How does mouldy bread affect the body?

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How does mouldy bread affect the body?
Eating mouldy bread can cause illness. (dziewul/iStock/Getty Images)

Moulds are tiny fungal organisms. Beneficial strains are used in manufacturing foods like cheese. Eating bread contaminated with unwanted moulds can cause mild or serious illnesses. Avoid first-hand experience of the effects of mouldy bread on your body by examining loaves carefully before buying. Keep opened loaves refrigerated, especially in humid weather, and throw away the whole loaf at the first sign of mould.

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Bacterial food poisoning

In rare cases, mouldy bread provides a home for bacteria. Bread with mould spots can carry bacteria like salmonella or E. coli, which cause food poisoning. Effects on your body of ingesting these bacteria are vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Possible complications of food poisoning are dehydration from severe vomiting, a reduction in the numbers of blood cells and kidney failure. Treatment for severe cases involves hospitalisation, intravenous feeding and medications to suppress the vomiting. Always seek emergency medical help if symptoms include blood in stools.

Appetite suppression

Eating mouldy bread is an unpleasant experience that can ruin your appetite and lead to temporary nausea. Eating too little food can cause symptoms like weakness, headache and a lack of energy or concentration. To encourage your appetite to recover after feeling nauseous from the smell or taste of mouldy bread, eat cold foods with no strong odours, such as salads. For a persistent lack of appetite, try instant nutritional drinks as an alternative to eating.

Mycotoxin illnesses

Mould on bread does not necessarily mean there are other poisons present. Some mouldy bread is also contaminated with fungal poisons known as mycotoxins. Eating bread with these poisons puts you at risk of a serious illness. Mycotoxins are poisons made by certain moulds that grow on grains. Aspergillus moulds have been found on mouldy breads. They make a mycotoxin known as Aflatoxin B1. It's a strong carcinogenic substance linked to liver and lung cancers. Other illnesses associated with mycotoxins include skin rashes, suppression of the immune system, damage to the nerve system and endocrine problems. Those with already weakened or immature immune systems such as young children, AIDS patients and the elderly are more likely to become ill from eating bread that contains mycotoxins.

Allergies and respiratory illnesses

Do not sniff mouldy bread, as mould spores can enter your body by travelling up your nose and into your lungs. HP, or hypersensitivity pneumonitis, can be caused by mould spores. Its symptoms are breathing difficulties and a developing cough that becomes more pronounced with time. Other respiratory symptoms such as irritation of the mucous membranes, nausea and skin rashes also result from inhalation of mould spores from bread. Moulds are also dangerous to those who have certain allergies. If you suffer from mould allergies, do not touch the mouldy bread. Even dead mould spores have been associated with allergy attacks, because the inhaled dead spores still carry allergens inside or outside themselves.

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