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Yeast, Fungus, Candida and Other Such Critters That Make Us Sick & Well, Part 1

by Michael Cheikin MD

This article was originally written ten years ago. Like the 40-50 years before it, there has been minimal progress in conventional medicine's utilization of these concepts. However, if one searches for "yeast" on pubmed.gov, the federal government's database of quality research, thousands of relevant articles will come up. In medical circles, when someone develops a chronic yeast infection, there is oftentimes nothing to be done. However, holistic medicine has an arsenal of strategies that can help achieve balance. 

What Are Yeast?
Yeast, fungus and molds all refer to the same organisms, based on shape and location. This biological kingdom also includes mildews, mushrooms, rusts and smuts. Unlike plants, which they were originally thought to be, they lack chlorophyll and therefore must derive their energy (nutrition) from other organisms, either live (parasitic) or dead (saprophytic). Fungi are more advanced than Bacteria, as they have nuclei and organelles within their cells (eukaryotic vs. prokaryotic).

Bacteria and fungi (among other life forms such as parasites and viruses) were here before us, and evolution determined that we carry a farm of these organisms within us, to harness their abilities. They defend us against other more harmful critters, and produce compounds such as vitamins K2, B12, B7 and others. In fact, we carry as much as three pounds of these passengers of up to 400 different species within our lower intestines. Of the trillions of cells that make up our body, only 10% are us, while they are 90%! Our cells are much larger, so we comprize 95% of our volume. So, while we use them, they are using us as a home, transport and food source!

Some of the greatest accomplishments of civilization utilize their biochemical machinery. Bread, beer, wine and coffee could not be made without the fermentation process they developed. Antibiotic-producing molds, formally discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 (actually by Ernest Duchenne in 1897, and over 2500 years ago by the Chinese and Egyptians) have enabled us to live longer lives. Death by overwhelming infection, of children, mothers, surgical patients, and trauma victims prior to the 1900's was quite common. Prior to penicillin, the only anti-bacterial agents used were toxic chemicals such as arsenic which caused huge damage while doing their job. Penicillin was truly miraculous by doing its magic without causing damage. 

This effect was so amazing, that it instantly catapulted allopathic medicine over other health professions such as homeopathy and herbalism. To this day, we carry around a hope that no matter what we do, there will be a "magic bullet" that will solve our problems. In fact, the term "magic bullet" was coined by Nobel-prize winning German scientist Paul Erlich to refer to chemical agents that specifically target bacteria without causing damage to the host.
Yeast and Bacteria in the Twenty-First Century
The quest for the magic bullet has its down-sides, as we are learning today. Bacteria such as tuberculosis and MRSA develop antibiotic resistance and slowly spread across the globe. Also, by taking antibiotics, we kill off the good bacteria within our gut, which changes the balance of organisms (ecology), a condition called dysbiosis. These "bad" bacteria, cannot keep naturally occurring yeasts such as Candida albicans under control. These bad bacteria and yeast then produce toxins which damage the lining of the gut, and make it permeable to compounds that it is normally designed to keep out of the body, a condition called leaky gut syndrome. The toxicity of leaky gut can then lead to a host of dysfunctions not only of the gut and liver, but also the immune, hormonal and mind-body systems.

Penicillin is a product of nature, of hundreds of millions of years of development. We are arrogant to think that we can manipulate these molecules and the processes they control. Many of our current medical problems stem from ignorant misuse of antibiotics, pesticides, toxins and mis-applied vaccines. Problems including the yeast discussed in this article, as well as drug-resistant bacteria, several gastro-intestinal, autoimmune, neurologic and cancer conditions are fed by this arrogance.

Symptoms of Yeast Dysbiosis
While yeast infections can involve the feet, toenails, genitals, or skin, oftentimes there are no obvious signs. In such cases the recurrence of symptoms raises the question. 

Immune dysfunction usually manifests as progressively increasing allergies, autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's thyroiditis, colitis and rheumatoid arthritis as examples), and poor resistance to common infections such as sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, yeast infections of the skin, nails and genitals, and perhaps cancer. Hormonal dysfunction can manifest as PMS, endometriosis, infertility, accelerated peri-menopause, adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia and pre-diabetes, to name a few. Mind-body dysfunction can manifest as mental fog, irritability, anxiety, depression, ADD, autism, seizures and other neuro-developmental problems in children. These often fail to respond to conventional drugs and talk therapy, as the root cause is not addressed. Gastro-intestinal dysfunction can look like chronic constipation or diarrhea, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), GERD (gastro-intestinal reflux disease), and various malabsorption conditions. Other associated conditions include pelvic floor dysfunction, interstitial cystitis (ICS), fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndromes, elevated cholesterol and C-reactive protein, dental issues, painful muscles,  arthritis-like symptoms, acne, and feeling sick when the liver cannot keep up with the load of toxins 

Part two of this article will review conventional and holistic evaluation and treatment options.

1. This educational material may not be used to influence medical care without supervision by a licensed practitioner.
2. These contents may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission. ©2007-2017 by Michael Cheikin MD
3. Dr. Cheikin's website has related articles such as "Stealth Infections",  "Allergy and Infection" and "Gut-Brain".

Michael Cheikin MD is a holistic physician, Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ("Physiatry"), Pain Management, Spinal Cord Medicine and Electrodiagnostic Medicine and licensed in Medical Acupuncture. Dr. Cheikin has extensively studied yoga, diet and metabolism, Ayurvedic, Chinese and energy medicine and other alternative modalities for over 30 years. He specializes in obscure, chronic and severe problems that have not responded satisfactorily to other methods of healing. www.cheikin.com  

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