Take a peek in your cupboard and refrigerator. The food inside might look harmless, but what if I told you that there may be an invisible danger potentially wreaking havoc on your health?
I’m talking about mycotoxins – microscopic poisons that can sneak into your body and cause irreversible damage. Let’s dive into exactly why mycotoxins are so dangerous. And how you can not only protect yourself, but begin detoxing from the exposure you can’t avoid.
What Are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxic compounds produced by fungi – a classification of organisms that contains mold, mushrooms, and yeasts. Since being discovered in 1965, over 400 unique mycotoxins have been identified. Chronic exposure to mycotoxins can pose a significant health risk to humans – causing disease and even death.
The harmful and toxic effects of chronic mycotoxin exposure is known as mycotoxicosis. Exactly how severe mycotoxicosis is depends on a number of factors such as:
- Nutritional status
- Infectious disease status
- Immune system function
- Extent of exposure
- Frequency of exposure
- Type of mycotoxin exposure
But even healthy individuals can be at risk of exposure to toxic levels of mycotoxins, especially considering how readily exposed most of us are on a day to day basis.
How Do You Get Exposed to Mycotoxins?
Exposure to mycotoxins can occur in a few ways:
- Physical contact / dermal contact is when they’re absorbed through the skin.
- They can be inhaled when in a home or building that has mold growth.
- You can be exposed through ingestion of contaminated food.
The most common route of mycotoxin exposure is through the food we eat. Mycotoxins are one of the most frequently occurring natural contaminants in food. With an estimated 25% of crops being contaminated with mold or fungal growth.1 This contamination can be further exacerbated by less than ideal harvesting methods, improper storage techniques, and/or poor processing and transportation practices.
Mycotoxin Health Effects
The impact of mycotoxin exposure on human health is significant. Mycotoxins can not only be damaging to human health, but their effects can also be difficult to pinpoint. Because there are hundreds of different mycotoxins, all affecting the body in different ways, symptoms of mycotoxicosis can be hard to identify at first. Exposure to mycotoxins can cause:2
- Allergic reactions
- Sensitization (becoming more sensitive)
- Neurotoxicity (damage to the brain, spinal cord, and/or nerves in the body)
- Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses)
- Nasal irritation
- Otomycosis (fungal infection in the ears)
- Onychomycosis (fungal infection in the nails)
- Keratitis (inflammation of the corneas in the eyes)
Mycotoxins have also been shown to cause serious and even deadly conditions such as:2
- Respiratory infections
- Skin infections
- Systemic infections (infections affected the entire body system)
- Hepatic toxicity (liver toxicity)
- Cancers (liver, esophageal, lymphoma, skin, and gastric)
- Nephrotoxicity (kidney toxicity)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids, fats, and cholesterol in the blood)
- Immunosuppression (weakened immune system)
To make matters more complicated, they can target certain body systems and make pinpointing mycotoxins as a root cause even more challenging. To learn more about mycotoxins’ effects on the body I recommend reading Mycotoxins: How These Invisible Toxins Are Wreaking Havoc On The Gut and Mycotoxins And Your Brain: How Invisible Fungus Can Cause Brain Fog And More.
Types of Mycotoxins
Because they’re produced by a variety of different fungal species, have a diverse chemical structure, and a wide range of biological effects on the human body, scientists have still not agreed on a single classification system for mycotoxins. So, for now, we can’t separate them into different groups and have to look at them individually.
Here’s a look at some of the major mycotoxins known to have a negative impact on human health:3
- Aflatoxins: Aflatoxins primarily affect the liver and are known to cause cancer, immune suppression, and other “slow” pathological conditions.
- Citrinin: Citrinin is a potent nephrotoxin, capable of causing irreversible damage to the kidneys. It’s also known to act synergistically with other mycotoxins to damage RNA synthesis – which affects cells’ reproduction.
