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Candida Albicans

(Part 1 of: 1 l 2 )
The Yeast of Our Worries.

by Michael Braunstein


Ever just have to eat two bowls of Hagen Daz? And then when you finish you ask yourself - "Yuk, why did I eat that? I feel miserable."

Was it really you who was hungry? Was it a need for your body's nutrition that drove you? Hardly. If it were your nutritional needs, something good for you, don't you think it would have been something healthy that you craved?

Guess who was directing your craving? Mr. Fungus, that's who.

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It's a monster. It has swollen to over 1500 acres in size and weighs hundreds of tons. It's the largest single organism in the world. Its lair lies hidden away in a mountain forest in western Washington. Each day and night, new tendrils pierce the soil and devour stands of old-growth trees. It grows unchecked and unchallenged and scientists know there is nothing they can do to stop it. The worst part? One of its relatives is already living in your gut.

Ant killed by a fungus called Cordyceps Lloydic
Armillaria ostovae is its given name. It is a fungus, one that feeds and grows with such astonishing appetite that it truly is the largest living thing on the planet. Chop off part of it and there is little effect. It will not stop. To effectively stop this monster, it would have to be killed down to the last cell, the very last cell. Without that complete eradication, it could regenerate once more. That goes for its relative living in your body.

The human body is a zoo, a playground and world for hundreds if not thousands of species. It's a fact of biology, so deal with it. Plants and animals grow within us and upon us. Most of the time it's a symbiotic relationship in which everybody wins. In fact, our bodies need certain biological entities to survive. Bacteria in our digestive system help us metabolize the food we eat. Without a healthy crop of e. coli we would have continual indigestion. But our personal petting zoo is not limited to our gut. Pick up that eyelash that just fell off your face and give it a close look. Armored monsters appear under the microscope; little mites that live, eat and breed in the follicle roots of your body hair. And that's if you're healthy!

When in balance, our little live-ins survive just fine on the leftovers and unused portions of nutrients our bodies provide. Like the birds we see picking lice off rhinos or the pilot fish that groom larger sea animals, these freeloaders often play an important role in good housekeeping.

But what happens when the inmates take over the asylum? What happens if our on-site management system (otherwise known as an immune system) slacks off on the job? These sometimes helpful, often benign populations become a problem. When our immune system can no longer keep up with the growth of our alien beasties, we begin to see and feel the foreign presence of the unchecked relative of our Washington monster fungus. We use yeast in baking to make things light. But it isn't really fair to make light of yeast in our body. It can be a very serious thing.

Yeast and fungus can be considered to be the same thing. Yeast is a one-celled plant with a simple and primitive pedigree. Unchanged genetically for millions of years, it apparently hasn't needed to evolve since it is one of the most prolific and successful of all life forms. It lives everywhere on the planet. And it serves a valuable purpose in some ways. It is the earth's garbage recycler. When something dies, one of the helpful things yeast, molds and fungi do is devour its elements to return it to the carbon cycle of life. The thing is, we don't want it to start its work early.

Candida albicans is the most common family of yeast living in our bodies. It lends its name to what we call candida or candidiasis, the disease and symptoms that an overpopulation causes.

Usually yeast exists in a controlled, minor population in our bodies. It lives mostly in mucosal tissues like the gut. When things run amok, however, yeast proliferate and transform. An overgrowth of yeast is commonly called a "yeast infection." Yeast infections in the most obvious cases are incorrectly considered a "female problem", when the vaginal mucosae host large populations of the plant life and discomfort such as itching and discharge are sometimes more than just an inconvenience. But men can also harbor yeast infections genitally, especially if uncircumcised. Our immediate attention is drawn to the obvious and millions of dollars are spent each year on prescription and non-prescription ways to try to control vaginal yeast infections. Trying to simply kill off the yeast by using anti-fungal poisons is pointless unless the underlying conditions that allowed the yeast to proliferate are addressed. In fact, using a fungicide will simply kill the weak yeast and leave the resistant strains to proliferate. Super yeast end up being super infections. Recurrence is guaranteed if the underlying conditions are not remedied.

But there is an even more serious side to yeast infections. That is when the population becomes so entrenched that it lives throughout the body and begins to transform into the other mutation known as fungus.

Yeast is bi-morphic. Think of a butterfly. It has two distinct life forms; caterpillar and butterfly. So does yeast. When yeast is in its fairly non-invasive state, it lives as a sugar-fermenting colony in our gut. When our bodies get out of balance, that yeast takes advantage and proliferates. It changes form and becomes a mycelial fungus that literally branches out through our bodies, starting in our intestine. These branches shoot out like mushrooms sprout through undergrowth. The tentacles of the fungus, called rhizoids, can penetrate the mucosal lining of the intestine and invade every organ. Thread-like and root-like shoots grow through the body like their relative taking over the Washington mountainside. This is real. When the entire body is involved, it is called systemic candidiasis.

When a yeast infection has taken over the body, it's a sometimes very subtle thing. After all, any good parasite wants to live just below the level of our attention. If it can nourish itself without raising alarm, then it gets by just fine because the host does nothing and never suspects the actual cause of the growing symptomology.

But yeast and fungus have to live. The colony has to feed. And their favorite food? Sugar - America's number one addiction. How convenient.

Have you ever had an irresistible craving for sugar or candy? A sweet-tooth, if you will? Have you ever just chowed down on a handful of Jelly Bellies or wolfed on half a box of Girl Scout Cookies? Ever just have to eat two bowls of Hagen Daz? And then when you finish you ask yourself - "Yuk, why did I eat that? I feel miserable." Was it really you who was hungry? Was it a need for your body's nutrition that drove you? Hardly. If it were your nutritional needs, something good for you, don't you think it would have been something healthy that you craved? Guess who was directing your craving? Mr. Fungus, that's who.

And the healthier our friendly fungus grows, the less healthy we are. Those rhizoids puncture the lining of our gut and partially-digested proteins, mycotoxins, and yeast "seed cells" enter the blood. They travel through the body and set up house in other organs. I know. It's not a nice picture. But it's happening.

When candida has grown out of control, when our natural checks and balances no longer check it and balance us, we feel some pretty noticeable effect. On the lighter side of the scale, we may feel run-down and sluggish. We may get irregular or constipated. Maybe we have mood swings or get irritable.

A whole host of symptoms crops up in the bargain our diet has struck with candida. Chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, depression, bloating, insomnia, muscular aches and pains, cystitis, vaginal yeast infections are just a few of the results from systemic candida infection. Of course, there can be other causes too, but candida is highly suspect, especially in recurrent, non-acute symptoms. Even alcoholism may be influenced by the desire for sugar that yeast thrive on. An entire list of physical and mental diseases have been linked to leaky gut syndrome.

Fungal rhizomes are not the only thing that can threaten the integrity of the intestinal wall. Certain drugs, bacterial and viral infections and increased irritations can also be considered.

There is no way to kill off the overgrowth of yeast and fungus using the conventional Western medical model. In fact, you wouldn't want to. Candida albicans is present in the gut of infants shortly after birth. A certain level of population is probably beneficial. The only answer to controlling an overgrowth is to balance the host (body) so that you regain control of your diet and your bodily functions. Proper nutrition is going to be the long-term key to that. In addition, there are a number of steps that experts recommend in fighting the immediate proliferation of the offending internal yeast factory.

Cut out sugar, stay away from processed flour and the gluten that is part of it, avoid wheat products and dairy foods, lower protein intake, lower stress and eat foods that yeast doesn't enjoy. Next column, we will look into some of the ways experts help people regain control of the asylum known as your body.

Be well.

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Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.

Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.

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