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Yeast Infection and the (Suppressed) Immune System
Preamble to Yeast Infection and the (Suppressed) Immune System
This page answers the big question "Why do I get yeast infections - candida - thrush?"
OR, in other words, "Why don't I get yeast infections all the time?"
In reality, it mostly comes back to your immune system - yeast spores are all over you, inside of you, and can easily convert to a yeast infection.
A suppressed immune system is the main reason why those yeast infections can grow.
I feel it is well worth the time it takes you to read this page, as the information makes so many health issues so understandable - including yeast infections.
As editor, I have gone over Yeast Infection and the (Suppressed) Immune System and tried to make it easier to digest, but it does require most readers to take on board a fair bit of new information. Yeast infection and the suppressed immune system, may be a little bit too detailed, and a little bit complex, for some readers.
Yeast Infection and the (Suppressed) Immune System also easily answers the question "Why do I get a yeast infection when I'm down or stressed or faitgued or haven't eaten right?" It may even provide you with the answer to why you may be getting colds and flus so easily.
Introduction to Yeast Infection and the Immune System
Since the organisms that cause yeast infections, Candida yeasts, are everywhere in our environment, the only thing that keeps us from getting yeast infections constantly is our immune systems.
However, people often have an inadequate idea of how their immune system works and how to keep it from being suppressed / compromised.
These people leave themselves open to opportunistic infections of all sorts, such as yeast infection, depending on the level of immune suppression.
To avoid these infections, it's important to really understand how the human immune system works so you can help it as much as possible in preventing yeast infections and so on.
How the Immune System Works against yeast Infection, thrush, candida and just about everything else.
Each and every human actually has two immune systems. Both help fight off yeast infections.
The first immune system, sometimes known as the innate immune system, consists of the skin, mucosa, normal flora and fauna of the intestinal system and the chemicals in tears, body oils, stomach acids and blood factors.
Anything that interferes with this innate system can leave the body open for invasion by Candida yeasts - yeast infection. For example, female hormone therapy alters the natural secretions of the vagina that serve as part of the innate immune system, and cause yeast infections to flourish in the vagina.
The four major functions of the innate immune system are to bring immune cells to the sites of infection, activate the complement cascade to identify bacteria, activate the adaptive immune system and speed up the clearance of dead cells, and identify and remove foreign substances with specialized white blood cells.
Stage 1 - Inflammation as a response to yeast infection by a normal immune system
Inflammation happens due to chemicals released by injured cells. It serves to establish a literal physical barrier against invading microorganisms.
It also increases sensitivity to pain, to make sure that the brain knows damage has occured in the area.
Inflammation also helps promote tissue healing after pathogens (things that cause disease) have been cleared out.
Inflammation is always characterized by heat, redness, pain and swelling.
The problem is that if inflammation goes too far or happens in a bad area, it can also cause dysfunction of the organs or tissues that have become inflamed.
Both corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories try to reduce or eliminate this response. Because these medications directly interfere with this part of the immune system, regular use of them can eliminate the barrier that inflammation provides and allow yeast organisms a way into the body.
Stage 2 - Produce antibodies for known invaders, and alert adaptive immune system if invader not recognised
The complementary system is a biochemical cascade reaction that helps antibodies from the adaptive immune system to clear pathogens out of the body.
In simpler words, in a non-suppressed immune system reaction, the invader, if it can be identified, is immediately attacked with the same antibodies the body used to attack it successfully before.
Stage 3 - The response of the non suppressed adaptive immune system
Alternatively, this chemical reaction "tags" microorganisms for analysis by the adaptive immune system.
Without this, our bodies would have a hard time differentiating "me" from "not me", which is the root problem of most autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Some immune suppressant medication works in this area to control autoimmune diseases by making the body identify everything as "me." This sort of medication is used to keep the body from rejecting organ transplants.
Either way, the innate immune system is told to accept everything as part of the body, so yeast organisms get mistaken as "friendly".
Of course, at that point the now suppressed immune system will just let them by, fail to activate either the innate or the adaptive immune system, and you have problems with yeast infections.
All white blood cells are known as leukocytes. They go everywhere in the body, but they can't reproduce on their own. They're made by stem cells in the bone marrow, which is why people with leukemia get bone marrow transplants.
The idea of a bone marrow transplant is to replace bone marrow that's producing diseased white blood cells with bone marrow that will once again produce healthy cells. Some leukocytes are adaptive, and will be discussed below. The innate leukocytes are natural killer cells, mast cells, eosinophils and basophils. Also included in the innate immune system are macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells, although these often function as links between the two different immune systems.
All of these white blood cells produce broad spectrum defenses against invaders.
