Aflatoxin is a type of mold that is considered a human carcinogen. It’s found in certain commonly eaten foods including peanuts, peanut butter and corn, and is most harmful in parts of the world where people consume large amount of these foods, such as Asia and Africa.  The species of molds that combine to form aflatoxin grow in soils when conditions are just right, including when decaying food, plants, hay and grains are piled together to decompose in areas with high moisture and high temperatures.

There are actually at least 13 different types of naturally-occurring aflatoxin toxic molds that researchers have been able to identify. Of the 13 species, the type called aflatoxin B1 is considered the most toxic, capable of causing health problems such as liver disease or cancer, autoimmune responses, digestive issues and in rare cases even death. Research has shown that consuming aflatoxin through the food supply is one of the major causes of liver disease (specifically the type called hepatocellular carcinoma) in certain countries such as China and Africa.

What can you do to avoid aflatoxin and lower the risk for symptoms it can cause (such as allergies and fatigue)? Aflatoxin enters the body through certain widely-available foods, especially grains and legumes, so making changes to your diet is the first step. Secondly, certain supplements can also help the body detoxify itself of aflatoxin and raise immunity against its effects.

What Does Aflatoxin Do and Where Does It Come From?

Chemically speaking, aflatoxin is a type of “mycotoxin” which is produced by two different species of mold: Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. There are natural molds found around the world and concentrated most in the human food supply in areas with wet and warm climates. It’s also possible for aflatoxin mold to form in grains grown under poor conditions, such as those experiencing droughts.

The strains of aflatoxin most common in foods include B1, B2, G1 and G2.  After humans or other mammals consume aflatoxin metabolic processes turn then into metabolites M1 and M2 which have ” high carcinogenic potential.” International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified aflatoxin B1 as a “Group I carcinogen” that’s capable of raising the risk for cancer. Aflatoxin seems to affect the ways that cells reproduce and also targets the liver, affecting the way that other substances are metabolized and eliminated, and possibly increasing food allergy reactions.

There are many different types of molds and fungus that can grow in food, including various species of mycotoxins, but aflatoxin has gained attention more than most others because studies have found clear evidence of its potential for causing carcinogenic effects. In animal studies, high levels of aflatoxin consumption has been shown to be poisonous, and in human observation studies aflatoxin consumption correlates with an increased the risk for certain illnesses and dangerous symptoms.

Aflatoxin Symptoms & Health Risks

Long-term, some of the symptoms that aflatoxin exposure can cause include:

  • food allergies
  • autoimmune disease reactions
  • inflammation that affects the heart
  • damage to the digestive organs including the liver and kidneys
  • possibly a higher risk for liver cancer, viral hepatitis (HBV) or parasite infestation
  • growth and development impairment
  • the biggest threat is the symptoms seen in patients in liver diseases: vomiting, abdominal pain, water retention, pulmonary edema, convulsions, coma, and even death

How to Avoid Aflatoxin Foods & Lower Exposure

Wondering what else you can do to avoid aflatoxin symptoms? Here are several tips for purchasing and handling foods, plus supplements that can boost detox effects:

  • Don’t keep grains and nuts (corn, peanuts, almonds, for example) for long periods of time. Try consuming them ideally within 1–2 months
  • Buy the freshest ingredients you can, ideally those grown close to your location and not shipped overseas. Reputable, small sellers who grow organic crops are most likely to harvest them at the right time and keep them stored properly
  • Store grains, corn and nuts in places that are dry and cool to prevent mold growth. You can even freeze them to prolong freshness
  • Soak, sprout and ferment grains, beans, legumes nuts and seeds before eating them! This is an easy step you can do at home that doesn’t take much time, boosts the availability of nutrients and helps lower presence of “antinutrients” and mold
  • There’s also some evidence that eating detoxifying vegetables like carrots and celery reduces the carcinogenic effects of aflatoxins and helps cleanse the liver

Consume the supplements below that can boost detoxification effects, cleanse the liver and improve digestion:

  • Studies show that chlorophyllin and  chlorophyll supplements help to reduce the bioavailability of aflatoxin
  • Milk thistle, marshmallow root and dandelion root all help cleanse the liver and can lower digestive symptoms
  • Activated charcoal can help bind to aflatoxin mold and carry it out of the body more easily