Since it’s the first week of the month, we always dive a little deeper into a topic of hair analysis results so you have a better understanding of what is going on in the reports. This is a question I get all the time: What does it mean if my hair analysis shows a fungus on my report?
I can relate to this as my first hair analysis showed I had a fungus. I’ve had them before, but I usually know about them as they’re under a toenail or manifest as a yeast infection. What I didn’t know is how they can be in your body for quite some time before you get an outward manifestation of them.
What is a fungus?
The definition of a fungus is any member of the group or eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and mold, as well as the more familiar mushrooms.
Fungi are actually classified in their own kingdom. They’re different from bacteria, plants, or animals. The word “fungus” in Latin means mushroom, which is why we often think of mushrooms when we hear the word. The fungal kingdom is much more diverse than that, however. There are thousands of fungi in the microbial world, organisms so tiny you can only see them under a microscope.
Microscopic fungi can be found everywhere in nature, like in the soil or attached to living creatures. They actually have many important jobs, like decomposing organic matter in your compost pile or bringing nutrients to plants. We’ve used fungi for thousands of years to make things like bread, cheese, soy sauce, and beer. Fungi are also integral to antibiotics like penicillin, and for producing citric acid, which gives juices and sodas a sour taste.
When we think of what makes us sick, we usually think of bacteria. We forget there are other microbes that can cause severe diseases. Fungi can fall into that category.
What types of fungi are there?
Believe it or not, there are over 6 million types of fungi documented in the world. In fact, fungi form the second-largest group of organisms known, with the highest estimated species diversity after insects. Yeasts and molds make up the majority of microscopic fungi in our bodies.
Let’s identify three main groups of fungi and why they can be problematic (and even dangerous) to our health:
The Candida species are the most common fungi that cause diseases in humans. Candida albicans is a normal part of our gut microbiota. But, if given the chance, it can turn against us. It can cause skin or mouth infections. It can also enter the bloodstream, causing a life-threatening blood infection called sepsis. This is also the fungi that cause yeast infections, oral thrush, infected toenails or fingernails, and athlete’s foot.
This is the most common fungus that causes serious infection worldwide. This type of fungus normally lives on plants or animals. But it can be very dangerous for humans. Pigeons have a lot of cryptococcus neoformans in their droppings. When the dust from these droppings spreads to the air we breathe, it can be problematic. In people with immune defects, once this fungus enters the lungs it can survive, grow, and reach other parts of the body, like the brain. If untreated, it can cause death.
Molds usually live in either the soil or on dead and decaying matter. They have thousands of tiny spores, which function as seeds that reproduce quickly and can withstand harsh conditions. Spores spread easily and quickly by air and enter our lungs when we breathe. In vulnerable people, certain spores can grow into a mature fungus, enter the bloodstream, and spread around the body to cause severe and often fatal infections.
Fungi in the gut
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D., has spent his career studying fungi in the body, and he has identified 50 different species living just in our gut. Just like bacteria, which we’ve talked about previously, we need fungus in our gut to be balanced. When fungi start overpopulating the microbiome in our gut, that’s when we have issues.
When fungi get out of balance, they can cause various infections; everything from mild skin rashes to deadly blood infections. These fungi have found several ways to cause harm, such as using the body’s nutrients, escaping the surveillance of the immune system, or hijacking and destroying our cells.
Another thing Dr. Ghannoum discovered is that fungi, like bacteria, aren’t free-floating in our system, but tend to stick to the lining of the gut. Some of these work together to form digestive plaque. This plaque can be bad or good. An important characteristic of plaque, whether it’s on our teeth or in our gut, is that it protects microbes within itself. These microbes can cause imbalances. These imbalances can lead to a variety of problems, including:
- Oral care issues (such as cavities and gum disease – which we talk about in Tips # 72 & 83)
- A host of occasional digestive issues (such as upset stomach, gas, bloating, feeling full, stomach pressure, diarrhea, bowel irritation, and difficulty processing lactose)
- Immunity issues (which ultimately affect more than just our digestive health)
Why does health begin in the gut?
David dealt with pretty much all of those digestive issues listed above for many years before we figured out the connection to the health of his gut microbiome. In fact, those issues were such a common part of his life that he truly thought everyone had those issues. He just tried to deal with it by masking the pain with antacids and pain medications. He had no idea that fungus was joining bacteria to wreak havoc on his gut.
