Research Discovery Sheds Light on Disease-Causing Fungus

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Commonly referred to as the “organism of opportunity,” yeast, also known as Candida, and how it replicates inside the body has remained elusive to researchers. Although many have questioned whether Candida causes chronic fatigue syndrome, most believe that it is responsible for the symptomology. Now, current research may provide new opportunities for scientists to better understand how this fungus causes disease, including CFS.

By analyzing the biology and genetics of Candida, researchers from the University of Minnesota were able to discover its mating behavior which, until now, has been thought to reproduce by splitting itself in half.

“This work is extremely important because it begins to explain how the organism can adapt to changes in its environment and cause disease,” says Dennis M. Dixon, chief of the Bacteriology and Mycology Branch of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Candida is capable of changing its anatomy and physiology as it grows in the intestines. Yeast cells, normally harmless, can be compromised by antibiotics, acid-base imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, or parasites so that they lose their protective cell walls. They then invade and distort the intestinal wall with mycelia (root-like projections), allowing multiple antigens and toxins to enter the blood stream and spread throughout the body.

Under normal conditions, our bodies are able to resist this invasion, as it does other germs. However, once illness, stress, or chemical irritations weaken the immune system, the yeast/fungus organism begins to spread throughout bodily tissues, creating havoc on the body’s parts and systems.

Once Candida gains a foothold in the body, it may cripple the immune system, create allergies to chemicals and foods, affect the respiratory, cardiovascular and central nervous systems. It is also known to cause numerous other symptoms such as fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, and fuzzy thinking.

In addition, yeast feeds on sugars and carbohydrates, producing a series of chemical products as waste, among which are acetaldehyde and ethanol. Ethanol is alcohol; acetaldehyde is produced as the alcohol breaks down, creating a chemical that is six times more toxic to brain tissue than ethanol alone. These two chemicals are thought to be responsible for cell membrane defects, destruction of enzymes and abnormal hormone response.

Currently, testing for the presence of Candida includes a detailed patient questionnaire and a two-stage test. The first stage is called the Micro-ELISA technique, which detects circulating levels of Candida antigens, antibodies IgG, A and M, and immune complexes. In the second stage, the patient’s lymphocytes (white cells) are challenged with Candida to evaluate inhibition of lymphocyte multiplication by budding (blastogenesis).

Although doctors are still trying to learn more about how to treat this condition, most agree that a multi-level treatment plan is required. This includes diet restrictions; nutritional supplements; antifungal medications such as nystatin, clotrimazole, ketoconazole, and amphotericin B; Lactobacillus acidophilus to add friendly bacteria to the intestinal tract; changes in lifestyle; and a mental health program.

“When the causes are carefully evaluated and a comprehensive treatment program is followed, many (and perhaps most) people who are sick and tired will be able to regain their health,” says William Crook, M.D., author of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Yeast Connection.

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