Are Fungi and Yeasts a Threat to Our Health?

A couple of quotes from this study: “Fungal infections take more than 1.3 million lives each year worldwide, nearly as many as tuberculosis”. “..half of the world’s 350,000 asthma-related deaths each year stem from fungal infection..”

file2701293812299Yeasts and fungi are probably the most successful organisms on the planet. They do not necessarily require sunlight or oxygen and they use starches, glucose and other sugars for growth. This means they can grow pretty much anywhere as long as there as there is food and moisture – from the sludge at the bottom of the sea to mould on damp walls to us. Having more than one way to reproduce adds to their success too. They are often invisible – miles of mycelium (the underground “roots” of fungi) can be present in just a handful of soil, for example. Yeasts too are invisible to the naked eye unless they are part of a colony as in baker’s yeast or the bloom on the skin of some fruits. Just think what an advantage these attributes give to the life of these ubiquitous organisms! There are of course, many that are beneficial to us – some edible mushrooms have a wonderful array of nutrients and antioxidants.

Both yeasts and fungi can attack humans and they are one of our major killers worldwide. Even if they do not kill, they can cause suffering and misery.  “..half of the world’s 350,000 asthma-related deaths each year stem from fungal infection”  for example and Candida albicans can cause vaginal and oral thrush, skin problems and gut disturbances. In severely immune compromised people, Candida albicans can kill. There are other fungal/yeast infections that can affect humans such as aspergillus, ringworm and tinea (eg. athlete’s foot).

Severe infections with these organisms occur mostly in people who are immune compromised for some reason – A.I.D.S., treatment to prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ, cancer treatment and even pregnancy as this is a normal immune-suppressed state. (The baby shouldn’t be rejected!) However, if we eat incorrectly or if our immune systems have taken a knock for some reason, we are all at risk of mild or severe infection.

Including some fermented foods in our diet boosts our beneficial bacteria and this DSCF0577 keeps Candida in its place. It lives in our gut naturally but if we are healthy, it causes no problems. The main two ways that will change this balanced condition is if we feed it or if our gut microbes have been compromised for some reason. Candida can multiply rapidly and instead of being a few harmless yeast cells, it becomes an invasive colony. Yeasts need sugars for their growth and reproduction so if our diets are high in carbohydrate foods (which are broken down to sugars) – such as the doughnut, they get the chance to flourish. Many drugs but especially antibiotics, will disrupt the gut flora giving Candida a chance to gain a foothold. As a colony, it is able to put out microscopic rootlets which penetrate the delicate one-cell thick lining of the gut. This creates the condition known as leaky-gut syndrome giving rise to a host of problems in the gut and systemically.

In nature, one sees fungi not only thriving in decaying wood and leaves but also invading dying or weak plants. If we are less than healthy with a poor immune system, we too become a target. Don’t let it be you.

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