Mycotoxins are minute toxic particles produced by certain molds (fungi). They can be found in foodstuffs including grains, nuts (especially peanuts), seeds, spices, dried fruits, and coffee beans. Mold typically grows during humid conditions. Mycotoxins cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious health threat ranging from acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer. Infection can come directly from consumption of contaminated foods or from dairy products of animals that have been fed contaminated feed.
Approximately four hundred different mycotoxins have been identified. About a dozen have gained notoriety from multiple research studies. To understand the minute particle size of mycotoxins, imagine ten football fields lined with golf balls one layer thick on the ground. One of those golf balls is the proportionate size of one part per billion. This minuscule particle size is able to penetrate the skin and cells. Another way to understand the minute size of mycotoxins is comparing them to the size of an average human hair. Mycotoxins are .1 microns and an average human hair is 100 microns thick. Despite their microscopic size, mycotoxins cause major problems if left unchecked. Mycotoxins must be detoxed from the body to restore good health.
Aflatoxins include Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, G2, M1 and M2. Aflatoxins are among the most poisonous mycotoxins and are produced by certain molds (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus) which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains. Crops that are affected by Aspergillus include grains (corn, sorghum, wheat and rice), oil seeds (soybean, peanut, sunflower and cotton seeds), spices (chili peppers, black pepper, coriander, turmeric and ginger) and tree nuts (pistachio, almond, walnut, coconut and Brazil nut). The toxins can also be found in the milk of animals that are fed contaminated feed, in the form of aflatoxin M1. Large doses of aflatoxins can lead to acute poisoning (aflatoxicosis) and can be life threatening, mostly through damage to the liver. Aflatoxins have also been shown to be genotoxic, meaning they can damage DNA and cause cancer.
Ochratoxins include Ochratoxin A, B, and C. Ochratoxin A is produced by several species of Aspergillus and Penicillium and is a common worldwide food-contaminating mycotoxin. It contaminates food commodities, such as grains, coffee beans, dry vine fruits, wine and grape juice, spices and licorice. Ochratoxin A is formed during the storage of crops and is known to cause a number of toxic effects in animals. The highest risk is kidney damage, but the toxin may also have effects on fetal development and on the immune system. There is clear evidence of kidney toxicity and kidney cancer due to ochratoxin A exposure. It also causes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and supression of the immune system.
Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by a variety of molds, particularly Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Bysso chlamys. Often found in rotting apples and apple products, patulin can also occur in various moldy fruits, grains and other foods. Major human dietary sources of patulin are apples and apple juice made from affected fruit. The acute symptoms in animals include liver, spleen and kidney damage and toxicity to the immune system. For humans, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances and vomiting have been reported. It is also linked to neural syndromes, brain hemorrhage, skin lesions, skin cancer, and lung disorders.
Fusarium fungi are common to the soil and produce a range of different toxins, including trichothecenes such as deoxynivalenol (DON), nivalenol (NIV) and T-2 and HT-2 toxins, as well as zearalenone (ZEN) and fumonisins. The formation of the molds and toxins occur on a variety of different grain crops. Different fusarium toxins are associated with certain types of grain. For example, both DON and ZEN are often associated with wheat, T-2 and HT-2 toxins with oats, and fumonisins with maize (corn). Trichothecenes can be acutely toxic to humans, causing rapid irritation to the skin or intestinal mucosa and lead to diarrhea. Reported chronic effects in animals include suppression of the immune system. ZEN has been shown to have hormonal, estrogenic effects and can cause infertility at high intake levels. Fumonisins have been related to esophageal cancer in humans, liver and kidney toxicity, pulmonary edema, neurotoxicity, and heart failure.
Toxic black mold is a name commonly used for Stachybotrys chartarum. It is one of the most infamous toxic molds because it can grow in houses and is extremely dangerous to humans. It can cause permanent damage to a person’s health. In extreme cases toxic black mold has even lead to death. Because of the serious health effects toxic black mold can cause, take steps to get it removed immediately. The longer a person is exposed to toxic black mold, the more it damaged one’s health. This mold produces the extremely toxic trichothecene mycotoxin which is probably the most long lasting mycotoxin.
- Mental and neurological symptoms
- Respiratory symptoms
- Circulatory symptoms
- Vision and eye problems
- Skin problems
- Immune system problems
- Reproductive system problems
- Tiredness and discomfort
- Many other illnesses and health effects
How Mycotoxins Enter the Body
When people are around toxic mold, the exposure is typically to airborne mycotoxins by breathing them in. These mycotoxins end up in the lungs and cause breathing issues and other severe symptoms. Mycotoxins in the air can also enter through a person’s eyes. Trichothecene mycotoxins can be absorbed through the skin as well.
Another way mycotoxins get into a person’s body is by the person eating food with mycotoxins in it. This can happen if toxic mold has been growing on crops. Many mycotoxins remain toxic even after being cooked. This is one reason why mycotoxins are a big problem in agriculture. Sometimes a chemical binding agent is used on crops after harvesting to remove mycotoxins. This process makes a plant highly toxic.
Mycotoxins are a Serious Problem
In one case, during 2004 in Kenya, 125 people died after eating maize corn contaminated with aflatoxin mycotoxins. There are many cases of pets dying from eating pet food containing mycotoxins.
In the United States, the government has not yet set maximum levels for mycotoxins in the air of buildings or in food supplies, however some European countries have already set limits. All levels of mycotoxins cause one degree or another of health issues with animals and humans. In a home, there is no way to remove all mycotoxins from carpet and the only option is for the carpet to be removed once black mold has been found growing in it.
Mold does not grow in properly dried and stored foods, so efficient drying of commodities and maintenance of the dry state (in proper storage) is an effective measure against mold growth and mycotoxins. Foreign countries supplying food stuffs to America may not be aware of the critical necessity of proper food storage. Beware of foreign grown foods.
If a person has been exposed and has become sensitive to mycotoxins, eliminating high mycotoxin foods from the diet may be the only means of lowering exposure. Once the body is cleared of mycotixin exposure for a month or two, gradually reintroduce some of suspecting foods back into the diet. Observe the reaction to learn what is causing symptoms. Different manufacturers have varying standards of practice in rejecting contaminated food sources. Always use high quality organic food sources. Some people may never be able to return to eating peanuts or certain high mycotoxin containing grains if an allergic reaction continues.
Start detoxing mycotoxins with a high fiber diet for sweeping away toxic buildup. After increasing fiber intake, begin consuming an abundance of cleansing foods like garlic, cilantro, ginger, etc. Make sure to drink sufficient water for flushing toxins quickly out of the body.
Some good cleansing herbs include: milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric, red clover, and burdock. Depending on the exposure level, about three months is a good length of time for mycotoxin detoxing before taking a break. After a month break from detoxing, resume this cleansing rotation until symptoms are resolved. Continual detoxing without taking breaks works the body too hard. Detox organs must be rested periodically. Blessings with a thorough and beneficial detoxing from mycotoxin accumulation!