Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin produced by many species of fungus molds and these toxins are very toxic. They are one the most potent carcinogen, which means cancer causing.
When you are exposed to a high levels of aflatoxins, it results in acute hepatic necrosis. This liver damage can cause various chronic liver diseases and even liver cancer. And children are particularly affected by exposure to aflatoxins because it can stunt their growth and cause delays in their physical and mental development.
Aflatoxin exposure symptoms include hemorrhage and coma. Some of the other liver damage health effects after exposure to aflatoxins involve:
- cirrhosis of the liver
- weakened immune system causing susceptibility to other diseases & infections
How do aflatoxins become a part of our diet? Aging food is a breeding ground for aflatoxin producing molds, especially Aspergillus flavus. Yet, not all fungus produced mycotoxins are believed to be harmful.
An added problem is that a aflatoxin is heat and cold resistant, so heating or freezing them has very little effect. Also, the preservatives are not very efficient in protecting food from fungi.
The likely dietary sources containing the toxin are:
- milk from an infected animal
- old crops ~ maize, wheat and cotton
- moldy spices ~ coriander, turmeric, certain oilseeds
Ways you can minimize your chances of aflatoxin consumption include:
- check food before purchase
- buy only produce in your local season
- foods & crops susceptible to liver damaging aflatoxin should be avoided
- do not consume foods you suspect have been stored nor transported improperly
If you believe you’ve been exposed to aflatoxins, taking adsorbents like active charcoal can rid your body of the poison. And taking antioxidants may assist as well.
In severe cases, a blood transfusion and dialysis may be necessary.