Candida and Your Immune System
There is strong evidence that systemic fungal infections--those that affect the organs and tissues of the body--have increased dramatically in both frequency and severity in recent years. For example, in the United States, fungal infection of the bloodstream increased by over 300 percent in the 1990s alone. Also up by over 300 percent were deaths from fungal infections between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s.
The reasons include medical advances in transplant surgery and treatment of HIV infections--but mainly the widespread availability and use of antibiotics. It is therefore extremely important that we understand how to help the body protect itself from yeast overgrowth.
When we are ill we have symptoms, few of which are pleasant. However, symptoms are often signs that the body is fighting the actual cause of the condition. For example, if you have an infection, your temperature usually goes up, a clear sign that your immune system is fighting the infection. It is important to learn to understand symptoms and not to fight them, but to deal with the reason they are there. Another example would be the multiple symptoms of digestive distress, ranging from heartburn to bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. There are medications that will relieve these symptoms, although often only for a short time, but such medications will not deal with the underlying causes--and will often make matters worse in the long run.
There is one constant trend, even when we are unwell: the body’s self-healing, self-regulating (homeostatic) tendencies. Your many interacting body systems (including the immune system) and functions are constantly striving for homeostasis. Cuts heal, breaks mend, infections are self-limiting (usually without any outside help); diarrhea and vomiting, unpleasant as they undoubtedly are, are how the body gets rid of undesirable material from inside itself.
Recognizing and understanding the “self-regulation” message should help us to learn what causes symptoms, not what we can do to mask them. We also need to be aware of the many things we do that can aggravate and strain the defense systems of the body--retarding healing and recovery.
Where infection is concerned, the ideal outcome is that the bacteria, virus, or yeast is contained and overwhelmed by the homoeostatic defenses of the body. Unfortunately, when your self-repair mechanisms have to deal with too many demands at the same time, or when they are weakened, they may not always be able to achieve that outcome.
Take, for example, someone who:
is not getting enough essential nutrients in the diet, and/or
is eating a poor diet loaded with refined carbohydrates and sugars, and/or
is not getting adequate exercise, and/or
has picked up a viral or yeast infection which never seems to quite go away, and/or
is not sleeping well, and/or
is under work and/or emotional stress, and/or
has a slight hormonal imbalance, and/or
has a history of antibiotic use, and/or
is taking the contraceptive pill”
Each of these “problems” (stresses), and others, may be relatively minor and could probably be coped with or eliminated by eating more sensibly, ensuring a better exercise and sleep pattern, doing something positive about the emotional stress, or getting advice and treatment for the hormonal, viral, and yeast problems.
But, if nothing is done, and these various adaptive demands (and others) continue, the body’s defense and repair systems eventually become so overloaded that chronic symptoms are likely to appear.
Essentially there are just three options:
Reduce adaptive demands--for example stop and reverse the factors causing the demands that are overloading the body’s ability to cope.
Focus on methods that help the repair and support systems of the body, to allow them to more efficiently handle the load they are coping with.
Or--and sometimes this is all that’s possible--treat symptoms.
If the right changes are made, the homoeostatic defense systems should be able to begin to work more efficiently again to detoxify, fight infection, rebuild, and repair and symptoms should gradually ease.
Some of the actions needed to help in recovery from a Candida overgrowth might involve all or any of the following options:
1. Ensure optimal nutrition (removing tasty toxins and increasing nutritionally whole foods).
2. Learn to handle stress differently.
3. Take action to deactivate yeasts or other organisms.
4. Rebalance hormonal status and the chemistry of the body (such as vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids).
5. Detoxify the system, particularly the liver.
6. Start to heal the lining of the intestines, which may have been damaged by overgrowth of yeast.
7. Do whatever else that may be needed to help reduce the adaptive demands that are overloading the homoeostatic systems.
Candida albicans is a member of the yeast family. Yeasts live practically everywhere on the planet and can derive their nutrients from most organic sources. This means anything that is alive, or has been alive, can support yeasts. Given the right conditions for growth and replication, yeast is capable of almost explosive growth, as anyone who has made bread will testify.
Candida is a yeast that lives inside you and me and every other adult on earth, and most children as well. It seldom takes over our entire body, but when it does the consequences are horrific. It can only achieve such a state if the environment for it is excellent, and if the defense mechanisms that the body has with which to control its spread are severely compromised or absent.
Candida Is an Opportunistic Yeast
It is important to realize that Candida is an opportunistic fungus--not a pathogenic one. This means that it can live in your body without causing any problems whatsoever--unless and until an opportunity arises that allows it to become explosively active.
This is more likely when your immune system is less efficient: when you are run down, stressed, poorly nourished, or when your internal control system--the healthy bacteria in the gut--is depleted or damaged, as occurs following use of antibiotics or steroids.