Fungal infections have become more prevalent and more serious with the increased use of immunosuppressive therapies, and the increased prevalence of HIV worldwide. Fungal diseases are responsible for an increasing burden on healthcare systems.
|Causes||Food Reactions, Smoking, Allergies, Infections|
|See Also||General Conditions, Respiratory Conditions|
|Books||Books on Infections, Allergies, Intolerances|
|Articles||Articles on Infections / Allergies / Sensitivities|
Any infection depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to a pathogen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality the less likely they will be affected by exposure to fungi or other pathogens. Fungal infections predominantly affect those individuals that are immuno-compromised.
Exposure to fungi typically occurs:
- Damp surfaces
- Damp surfaces such as locker-rooms, showers and bathrooms are ideal environments for the growth and transmission of fungal infections.
- Some fungal infections, such as Aspergillus species are found in the air, especially in hospitals, old-age homes or areas where there end to be a lot of immune-compromised people.
- Shared tools such as in barbershop or hair salon may be a source for fungal colonization and may play an important role in spreading mycotic infections among people.
- Some animals may act as reservoirs of pathogenic fungi. Examples include Cryptococcus neoformans which is generally contracted from exposure to pigeon droppings.
If fungal infection is suspected upon physical examination and health history intake, diagnostic studies may be used to confirm diagnosis, identify the fungus implicated, and establish appropriate treatment options. Diagnostic testing for fungal infections includes:
- Microscopic examination of culture to confirm and identify fungal microorganisms is the primary means of diagnostic evaluation. Several staining methods including gram stain, calcofluor, acridine, and methenamine silver, are useful in fungal identification. Methods for detection of fungal antigens have been developed and can be used to identify Candida, Aspergillus, and Cryptococcus.
- Chronic fungal infections are generally associated with those that are immune compromised.
- Fungal infections tend to grow and spread in areas of the body that damp, moist and not typically exposed to the air including: the groin, under or between the breast, skin folds, armpits and the feet.
Common signs and symptoms associated with fungal infections are as varied as fungi themselves. Some common symtoms associated with fungal infections include, but are not limited to:
Common Fungus-Associated Conditions
Fungal infections can become a chronic, recurrent issue in immunocompromised patients. Superficial fungal infections may become a chronic issue for athletes, or those who are exposed to unavoidable humid, hot conditions. The most important, well studied, and prevalent chronic fungal condition remains candidiasis, please refer to this section for a detailed list of causative factors and treatment options.
Conditions by Body System
The following is a list of common and/or important fungal infections. This list is not exhaustive.
- Dermatologic Fungal Conditions include:
- Tinea versicolor (commonly caused by P. orbiculare, or P. ovale)
- Athlete's Foot (Tinea pedis)*
- Jock Itch (Tinea cruris)*
- Ringworm of the body (Tinea corporis)*
- Tinea of the beard (Tinea barbae)*
- Tinea of the scalp (Tinea capitis)*
*These conditions are general caused by a group of fungi known as dermatophytes (commonly referred to as ringworm or tinea)
- Respiratory Fungal Conditions include:
- Histoplasmosis (H. capsulatum)
- Blastomycosis (B. dermatitidis)
- Coccidiodomycosis (C. immitis, or Coccidiodes posadasii)
- Paracoccidiodomycosis (Paracoccidioides brasiliensis)
- Cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neoformans, or Cryptococcus gattii)
- Aspergillosis (Aspergillus spp)
- Zygomycosis (caused by members of the genera Mucor, Rhizopus, or Absidia)
- Candidiasis (C. albicans, C. tropicalis, or C. glabrata)
- Pneumocystis pneumonia (Pneumocystis jirovecii)
- Fungal respiratory infections range in severity from asymptomatic, to presentation with mild malaise, to life threatening respiratory disease. These infections are especially serious in immuno-compromised individuals.
- Neurological Fungal Conditions Include:
- Meningitis (Cryptococcus spp, Aspergillus spp., Pseudallescheria boydii, Coccidiodies spp., Blastomyces dermatitidis, and Histoplasma capsulatum)
- Brain Abscess ("Candida spp., Aspergillus spp., Rhizopus spp., Mucor spp., P. boydii)
- Fungal infections affecting the nervous system are most commonly seen in immuno-compromised individuals.
- Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma capsulatum)
- Candidiasis (Candida spp)
- Heaptic fungal infections are rare and generally only affect those with HIV or a severely compromised immune system
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. The treatment for parasitic infections follow the same principles as all infections. The specific type of infection, i.e., whether it is acute or chronic and what physiological system is affected dictates the specific treatment strategy. Only those treatment specific to parasites are included in this section. For a full listing of treatment options refer to the section on infections.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
- It is important that any area of the skin that has a fungus be cleaned with chemical-free anti-fungal soap, such as Neem Tree soap and then dried very well. Using a blow dryer to ensure the area is completely dry may be beneficial.
- Wear only natural fibers that allow the skin to breath. Avoid clothing that is restrictive, especially in the area of the fungal infection.
- Herbs with antifungal properties include: Garlic (Allium sativum), Undecanoic acid, Berberine from Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) or Barberry (Myrica cerifera), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Cinnamon bark oil, Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare), Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia).
- Other herbs with antifungal properties include: Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Burdock (Arctium lappa), Calendula (Calendula officinalis) (topically), Geranium (Geranium spp), , Pau d'Arco (Tabebuia avellanedae), Thuja (Thuja occidentalis), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
- Bennett JE (2009) Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease Section G Mycoses Elsevier
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