the pants.
The right supplements, diet, and healthy lifestyle practices all matter a ton, and I was doing my best to follow those. But one thing that was sticking with me throughout this journey was the importance of oxygenation. Just because you can breathe doesn’t mean your cells are getting enough oxygen. With poor oxygenation you get poor cellular energy and function, your cells don’t get enough of the nutrients they need, and your immune system is not able to get beneficial immune compounds to the far corners of your body. This is why chronic foot and nail fungal infections are an issue with poor oxygenation, along with erectile dysfunction in men.
I could tell my ATP was in the toilet because I had to be really careful about exercise as overdoing it just a smidgeon caused a relapse. My feet are also cold regularly and when I sleep at night I have to keep my hands under a blanket. I know this is an oxygenation issue because in general I run hot and like sleeping in a cold room.
My first impulse was a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) chamber. But lordy they are expensive, either to use in home or to pay for sessions. I just didn’t have the budget for that approach, although you could argue I’m just not sick enough. HBOT has helped a lot of people, especially with brain issues, so I’m in no way knocking it. I’m just not ready to be impoverished in order to avail myself of it.
Through my research process I discovered Exercise with Oxygen Therapy (EWOT). This entails inhaling pure oxygen generated by an oxygen generator while getting your heart rate up so it reaches more of your cells through dilated arteries and capillaries.
I have seen EWOT before and always assumed it wasn’t for me because the ads show super fit young athletes using it. It seemed to be geared toward the young male Crossfit crowd who want to be even stronger and fitter than they already are. I’m a middle-aged overweight mom and thus assumed I was not a good candidate for this therapy.
However, my present mold illness situation made me explore more because it is a more financially accessible option. I know when we get our heart rates up through high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that a multitude of good things happen: vessels dilate, more oxygen gets to our cells and our brain and we trigger the release of the extremely beneficial chemical brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which dampens brain inflammation and promotes brain health and regeneration.
We trigger the release of endothelial nitric oxide (eNOS), which is a great anti-inflammatory and brain supporter.
We also trigger the release of endorphins, also anti-inflammatory and excellent at helping modulate autoimmunity and support recovery from chronic immune conditions. Plus endorphins make you feel awesome.
In other words, if you are chronically ill and not doing HIIT exercising or at least moving regularly, you will never reach your recovery potential. But, of course, for the chronically unwell person, things like chronic fatigue, exercise intolerance, and poor motivation and depression from inflammation-induced low dopamine can make regular HIIT exercise seem insurmountable. I get it!
This is where EWOT comes in. It seems to have pretty thorough science behind, it was developed in Germany (extra science cred lol), and it jives with what I already know about increased oxygenation for better health. I would be taking all the mechanisms that get triggered by exercising and supercharging them by breathing oxygen.
I went with the Maxx O2 system. There are a few out there and I’m not knowledgable enough to say which is better than the other. In the end I liked the customer support of Maxx O2 and I liked that they had a system to push the oxygen from the bag into your mask as I read some people had to push on the bag to deflate it. (Full disclosure, I’m an affiliate now, so if you order through me I receive a small commission. EDIT: In my next post I talk about why I went with a different system in the end.)
I had credit through paypal with a zero financing period and am using that. The system came in at just over $3000. That is a lot for me, the purchase terrified me. I realize it is still not financially accessible for a lot of people, but I encourage you to check out the many DIY EWOT sources online, you can create a similar setup for a lot less.
I also bought a used spin bike and will follow the Peloton app for a while. At this point in my recovery, I don’t feel I can reliably commit to an expensive health club because some days I’m on and some days I feel like dog food (no offense to dog food). I love a social atmosphere with an enthusiastic coach like at Orange Theory Fitness, but I am really self-conscious about my performance on the days I feel like garbage. So, while I’m in mold illness recovery mode, I’m going to workout alone at home.
With the EWOT system, you generate 900 liters of oxygen to fill this huge hanging bag, then get your heart rate up for short periods over 15 minutes while breathing the oxygen. That is where the spin bike or a treadmill comes in, but I watched a guy on Youtube use EWOT while doing squats and pushups, so you don’t need exercise equipment — you just need to keep your head relatively stable since you’re wearing a giant oxygen mask. If you have health issues like me, you need to start with small doses — too much of a good thing can completely overwhelm your cells and crash your brain.
This is a huge, expensive experiment and I thought I would document my journey since there is relatively little on EWOT online, especially for people like me. I had a hard time finding user cases. If it’s a dud, I will say so. I think there needs to be more info for budget-conscious regular people like myself who are hoping to get healthier. Supplements and diets only go so far.
I will report regularly on my experience, what retests from labs show, and how I feel.