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Dr. Kestner: There’s a fungus among us

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I am dreadfully regretful to bring you this news. There is no way to say it except to just say it. OK, here goes: Your body is hosting a fungus. No. That’s not quite right. Your body is actually hosting several kinds of fungi.

You and I, regardless of how clean we may be, are playing host to a very diverse collection of microbes. Microbes are tiny living creatures that are typically only visible with a microscope. The term microbe includes bacteria, viruses and parasites including fungi. That’s right, “fungi” ... as in “more than one fungus.”

These creatures can exist in our environment, on our skin, in our nose, mouth, digestive tract, eyes, ears, hair follicles, fingers and toes, and virtually every other piece and part of us. It’s disgusting, isn’t it?

Of course we can imagine all other living creatures playing host to a wide assortment of little microscopic varmints, but not us! We groom, bathe, splash and spray all sorts of lotions and potions on us to smell nice. We even have medical examinations to peer into places we cannot see for ourselves. How could we be victim to these unwelcome inhabitations?

Unfortunately, most of these little freeloaders are opportunistic squatters. That means that they live in whatever conditions are presented to them. In certain circumstances, these microbes can flourish and reproduce by the millions. The result is an infection. Take sinus infection as an example. Our nasal passages are already contaminated with all sorts of microbes. Think of all the places you have inhaled in your life. If there are airborne microbes in the general vicinity of your nose, when you draw in a breath … in come the intruders. Once in, they are likely to adhere to the mucus membrane lining your nasal passages, the sinus linings or the lungs.

Think of all the nasty things you have smelled on purpose. There you go, sticking your nose up close to take a whiff … phew! Stinks! You just sucked in a new batch of the microbes that are responsible for creating that nasty odor. Yuck!

All of this breathing and sniffing has led to the linings of your nasal and sinus passages being contaminated with potentially thousands of species of microbes. And the mucus membrane that lines these sinus cavities and tunnels can create an ideal home for many of the tiny invaders.

Sinus infections can result when conditions exist that are ideal for the populations of any of these microbes to expand exponentially. A poorly functioning immune system, stress, fatigue, dehydration, illness, injury, poor diet, lack of exercise, contaminated environment, improper acid-base balance within the body and numerous other circumstances can provide this ideal opportunity.

Most people are familiar with bacterial infection in the sinuses. Many are not aware that fungal infections, including yeast, can occur in the sinuses. This is believed by some doctors to be a reason some sinus infections respond so poorly to antibiotics. The antibiotics are intended to interrupt the life cycle of bacteria, so that your immune system can quell the infection.

Unfortunately, if the infection is yeast or another fungus instead of bacteria, the antibiotic will not be effective, and may actually promote the fungal infection.

Infant diaper rash can also be due to yeast or other fungus. Those thick yellow toenails … you guessed it, fungus. Athlete’s foot … you betcha. Women and men can have fungal infections of private parts. Fungal infections are more common than most people (and some clinicians) realize.

Our bodies are well equipped under normal circumstances to deal with a wide variety of invading species of microbes (including fungus) and can typically keep the populations of such aggravating organisms under control.

Even though we are constantly exposed to various microbial ingestion or inhalation, we usually don’t become ill. Our defense systems are on duty and actively inhibiting infection.

Sometimes, however, these opportunistic nuisances can get the best of us, and our bodies need some assistance to bring everything back to balance. Research has indicated that about one-third of the population may have a fungal problem.

Next week I’ll share some suggestions that might be helpful. Dr. Mark Kestner mkestner@drkestner.com
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Members Opinions:
September 14, 2009 at 12:48pm

Gross.......but very informative. :)
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