For as long as I can remember, I have told people that I am allergic to penicillin. Whomever discovered my allergy discovered it on the first day of my life. I was given this broad-spectrum anti-biotic, despite being healthy, at birth.
Penicillin is a common anti-biotic, created from penicillium mold. If you find yourself afflicted with any sort of bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe you this medicine.
I was one healthy and hilarious little creature. I came into this world with no ailments, from the womb of a healthy young woman. It behooved the medical professional overseeing my birth, however, to 'give me a blast' of anti-biotics so that I would leave the hospital with a 'spotless' bill of health.
For the years leading up to my birth, my Mother lived a healthy life. She kept her stress low, ate a balanced diet of fresh foods, stayed away from indoor pollutants, and abstained from all forms of carnal intoxicant. In one quick blast, the care my Matriarch took in creating a being with a healthy internal-ecosystem was thwarted.
Anti-biotics kill bacteria. Penicillin, in particular, vanquishes bacterial cell-walls, leading to their eventual demise. When you are ailing from a severe bacterial infection - Streptococcal Pharyngitis and Staphylococcal infections being two nasty and common examples - anti-biotics provide aid to your immune system as it works to keep you healthy. They are effective and powerful medicines and have been essential in the advancement of our species. Their strengths, however, are undermined by the frequency and triviality of their application.
The major caveat of anti-biotic usage is that some bacteria are positive contributors to your overall health; you need good bacteria in order to be healthy. Trillions of bacterial cells line and populate your insides. From your throat, to your stomach, to your intestines, and each passage outward and in-between, bacteria give you aid. They provide protection, catalyze the absorption of nutrients, and provide essential digestive function.
There are many forms of good bacteria, three now-popular probiotics being:
Lactobacillus: Produces lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which help ward off unwanted intoxicants, such as Fungus.
Bifidobacterium Longum: Present in breast milk, this bacterium lines the mucuous membranes within your digestive track, protecting them from toxins. It is one of the first creatures to populate a young gut and has been shown to activate the nervous system, easing anxiety-like behaviours in people with Colitis.
Bifidobacterium Bifidum: Similar to its Longum cousin, Bifidum is present in breast milk. The bacterium is an essential part of the initial carpet laid within your internal tubing.
"The results of this in vitro study indicated that all nine Lactobacillus strains were able to survive in the GIT and attached to the epithelial cells, while none of them was antibiotic resistant. Since all nine Lactobacillus strains showed strong antagonistic activities against a wide range of pathogens to humans, they could be considered as good potential probiotic candidates for treatment and prevention of infections.- Probiotic Potential of Lactobacillus Strains with Antimicrobial Activity against Some Human Pathogenic Strains by Shokryazdan, Sieo, et al.
For more thick Science-ing, I suggested putting bacterial names into the PMC Archive.Anti-biotics are not selective. They destroy bacterium without thought or bias. In an unfortunate bit of Doctoring, trillions of helpful Lactobacillus', Longums' and Bifidums' were wiped out. Without their support, what would grow within my stomach? Reflecting upon my childhood, two things present themselves as suspicious. I was a picky eater. This was, in no small part, due to the stomach-upsetting nature of various types of cuisine. Instead of partaking in the exotic stews and dishes my family would eat, my mother would often opt to cook me more simple dishes: sausages, white-rice, and a simple salad. I craved sugar; I was ravenous when feasting upon anything containing the powder-white. In addition to my sensitive stomach and volatile cravings, my behaviour in youth could be described as 'energetic'. I was always moving and never silent. Restless leg syndrome and - perhaps - attention deficit disorder were two spectrums that I may have sat somewhere upon. To the outside world, I am an average and hyper-active kid, with a simple, "normal" diet. Inside, however, something was off-kilter.
Upon entering adulthood, despite being a fair athlete and a productive member of society, I often felt terrible. I was low energy and lethargic. I had a busy and cloudy mind. On top of that, I was haunted by consistent medical issues. I suffered chronic sinus and throat infections, had wretched defecation patterns, and dark depression as a companion.
There came a breaking point where, after years of passive online health research, I decided to adopt a new diet in order to 'reboot' my digestive system. I grew to believe in the fuel analogy: if you put clean fuel in, you receive clean output; dirty fuel, dirty output; crap-in-crap-out. I came upon the GAPS diet. Being the hacker-type, I balanced the tried-and-true method with my own findings.
The GAPS diet, originally articulated by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, strips your food intake down to raw and healthy simplicity. You begin by cutting out grains, dairy, preserved meats, tube-y starches, and sugars. For the first several weeks, your meals consist of: broth, fresh vegetables, good-quality fats, and the juice of fermented vegetables. As you get acclimated, you can begin to add fruit, nuts, and clean raw foods to your diet. It is crucial that you eat washed, fresh, and organic items during the GAPS diet, if possible.
I spent 8 weeks committed to this initial restrictive diet. My menu consisted of boiled-eggs, spinach, carrots, sprouts, fresh chicken, avocados, and tomatoes. There were significant lifestyle and social repercussions, as you must avoid alcohol, wheats, and sugars -- the staples of the Western Diet. Strict diets require sacrifice but if you are serious about improving your health and are at your wits end, you must do what you must do.
As I became settled into my new diet, I was shocked at the ever-more-ravenous cravings for sugars that I began to experience. The stomach, and the entities influencing it, proved wily. It fascinated me to come to understand how the gut would attempt to sway the dietary decisions I would make: Go get some chicken fingers... they are simple - fries, too, simple - yup, go get some, they do indeed fit within GAPS. I know this, for I am a Fung -- errm - stomach -- errh, brain.
While trying to seduce me into what seemed to be safe-to-eat chicken fingers, my stomach - or whatever was in my stomach - would belie its true desires. It sought the sugars in the ketchup I would smother on my fries or the faux-honey in the honey mustard I would bathe my chicken within.
In addition to this cerebral tom-foolery, my belly could never be sated. I could eat a full, nutrient rich meal, then moments after experience a violent craving for ice-cream, hash-browns slathered in ketchup, or alcohol. Alcohol being the most strange, as it never was a staple of my own diet. I often found myself compelled to 'head to the pub n' grab a pint' -- something strange and out of character.
After the fourth week, these cravings began to waver. I still felt unwell but I was optimistic and about to enter phase 2 of the dietary plan. It was now time to integrate some natural supplements. I started taking a strong probiotic and a simple coconut-based anti-fungal.
The results were harrowing, unexpected, and transformative. Before we reveal them, let us answer the prior question: What, then, was growing within my stomach? What was the voice compelling me to eat sugar, drink beer, and smash bread into my gullet? I now understand that I had an out-of-control over-growth of pathogenic Fungus. This Fungus, in particular, is known as: Candida albicans.
"Candida albicans is the most frequently encountered human fungal pathogen, causing both superficial infections and life-threatening systemic diseases." - A Versatile Overexpression Strategy in the Pathogenic Yeast Candida albicans: Identification of Regulators of Morphogenesis and Fitness. Chauvel, Nesseir, Cabral.
Candida is a type of Fungus and it can be found within most people. It occurs naturally, as it is a type of yeast. It resides within the gut, in the mouth, and on-top of the skin. As a by-product of its chemical reactions, Candida albicans produce high amounts of a chemical known as acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is classified by The International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 1 carcinogen and is considered to be a neurotoxic free-radical.
"... high-level Candida colonization is frequently observed in ulcer and IBD patients. Frequent colonization may, in part, reflect modern treatments for these conditions, which include administration of drugs such as antibiotics or immunomodulators. In addition, the presence of Candida delays healing and exacerbates disease. This vicious cycle in which inflammation promotes Candida colonization and Candida colonization delays healing may impact many patients." - Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization. Carol A. Kumamoto.
If you have a healthy habitat of gut flora then the good bacteria - in particular Lactobacillus, which produces hydrogen peroxide to ward off Fungal agents - will keep Funguses like Candida in check. However, if you received 'a little blast' of anti-biotics as a fresh baby or regularly received them as part of over-zealous medical treatment, you may be playing host to a rampant Candida albicans infestation.
Candida albicans feed on the sugars you ingest and thrive in the acidic environments that the over-preserved, hyper-sweet Western Diet promotes. Without natural bacterial defences, they are free to populate, creating more and more acetaldehyde and free-radicals for your body to attempt to cleanse.
They feed off of inflammation and slow natural healing. If their sugar-feasts become sparse, they will pierce your intestinal mucosal barriers in order to travel through your blood to new sources. Candida is a plague on your body and mind. Should your immune system become compromised, the impact of these transient beasts can prove fatal.
Deep into my new diet, sugar-cravings began to subside. I plunged into my probiotic and anti-fungal supplements. For the first week there was little change. At the start of the second week it felt as though I were catching a cold; I had a scratch in my throat, some swelling, and began feeling feverish. I felt this way for over a week.
One fateful morning later, I awoke covered in cold sweat. My heart was pounding, anxious. My eyes were caked-shut with mystery goo and I felt as though I had been hit by a truck. I had a pounding head-ache and felt feeble. In an unexpected twist, my mind felt lucid. As opposed to the drained, worn-down feeling of a cold, I felt awake, sharp; I felt alive!
This odd experience, in medical terms, is known as an Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction. People can experience these reactions when their bodies begin to terminate harmful micro-organisms en masse. For me, this meant that my diet and supplemental regiment was succeeding in killing off massive colonies of Candida albicans. The strangest thing? When urinating that morning, my urine was interspersed with clear, string-like matter; the parasites were fleeing to all exits.
This nightmarish exodus lasted for three days, but there was eventual respite. Waking up on the fourth day, I felt better than I had felt in memory. My mind was clear; I was no longer lost in a hazy, scattered fog. My eyes looked bright, the shadows that clung to them chased away by sunlight. My stomach felt calm and settled. I had energy; my vitality had been restored.
I reflect, solemn, upon this madness and how careless we have been with powerful medicines like anti-biotics. Our over-usage is growing anti-biotic resistance bacteria and we have left millions with imbalanced internal tubing. I spent two decades feeling unwell. In error, I embraced the typical Western diet and fed the harmful stomach-dwelling parasites the sugar-y sustenance they required to sap my energy and will. Now, with ample information available to inform wiser dietary and medical action, I know better.