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Fungal infections are common in humans, but not always immediately recognizable. Because while the symptoms on nail or skin zones are clearly visible, fungi inside the body can lead to various diffuse complaints and diseases, ranging from supposedly harmless digestive disorders to an increased risk of cancer. The most important things in brief:
- There are numerous fungi and bacteria on our skin that we normally do not notice.
- A pathological fungal attack, on the other hand, the so-called mycosis, causes a wide variety of complaints and should be examined and treated.
- There are superficial mycoses (e.g. nail fungus) and systemic mycoses (internal attack).
The intact immune system and a healthy colonized intestinal flora are able to break down invaded fungal cells without difficulty or to prevent overgrowth by (existing) populations in the body. However, if the immune system is weakened by, for example, a lack of nutrition (overacidification), previous illnesses, stress, hormonal changes or by frequent use of medications (especially antibiotics), the fungi can spread unhindered.
Naturopathy is also discussing an increased occurrence of yeast in the intestine as a protective reaction of the body to heavy metal pollution. If the fungi belong to a pathogenic, i.e. pathogenic, form and the fungal infection leads to a disease, one speaks of a mycosis. A distinction is made between three groups of fungi that colonize different areas of the body and thus cause certain mycoses.
Skin fungi (especially the Trichophyton genus) cause weeping inflammation in areas of the body that are poor in light and air. They are mainly found between the toes and fingers, in the armpits, in the groin area and on the female breast. Scaly, reddened areas can form, which are accompanied by more or less severe itching. We then speak of athlete's foot, skin fungus or hair fungus. For prevention, we recommend wearing flip-flops in public swimming pools and clothing made from natural fibers. Proper nutrition or a change in diet (base-excess nutrition) is also important.
Yeasts love mucous membranes
Yeasts (especially of the Candida genus) preferentially colonize the moist mucous membranes of the digestive and genital tract, namely the mouth, throat, gastrointestinal tract and the vaginal mucosa. If the digestive tract becomes infected with yeast (candidiasis), especially intestinal fungi, indigestion with diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence, the typical cravings for sweets or after-itching can occur. However, unspecific complaints often appear that are associated with mycosis only late.
In the mouth, the infection is known as thrush and appears as a whitish coating on the cheek mucosa and on the tongue. In some cases, those affected also complain of a burning sensation. Vaginal thrush is noticeable by burning and itching, redness, swelling, whitish covering of the mucous membranes and problems with urination (stranguria). Yogurt, vitamin-rich food and the absence of sugar and white flour have a positive effect. Other home remedies for candida also promise relief.
Mold is mostly inhaled
The spores of mold (especially the Aspergillus genus) usually get into the lungs through breathing. This can lead to aspergilloma, a form of aspergillosis, in existing lung cavities. There is an increased risk of fungal infection of the lungs with COPD due to smoking, but also with congenital or acquired cysts in the lungs.
Often there are no symptoms at the beginning, later coughing and shortness of breath can occur. Aspergillus pneumonia can occur in people with pronounced immunodeficiency, which resembles the symptoms of fever and cough without expectoration of bacterial pneumonia. However, molds also colonize the central nervous system and the entire digestive tract, which is why they can sometimes be found in stool samples.
But heart, liver, skin, thyroid and (rarely) the spleen can also be affected by aspergillosis. The metabolic products of molds are now proven to be pathogenic and even carcinogenic after they have been used to provoke liver cancer in rats in animal experiments.
We increase the risk of fungal infections by providing them with unwanted good colonization options through our lifestyle, for example by wearing synthetic clothing, one-sided diets with high sugar consumption, repeated use of antibiotics and close living with pets, which are a common source of infection. Houseplants, uncovered trash cans and unventilated living rooms offer molds a preferred habitat.
Since the symptoms caused by a fungal infection are inconsistent and can also be based on another illness, the diagnosis of “fungal infection” should never be made on the basis of the symptoms alone. If mycosis is suspected due to the symptoms, and if this is confirmed by other diagnostic methods (e.g. dark field microscopy), a specifying laboratory test is usually sought.
Most naturopaths work with special laboratories that offer extensive diagnostics for the detection of various fungal infections. Skin, nail, hair or stool samples are examined for the presence of fungi and their genus is determined. This can be followed by the appropriate naturopathic therapy.
Treatment of fungal infection
Traditionally, fungal diseases are treated with antifungals such as nystatin. The drug, which is derived from bacteria, acts locally against fungi of the Candida genus and can be used externally (in the form of ointments) as well as taken. It adheres to the membrane of the fungal cells and disrupts their metabolism, causing them to die. Nystatin can even be taken by pregnant women because the intestinal wall (or the skin) does not absorb the medication and therefore it acts specifically and exclusively locally.
Important: Aspergilloma of the lungs can lead to bleeding complications (hemoptysis) and is often indistinguishable from a malignant disease, so surgery is recommended in special cases.
With systemic mycoses, drugs are prescribed that also work internally (for example, fluconazole). The antifungal agent, which works against a wide range of fungi, both internally and externally, can be taken by adults and children. However, according to an FDA report, long-term use of higher doses during pregnancy is said to be linked to malformations in children.
Naturopathy for fungal infections
Since the development of a fungal infection is often based on an incorrect diet, naturopathic treatment pays great attention to this. For preventive and therapeutic purposes, for example, it is recommended to avoid sugar and white flour as far as possible. Coconut oil, oregano oil, garlic, horseradish and cress are mentioned as positive effects.
A basic and balanced diet is the basis for an intact immune defense. Conscious personal hygiene (no aggressive detergents, do not shower too long and hot), airy and loose clothing made from natural fibers and simple powder between the toes can prevent skin fungus from developing. Strengthen your immune system with regular exercise and make sure you have enough fluids. Stress is known to strain the immune system, here relaxation exercises such as yoga or meditation can help. (jvs, vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Jeanette Viñals Stein, Dr. med. Andreas Schilling
- Robert Koch Institute: Mycoses (fungal infections) (accessed: 03.07.2019), rki.de
- Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute: Invasive Mycoses (accessed: 03.07.2019), nrz-myk.de
- Paul Ehrlich Society for Chemotherapy e.V. (PEG), German-speaking Mycological Society (DMykG): S1 guideline: Candida infections, diagnostics and therapy, as of July 2016, detailed view of guidelines
- The Lancet - Infectious Diseases: Fungal Infections (access: 03.07.2019), thelancet.com
- UpToDate, Inc .: Fungal infections (accessed: 03.07.2019), uptodate.com
- Merck and Co., Inc.,: Overview of fungal infections (accessed: July 3, 2019), msdmanuals.com
- Lilienfeld-Toal, Marie / Wagener, Johannes / Einsele, Hermann / u.a .: Invasive fungal infections, Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2019, aerzteblatt.de
ICD codes for this disease: A31, B35, B36, B37, B48, B49ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.