Neglected Fungal Diseases

Below is the text of an award-winning very thoughtful essay submitted by Taner Marquez. We are grateful for this entry in our Children’s Essay Competition. Congratulations, Taner.  

With kindest regards, Majid Ali, M.D.


 

THE OVERLOOKED LINK BETWEEN SEVERE ILLNESS, MISDIAGNOSIS, AND FUNGUS

Disease has long shaped the way humanity interacts with the world around them – whether forcing proclaimed healers to concoct antidotes believed to be miracle cures, inspiring lifelong voyages in search of eternal life, or decimating the populations of entire countries to near nothing, sickness is the foremost recurring problem every generation of human kind has dealt with. Mankind has developed many treatments over the course of the last century in accordance with the advents of Bacteriology and Virology, but as many forms of medicine are overused, the infectious agents themselves are adapted to our remedies and forming “superbugs,” resistant to some of the most potent antibiotics and medications. Although modern medicine has come a long way in treating and eliminating some of mankind’s most deadly illnesses, the path is slowly becoming less and less defined as the remaining few remaining move further and further away from the grounds of what we currently believe to be “curable.” In order to finally discover and destroy the few hidden causes of illness still plaguing humanity, doctors and researchers will have to delve into causes frequently overlooked in the medical field; agents which, until recently, were not the subject of much conversation at the doctor’s office – the biggest potential culprit: fungus.

Our perception of what causes fatal illnesses has shifted many times, the largest and most recent shift being from believing in Miasma and the Four Humors just three hundred years ago to identifying the complex processes of thousands of species of harmful, microscopic bacteria in the late eighteen-hundreds. It is time for the next big revelation in medical science to come forth, one that will once again change the focus of the medicinal field from remedying one species of belief to another – from bacteria to fungus. Currently in nearly every scientifically advanced country on Earth, fungus are widely believed by the general public to be harmless decomposers, sometimes the cause of skin rashes such as Athlete’s Foot or possible Genital Yeast Infections in women, but nothing extremely severe or long lasting. That view is flawed however, because all beings on Earth are infected with Fungus: it is how those previously mentioned ailments come to pass, and how they can be frequently recurring; it is how the body instantly begins to decay upon the last breath drawn. Humans, specifically, are so entwined with fungus that our DNA is 30% similar to that of the White Button Mushroom species of fungus, more commonly recognized as an addition in most recipes – surprisingly, it is closer in human relation that a vast majority of all insect and plant species 4. To put this into further perspective, another fellow mammal, the Cow, shares only 60% of its Genomic composition with human DNA; it’s quite a large leap in the evolutionary scale to compare a mobile, breathing, sexually-reproducing Cow with an unmoving, anaerobic and asexually reproducing mushroom, but it shows how much closer fungus is in relation to mankind’s genetic makeup than many other living organisms. Additionally, there is quite literally no way to avoid fungus: nearly every grain, sugar, mushroom (of course), fruit, vegetable and even dairy products are at least partially corrupted by some form of fungus, largely or in part. Specifically, in 2001, the South Dakota State University Agricultural Sector noted that over twenty percent of grain in the state is infected with Aflatoxin, a kind of carcinogenic mycotoxin which, when mistakenly fed to livestock, would cause “…neurological issues, many times fatal, within 72 hours of ingestion.” 6 The FDA has already issued strict guidelines on the amount of Aflatoxin permitted in both human and livestock grain, limiting it to 50 ppb (parts per billion grams), but the long term effects of human ingestion over many years have never been researched – making the potential for illness-causing effects to still lie unfettered.

