Mold is everywhere, so they say. ‘They’ refers to mainstream medicine as they try to convince you that mold toxicity cannot be causing your symptoms. They challenge you to explain how a little chemical called a mycotoxin made by little molds that are all around us could somehow make you feel as horrible as you do. They would often rather blame your mental health and send you to a psychiatrist. You may begin to doubt yourself and doubt your functional medicine provider, who is urging you to detox and get mold out of your home. As my business coach would say, “Step back and gain some perspective.” In this case, look at the research evidence for mold toxicity and consider the fact that we have seen countless others with similar symptoms recover through mold detox. Over the coming weeks, I will share some of the research evidence so you can decide for yourself.
In today’s report, we will discuss zearalenone, also known as F-2 mycotoxin, a toxin produced by a variety of Fusarium mold species. These Fusarium species are found in a number of grain crops such as millet, rice, maize, rye, sorghum, barley, and wheat as well as in buildings with water damage. Other studies reviewed in other blogs on our site have indicated that Fusarium can grow in the drainpipes for indoor plumbing. While other molds like dampness and only a little water, Fusarium can live in the higher levels of water found in stagnant drainpipes.
The primary health effects of this mycotoxin are enacted through its estrogen like effects. While it does not contain a full steroid structure like natural estrogen, the similarity in shape to estrogen means it can bind estrogen receptors and trigger similar downstream changes as the natural hormone. This means it acts as a xenoestrogen, a non-estrogen chemical that impersonates estrogen in the human body. This property likely explains why studies on pigs who that high levels lead to infertility in the animals. Studies show that both pigs and humans metabolize the parent zearalenone into either alpha or beta zearalenol, favoring the alpha form. This alpha form appears to possess higher estrogenic potential than the beta form.
Studies indicate that once inside pigs or humans and metabolized into these secondary forms, this chemical can bind various receptors normally used for estrogen. Besides this somewhat direct effect, it also appears to disrupt the production of endogenous hormones, making it a further endocrine disruptor. It likely can contribute to early puberty.
Besides the hormonal effects, some studies indicate that it can induce tumors in the pituitary and liver in mice as well as possibly esophageal cancer. The mechanisms are not clear; currently the connection is a correlation more than a causation. Adverse effects on genes leading to mutations seem like a potential mechanism in other studies.
More research into the effects of zearalenone is available to those willing to research the issue, but this overview should help you to counter the mainstream propaganda that mold toxins don’t affect human health. While it is not the most common mold toxin we encounter in patient’s evaluation, it does come up occasionally and is worth treating with detox steps. Helping patients restore healthier more abundant lives after mold toxicity and hopefully avoid future cancer risks from such toxins requires keeping our minds open to the full picture of environmental health. We can’t afford to ignore pink elephants in the room, regardless of how unpronounceable ‘zearalenone’ may be.
Awuchi CG, Ondari EN, Nwozo S, Odongo GA, Eseoghene IJ, Twinomuhwezi H, Ogbonna CU, Upadhyay AK, Adeleye AO, Okpala COR. Mycotoxins’ Toxicological Mechanisms Involving Humans, Livestock and Their Associated Health Concerns: A Review. Toxins. 2022; 14(3):167. https://doi.org/10.3390/toxins14030167
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.