Moldy Thyroid Hormone

Many patients ask how a mold toxin could cause so much trouble in so many body systems?  I greatly enjoy sharing insights with patients, so I could easily get side tracked for hours, but even our prolonged visits in the office have to end so I can see the next patient.  Without going into the detail that the rest of this blog provides, I explain the big picture. In the available time, the first big picture answer is recognizing that patients are often exposed to several mold toxins at once.  The second point is that each toxin can have multiple effects.  The third is that each of those effects could then have further downstream effects.  By this third level, the symptoms can be numerous and cross several body systems.  Then I point them to a number of educational resources we provide such as this blog which  explain a number of effects of mold toxins on the thyroid hormone system.

The thyroid and its hormones provide primary control over the speed of metabolic functions in the body.  Too much and things speed dangerously to fast.  Too little and the body slows with other less than desirable effects.  While providing this critical role, the thyroid and its hormones are influenced by other hormones including cortisol and the sex hormones.  These other hormones also experience changes when mold toxins are present.  Other blogs have or will address these effects on thyroid function.

For now, we will review a number of mold toxins that effect thyroid control of metabolism.  This influence can work through directly changing the function of the thyroid itself or changing the downstream effects of the hormone on local tissues.  At the level of the thyroid, aflatoxin B1 has demonstrated the ability to induce apoptosis (cell death) in rat thyroid cells (1).  In experiments with pigs, mycotoxins from fusarium mold can result in small thyroid glands with higher levels of total thyroid hormone (2).   In other rat experiments, patulin, after 60 days of exposure, resulted in colloid degeneration and lymphocytic infiltration of the thyroid.  It also led to lower hormone levels (3).

Besides influencing size or production of hormone, some toxins effect the receptors to which the hormone bind.  These receptors are necessary to induce the receiving cells to carry out faster metabolic functions.  The mold toxins, beauvericin , ochratoxin A, and deoxynivalenol were shown to inhibit the receptor in studies (4). Another toxin, zearalenone inhibits the production of the receptor in the rat brain (5).  The T2 toxin appears to interfere with the production of thyroglobulin which stores thyroid hormone and may cause an iodine deficiency in the process (6).

Far more research should continue in these areas.  With the changing patterns of home construction and aging structures of homes already present both leading to increased exposure of homeowners to mycotoxins, we need to know more about how these toxins affect our hormones.  We see our patients suffer various hormonal imbalances and struggle with hormone balance until we address their mold toxicity.  In helping patients live healthier more abundant lives, medicine should not continue to ignore the contribution of mold toxins to chronic unexplained hormone imbalances.



Articles Cited:

  • Gesing, Adam et al. “Effects of melatonin on the process of apoptosis in rat thyroid follicular cells.” Neuro endocrinology letters 27,1-2 (2006): 81-4.
  • Rotter, B A et al. “Influence of low-level exposure to Fusarium mycotoxins on selected immunological and hematological parameters in young swine.” Fundamental and applied toxicology : official journal of the Society of Toxicology 23,1 (1994): 117-24. doi:10.1006/faat.1994.1087
  • Selmanoglu, Güldeniz, and E Arzu Koçkaya. “Investigation of the effects of patulin on thyroid and testis, and hormone levels in growing male rats.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 42,5 (2004): 721-7. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2003.12.007
  • García-Herranz, V et al. “Cytotoxicity against fish and mammalian cell lines and endocrine activity of the mycotoxins beauvericin, deoxynivalenol and ochratoxin-A.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 127 (2019): 288-297. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2019.01.036
  • Kiss, David Sandor et al. “Comparative Analysis of Zearalenone Effects on Thyroid Receptor Alpha (TRα) and Beta (TRβ) Expression in Rat Primary Cerebellar Cell Cultures.” International journal of molecular sciences 19,5 1440. 11 May. 2018, doi:10.3390/ijms19051440
  • Demaegdt, Heidi et al. “Endocrine activity of mycotoxins and mycotoxin mixtures.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 96 (2016): 107-16. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2016.07.033


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Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.

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