- Ergot Alkaloids: The impact of ergot alkaloid ingestion in humans is known as Ergotism and comes in two forms. Gangrenous Ergotism impacts blood supply to the arms and legs. Convulsive Ergotism damages the central nervous system. Interestingly, ergot alkaloids have also been used pharmacologically. In the past, they’ve been used to induce abortion or accelerate contractions in women during labor. And today, it’s derivatives are used in medications for the treatment of migraines and Parkinson’s disease.
- Fumonisins: Fumonisins impact the body’s ability to metabolize certain molecules known as sphingolipids. Their exact impact on human health is still being studied, but researchers have found evidence linking fumonisins to esophageal cancer and neural tube defects (which cause birth defects).
- Ochratoxin: Ochratoxins inhibit the action of certain enzymes needed for multiple functions throughout the body. They’ve been shown to be toxic to the kidneys and liver, cause cancers, weaken the immune system, and be toxic to developing embryos during pregnancy.
- Trichothecenes: Trichothecenes are sometimes called vomitoxins because they’re known for inducing vomiting, diarrhea, and causing a decrease in appetite. In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, they also cause damage to the dermatological and neurological systems.
- Zearalenone: Zearalenones are known as hormone disruptors because they’re a type of phytoestrogen, which mimics the hormone estrogen in the body. Because of this, zearalenone’s primary impact is upon the reproductive system.
Some of these potent toxins could be hiding in the foods you have in your kitchen right now.
Mycotoxin Food Sources
While maximum allowable levels of mycotoxins in agricultural and food products have been established internationally, mycotoxin exposure is still much more common than most people realize. Most foods can potentially contain mycotoxins depending on agricultural practices and storage conditions, but certain food products are more likely to be contaminated. Some of these food products include:3
- Cereals and derived products
- Fruit juices
- Milk and dairy products
- Vegetable oils
- Ethanol and Beer
- Dried fruits, nuts, and spices
What’s worse, is maximum allowable mycotoxin levels apply only to the well known mycotoxins. What no one is talking about yet, is the fact that many foods may be contaminated with “emerging mycotoxins” for which there are no regulations yet.
For example, researchers tested a total of 32 samples of plant based milks – including 8 rice milks, 8 oat milks, and 16 soy milks. They found that 3 samples were contaminated with 5 identified emerging mycotoxins, while another of the 5 samples were contaminated with 4 emerging mycotoxins – with oat milk being the most susceptible to contamination.4
But the good news is, this doesn't necessarily mean you have to avoid all of the foods on this list.
Controlling Mycotoxins on a Large Scale
Some techniques used on a larger scale within the agricultural and food industry to control mycotoxin levels include: physical removal, processing, and detoxification.3
This includes manual and/or automatic sifting through agricultural products to remove and discard any foods that are visibly contaminated. Some techniques to physically remove contaminated foodstuffs might include sorting, sieve cleaning, or even simply washing the products. This method is quite efficient, but only works to decrease the overall average level of contamination rather than eliminating mycotoxins entirely.
This might include processing methods such as milling, dehulling, steeping, or extrusion. Food may also be further processed to kill off remaining mycotoxins with other methods such as:
- Heat treatment: since most mycotoxins are thermally stable at room temperature, temperatures greater than 100 degrees celsius are typically needed to reduce mycotoxin contamination.
- Irradiation: non-ionizing (microwave, UV, solar) or ionizing (gamma) radiation can be used to reduce both microorganisms and mycotoxins.
- Cold plasma: extremely cold temperatures have powerful antimicrobial effects which can also significantly reduce mycotoxins.
Detoxification methods rely on chemical reactions to reduce mycotoxin levels. Some detoxification techniques include:
- Acid or alkaline treatments: exposing food products to acidic or basic treatments
- Oxidizing agents: (like hydrogen peroxide)
- Reducing agents: (like sodium bisulfite)
- Treatment with food ingredients: incubation with certain herbs or spices like vasaka leaves can detoxify mycotoxins
- Enzymatic degradation: intentionally processing foods with enzymes can effectively degrade and destroy some mycotoxins
The chemical reactions that occur with these treatments decrease the amount of mycotoxins in the food.
