Mycotoxins could be lurking in your home (or workplace!), and could be the secret cause behind your chronic illness. But what are these stealth invaders? Why haven’t we heard about them before? And is it possible to reverse their effects?
Mycotoxins come from various fungi. The mold releases toxic gas compounds— mycotoxins— into the air and can be dangerous to human health. One infamous, mycotoxin-producing mold is black mold. Black mold thrives in dark, wet areas and grows inside walls, HVAC units, and even concrete foundations. Some mycotoxigenic fungi can even invade crops such as grains.
Exposure VS Illness
Mycotoxin poisoning can be challenging to diagnose as many people may not even realize they’ve been exposed. Exposure symptoms may vary based on the type of mycotoxin encountered and the person’s genetic and metabolic makeup. Symptoms can appear to be as inconsequential as mild allergies and as severe as chronic autoimmune conditions. Many doctors, even wholistic doctors, may be unfamiliar with mycotoxins and may not know how or when to test for it in their patients. As the pool of research on this topic continues to grow, hopefully, 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 if any mycotoxins are lurking in your system.
Genetics is another area that may need to be investigated to get definite answers. 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 poisonous effects of mycotoxins. In that case, the patient’s body is unable to make the antibodies necessary to recognize and remove these mold-born toxins from the body. Instead, the toxins are stored in the body’s tissues where they can wreak long-term havoc on the body. Testing is available to determine if someone is dealing with this genetic predisposition.
A Concern for Autoimmunity
One of the more concerning topics surrounding mycotoxins is the role that they play in autoimmunity. Mycotoxins cause damage to the mitochondria of human cells. Mitochondria are famously known as the “powerhouses” of the cell. They function as energy factories, taking nutrients and converting them into energy for the body to use. Mycotoxins are known to trigger autoimmunity within the body such as the creation of antimitochondrial antibodies— antibodies that attack and destroy healthy mitochondria. Researchers have not yet determined all potential manifestations of mycotoxin poisoning, but it is clear that it could play a significant role in various autoimmune conditions.
So, what if you or someone you know has suffered significant mycotoxin exposure or has a gene leaving them vulnerable? 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 relocate offices or move houses. Testing kits are available to measure mycotoxin levels in your living environments. In some cases, mold remediation may be a possibility, although it is often 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 with the goal to help clear the body of mycotoxins. 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 field to receive proper testing and treatment.
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