Unavoidable and ever-present, fungus can corrupt the human body and induce a myriad of deadly ailments and diseases; primarily, it is very possible that fungus can be the cause of one of the hottest medical topics of medical research in the last several decades: Cancer. At the mere mention of this, many doctors will shake their heads and erupt in a chorus of rebellious words and counterarguments, many which have solid foundations; the most echoed being that Cancer is a large tumor or collection thereof, shown in the body as lumps that may cause further damage to organs through proliferation via the lymphatic system. This is true of many kinds of malignant tumors, but the deeper question must be asked: what causes these tumors, and what are the potential cures? Once again, doctors answer in a resounding chorus that tumors are caused when mutations during Mitosis occur, errors in division that cause the cell to rapidly divide and occupy whatever space surrounds them. They may be Benign and never spread, or Malignant and spread throughout the body – the latter potentially deadly for the patient.1 But what causes the cells to mutate? This question is where many doctors diverge in their opinions, some claiming genetics has some people’s cells predisposed to a certain cancer and more likely to mutate, others claiming they can be influenced by an outside source, such as the person’s living environment. The answer may come as a bit of a shock, but Fungi themselves can contribute to both the creation of Cancer and the misdiagnosis of many patients who may not actually have the deadly affliction. The first and most prominent way is through their excretion of waste: Fungi are the only living potential culprits that produce Mycotoxins, or carcinogenic waste from anaerobic respiration, which can affect the way human and animal cells behave and replicate, thus causing Cancerous tumors to form. The second is through certain reproductive processes: many species of fungus on Earth will clump together in groups when producing spores to avoid predation from certain predatory Fungi and insects, called Ascomycetes, await maturity from their spores over the course of several days or weeks, and finally open their large spore-filled stems or sacks to release millions of mature and fertile spores into the world. When somebody has a large number of fungal agents within their bodies and that fungus wants to reproduce within its warm, dark and moist home, what will it do? The same thing does when on the Earth: clump up into several small groups for protection against the body’s immune system (all of which will appear to be tumorous lumps under a microscope), sit in one location within the body for weeks until the spores mature (usually around some sort of fat clump or fatty membrane), and finally release the thousands of mature spores into the body.5 The immune system will then attempt to destroy as many of the released infectors as possible, unless compromised by a new medicinal side-effect from something the host has taken or other illness, but many will escape to reproduce again in the future, even more resistant to any medicines or supplements the host has taken against them.

Many medical practitioners will be in shock and awe of this information if they saw it, and begin to research deeper into the implication of Fungi within the human body while receiving sharp criticism from their patients. However, is isn’t necessarily all their fault; the medical sciences have recorded a plethora of effects of Bacterial infections and invasions and a solid amount about Viruses and how they interact in the body, but very little about the true effects of Fungi over the long-term life of a person. While Fungi are only just coming to light as a serious threat to health, the misdiagnosis that may have stemmed from them are mounting. In 2014 alone, over 12 million patients were misdiagnosed with various diseases, mainly stemming from rushed doctor/hospital visits, wherein doctors would not properly analyze patients and engage in the correct screenings.3 Although not all were cancer or fungus related, this is still a huge issue to take into account by asking yet another question: how many people were misdiagnosed with a more serious disease, such as cancer, and never found out? Using estimation based on the number of possible errors, this study most likely accounts for only 3/4 of the total number misdiagnosed patients as an average, an alarming number when considering the over three million people who never realized they were wronged, fifteen million total. The most astounding of the consequences is not the ripples through the medical community, but the trials and tribulations the common citizen was forced to endure before doctors realized “Oops, we messed up.” The treatments certain diseases require may be excruciating, both on the wallet and on the body: Surgery, Biopsies, Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy – they all cost several thousand dollars, and more importantly, have severe health drawbacks in side effects – specifically Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, as it stands today, focuses on the administration of powerful chemical pills in small doses. When released in the body, the effects of the chemicals will seek out and smite all rapidly dividing cells, which tumorous cancers normally are, with one deadly but obvious drawback in the effects: it will kill all rapidly dividing cells. This includes, but is not limited to: hair, skin, tissue and most importantly Red and White Blood Cells (hence why those who undergo the treatment lose their hair, bruise easily, take longer to heal cuts/scrapes, and begin having immune system issues), but most importantly, certain Chemotherapy drugs, like those for Lung Cancer, have the potential to cause Cancer. Yes, that is correct – the treatment for cancer has the capability to GIVE you cancer.2 The irony is morbid, but something definitely worth mentioning; imagine someone is diagnosed with what they and their doctor believe is cancer. The patient undergoes Chemotherapy, loses their hair and feels weaker and more ill than anyone they’ve ever known, then suddenly five months later are told it was never a malignant cancer – just a small cluster of benign tumors that seem to have vanished (unbeknownst to them, an Ascomycete). The physical and financial burden they’ve put themselves through, as well as the emotional toll on loved ones, is staggering – something incomprehensible to happen to anyone, and yet there have been cases in which similar events have taken place. Now imagine a worse case, in which that same person is told two months earlier rather than later that they have been misdiagnosed, but that the hospital has found evidence of a cancer stemming from the Chemotherapy treatment growing inside. The patient now has to undergo a second and different kind of treatment, whether it be Biopsy, Radiotherapy or separate Chemotherapy, to rid themselves of something they never should have had to begin with! This is the infuriating truth of modern medicine, something that must be dealt with swiftly and soon, lest millions more needlessly suffer just because the medical community refused to open their minds to other possibilities.

