It’s More Than Likely

The answer is probably a yes, since fungal and parasite infections are becoming more and more prevalent in our society. These are often a major health concern for many people. While we encounter infectious organisms every day in the air we breathe, in soil and water, in foods, and on surfaces everywhere. Why is it that billions of people suffer from fungal and parasite infections and others live a life free of infections? In order to answer this question there are some concepts that are important to understand first.

Opportunistic Organisms

Both fungi and parasites are classified as parasites because they are opportunistic organisms.1 Opportunistic organisms feed off and sustain themselves via the nutrition provided by their host organisms. There is a difference between having a functional relationship with fungi and parasites, more on this in a bit, and having an infection. Symptoms of a fungal or parasite infection are often confused with secondary bacterial and viral infections.

Many Parasites Can be Our Friends

The biological term, parasite, refers to an organism that obtains nourishment and shelter on another organism. In microbiology, the existence of a parasite implies that the parasite is capable of causing damage to the host. This type of mutually beneficial or harmful association draws out attention because a parasite may become pathogenic if the damage to the host results in disease. Some parasites are actually commensals that live as normal flora of humans, but if given the opportunity they can cause disease. One such parasite is known as Escherichia Coli (E. coli). There are many strains of E. coli bacteria and many live the intestines of people and animals. Most of these strains are harmless and are actually an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and others, are pathogenic or can cause disease. The normal (non-harmful) E. coli in our intestines works hard to keep us healthy; it helps break down food and aids in digestion.3 Certain strains also act like a troop of microscopic soldiers, doing a bang-up job of preventing other pathogenic bacteria from establishing themselves in the gut.4

Essential & Ubiquitous in Nature

This is just one example that fungi and parasites are absolutely essential to the maintenance of the web of life as we could not live without them. Fungi and parasites are not only natural inside our bodies, they are everywhere and they function as the chief decomposers in nature.5 They can be thought of as nature’s unpaid garbage collectors, working ceaselessly as the hidden gardeners beneath out feet, as they work to return the necessary building blocks of all living things in nature as contribution to the creation of new life via soil. Because fungi and parasites and ubiquitous in nature and are everywhere, you cannot possibly rid yourself of fungi or parasites completely. Therefore, they cannot be effectively expelled from your body. Even if you could, it would not be in your best interest as without them you would experience more problems than you would by cultivating a healthy, balanced relationship with them. A healthy immune system is capable of resisting most of these organisms, but when these organism become too strong or to great in number, they become a problem and cause an infection.

The Many Useful Functions that Fungi & Parasites Play

Though most people are fearful of parasites (and thus fungi) and consider them as something to be completely eradicated, even if they do have a variety of useful functions, which include:

  • Informing the immune system of what it must develop antibodies against to survive in a given environment or when exposed to certain pathogenic bacteria6
  • Providing a source of nutrition the body can use, such as proteins
  • They protect their host by successfully competing with disease-causing organisms, preventing the latter from invading host tissues7
  • Give clues that we are living and eating inappropriately or appropriately relative to the demands placed on us
  • Contributing to many essential bodily functions for our own human existence, for example
    1. The mitochondria in your cells are actually bacteria (parasites) in that they provide energy in trade for sustenance and home for their own survival.
    2. Symbiotic bacteria in our gut provide a variety of vitamins7 and produce lactic acid as a byproduct of their own metabolism.

Fact of the week

“Onychomycosis” or tinea unguium is the name for the type of infection that causes the fungi to appear on the nails.8

This is caused by underlying fungal growth from dermatophytes, non-dermatophyte molds and yeasts (mainly Candida species).9 With dietary changes, supplements and certain essential oils, you can treat and eliminate the root cause of the toenail fungus, even when you’ve been struggling with it for years.