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Understanding the Link Between Mycotoxins, Higher Body Burden, and Autoimmune Disease

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on March 28, 2024

In recent years, research has shed light on the intricate relationship between environmental toxins and autoimmune diseases. (1) Among these toxins, mycotoxins, produced by certain molds, have emerged as significant contributors to health concerns. Understanding how the body's burden of mycotoxins relates to autoimmune diseases is crucial for both prevention and management strategies.

Mycotoxins as Toxic Compounds Adding to Toxicy Body Burden

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by various species of fungi, commonly found in contaminated food, water-damaged buildings, and agricultural products. Exposure to mycotoxins can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact, leading to a higher body burden over time.

The Association Between Mycotoxins and Autoimmune Disease

The association between mycotoxins and autoimmune diseases stems from their diverse toxic effects on the body, including genotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity. These properties can disrupt immune system function and trigger autoimmune responses in susceptible individuals.

The Genotoxic, Immunotoxic, and Neurotoxic Effects of Mycotoxins

Genotoxicity refers to the ability of mycotoxins to damage DNA, potentially leading to mutations and cellular abnormalities. Such DNA damage can disrupt immune cell function and increase the risk of autoimmune reactions by altering the body's ability to distinguish between self and non-self antigens. (2)

Immunotoxicity involves the suppression or dysregulation of immune responses, which can result in chronic inflammation and autoimmune manifestations. Mycotoxins can modulate immune cell activity, cytokine production, and antibody formation, creating an environment conducive to autoimmune disease development.

Furthermore, the neurotoxic effects of mycotoxins can impact the central nervous system and the communication between the brain and immune system. Neurological dysfunction can contribute to dysregulation of the immune response and exacerbate autoimmune processes.

The Role of the Exposome in Environmental Toxicity and Autoimmune Disease

In the context of mycotoxin exposure and autoimmune disease, the exposome plays a significant role in shaping individual susceptibility and outcomes. (3) The exposome encompasses the totality of environmental exposures throughout an individual's life, including dietary habits, lifestyle factors, socioeconomic status, and exposure to pollutants and toxins such as mycotoxins. Understanding the complex interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental exposures captured by the exposome is crucial for unraveling the etiology of autoimmune diseases.

Variations in the exposome, such as differences in geographical location, housing conditions, and occupational exposures, can contribute to disparities in mycotoxin exposure levels and autoimmune disease prevalence among populations. Therefore, comprehensive approaches that consider the multifaceted nature of the exposome are essential for elucidating the link between mycotoxins and autoimmune diseases and developing targeted interventions for at-risk individuals. (4)

Underlying Mechanisms Linking Autoimmune Disease and Mycotoxin Exposure

Several autoimmune diseases have been linked to mycotoxin exposure, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune thyroid disorders. While the precise mechanisms underlying these associations require further investigation, accumulating evidence suggests a role for mycotoxins in triggering or exacerbating autoimmune responses.

The Role of Mycotoxin Exposure Prevention is Key

Preventing mycotoxin exposure is essential for reducing the risk of autoimmune disease development. This includes measures such as maintaining proper indoor air quality, inspecting and remedying water damage promptly, and ensuring the proper storage and handling of food to minimize mold growth.

For individuals already living with autoimmune diseases, reducing mycotoxin exposure and supporting detoxification pathways may be beneficial as part of a comprehensive treatment approach. This may involve dietary changes, supplementation with antioxidants and detoxifying agents, and minimizing exposure to mold-prone environments.


The association between higher body burden of mycotoxins and autoimmune disease highlights the importance of environmental factors in immune system regulation. By understanding the genotoxic, immunotoxic, and neurotoxic effects of mycotoxins, we can better address the role of these toxins in autoimmune disease pathogenesis and explore strategies for prevention and management.


  1. Kharrazian D. Exposure to Environmental Toxins and Autoimmune Conditions. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2021 Apr;20(2):20-24. PMID: 34377090; PMCID: PMC8325494.
  2. Hess EV. Environmental chemicals and autoimmune disease: cause and effect. Toxicology. 2002 Dec 27;181-182:65-70. doi: 10.1016/s0300-483x(02)00256-1. PMID: 12505286.
  3. Vojdani A, Vojdani E. The Role of Exposomes in the Pathophysiology of Autoimmune Diseases I: Toxic Chemicals and Food. Pathophysiology. 2021 Dec 18;28(4):513-543. doi: 10.3390/pathophysiology28040034. PMID: 35366249; PMCID: PMC8830458.
  4. Vojdani A, Pollard KM, Campbell AW. Environmental triggers and autoimmunity. Autoimmune Dis. 2014;2014:798029. doi: 10.1155/2014/798029. Epub 2014 Dec 24. PMID: 25610638; PMCID: PMC4290643.

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