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Healthy Living: The Effects of Mycotoxins on Human Health (And Some Good Advice)

Are you looking to improve your health? One way of doing so is to understand the negative effects of mycotoxins on human health.

But first:

What exactly is a mycotoxin?

These stubborn little toxic compounds in our foods put up a good fight. Learn what you can do to help protect yourself from them!

Mycotoxins is the name collectively given to the fungi metabolites produced in plants and mainly cereals.  Fungi, or mold, in plants produce certain products which are toxic for human consumption, and for animals and plants as well. Out of the several varieties of mold metabolites, 6 have been found to seriously affect human health. That’s why it’s important to know how to get rid of mycotoxins.

How Does Development Occur for Mycotoxins in Food?

When plants and crops are still in the farming process, temperature, water levels, humidity, and soil’s PH alter the conditions in which mold and fungi can thrive easily. Under such circumstances, the mold enters the grains and cereals and many other crops. Even when crops in a farm are not affected by mold, they are still vulnerable to mold growth at the time of harvest, transportation and storage. So, when the final food products reach the stores and our kitchens, they may carry certain toxins that can be dangerous for human health.

Mycotoxins are common around the world, especially in tropical and sub-tropical climates. However, global warming has been a cause of the rise of mycotoxins in food products in other areas of the world as well. They are mostly found in staple foods globally such as:

  • Corn
  • Cereals
  • Groundnuts and tree nuts
  • Meat
  • Milk and eggs

According to a 2013 study, about 25% of the world’s harvested crops are mycotoxins-contaminated each year.

What Are the Effects of Mycotoxins on Human Health?

In order to prevent the negative effects of mycotoxins on human health, there are some steps you can take. Keep reading to find out more...

Mycotoxins are environmental toxins that may not be fully removed from food. When humans or animals eat food contaminated with mycotoxins, it may lead to acute and chronic health problems.

Some serious effects of consuming mycotoxins-contaminated food are as follows:

  • Liver cancer
  • Liver Cirrhosis and hepatitis
  • Reduction of immunity
  • Changed protein metabolism
  • Gangrene
  • Convulsions
  • Respiratory problems
  • Coma

Other common health problems caused by mycotoxins include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Infections

The rate at which mycotoxins affect humans varies according to age, sex, weight, diet, exposure to mycotoxins, and the quantity of exposure and presence of other mycotoxins in the environment.

In humans, the effects of mycotoxins in young people and infants are greater than in adults.

This means that children and adolescents are much more vulnerable to mycotoxins’ effects than adults. Moreover, certain factors may aggravate the severity of exposure to these toxins such as:

  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Low calorie intake
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Presence of an infectious disease

Mycotoxins are not only harmful to human health, but they are also a health hazard in animal feeds.

How to Get Rid of Mycotoxins in Your Body (Prevention Techniques)

Unfortunately, the usual ways we know to get rid of bacteria and toxins like cooking, boiling, frying, or washing our foods do not completely remove mycotoxins from our food. These are highly stable compounds that are not removed at high temperatures or with water.

Once the food is cooked, boiled, or fried, the mycotoxins are still present in them and can cause damage to our health. There are certain practices that reduce or remove the mycotoxins from our food which are done on a large scale by the farmers or the food and drug authorities to ensure that the food reaching the end-user is safe for human and animal consumption.

Agricultural Practices

Proper farming practices can prevent the negative effects of mycotoxins on human health

Proper farming practices can help prevent crops from contamination in the fields. The practices currently available are:

  • Growing resistant crop varieties
  • Crop rotation
  • Soil tillage
  • Chemical and biological control of plant diseases
  • Insect control

However, any of these practices do not fully ensure the safety of food from contamination because there is still a long way to go for the crops to reach our tables.

Harvest and Storage Practices

Proper harvest, transportation and improved storage facilities support the prevention of fungal growth in harvested crops.

Industrial Practices – Food Processing

Industrial practices regarding food processing is typically done after the harvest. This helps remove the contaminated grains from the food. Some examples of food processing include:

  • Cleaning the grains and food products
  • Sorting/grading of cereal grains and fruits, steeping and de-hulling
  • Milling the flour and other cereal grains also reduces toxins in the food
  • Thermal processing in various forms helps reduce or remove the Mycotoxins from our food
  • Irradiation and cold plasma technique
  • Chemical processing to detoxify food products

Foods High in Mycotoxins Will Increase Exposure

Recently the emphasis on food products from organically fed animals and the consumption of plant-based foods has increased. This has led to an increased demand for organically sourced food products, thus increasing the risk that the negative effects of mycotoxins on human health is reaching end-users. Therefore, there is an increased need to review the existing food processing technologies and user’s safe-consumption guidelines. 

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How to Reduce Exposure to Mycotoxins?

On an individual or user-level there is not much that we can do, sadly. Except that we sort and wash and cook the food properly to ensure the reduction of certain toxins in our food. However, that may only reduce the fraction of these toxins and may not completely remove them. These processes might not even reduce some toxins. However, to ensure that what we consume is safe enough for us to eat, one must:

Washing and Manual Sorting

  • Properly sort our grains, cereals, and food products to remove contaminated food items
  • Wash these products thoroughly under running water to ensure the removal of water-soluble toxins
  • Soak cereals before cooking as this can reduce certain toxins from the cereals

Proper Cooking Practices

  • Cook at high temperatures to reduce toxins as much as possible
  • Cook foods thoroughly and properly. Avoid eating under-cooked food from frying, baking or other methods of cooking.
  • Baking and kneading dough for fermentation can also reduce certain toxins

Brewed foods, dried fruits, nuts, and spices may have higher levels of mycotoxins as these processes may help increase the risk of toxins.

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Supporting Liver Health to Fight the Effects of Mycotoxins on Human Health

The human body is blessed with a natural detoxifying organ – the liver. By supporting our liver health, we can ensure that even if the mycotoxins enter our body through food, the liver will detoxify its effects and remove it from our bodies.

Mycotoxins may not be visible and can enter our diet even after all of the above industrial, agricultural, and individual regulations of food products.  Because of that, the only hope lies with our own body being able to naturally identify these toxins and fight them from our bloodstream before they cause any adverse effects on our body. For that matter, we need to support our liver health on a daily basis to stay healthy and protected against these food toxins.

Some common ways to regulate your livers health includes:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Watching out for certain medications
  • Being careful with herbs and supplements
  • Avoiding exposure to toxins in the air

The liver is a sensitive organ and can easily be damaged by our irresponsible behavior towards our health. Hence, taking care of your liver is immensely important for your long-term health and fitness.

I can help you find ways to improve your liver health and manage your exposure to toxins. Let’s start with a FREE 20-minutes consultation and see how I can be of help!

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