Once upon a time I was engaged. I was 21 years old and more in love than I had ever been, and perhaps more than I have even to this day as I sit here writing this at 6 am on a calm Summer morning. I lived with my fiancé and her children. Although life was a bit nutty at times. We had something. Something good. For a moment there, it was permanent. A family.
I was working as a Personal Trainer and Nutrition coach, advancing my education with new holistic trainings and credentials, while starting to develop my independent entrepreneurial business, Vermeire Consulting.
Health and Fitness was a major part of our relationship and life together! In fact, we originally met at the gym years before. We enjoyed going to the gym, training together, taking the kiddos to the pool or park, hunting and gathering clean eats at the local Costco, cooking and prepping our healthy meals for the week, teaching the kiddos proper nutrition and mindful eating.
For a while…life was good!
One morning in the late summer of 2014 I woke up to find my fiancé in great discomfort and pain. Her neck, shoulder, upper spine muscles were completely locked up like an unrelenting cramp from hell. She was to drive three hours out of town for work that day and was in crippling discomfort. Unable to even turn her head without compensating through hip and torso rotation.
As you can probably imagine, I did everything I could that morning to help. Trying to massage the steel cords that her muscles had frozen themselves into. Frantically asking Dr. Google one hundred and one questions on what causes such musculoskeletal and neurological glitches. Mixing improvised electrolyte and vitamin concoctions in the kitchen with our supplement stash to wash down some ibuprofen.
She proceeded with her 3-hour drive, unable to turn her head, and went through with her two-day work trip. After all, she was the primary caretaker and provider for 3 young children…
Being an XY chromosomal bipedal hominid, I by nature have an, “I can fix it!” complex. Like all men. 😉 But that weekend, I couldn’t. I was dead weight. Or at least that’s how I felt.
When she got home from her trip we began, what to this day were some of the hardest months of my entire life…
Crippling musculoskeletal pain, brain fog, impaired cognition, debilitating fatigue, intense spells of dizziness, vertigo, and nausea. These were just some of the symptoms that plagued our day to day family life.
We, of course, were quick to visit our primary care physician who immediately prescribed cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxer, and ran some blood work. The muscle-relaxing drug did nothing but incapacitate her with increased dizziness, decrease her motor control movement, and cognitive impairment symptoms.
As soon as the blood work returned, we met with our Doctor. Eager for answers.
“Everything looks normal,” we were told. Experimenting with different muscle relaxant drugs, participating in experimental inner ear crystal vestibular therapy, “have you ever tried chiropractic?” were the focal points of the conversation.
“Oh! And we included a genetic test. She has a genetic mutation known as MTHFR. This gene is involved in neurotransmitter production, so we’re going to compound a special vitamin supplement for her. This should help with some of the cognitive disturbances.” And off we went with our shot in the dark to-do list.
The muscle relaxants persisted to add nasty side effects. We met with a local Chiropractor who audaciously told us “I’m about to be your new best friend,” as she proceeded to do an upper spine and neck adjustment without any x-ray, or sophisticated analysis…on the very first office visit. The adjustment provided some musculoskeletal relief that day, but in the proceeding, days seemed to cause an enormous new wave of pain, dysfunction, and worsening of symptoms. Needless to say, there was not a second visit. And the previously brazen Doctor of Chiropractic mysteriously went silent and managed to avoid us and eye contact when picking her child up from school, which just so happened to be the same school my fiancé’s children went to.
After weeks of this new life routine of combatting crippling symptoms, the compounded vitamin supplement the Doctor had ordered arrived. It contained 7.5 mg of methylfolate and methylcobalamin, along with some n-acetyl-cysteine and vitamin d3. Being the holistic nutritional nerd that I was, I felt a spark of excitement that perhaps this would help!
At first, the supplement seemed to provide some relief! Many of the mysterious symptoms seemed to lighten. However, this too was a short-lived spark of hope. Within two weeks the symptoms weren’t just back…they were worse. Much worse. To the point, my once energetic and vibrant fiancé was bedridden in crippling pain and disorientation. Only leaving bed to provide her children with everything they needed, which took everything she had. To this day I have not seen love and devotion equivalent to hers towards her children.
I was anything but idle during this time. I poured myself into searching for answers on how I could help and what could be done. There had to be an answer. There had to be a root cause.
We came across the work of Dr. Ben Lynch, a naturopathic physician specializing in MTHFR and nutrigenomics. From both a professional and personal perspective, I was fixated. I immersed myself into methylation biochemistry and was blown away at what I learned. It quickly became evident that the MTHFR mutation did much more than being “involved in neurotransmitter production” as our doctor had previously shared. It also quickly became apparent that starting someone with methylation dysfunction on high dose methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methylated and bioactive b9 and b12) was a “rookie mistake” and a BIG No NO in the world of MTHFR.
In the following months, we continued this treacherous and hope shattering path. We continued to experiment with various methylation supplement strategies with marginal, inconsistent, and short-lived improvements. We tried a few sessions with a physical therapist. We were thrown various medications that we became increasingly resistant to trying. We looked into meeting with a local naturopathic physician, who we simply couldn’t afford to meet with due to the “out of pocket” nature of alternative medicine and modalities. We did a “parasite cleanse” as a family after reading about the detriment of GI parasitic infections. We did everything we could find that might yield results. Nothing helped.
