Mycotoxins: What Are They, Testing and How to Detox
Mycotoxins are some of the most common toxins in our environment that may lead to serious health problems, including mycotoxin allergy, immune system issues, inflammation, and cancer. Mycotoxins may grow on your food and in your home under warm and damp conditions. Because they may lead to uncomfortable acute and chronic symptoms, a compromised immune system, and serious health problems, it is absolutely crucial that you detoxify your body from mycotoxins and control mycotoxins exposure in your life.
In this article, you will learn what mycotoxins are, how they affect your immune system, what are the symptoms of a mycotoxin allergy, and a list of foods that are the highest in mycotoxins. You will learn how to test for mycotoxins in your body with a simple test. I will share with your my best strategies to support mycotoxin detoxification.
What Are Mycotoxins
Mycotoxins are some of the most prevalent toxins in our environment that may lead to serious health problems. They are toxic compounds that are naturally found in specific types of fungi-like mold.
Fungi are able to grow almost anywhere under wet and warm conditions. This means that they can colonize on wallpaper, ceiling tiles, fiberglass insulation, and elsewhere in your home. Mycotoxins, or mold metabolites often infest buildings, vehicles, and certain foods.
They may grow on foodstuffs, such as cereals, bread, nuts, dried fruits, and spices. Mold growth and mycotoxicity may occur in food before or after harvesting or during storage. Leaving certain food in a warm, damp, or humid place may increase the risk of mold.
It is important to know that mycotoxins are chemically stable and are able to survive food processing. This means that you may not be safe from mycotoxins when buying or eating processed or packaged foods (1, 2).
How Mycotoxins Impact Our Immune System
According to the World Health Organization, mycotoxins may cause acute symptoms of severe illness after the consumption of contaminated food products. They also warn that mycotoxins, especially in foods have been linked to serious, long-term health issues, including immune deficiency and cancer (1, 3, 4).
Ochratoxin A is produced by Penicillium and Aspergillus. It’s a common mycotoxin that may be found in contaminated foods, including dry vine fruits, wine, grape juice, coffee, cereal, licorice, and spices. It may lead to negative effects on your immune system, kidneys, and fetal development (1).
Pautin is another mycotoxin that is produced by Penicillium and Aspergillus, and Byssochlamys. It may be found in grains, rotting apples and apple products, moldy fruit, and other foodstuffs. It may have toxic and harmful effects on your immune system, liver, kidneys, and spleen. It may lead to nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal issues (1).
Fusarium is a fungus found in soil and produce and may lead to the formation of mold toxins. It may lead to suppression of the immune system, intestinal issues, and esophageal cancer (1).
Mycotoxins are particularly dangerous for people with a weakened immune system from an illness or drug treatment. Since their immune systems are already compromised, they are more likely to develop infections and symptoms in their skin, eyes, lungs, and other organs (1).
Symptoms of Mycotoxin Allergy
Exposure to mold may lead to mycotoxin allergy, sensitivity, or a variety of unwanted symptoms. People who are sensitive or allergic to mycotoxins may experience allergic reactions when inhaling mold or mold spores (5, 6).
Symptoms of mycotoxin allergy may include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Watery eyes
- Skin rashes
Mycotoxins may also lead to asthma attacks and similar symptoms causing:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Some people may develop respiratory infections or pneumonia after exposure of mold. While this is uncommon, it is important to keep in mind.
Mycotoxins may also lead to:
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Blurred vision
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Hormonal issues
- Insulin resistance
- Gut problems, such as nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Chemical sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Behavioral changes
- Emotional changes
Foods Highest in Mycotoxins
One of the most common, yet sometimes unexpected ways to encounter mycotoxins is through food. Here is a list of foods that are the highest in mycotoxins (7, 8):
- Alcoholic beverages
- Sugar cane
- Sugar beets
- Hard cheeses
- Soybean Products
Testing For Mycotoxin Exposure
If you notice any symptoms of mycotoxins exposure or you suspect that you’ve been exposed to mycotoxins, it is a good idea to get tested in order to find the right treatment and solve your symptoms once and for all. I highly recommend this Mycotoxin test I use for my patients regularly.
