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Mycotoxins, the Myenteric Plexus, and SIBO: Connecting the Dots

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on October 16, 2023

Mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by specific fungi, are more ubiquitous than many realize. These toxins can find their way into our food supply and, subsequently, our digestive system. Emerging evidence suggests that these harmful compounds may play a role in gut disturbances, including possible links to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Let's delve into the potential connections between mycotoxins, the myenteric plexus, and SIBO.

Mycotoxins and the Gut: An Entry Point

Mycotoxins commonly enter our system through the food we consume. Foods like cereals, nuts, and some dairy products can become contaminated with fungi producing these toxins, especially if stored improperly.

How Mycotoxins May Impact the Myenteric Plexus

The myenteric plexus is a network of neurons located between the muscle layers in the gut, playing a pivotal role in controlling gut motility. (1)

Neurotoxic Effects: Some mycotoxins are known neurotoxins. Upon ingestion, they might affect the neurons in the myenteric plexus, potentially disturbing gut motility.

Inflammatory Response: Mycotoxins can stimulate an inflammatory response in the gut. Chronic inflammation could indirectly impair the myenteric plexus, further altering gut motility.

Mycotoxins and SIBO: Is there a Link?

Altered gut motility can create an environment conducive to bacterial overgrowth. If the food moves too slowly through the small intestine, it offers more time for bacteria to multiply, potentially leading to SIBO. (2)

SIFO: A Counterpart to SIBO

Another condition worth noting in the realm of gut imbalances is Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth, or SIFO. While SIBO results from an excess of bacteria in the small intestine, SIFO is characterized by an abnormal increase in the number of fungi, particularly yeast species like Candida. Just as SIBO can lead to digestive discomfort and malabsorption, SIFO presents with similar symptoms, including bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.

The connection between mold exposure and SIFO is not as extensively researched as that between mold and SIBO, but it's possible that mold toxins can indirectly promote fungal overgrowth by weakening the body's immune responses or altering the gut environment. Additionally, the myenteric plexus, which governs gut motility, can be impacted by fungi just as it can be by bacteria, further complicating gut function. Understanding both SIBO and SIFO is crucial for a holistic approach to gut health, especially in patients who have been exposed to mold or have persistent unexplained digestive issues.

The Definitive Link Between Mycotoxin Exposure, Myenteric Plexus Disruption, and SIBO/ SIFO

While more research is needed to establish a definitive link between mycotoxin exposure, myenteric plexus disruption, and the development of SIBO, current findings emphasize the importance of proper food storage and sourcing to minimize mycotoxin exposure. As we unravel more about this connection, it becomes clear that maintaining gut health requires a holistic approach, from diet to understanding potential environmental toxins.

Resources:

  1. Gonkowski S, Gajęcka M, Makowska K. Mycotoxins and the Enteric Nervous System. Toxins (Basel). 2020 Jul 19;12(7):461. doi: 10.3390/toxins12070461. PMID: 32707706; PMCID: PMC7404981.
  2. Liew WP, Mohd-Redzwan S. Mycotoxin: Its Impact on Gut Health and Microbiota. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2018 Feb 26;8:60. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2018.00060. PMID: 29535978; PMCID: PMC5834427.

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