Are mycotoxins making me sick?

Are mycotoxins making me sick?

Margie GanderApr 20, '22

Exposure to mycotoxins could be causing an "irritating inflammatory soup" deep inside your body. Gross!

The relationship between mycotoxins and chronic diseases has recently been getting a lot of airtime. It's actually great to see more and more people looking into "root" causes of chronic diseases, and interrogating whether mycotoxins could be compounding or causing their symptoms. 

What are mycotoxins? 

Mycotoxins are some of the most prevalent toxins in the environment. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi like mold, which can infest buildings, vehicles, and foodstuffs.  You can also be exposed to mycotoxins through foods that you eat or just by breathing them in. 

Fungi are able to grow on almost any surface, especially if the environment is warm and wet.  Inner wall materials of buildings, wallpaper, fiberglass insulation, and ceiling tiles are all good surfaces for fungi to colonise. These fungi then release mycotoxins into the environment causing symptoms that are associated with many different chronic diseases.

Specifically, mold-related illnesses have become of particular concern because – depending on the mold species, a person’s genetic predisposition, and level of mold exposure – mycotoxins and the other inflammasomes/toxins can result in many types of inflammatory responses, including the following:

  • Chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS)
  • Mycotic infections (mycoses)
  • Fungal rhinosinusitis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary diseases like hypersensitivity pneumonitis and VOC-induced COPD
  • Mitochondrial toxicity
  • Cytotoxicity/cancer
  • IgE-mediated sensitivity
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonia
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Nephrotoxicity
  • Immune system suppression/dysfunction
  • Abnormalities in T and B cells
  • Central and peripheral neuropathy, and
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS)
  • Neuroinflammatory conditions
  • Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
  • Tick-borne illnesses
  • Viral reactivation and viral load illnesses, and
  • All autoimmune diseases

What are the common symptoms of mold exposures?

The ways in which mycotoxins impact the body differ greatly based on the person, the mycotoxin, and any other exposures that may be occurring. Here’s a brief overview of the different mechanisms of injury from mycotoxins:

  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Inflammation
  • Autoimmunity
  • Oxidative stress
  • Toxicity
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Synergistic interactions with other bio-contaminants; water-damaged buildings (WDB) nearly always have more than just mycotoxins causing issues (endotoxins, beta glucans, dust, VOCs, etc.)

When thinking about whether your mycotoxin exposure may be driving your health problems, it's a good idea to review your total toxic load together with your infectious burden. Most of these chronic conditions are a complex stew of both of these things.

Common mistakes made by practitioners and clients?

Due to the complex nature of mycotoxin illness, many misconceptions have arisen. It’s important not to assume any of the following to be true when trying to determine whether mycotoxins could be driving your health problems:

  1. They must have the HLA genetic susceptibility to become sick.
  2. If others in their home or work aren’t sick, it can’t be mold.
  3. If their labs are normal, it can’t be mold-related illness.
  4. If they moved and symptoms didn’t get better, it can’t be mold.
  5. They don’t look sick, so it can’t be mold.
  6. They have multisystem symptoms, and therefore it can’t be mold.

Are certain people more susceptible?

How mycotoxins affect an individual depends on hundreds of factors, which is part of the reason definitive diagnostics remain complex. Factors that influence how mycotoxin exposure presents include the following:

  • Nutrient deficiency (which could be due to either diet or poor absorption).
  • Other microbial infections.
  • Alcohol and drug use.
  • Other autoimmune or degenerative diseases.
  • Genetics – particularly HLA DR genotype and MTHFR variations as well as your DETOX genotype.
  • Method of exposure: Inhalation and ingestion are most common. Inhalation may be many times more toxic than ingestion. 

Where do these molds come from?

To try and understand where your exposure to this invisible enemy comes from, consider answering the following questions:

  1. Has your work or home recently been flooded or had water damage?
  2. Have you noticed mold in your work or home?
  3. Are any of your family members or coworkers chronically sick or experiencing similar symptoms to you?
  4. Do your symptoms get worse on rainy days?
  5. What do you do for work?
  6. What are your hobbies? Looking for other areas of exposure.
  7. Are you exposed to dust, chemicals, or fumes at work/home?
  8. Do your symptoms change when you’re in a particular location? (Keep in mind, sometimes when a person is ill due to mold exposure they increasingly stay at home, which worsens their condition if that’s the source.)
  9. Have you ruled out other conditions with comprehensive lab work? 

Know your molds

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are over 500 species of hazardous molds; though, in the past decade or so a few "baddies" have begun to stand out as having the most impact on people's health. These are the most prolific mycotoxins:

  • Aflatoxins,
  • Aflatrem (a tremorgenic mycotoxin),
  • Aspergillosis,
  • Citreoviridin,
  • Ergot alkaloids,
  • Fumonisin B1,
  • Gliotoxin,
  • Macrocyclic trichothecenes,
  • Ochratoxin A,
  • Patulin,
  • Penitrem,
  • Rubratoxin,
  • T-2 Toxin,
  • Tremorgens,
  • Verruculogen, and
  • Zearalenone.

