Certain types of mold can produce toxins, called mycotoxins, that the mold uses to inhibit or prevent the growth of other organisms. It is believed that very specific environmental conditions are needed for mycotoxins to be produced. Currently, the specific conditions that cause mycotoxin production are not fully understood. The presence of toxic mold is serious, as mycotoxin exposure can be dangerous to your health. You can be exposed to these molds / spores and their toxins generally by inhalation or consuming contaminated food.
Mycotoxins are natural contaminants of food and their complete elimination is impossible. For example, the longer some grains are stored, the more likely they will become contaminated. If mycotoxins are contributing to health problems, avoiding certain foods will help by reducing your total mycotoxic exposure. One of the goals of agro-food companies has been to prevent and control mycotoxin contamination in foods and feeds for both human and animal safety.
There is much yet to be learned about the health effects of chronic inhalation exposure to indoor molds. Only a handful of decades have passed since improvements in building construction began making indoor spaces more airtight. Prior to this, excess production of mold spores and/or mycotoxins was likely diluted by regular exchange between indoor and outdoor air. Unlike other toxigenic substances, inhaled mycotoxins in residential settings have only been studied for the past 30 to 40 years and without specific markers of either exposure or disease. The inability to definitely link the presence of the agent in the environment to human exposure data and subsequently to molecular alterations and disease leave some unconvinced of the deleterious effects of mold/mycotoxin exposure.
Linking mycotoxin exposure to disease in humans has been tricky. For example, it became widely publicized that Stachybotrys chartum exposure caused serious breathing and bleeding problems for those living in homes where it had been growing. After further investigation, the CDC published a statement effectively retracting the conclusions of the original investigation, leaving the public confused about whether it was a threat or not. The amount of exposure required to produce Stachybotrys related disease has been estimated to be at least 1,000 times higher than amounts reported in most environmental surveys
Stachybotrys thrives on water damaged cellulose rich materials such as sheet rock, paper, ceiling tiles, cellulose containing insulation backing and wallpaper. The presence of this fungus in buildings is significant because of the mold’s ability to produce extremely toxic compounds like Satratoxin H. Exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion or even skin contact. Symptoms include dermatitis, cough, rhinitis, nose bleeds, a burning sensation in the mouth and nasal passage, cold and flu symptoms, headache, general malaise, and fever. Stachybotrys typically appears as a sooty black fungus occasionally accompanied by a thick mass of white mycelia.
It is indeed clear that mycotoxins are real and that they can produce dramatic symptoms. However, clear linkage of a toxin to a disease is difficult. Given the broad range of fungi that produce mycotoxins, it seems reasonable to treat all fungi with substantial respect. Thus, the goal in interior environments should be to maintain them in a clean, dry, and mould-free state. Identifying the specific fungus that is infesting a wall is less important than getting rid of it and preventing its return.
Always locate the source of any strange smell in your house, especially the dank musty smell (volatiles produced by the molds) that is commonly associated with mold and mildew. The early detection of water leaks and the presence of mold in your home is an important safeguard to protecting your property and health. Avoidance of contaminated foods may be necessary in sensitive individuals.
Conditions that suggest Fungus / Mycotoxin Exposure
Some scientists have directly implicated yeast and fungal mycotoxins in the cause of Crohn’s disease. Former World Health Organization expert Dr. A.V. Costantini has found that people with Crohn’s often have aflatoxin, a mycotoxin made by Aspergillus molds, in their blood. Also, disease activity in patients with Crohn’s was lower while they followed a yeast-free diet, specifically avoiding baker’s and brewer’s yeasts. [Scand J Gastro. 1992; 27: pp.196-200]
Recommendations for Fungus / Mycotoxin Exposure
Sugar cane and sugar beets are often contaminated with fungi and their associated mycotoxins. Fungi need carbohydrates, like sugar, in order to thrive.
Alcohol is the mycotoxin produced by brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces species). Other mycotoxins besides alcohol can also be introduced into these beverages through the use of mold-contaminated grains and fruits. Producers often use grains that are too contaminated with fungi and mycotoxins to be used for table foods, so the risk is higher that you are consuming more than just alcohol in your beverage. Before you drink for the health of your heart, consider the other possible risks of drinking and that there are safer ways of consuming antioxidants. [Mycotoxins: Economic and Health Risks. Task Force Report Number 116. Nov 1989]
Wheat is often contaminated with mycotoxins, as are the products made from wheat, like breads, cereals and pasta. Pasta may be the least offensive form of grains since some water-soluble mycotoxins, such as deoxynivalenol (vomitoxin), are partially removed and discarded with the water the pasta was cooked in. Unfortunately, traces of heat-stable and fat-soluble mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, remain in the grain. If bread is made from a grain that has been stored for months in a silo, it probably doesn’t matter whether it is whole wheat, organic, white or sprouted as far as contamination is concerned.
Corn is “universally contaminated” with fumonisin and other fungal toxins such as aflatoxin, zearalenone and ochratoxin. [Mycotoxins: Risks in Plant, Animal and Human Systems. Task Force Report No. 139. Ames, IA. Jan 2003] Fumonisin and aflatoxin are known for their cancer-causing effects, while zearalenone and ochratoxin cause estrogenic and kidney-related problems, respectively. And, just as corn is universally contaminated with mycotoxins, our food supply seems to be universally contaminated with corn – it’s everywhere!
Similar to other grains that can be damaged by drought, floods and harvesting and storage processes, barley is equally susceptible to contamination by mycotoxin-producing fungi. Barley is used in the production of various cereals and alcoholic beverages. This is also true for rye.
Sorghum, also known as milo, is a drought tolerant source of grain that is utilized in food and industries around the world, as well as being a staple animal feed ingredient in the U.S. Worldwide, more than 50% of grain sorghum is grown directly for human consumption. It is also used in the production of alcoholic beverages.
While trying to avoid mycotoxin exposure, it is encouraging that rice and oats are generally more resistant to fungal contamination.
Excerpted from The Fungus Link and The Fungus Link, Volume 2 by Doug Kaufmann and Dave Holland, MD.
Cottonseed is typically found in the oil form (cottonseed oil), but is also used in the grain form for many animal foods. Many studies show that cottonseed is highly and frequently contaminated with mycotoxins.
Don’t eat moldy cheese. If you see mold growing throughout your hard cheese, there’s a good chance that there’s a mycotoxin not far away.
A 1993 study demonstrated 24 different types of fungi that colonized the inside of peanuts. This was after the exterior of the peanut had been sterilized! [Etiology and Prevention of Atherosclerosis. Fungalbionics Series.1998/99]
Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker is a recognized leader in patient care and research, having appeared on a variety of national TV shows, such as Good Morning America, NBC News, CBS News, and CNN.
His website, SurvivingMold.com is a great resource for medical practitioners and patients alike. Dr. Shoemaker has also authored eight books. His most recent book, Surviving Mold, details his cutting-edge research into the acute and chronic effects of bitoxins. It also examines the root causes of dangerous mold growth in homes and buildings.
|Weak or unproven link|
|May do some good|
|Likely to help|
|May have adverse consequences|
Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.
A general term used to refer to eruptions or rashes on the skin.
Inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane.
A vague feeling of bodily discomfort, as at the beginning of an illness. A general sense of depression or unease.
A single-cell organism that may cause infection in the mouth, vagina, gastrointestinal tract, and any or all bodily parts. Common yeast infections include candidiasis and thrush.