This amazing post was written by Jenn Ryan, a freelance writer and editor who’s passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. You can read more of her work at thegreenwritingdesk.com.
It’s likely that you haven’t heard of mycotoxins, a byproduct of mold or fungus that exists in many different foods and even in certain environments. Whether you realize it or not, we often eat mold or fungus pretty much all the time. I discovered this when I was recently diagnosed with a yeast allergy, which caused me to avoid odd things like strawberry jam and alcohol (yes, yeast is a type of fungus!)
What exactly is a mycotoxin, and why should you care?
What Is a Mycotoxin?
Mycotoxins are produced by certain species of mold, but not all species. They come in different groups, including aflatoxin, zearalenone, ochratoxin, and more. These toxic compounds can be in the air or in your food. Airborne mycotoxins from toxic mold can cause some pretty serious health problems, and can be absorbed through the eyes, skin, and lungs.
Mycotoxins that contaminate food also pose dangers. While some mycotoxins are destroyed by cooking, many aren’t. Many of the conventional crops that are grown today are at risk to be contaminated by different types of mycotoxins.
Why Do Mycotoxins Matter?
Although a small amount of mycotoxins present in your food won’t kill you (although severely contaminated crops will), over time, they can cause different health problems in the body, including cancer and autoimmune disorders. When it comes to airborne mycotoxins such as those from homes contaminated with mold, the adverse health effects can be much more severe and happen quickly rather than over a period of time, depending on the severity of the mold infestation.
Whether or not you develop a problem in reaction to mycotoxins will depend upon many things, such as the type of mycotoxin and the amount, how long you were exposed to it, your age, your health, and whether or not your immune system is in good standing. Mycotoxins tend to affect those with weak immune systems more, although anyone can be at risk depending on the severity of the amount and time of exposure.
Although mycotoxins are, strictly speaking, natural, they are also very toxic, especially to people who have existing health problems or compromised immunity.
Top 10 Foods Mycotoxins Are In
While it’s certainly possible to be exposed to mycotoxins via a home infested with mold or even in the environment, it’s much more likely that you’ll be be exposed by eating contaminated foods.
Here are the top ten foods (and their alternatives) that mycotoxins are in.
Okay, so, it’s not a food, but alcohol makes the top of the list for being contaminated with mycotoxins. This is because these beverages are made from grains that are easily contaminated. Add this to the other risks alcohol poses and it looks like drinking alcohol is generally pretty damn toxic to your body.
Alternative: Kombucha, tea, coffee, seltzer water
Everyone eats corn. The problem is that this crop is also commonly contaminated. Is there less of a risk if you eat non-GMO corn? Probably not. Fresh corn is the most likely to be contaminated while other corn products such as chips and flour, less so. Still, consume with caution!
Alternatives: almond flour, quinoa chips, sweet potato chips, quinoa flour, other veggies!
Oh, my old friend wheat. I stopped eating wheat four years ago after it put me in a wheelchair. However, if you’re still consuming wheat, know that wheat and all its lovely products are at high risk for contamination. And no, organic or spouted doesn’t really matter.
Alternatives: Gluten-free flours, coconut flour, quinoa pasta, rice
More gluten! Ah! Yes, barley can be contaminated. It makes the list!
Alternatives: lentils, garbanzo beans, couscous, rice
The death that is sugar! Sugar cane and sugar beats are easily contaminated with mold. Not only that, but they can “feed” fungi such as candida that live naturally in your body, causing an overgrowth that can lead to a variety of other health problems. That in addition to everything else that makes sugar evil—cavities, diabetes, acne, increased risk of death and heart disease. Oh boy!
Alternatives: Raw honey, maple syrup, stevia
Another flour that’s a popular gluten-free alternative, this grain is also used to make alcohol.
Alternatives: Almond, coconut, quinoa, or rice flour
Not peanut butter! Peanuts contain so many different types of molds and yes, mycotoxins.
Alternatives: Walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds
Ok, every single thing that contains gluten has made this list: wheat, barley, and now rye. Do you need another reason to avoid gluten like the plague?
Alternatives: Garbanzo bean flour or rice flour
Cottonseed and cottonseed Oil
Apparently highly contaminated with mycotoxins, the only place I’ve seen this ingredient is on a bag of potato chips. Oops!
Alternatives: Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil
Let’s add some dairy to the list, shall we? Mycotoxins often contaminate cheeses, except for Gouda cheese, which is made from cultures and not fungus.
You may also, in addition to this list, choose to avoid any type of pork, tobacco, mushrooms, cashews, other animal meats, dairy, and eggs. Yikes!
This list was adapted from: http://www.drjohntafel.com/?page_id=619
Can You Avoid Them?
In short, mycotoxins probably aren’t threatening to you if you’re in great health, live in a mold-free environment, and eat foods that aren’t contaminated. However, maybe you do eat many of the foods on the top 10 list, or maybe you are already sick. If this is the case, you might want to step back and reconsider your consumption of foods that are high in mycotoxins.
Unfortunately, there’s no medication for exposure mycotoxins and people are encouraged to focus on preventative measures: to avoid them before they have an opportunity to cause health problems. Although completely avoiding them may be possible based on your diet, you may not need to totally avoid them, rather just be mindful of your risk when consuming them and consume them in moderation!
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