Of these mycotoxins, the most dangerous and most researched are:

Aflatoxins (AT) – Aflatoxins are natural carcinogens and commonly contaminate foods, especially crops that are pre-harvested and stored, such as grains, corn, nuts, and seeds. Aflatoxins can also be found in water-damaged or damp buildings where Aspergillus mold is growing. Aflatoxins can cause many different forms of aspergillosis, which is a group of diseases caused by mycotoxins of the Aspergillus genus.

Aflatoxins are fat soluble and readily absorbed by the body. They are usually ingested through contaminated foods or inhaled through dust particles of food items. Once in the bloodstream they are distributed to tissues and the liver. From here (depending on the type of aflatoxin) they are metabolised into different proteins that can cause DNA damage and induce cancer or acute toxicity (aflatoxicosis).

Aflatoxin exposure can result in leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, and renal failure. This mycotoxin gravely impacts the central nervous system through an invasion of blood vessels causing hemorrhagic infarction.

Aflatrem – Aflatrem is a secondary metabolite of Aspergillus flavus that commonly occurs alongside aflatoxins. This fungus is commonly found in corn and therefore ends up in cattle feed. Aflatrem is able to infect both livestock and humans, where it has profound neurotoxic effects. Aflatrem decreases the capacity of glutamate and GABA uptake, which translates as degradation of nerve terminals, a decrease in corresponding neurotransmitters, and their release. This mycotoxin can result in seizures, tremors, and disorientation.

Fumonisin B1 – Another mycotoxin mostly found in corn and cereals, Fumonisin B1 induces neuronal degeneration in the cerebral cortex, disrupts sphingolipid synthesis, inhibits protein synthesis, promotes DNA fragmentation, increases lipid oxidation, causes cell death, and can eventually result in death.

Macrocyclic trichothecenes (MT) – Macrocyclic trichothecenes of Stachybotrys chartarum, is one of the mycotoxins most often found in water-damaged buildings. MT is commonly found in ventilation systems, drywall, and ceiling tiles, but unlike many other mycotoxins, it’s also found in airborne particles.

MT causes neuronal cell apoptosis and inflammation in the olfactory epithelium and olfactory bulb. It inhibits protein synthesis through binding to proteins and other macromolecules. Chronic exposure to MT causes inflammation and cell death, which can lead to respiratory illness, immune system dysfunction, CIRS, and neurological impairment.

Ochratoxin A (OTA) – OTA is caused by several species of mold and found both in food and water-damaged buildings. This mycotoxin is neurotoxic, teratogenic, immunotoxic, and genotoxic. OTA impacts the body by causing oxidative stress, which impairs the mitochondria, and inhibits protein synthesis. Chronic exposure to OTA has been associated with kidney diseases and enzymuria.

In a 2013 study on CIRS, 93 percent of the 112 patients tested positive for one of three mycotoxins AT, MT, and OTA. Additionally, 30 percent tested positive for more than one mycotoxin. Of the three mycotoxins tested, OTA was by far the most common, accounting for 83 percent of all cases.

T-2 Toxin – T-2 Toxin is not usually associated with chronic conditions but still worth mentioning because low level exposures to certain mycotoxins are proving to cause complex conditions, meaning, the T-2 toxin shouldn’t be disregarded.

T-2 Toxin commonly causes an acute mycotoxicosis reaction and is usually found in contaminated foods. T-2 toxin causes neuronal cell apoptosis in fetal and adult brains.21 It inhibits protein synthesis through binding to peptidyl transferase, which triggers a ribotoxic stress response.T-2 toxin also interferes with membrane phospholipid metabolism, increases liver lipid peroxides, and suppresses glutathione S-transferases.

You can test for these mycotoxin levels by ordering one of these tests online: 




    Which nutrient cofactors can help remove them?


    Research has shown the a "mycotoxin detox" works best with binders paired together with glutathione.

    This table may help your to determine which binders to use after you have tested:


    If you have poor detox genes, your ability to remove toxins like mycotoxins may be compromised. Knowing what your genotype is for the key genes involved in bile production, liver detox, and kidney function will also empower you to make better, more personalised detox nutrient cofactor choices to enhance your daily detox capability. Personalisation means optimal outcomes! 

    Your can order the GENE-WELL test online to help you to determine your detox genotype.

     I think that the best way to look at this is to determine:


    Once you have the answer, you'll be one giant step closer to becoming healthier.  

    Marguerite Doig-Gander

    Founder of MY DNA CHOICES | BA (Speech, Hearing & Lang Therapy) Hons | FMCHC | ReCODE Coach | Men's Health |  Harvard T.H.Chan Certification in Nutrition | Harvard Medical School Fundamentals in Genetics | Immunology    

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