Mycotoxins could be lurking in your home (or workplace!), waging a silent war on your body and making you chronically ill. But what are these stealthy invaders? Why haven’t we heard about them before? And is it possible to reverse their effects?
The Dangers of Mold
While most molds are harmless and can be used for our benefit, there are some that we need to watch out for. Mycotoxins come from various fungi such as toxic molds. These molds can release noxious gas compounds— mycotoxins— into the air that are dangerous to human health. One famous mycotoxin-producing mold is black mold which commonly grows inside walls, HVAC units, foundations, or anywhere that is consistently wet. In fact, some mycotoxigenic fungi can even contaminate crops such as grains!
Mold Exposure or Illness?
Mycotoxin poisoning can create a challenge to diagnose as many people may not even realize they’ve been exposed. Exposure symptoms may vary based on the type of mycotoxin involved and the person’s own genetic and metabolic makeup, but they commonly mimic allergies or even severe autoimmune conditions. Many doctors, even wholistic doctors, may be unfamiliar with mycotoxins and how to test for them. As research on this topic continues to gain traction, awareness among medical practitioners and the general population will continue to rise. When determining whether your symptoms are related to mold or not, a mycotoxin urine test may reveal the mycotoxins in your system.
Regarding mycotoxins, your genetics is another area of concern to investigate. As many as 25% of Americans may have a genetic predisposition related to the HLA_DR gene. Individuals with certain expressions of this gene are more susceptible to the effects of mycotoxins. Their bodies are unable to make the antibodies necessary to recognize and remove these toxins. Instead, the toxins are stored in the body’s tissues where they can cause long-term havoc. Testing is available to determine if someone is dealing with this genetic predisposition.
One of the more concerning topics surrounding mycotoxins is the role they play in autoimmunity. Mycotoxins cause damage to the mitochondria, the famed ‘powerhouse’ of the cell. A mitochondrion is a cell’s energy factory, taking nutrients and turning them into energy that the body uses in essential functions like breathing, maintaining a heartbeat, movement, etc. Mycotoxins are known to trigger autoimmunity within the body through the creation of antimitochondrial antibodies— antibodies whose purpose is to attack and destroy mitochondria. Researchers have not yet determined all the potential manifestations of mycotoxin poisoning, but it is clear that it may play a significant role in various autoimmune conditions.
So, what if you or someone you know has suffered significant mycotoxin exposure or has a genetic predisposition to mycotoxin vulnerability? The first step is to determine the source of exposure. If you are living or working in a moldy environment, it may be time to take drastic measures such as a renovation or moving somewhere else. Testing kits are available to test the environment such as your home for mycotoxins. In some cases, mold remediation may be a possibility, although often it is a costly process. Once someone is removed from exposure, the next step will be to support the body’s natural detoxification processes. This includes optimizing liver health and working to stimulate the lymphatic system. The goal is to help clear the body of mycotoxins and so some doctors recommend the use of binders such as charcoal to help coax the toxins out of the body. If you suspect mycotoxins have affected your health, it’s important to talk to a doctor experienced in this area to receive proper testing and treatment.
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