Unavoidable and poisonous, with the medical community of little help – it seems that any person can have a fungi-driven disease at any time and not know it. How can anybody be sure of anything anymore if even the doctors aren’t certain on their diagnosis? In a sense, it all goes back to the patient themselves, as a certain degree of self-analysis is required to solve any bodily mystery. Before rushing off to the doctor’s office or ER, take an hour or two to think about everything and everyone you’ve come in contact with, as well as what your recent diet has been – never assume the worst right away. Believe it or not, a majority illnesses can be eliminated from the body by the immune system alone, including tumors, if it is strong enough; the diet is the key to having a strong immune system, and consuming too much sugar or grain can severely inhibit its outreach in terms of effectiveness. Once again doctors will cry out in rebellion, as the dominant nutritional ideology for several years has been that every diet must be high in grains and carbohydrates – but this is based on skewed data. Carbohydrates will be metabolized as sugars in the body for quick energy (hence why sprinters and swimmers will eat bowls of pasta before a meet), but eating more carbs than your body needs will cause you to gain weight and slowly jeopardize your immune system, as studies taken in 2015 show.8 This is in addition to how a majority of the grain supply is inadvertently contaminated with fungus and its mycotoxin, such as the infamous Aflatoxin, which will expedite the time it takes for fungus and carcinogen-based illness to grow within a person’s body. In summary, avoid all sugars and most grain products, because although a little here and there can’t hurt, it will add up over time. Additionally, try to eat more proteins to build muscle and eliminate the fat that may harbor Ascomycetes, eat more leafy greens to alkaline your body’s pH level (as the less acidic it is, the swifter your cells can move to eradicate invaders), and eat whole fats (such as that in Avocadoes and cold-pressed coconut oil) for their immunity boosting effects and antifungal properties. Finally, try to avoid any antibiotics your doctors prescribe unless it is absolutely necessary, such as after a surgery – antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed form of drug, and this is fueling the superbug pandemic across the globe. If you believe your ailment stems from a fungus, try requesting a prescription to an antifungal, such as Nystatin, instead – fungus do not die from Antibiotics, but will quickly perish from antifungal drugs. It is imperative that anyone suffering from chronic illness attempt to address their ill health by boosting their immune system with the aforementioned changes before seeking urgent medical help, just keep in mind the change will be gradual: just as it took months and years to reach the severity it has, it will take weeks and possible months to feel a significant change in a more positive direction.

Modern medicine has been successful in eradicating many forms of disease in only a hundred years; imagining the next century of medical breakthroughs lends more and more excitement as research on illness progresses. In the meantime, it is important to aid doctors by self-analyzing during periods of illness, as it could yield results and epiphanies that doctors themselves would not have foreseen, in addition to cutting the number of harsh treatments stemming from misdiagnosis. Never rule out fungus in any disease, as even something as deadly as Cancer may actually be a much more easily defeated fungi-in-disguise. It is important to note that diet what can make or break the immune system, and a healthy one low in sugars/carbs but high in protein, leafy greens and complete fats can be a boon. Overall, Earth can be a cruel place to live, but with proper analysis of each situation, humanity can overcome and conquer even the most harsh of diseases and push closer and closer to the boundary of curing every possible disease.

REFERENCES

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 02 Dec. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
  • “Chemotherapy Effects.” Healthline. Ed. George Krucik. N.p., 05 Mar. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
  • Firger, Jessica. “12 Million Americans Misdiagnosed Each Year.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 17 Apr. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2016
  • Inglis-Arkell, Esther. “Why Are Mushrooms More like Humans than They Are like Plants?” Io9. N.p., 07 Sept. 2012. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
  • Smith, Michael. “Can Fungus Mimic Cancer?” Knowthecause.com. N.p., 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
  • Cassel, Kim, Bill Campbell, Martin Draper, and Bill Epperson. Aflatoxin: Hazards in Grain/Aflatoxicosis and Livestock (2001): n. pag. Cooperative Extention Service, 14 Oct. 2001. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.
  • Moore-Landecker, Fundamentals of Fungi, 4th ed. 1996; and Shim, H., et al. A unique glucose-dependent apoptotic pathway induced by c-Myc. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 95;1511-1516. 1998
  • “The Truth about Carbs – Live Well – NHS Choices.” NHS Choices. Department of Health, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.
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