I remember David’s surprise when I asked him to journal his food and daily bowel movements so I could help discover what foods were causing him pain. He told me he could go days without a bowel movement and I was shocked. When I explained the digestive system is set up to have a bowel movement after you eat (think how babies’ systems work), he told me that he couldn’t remember a time when that had happened. That’s when I realized we had a big job ahead of us to resolve his digestive problems.
The importance of a balanced gut microbiome
Not all digestive plaques are actually bad. In fact, good microbes that form modest-size plaques actually help maintain the balance of the microbiome in our gut and keep bad plaque at bay. Good digestive plaque also plays a beneficial role in our digestive system by helping break down food, so our body can efficiently use nutrients as a source of energy.
Just like everything else we’ve discussed in previous videos, it’s a balancing act. Our gut microbiome has a homeostatic balance. When that’s disrupted, (think reduction in good bacteria and fungus and increased bad bacteria and fungus), bad digestive plaque starts to take over.
That’s when digestive problems start that can lead to so many other issues like David experienced. The main problematic side effect is inflammation, which leads to a compromised immune system, which then leads to a whole host of issues – including cancer.
How can you keep gut fungus balanced?
The most obvious thing we can do in order to maintain homeostasis (a good balance) in our gut is to feed it the foods that help keep the good fungus thriving and the bad fungus at bay. Once we finally realized that the underlying cause of David’s issues was leaky gut, he changed his diet. That made all the difference.
The types of food that best encourage your microbiome to flourish are prebiotic-rich foods such as avocados, chicory root, dandelion greens, artichokes, garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, apples, cocoa, flax seeds, yacon root, jicama root, wheat bran, and seaweed.
Foods to avoid include processed foods, bad fats like vegetable oil, margarine, palm oil, and refined sugars. These foods tend to feed the bad bacteria and fungus which then start to take over your gut.
Another food to avoid is alcohol. Recent studies point to the fact that alcohol can tip the balance of the gut’s equilibrium and disrupt your digestive tract’s environment. With the exception of red wine (because of its polyphenols), most other alcoholic beverages contribute to excess fungus in your digestive system.
What is the connection between stress and fungus?
Stress can have a substantial effect on our gut’s microbiome. We know that stress can have a negative effect on your microbial balance, gut health, and overall health. Excess stress can alter the balance of organisms in our digestive system. It can also change the types and number of organisms that are found in the gut.
Research indicates that when the microbiome becomes less diverse due to stress, bad organisms start to flourish, and our body’s immune response is negatively affected. To balance your gut you must work to lower your stress levels. That’s why we have a whole chapter in our book on stress management. We’ve also done numerous posts on deep breathing, stretching, massage, laughter, and many others on the best ways to deal with stress. I’ve personally seen what stress can do to your health. It’s so important to find healthy ways to manage it.
A fungus cleanse
When I did my first hair analysis and discovered that I had a fungus, the first thing I did was a cleanse. Since chances were that fungus was wreaking havoc on my gut, I wanted to use the SuperCleanseR and get rid of it.
I did that for 60 days, and when I tested again, my fungus was gone. I likely caught it early before it became a yeast infection, oral thrush, fungus in my toenails or fingernails, or athlete’s foot.
Try to treat fungus fast
On the cellular level, we have a lot in common with fungi. These commonalities between human and fungal cells make the treatment of fungal infections very tricky.
If it’s caught early, then it’s fairly easy to get rid of a fungus. This is why hair analysis is so valuable. You can catch things like a fungus before you have any visible symptoms. However, by the time a fungus manifests itself in one of the ways listed above, it can be really difficult to rid yourself of it. I’ve known people who have suffered from a toe fungus for years. It goes away and just comes right back.
They try so many things, but often the doctors have to prescribe a strong anti-fungal medicine. This comes with its own set of side effects – mostly the destruction it does to your gut lining as it works to destroy the fungus.
This is why we always try to take care of our health issues with natural remedies whenever we can. Medication usually comes with a cost. Since David has gotten off all of his medications, he has never felt better. Each one came with side effects that were making it difficult for him to get better.
For this reason, we always encourage our clients to find a functional medicine doctor that can help them work with food and supplementation to get off their medications if they can.
Schedule your hair analysis today
We hope this helps you understand some of the valuable data available to you in your hair analysis. If you haven’t got one yet, what are you waiting for?
And don’t forget, we enjoy hearing from you. If you have any questions, please go to our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram (@morethanhealthyliving) and ask us there. We try to respond to all questions.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.
Note: Remember, we’re not doctors. We’re sharing what’s worked for us on our health journey. You will want to consult your doctor before significantly changing your diet and supplementation.