There are many types of toxins that can wreak havoc with your health. Most of these toxins are things that you can’t see, smell or feel when you first come in contact with them, including one of the lesser known but dangerous types: mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins are compounds produced by fungi and literally mean “fungus poisons.” Poisoning caused by a mycotoxin is known as mycotoxicosis.
Mycotoxins can cause a wide range of health problems even if you’re just exposed to small amounts over an extended period of time. Mycotoxicosis can even be lethal if a patient has consumed large quantities of mycotoxins over a short period of time.
Mycotoxicosis symptoms depend on the type of mycotoxin, the amount and length of exposure, the age, health and sex of the exposed individual, and many poorly understood synergistic effects involving genetics, dietary status and interactions with other toxins.
This means that the severity of mycotoxin poisoning can be compounded by factors such as vitamin deficiency, caloric deprivation, alcohol abuse and infectious disease status.
Mycotoxins can also increase a patient’s vulnerability to microbial diseases, worsen the effects of malnutrition and interact synergistically with other toxins.
Dr. Dave Holland, co-author of the bestselling book The Fungus Link, is an expert on the harmful effects of mycotoxins on the human body. Dr. Holland’s list of diseases associated with mycotoxins include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Balkan Nephropathy
- Bechet’s disease
- Cirrhosis (alcoholic and biliary)
- Crohn’s disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Familial Mediterranean Fever
- Heart failure
- Hyperactivity Syndrome
- Hyperlipidemia (high lipids)
- IgA Nephropathy
- Kidney stones
- Leukocytoclastic vasculitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Mollaret’s meningitis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Nephritis (kidney inflammation)
That’s quite a laundry list of diseases. And because the most toxic forms of fungi and the mycotoxins they produce have become more common in America’s modern and industrialized food supply, particularly in improperly stored, pesticide-sprayed grains which humans and livestock in large amounts in various forms, there lies the danger.
In 1985, the World Health Organization estimated that 25 percent of the world’s grains have been contaminated by mycotoxins. Today, more than two decades later, we can assume that this figure has increased due to an increase in global imports and exports of grains and cereals and the changes in the environment and weather.
If you want to avoid the dangers of mycotoxins, here are the top 10 foods to avoid (hint: most of them are grains):
1. Alcohol – is the mycotoxin of the Saccharomyces yeast (brewer’s yeast). Other mycotoxins besides alcohol can also be introduced into alcoholic beverages through the use of mold-contaminated grains and fruits. Alcohol producers often use grains that are too contaminated with fungi and mycotoxins to be eaten as table foods, so the risk of mycotoxicosis is higher if you are consuming more than just alcohol in your beverage.
2. Corn – is "universally contaminated" with mycotoxins such as fumonisin, aflatoxin, zearalenone and ochratoxin. Fumonisin and aflatoxin are known carcinogens, while zearalenone and ochratoxin cause estrogenic and kidney-related problems, respectively. It’s difficult to get away from corn because it’s everywhere! For example, a typical fast food chicken nugget comes from corn-fed chicken that is covered by a corn-based batter sweetened with corn syrup!
3. Wheat and wheat products – like bread, cereal and pasta. Pasta may be the “safest” because you can remove certain water-soluble mycotoxins, such as deoxynivalenol (vomitoxin), when you drain the boiling water after cooking it. However, traces of the more harmful, heat-stable and fat-soluble mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, remain. When it comes to bread – it doesn’t matter if it’s organic, inorganic, sprouted, blessed or not – if the grain used has been stored for months in a silo, it can be contaminated with fungi.
4. Barley – is equally susceptible to contamination by mycotoxins because it can also be damaged by drought, floods, and harvesting and storage processes. It’s used in the production of cereals and alcoholic beverages.
5. Sugar (sugar cane and sugar beets) – is often contaminated with fungi and like other grains and fuels the growth of fungi, which feed on carbohydrates.
6. Sorghum – is used in a number of grain-based products for both humans and animals, and is also an ingredient in the production of alcoholic beverages.
7. Peanuts – A 1993 study revealed that peanuts are colonized by at least 24 different types of fungi. The alarming part was that they were found after the exterior of the peanut was sterilized!
8. Rye – What applies for other grains is the same with rye. Also, when wheat and rye are used to make bread, sugar and yeast are added – two other products that worsen the fungi problem.
9. Cottonseed – is usually in the form of cottonseed oil but is also used in grain form for many animal foods. Many studies show that cottonseed is often highly contaminated with mycotoxins.
10. Hard Cheese – Each time you see a mold growing on your cheese, there’s a good chance that there’s also a mycotoxin present.
Rice, oats and beans, which are also sources of carbohydrates, may also contain mycotoxins but these crops are generally more resistant to fungal contamination.