This Mycotoxin test looks at every GPL-Mycotox markers, including Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1), Ochratoxin A (OTA), Sterigmatocystin (STG), Roridin E, Verrucarin A, Enniatin B1, Zearalenone (ZEA). It also tests for molds, such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, and Fusarium. You may learn more about these markers in this post.
This test is extremely simple. All you need is 10 mL of your first morning urine before any food or drink. Unless you are not running this test in combination with other urine tests, I recommend that you fast for 12 hours before testing to increase the excretion of mycotoxins from the adipose tissue.
Strategies to Detox Mold and Mycotoxins
Now that you understand the devastating effects mycotoxins may have on your health, you must be curious how to detox from mold and mycotoxins and prevent mycotoxin-related symptoms and illness. Read this list of some strategies I recommend to detox from mold and mycotoxins.
The first and one of the most important steps of mold and mycotoxin detox is following a low-mycotoxin diet. A low-mycotoxin diet may prevent mycotoxins from growing inside your body while simultaneously help to detox your system and restore nutrient deficiencies.
Some individuals will need to reduce their mycotoxin load in their diet by around 25-30% to see noticeable results. Meanwhile, others may need to reduce the mycotoxin load by 75-80% to see noticeable health results. The better your detoxification systems and home environment are, the better your body will deal with any mycotoxins you do ingest.
Foods to Avoid on a Low-Mycotoxin Diet
- Sugars and sugar foods:
- Sources of sugar, including table sugar, glucose, fructose, lactose, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sorbitol, mannitol, candy, and baked goods
- High-glycemic index fruits, such as mangoes, bananas, grapes, oranges, and melons
- Fruits that have a higher risk of mycotoxicity, such as apples and grapes
- Processed and packaged foods:
- Packaged and processed foods, including canned baked beans, canned soups, canned food in general, ready-made sauces, ready-made meals, breakfast cereals, and frozen foods
- Bottled drinks, including soft drinks, fruit juices, sodas
- Condiments, including pickles, relish, mustard, soy sauce, mayonnaise, and vinegar
- Mold and yeast containing foods, including:
- Cheese and sour milk products, such as sour cream, buttermilk, and hard cheeses
- Nuts, such as cashews, walnuts, and pecans
- Peanuts, beans and peas
- Dried fruits, such as dates, raisins, prunes, figs, and apricots
- Grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and rice
- Packaged and smoked meats, such as smoked fish, ham, hot dogs, sausages, bacon, corned beef, and deli meat
- Edible fungi, such as mushrooms and truffles
- Alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, cider, rum, gin, brandy, and whiskey
- Most types of coffee and chocolate
- Seeds such as quinoa, flax, hemp, pumpkin, chia
- Grain fed meats, because the animals are typically ingesting grains that are full of mycotoxins
What to Eat on a Low-Mycotoxin Diet
Here is a list of the best foods to consume on a low-mycotoxin diet. It is important to remember that any food can have fungal toxins on it so it is important to visibly inspect the food and remove any parts that have spoiled or developed mold. Typically if the food has developed mold, it is best to avoid it to be safe.
- High starch root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, squash and pumpkin
- Low-sugar fruits, such as berries, pears, and peaches. Be sure to avoid any that have mold growing on them
- Pasture-raised, organic poultry, including chicken, turkey, quail, and pheasant
- Wild-caught fish, including salmon, sardines, anchovy, tuna catfish, and herring
- Grass-fed, organic meat, such as ground beef, beef cuts, lamb, goat, and veal
- Leafy greens, including spinach, romaine, kale, collard greens, and cabbage
- Vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, cucumbers, onion, garlic, carrots, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts
- Herbs and spices, such as turmeric, ginger, mint, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, horseradish, tarragon, and Himalayan salt
- Healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, coconut milk, organic butter and ghee, and extra virgin olive oil
- Beverages: filtered water, mineral water, herbal tea, fresh green juices, and fresh green smoothies
Many of the nutrition principles in a low-mycotoxin diet fit in line with the AutoImmune Paleo diet (AIP) and it is possible that one of the reasons people with chronic inflammation and autoimmune conditions seem to do very well on the AIP is due to the reduction in mycotoxins.
Good Hydration Strategies
Good hydration is essential for detoxification and your overall health. Water is absolutely essential to hydrate and rehydrate your body and move toxins out of your body effectively.