How to Protect Yourself From Mycotoxins
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate exposure to all mycotoxins, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure.4
- Buy the freshest food possible. Buying food that’s produced locally is the very best option because it means the food hasn’t been stored for a long time or transported long distances.
- Store nuts and seeds in the fridge or freezer unless you are consuming them quickly.
- Buy coffee from supplyers who routinely test for pesticides and mycotoxin contamination. My favorite brew is Purity Coffee. Store your coffee beans in freezer, too.
- Avoid Keurig type coffee makers unless the entire water storage unit can be disassembled and cleaned routinely.
- Avoid buying nuts, seeds, dried fruits and mixes out of large bulk bins.
- Pick reputable organic brands that prioritize quality.
- Carefully inspect food before consuming and discard any food that looks moldy or discolored, or doesn’t smell right.
- Make sure foods are stored properly. Mold loves warm moist environments, so ensure food is stored in a cool dry place.
If you’ve been struggling with the negative effects of chronic exposure to mycotoxins, it might also be a good idea to look at ways you can help your body begin properly detoxing.
Healing After Exposure to Mycotoxins
If you’re struggling with mold illness it’s particularly important to minimize potential new exposures and detox your body from the cumulative effects of chronic mycotoxin exposure. Here’s what I recommend:
Adopt a Low Mold Diet
A low mold diet works for three reasons:
- It limits your exposure to potentially contaminated food and prevents mold from growing in your body.
- It restores nutrient deficiencies caused by mold exposure.
- It minimizes inflammatory foods that can be damaging to your body’s immune system.
You can learn exactly how to follow a low mold diet right here.
Support Your Gut
Mycotoxins and chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on your gut health. This creates a vicious cycle by lowering your immune function and making you even more susceptible to the gut damaging effects of mycotoxins.
Taking steps to heal your gut can give your body the boost it needs to begin healing. I recommend getting started on a quality probiotic to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. I also suggest using detox binders like G.I. Detox and Coconut Charcoal to aid in the elimination of toxins from the gut.
Give Your Body Support to Detox
There are some ways to enhance your body’s inherent detoxification capabilities. I recommend using:
- Infrared saunas
- IV infusion therapy
- Use the new Dr. Jill Miracle Mold Detox Box for 30 days or longer – this kit supplies all the crucial ingredients for optimal detoxification support for your body, including glutathione, b vitamins, liver support and binders.
Minimize Environmental Exposure
While oral ingestion through contaminated foods is the most common source of mycotoxin exposure, it’s critical to address any other potential sources of exposure. Ensuring your home is mold-free and improving indoor air quality go a long way in minimizing your risk. I’ve written extensively on how to eliminate and prevent mold in your home in the following articles:
A Simple Solution to Detox From Mycotoxins
I know firsthand how challenging it can be to detox from mold and mycotoxins. I’ve dedicated hours researching and treating patients with mold sickness. And I’m excited to introduce a simple and effective solution to help my patients and their loved ones detox and heal from the devastating side effects of chronic mycotoxin exposure.
I’ve teamed up with Dr. Christopher Shade and Quicksilver Scientific® to bring you a comprehensive 30-day mold detox kit. This kit includes everything you need to give your body the support to eliminate toxins and begin repairing the damage.
The Miracle Mold Detox Kit contains six supplements scientifically proven to:
- Upregulate the body's natural detoxification cycle
- Support energy production
- Promote cellular recovery and mitochondrial health
- Assists in remineralization to support health electrolyte balance
If you or your family are suffering from mold sickness, I highly recommend this 30-day protocol to give your body the boost it needs to begin healing. You can learn more and order your own Miracle Mold Detox Kit by clicking here.
Now I want to hear from you? Are you surprised to learn that mycotoxins are so common in our food? And what steps are you taking to protect yourself and your family from the dangerous effects of mycotoxins? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease state or medical condition and has not been evaluated by the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FDA</a>. This is not intended to replace any recommendations by or relationship with your physician. The references included in each article allude to the level of scientific rigor I have applied to my writing. When changes become apparent we will update the information if appropriate.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.