The health and morale of the whole household steadily declined. Her son developed increasingly pronounced allergy and sinusitis symptoms, along with worsening and notable brain fog. I myself found my lifelong depressive and cognitive symptoms steadily increasing, along with disabling fatigue, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At one point I was taking 300 mg of Wellbutrin (a dopamine agnostic anti-depressant), 60 mg Vyvanse (the highest dose of an ADD/Anti-depressant prescription), 20 mg of Adderall (you know. For when the Vyvanse wears off in the afternoon.), a cup of coffee with an extra shot of an espresso packet at 4 am when I woke up for my early morning clients, 4 servings of pre-workout powder mid-morning before exercise, and another cup of coffee in the afternoon so I could stay alert while continuing my research, desperate for answers. Even with the disturbing dose of stimulants, I would literally find myself on the floor of the office taking an unplanned nap that only lasted until my fiancé arrived home with her three children, at which point we would begin our daily chaotic routine of after school activities, figuring out how to get everyone fed, doing homework, going back to work to train my evening clients when scheduled, getting kids to bed, and finding after-hours consumed with despair.
In between the unexplainable health challenges, typical life with 3 kids, disproving families on both sides, disproving peers, her son catching a firework in his eye while away from his maternal care, financial strain due to the children’s fathers, water damage to our home months prior, and a mouse infestation, it was a rough fall and winter.
To say that it felt like it was her and I against the world… Is the greatest understatement of my life thus far.
Within 4 months our lives crumbled. Our love as a couple and as a pseudo-family was unrecognizable.
At this point I’m going to spare you, and more so myself, from recounting the painful memories from the proceeding months that resulted in me finding myself living in my parent’s basement, heart-broken, broke, miserable, struggling with my health, and being dragged across rock bottom as the river of my life continued to move me downstream into an uncertain future.
I had been broken. Mind. Body. Spirit.
Life doesn’t stop its existential march towards continuity for us to heal.
We have the inherent and divine power of choice. The choice to evolve. Or remain the same. To continue facing the same challenges and setbacks. To allow ourselves to drown in our despair. Or to keep moving forward. To look within. To accept. To forgive. To persevere.
As I got my feet back under me, I turned my focus on my personal and professional growth. I ended up completing over 24 hours of continuing education credits for physicians in Methylation and Nutrigenomics, despite not having a medical license…or a college degree. I completed an advanced certification program in Holistic Nutrition (Metabolic Effect Level 1, 2, & 3). I completed a year-long advanced nutrition coaching certification that was the first public offering of its time (the first ever Precision Nutrition Level 2 Master Class). I finally took the plunge to pursue my dream of being a Functional Practitioner and enrolled in the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program.
It was then that my life began to transform. I immersed myself into the world of Functional Medicine and Holistic Healing. I became obsessed with “root cause” investigation to help those suffering reclaim their health.
I found myself.
I found my purpose.
After graduating as a new practitioner with a wealth of prior knowledge and credentials, I was relentless. I took no time to revel in my accomplishments and immediately dove into advanced clinical trainings. SIBO. Oxalates. Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis. Thyroid Dysfunction and Autoimmunity. Gluten Intolerance and Autoimmunity. Nutrigenomics. Parasite and Microbial Imbalances. Environmental Toxicants. Heavy Metals. EMF. Neurochemistry.
Just some of the many advanced clinical trainings I went through.
I left no stone un-turned. I served clients. Worked out. Ate food. Slept. Worked on building my business and brand. Continued my research and education.
Within 6 months of graduating as an FDN Practitioner I was hired as a Practitioner Mentor to guide professional students through their training. Within another 6 months, I was promoted to Clinical Advisor to help experienced practitioners navigate their client cases and make sense of their lab results. Within another 6 months, I was promoted again to be the Director of the Association of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners. I became the leader of our community of hundreds of professional Functional Practitioners that are devoted to helping guide clients back to health through an educational holistic model.
It was during this phase of my life that I discovered a root cause hidden stressor that changed the trajectory of my career and life, and brings my story full circle.
If you scroll back up to earlier in my story, you’ll notice that I italicized “water damage to our home months prior”. Through my work as a practitioner, I was exposed to the topic of Mold Illness.
Mold. A ubiquitous type of fungi that has flourished on planet Earth LONG before humans began walking its surface.
We all “know” about mold. We’ve all witnessed how quickly mold can grow on our produce.
Many of us have experienced water damage to our homes. Whether it was an overflowing bathtub that leaked into the garage below (as was the case with my fiancé and I), a washer that was backed up and flooded the kitchen (as happened to my parents’ previous home), or any other similar circumstance.
Unfortunately, water damage and the often-resulting mold growth is HORRENDOUSLY underestimated, misunderstood, overlooked, and not thoroughly addressed.
Mold Illness? Most Medical Doctors would laugh, roll their eyes, and offer psychiatric drugs since it’s clearly “all in your head”.
Maybe they are kind and caring enough to humor you long enough to test you for a Mold Allergy (through IgE testing) to prove their point when it comes back negative.
Sadly, what is not common knowledge amongst even the most caring Physicians and Practitioners, are the detrimental effects of fungal colonization of the body and/or Mycotoxicosis. . .
Want to learn more? Watch’s Brendan recent webinar on the topic:
Brendan Vermeire is an Integrative Clinician and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner specializing in complex chronic illness. He began his career as a personal trainer and nutrition coach at the age of 19. After being exposed to the power of functional lab testing in the start of his career, he began intensely pursuing that as a career path which has lead him to being the current Director of the Association of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners, the owner/founder of the Premier Virtual Integrative Health Clinic, Metabolic Solutions, and a Clinical Educator for Bio-Botanical Research.