Make sure to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of purified water a day. Drink more if you exercise a lot, it’s hot outside, you are sick, or you feel thirsty. To enhance the detoxification process and encourage an alkaline environment for healing, you may add some lemon or lime to your water as well. On top of your water intake, you may add some herbal tea, green juices, green smoothies, and hydrating fruits and veggies for extra hydration.
I recommend systems like Aquatrue or the Berkey system for low cost filtration. The best water is the Synergy Science hydrogen water which is what I use at home as it is powered by molecular hydrogen which reduces oxidative stress in the body and improves immune function.
Control Mold Growth in the Home
The next step of mycotoxin detoxification is controlling mold growth in your home. Mold detection starts with the smell. Mold generally has a damp and musty smell which is caused by microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs) produced by substances made by mold.
However, the smell is not always enough. You have to look for color and appearance to detect mold. These factors may also help to identify the kind of mold you are dealing with. Check for any water damage, leaks, broken water pipes, and other moisture problems to find any mold in your house. Color stains, discoloration, cracking, peeling, or bubbling of wallpaper or paint may be a sign of mold issues (9).
To control mold growth in your home, make sure to identify these potential problem areas and fix them. Dry wet areas immediately. Prevent moisture with a good ventilation system. Control your humidity. Clean your gutters. Keep mold off your houseplants. Use mold-resistant products (10). You may learn about the dangers of mold in your home in this article.
Treating your air at home is one of the most important things you can do to fight mycotoxins, detox your body, and eliminate your symptoms. Remember, mycotoxins can grow anywhere in your home in warm and moist areas, therefore they may release spores and toxins in the air and potentially harm your body. Therefore, an air purifier is an important strategy to combat this problem and filter microscopic toxins from your air.
I recommend the Air Doctor to ensure that everything is captured and destroyed keeping your home safe. What the Air Doctor does differently is that it has multiple filtration levels within an air-tight system. It uses a dual-action Carbon/Gas Trap/VOC filter for odor and VOC control. The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of this system is 326, which is much higher than its competitors.
While most hospital grade HEPA filters capture 99.97 percent of pollutants at 0.3 microns, Air Doctor goes 10 times further. It removes all particulate matter at .003 microns. It can remove all kinds of particles, including toxic ozone, organic chemicals, and gases. It has a formaldehyde filter, auto-sensor, digital display, and sealed system.
Support Liver and Glutathione Levels
An important step to detoxify from mold and mycotoxins is supporting your liver and glutathione levels. The best way to do this is with high-quality supplements.
I recommend Thyroliver Protect to support your liver and thyroid function. It may help liver detoxification, reducing inflammation, protecting your thyroid, balancing your blood sugar, blending adrenal function, improving energy, improving T4-T3 conversion, and strengthening your gut lining. Take two capsules a day for optimal benefits.
I also recommend Super Glutathione to support your glutathione levels. This supplement is a super antioxidant that may help to reduce inflammation, strengthen your immune system, slow the aging process, fill your with more energy, detoxify your body, reduce your risk of disease, and improve your athletic performance. Take it regularly for maximum support.
Take Mycotoxin Binders
Activated charcoal can be fantastic for mold and mycotoxin detoxification and cleansing. It traps toxins in your body and helps them to flush out preventing your body from reabsorbing them. My favorite product I recommend to my patients is Activated Coconut Charcoal. It helps detoxification and healthy digestion. It is especially helpful if you have a higher mycotoxin meal. Take two or more capsules with food.
BioActive Carbon BioTox binds in the gut and circulation. It supports your body’s detoxification process, bind mold, ammonia, and aldehydes, and helps to remove toxins from your body. It is especially beneficial if you have a mold or mycotoxin related illness or symptoms. Take one capsule three times a day for optimal benefits.
Mycotoxins are some of the most common and dangerous toxins in our environment. They can be found in some of your food and hidden in your home. Mycotoxins may lead to uncomfortable acute and chronic symptoms, a compromised immune system, and serious health problems.
Hence it is very important that you detoxify your body from mycotoxins and control mycotoxins exposure in your life. Follow my best strategies as outlined in this article to support mycotoxin and mold detoxification and to regain and enjoy the best health you desire.