Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Yeast Beast

“But when it is a bad plant, one must destroy it as soon as possible, the very first instant that one recognizes it. Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab. The soil of that planet was infested with them. A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through with its roots… ‘Children,’ I say plainly, ‘watch out for the baobabs!’” Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

Every May I teach the novel The Little Prince to my honors seventh grade students. Last week as we were discussing the problem of the baobabs, we talked about the symbolic meaning of those terrible plants. As we brainstormed what the baobabs might represent in today’s society, my students suggested rumors, wars, pollution, and disease, to name a few issues. We talked about the importance of not procrastinating and taking care of problems right away so that they did not get out of hand. The more I thought about the insights they shared, the more I realized that we have been dealing with a baobab of our own for several years: Candida overgrowth in Alex’s digestive tract.

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, Alex has a tendency to develop thrush in his mouth and throat, which likely spreads to the rest of his digestive system. Not only does this fungal infection make his mouth and throat sore, but it also significantly impacts his behavior. Often the obvious symptoms that he has a Candida flare are increased OCD behaviors, agitation, and even aggression. Over the years, we have treated this problem with various prescription antifungals, such as Diflucan, Nystatin, Ketoconazole, and Itraconazole, along with natural antifungals, including caprylic acid, oregano, garlic, and undecenoic acid. In addition, we have boosted his immune system with vitamins B, C, and D and increased the good bacteria in his system with probiotics. Nonetheless, keeping Candida under control has been a constant battle, and like the baobabs, we try to destroy it as soon as it appears, knowing how physical and emotionally uncomfortable it makes Alex.

This week I also ran across two articles in my continual research for ways to help Alex that suggest a link between fungi and brain disorders. In an article from The Economist published October 24, 2015, entitled “Fungus, the bogeyman: A curious result hints at the possibility dementia is caused by fungal infection,” this potential link is described. [To read this article, please click here.] Citing information published in Scientific Reports, the article describes research done by Dr. Luis Carrasco at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain. While the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, Dr. Carrasco’s research suggests fungal infection is linked to the disease.

After examining brain tissue from cadavers, none of those who did not have Alzheimer’s had any fungal infection. However, all of the Alzheimer’s patients had fungal cells growing in their neurons. What they could not discern was whether the fungal infection caused the Alzheimer’s or whether the Alzheimer’s made the patients more susceptible to fungal infection. The article also notes that many patients with Alzheimer’s have damaged blood vessels, and Dr. Carrasco noted fungus growing in blood vessels. Although more research is needed to clarify the link between Alzheimer’s and fungal infections, this report indicates potential benefits of treating elderly patients with antifungals.

In another article I read this week, the connection between yeast infections and mental illness is discussed. The article “Yeast Infection Linked to Mental Illness,” published May 4, 2016, on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website discusses research done by Dr. Emily Severance and her associates at Johns Hopkins University that was suggested by people with mental illness. [To read this article, please click here.] This study found that a history of Candida yeast infections was more common in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder than in those who do not have these mental illnesses. In addition, they also noted memory loss in women with Candida infections. While researchers are careful not to name yeast overgrowth as a cause of mental illness, they note that more research needs to be done regarding connections between mental illnesses and gut-brain connections and weaknesses in the immune system.

While these recently published research studies are linking fungi to Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, the link between yeast and autism has been known for years. Thanks to the research of Dr. William Shaw of The Great Plains Laboratory, the importance of diagnosing and treating fungal infections in children with autism has been part of the biomedical protocol. Dr. Shaw’s laboratory offers Organic Acid Tests that detect fungal byproducts produced in the intestinal tract that are absorbed into the bloodstream and later filtered into the urine. In addition, his laboratory offers yeast culture and sensitivity tests that recommend which antifungal medications are most effective in treating the strains of yeast found in the organic acids test. We have had both tests run on Alex several times and have found the results very helpful in trying to address his yeast overgrowth problems. Pursuing this course of treatment has been extremely valuable to us because when the yeast is under control, the difference in Alex is night and day. Clearly, the yeast makes him uncomfortable, affects his brain, and impacts his behavior negatively. Within a short period of being on antifungals, he returns to his sweet and pleasant disposition. Consequently, we destroy our baobab­––yeast––as soon as possible.

Clearly, more research needs to be done on the role fungus plays in various disorders that affect the brain: Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism. If, indeed, fungus causes or exacerbates these conditions, aggressive treatment with antifungals may improve the symptoms or perhaps even cure the conditions. On the other hand, if the root cause of the disorders is weakened immune systems, improving immunity with vitamins may also improve or cure the conditions. Instead of simply viewing Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism as mental conditions, doctors need to recognize physical conditions that impact the brain and affect the behavior. Until a more holistic approach is taken with these disorders, more and more people and their families will suffer the consequences of undiagnosed underlying medical conditions that could be healed, substantially improving the quality of life for the patients and their families.

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2

No comments: