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Candida infections magnify your risk of arthritis and multiple sclerosis


(NaturalNews) Did you know that candida (yeast) infections can be a sign that your microbiome is out of balance, increasing your risk for chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis and multiple sclerosis?

That was the implication of a 2012 study in the journal Nature, conducted by researchers from Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland.

The study found that cells of the fungus Candida albicans seemed to trigger the immune system to produce more inflammation.

The findings are particularly significant because the immune cells being studied play a key role in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

"This not only demonstrates that the composition of our microflora has a decisive role in the development of chronic illnesses, but also that the key cells causing illness can develop an anti-inflammatory 'twin'," first author Dr. Christina Zielinski said.

The importance of a single molecular switch

The researchers started out by studying the activity of the immune signaling chemical interleukin 1b, which has previously been shown to trigger immune cells to develop inflammatory properties and to attack the body during autoimmune conditions. They found that in the absence of interleukin 1b, those same cells go on to develop anti-inflammatory properties instead.

The big surprise was discovering that the presence of certain microorganisms helped determine whether interleukin 1b was present or not. It is here that Candida was found to trigger the inflammatory response.

The researchers then went on to study patients suffering from auto-inflammatory symptoms characterized by overproduction of interleukin 1b, including CAPS, Muckle-Wells and Schnitzler Syndromes. These conditions are characterized by arthritis, skin rashes and fever, particularly in children. The researchers found that antibodies blocking the action of interleukin 1b caused the body's immune cells to shift toward anti-inflammatory activity. Most promisingly, the cells "remembered" this change, and became more likely to continue releasing anti-inflammatory compounds over the long-term.

"I am convinced that an imbalance in our microbial microflora has a decisive influence on the development of chronic inflammatory illnesses like rheumatism, Morbus Crohn and psoriasis," Zielinski said. "Our organism is composed of ten times more microbial cells than our body's own cells. Keeping this in check is not easy. Interleukin 1b is now turning out to be a decisive molecular switch, which the microbes use to dictate between healthy or sick."

Zielinski noted that the antibody therapy produced symptomatic relief without suppressing other immune system functions, in contrast with most treatments for autoimmune disease.

How the microbiome protects your health

The findings have implications even for those not suffering from autoimmune diseases, because they suggest that microbial imbalance may be behind the development of many of these diseases in the first place.

This is not the first time that the microbiome – the billions of microorganisms that naturally inhabit the human body, particularly the skin and gut – has been linked to immune system regulation and the prevention or development of autoimmune diseases. A healthy microbiome also plays a key role in regulating the digestive, nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems. It even seems to affect mood.

Like all opportunistic infections, yeast infections are a classic sign of a disrupted microbiome. That's because it's actually normal for Candida albicans to live in and on your body – but normally, a healthy microbiome keeps its numbers in check. A yeast (or thrush) infection develops when Candida multiplies out of control, leading to itchy and painful symptoms.

Common triggers of yeast infections include taking antibiotics (which kills beneficial as well as harmful bacteria), immune-suppressing conditions or drugs, and both healthy and unhealthy large-scale changes to bodily systems (such as pregnancy or diabetes).

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