They can't change their behaviour to adapt to anything, but they have enough innate weaponry to deal with the majority of microorganisms in the environment today.
If the production of white blood cells goes down due to lack of body reserves, of course that also allows Candida an opening that it will happily take.
Body energy reserves are easily dropped due to poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, illness and lack of exercise.
That's why herpes simplex and other incurable viruses so often flares up during periods of stress, poor lifestyle or illness, because these white blood cells either aren't being produced or are being drawn off elsewhere in the body.
These conditions that create a suppressed immune system, also then cause the body to be open to opportunistic infections like yeast infections.
Opportunistic infections are specifically defined as infections that don't usually affect healthy people, but will start to seriously affect those who aren't - those with suppressed immune systems.
Many opportunistic pathogens can be found in our daily environment, but only when the immune system is compromised for some reason can they take the "opportunity" to get in and wreak havoc.
This opportunity most often comes from the innate immune system, but a suppression of the adaptive immune system also causes problems.
Many bacteria, viruses and other organisms have evolved ways to get around the innate immune system, so without our adaptive system we'd quickly be in serious trouble.
Stage 4 and the Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system consists of very specialized white blood cells that exist throughout the human body.
They eliminate or prevent infection from microorganisms that evolve responses to the innate immune system.
The innate immune system activates the adaptive immune system each and every time the body gets invaded.
It wouldn't do for the innate immune system to be losing by the time the adaptive joins the fight, after all.
It can take a little time for the adaptive system to learn about an invader and tailor an appropriate response, so the innate system starts signaling for help as soon as any invader is detected.
Considering that we live in a world full of little microorganisms that would love to invade us, it means that both the innate and the adaptive immune systems are functioning at some level all of the time.
The adaptive immune system provides the body with the ability to remember specific invaders and to recognize them when they show up again.
This remembrance and recognition allows the body to provide stronger attacks each time the particular pathogen is encountered.
The white blood cells that make up the adaptive immune system are called lymphocytes.
These lymphocytes are divided into two broad categories, B and T cells.
The human body normally has about two trillion lymphocytes in circulation at any given time. If they were taken out of the blood stream and put all together, the volume of them all would about equal the human brain, and they're just as vital to continuing life.
B cells basically create antibodies against invaders, while T cells go after the invader directly. B cells can be thought of as little antibody factories, creating chemical weapons to throw at an invading microorganism. T cells, on the other hand, actively seek out and kill diseased cells and eat or kill pathogens in the cellular equivalent of hand-to-hand fighting.
T cells are the major culprits in organ transplant rejection, as they will flock to the area to directly attack what they percieve to be an invader. No organ can stand up long to a sustained T cell onslaught, so immunosuppressant drugs also try to shut down T cell response.
Of course, considering that T cells also usually have Candida yeasts for lunch, shutting them down leaves the body wide open to yeast infections and other problematic invaders.
T cells are also the specific immune cells that the HIV goes after to create AIDS. Without T cell help, many invaders get into the body and can grow to undefeatable numbers before the B cell antibodies can form a response.
The T and B cells both work through a process called V(D)J recombination, which is a method of genetic recombination that randomly reassembles specific gene segments containing protein chains used by the body as weapons against invading microorganisms.
This random selection and recombination allows the body to come up with a huge number of responses, throw them at the infecting organism and then remember which ones worked.
B cells also work with a genetic recombination method called somatic hyperpermutation (SHM). This form of genetic recombination is a specific process of mutation affecting the variable regions of immune cells. SHM only affects individual cells and the mutations are not passed on to that cell's offspring. This programmed dance of genetic recombination allows the B cells to systematically test the defenses of an invader.
These two mechanisms allow a relatively small number of white blood cells to create a huge number of tailored responses very fast.
After a given invader is defeated, the memory B and T cells store the tag that identifies the pathogen associated with the responses that worked for the next time that invader tries getting in.
Yeast Infection and the (Suppressed) Immune System in Conclusion
Both innate and adaptive immune systems working together help keep yeast infections from invading the body to a dangerous level.
They create a poor environment for Candida to live in through chemical means, keeping it in its non-invasive single celled form.
They also eat Candida yeasts, eliminating them from the body before they have the chance to start breeding.
The adaptive immune system remembers how to deal with Candida yeasts in both of its forms, denying the organism the chance to get into the blood and travel through the body.
Our flexible and multilayered immune system is a wonder of biology and one of the reasons our species has survived this long.
However, whenever this immune system is suppressed, invasion and infection will result.
Considering that Candida yeast is so pervasive throughout our environment, yeast infections are often one of the first signs of immune system dysfunction.
Take a series of recurrent yeast infections as a sign that something needs to change instead of ignoring your body's needs.
References used for Yeast Infection and the (Suppressed) Immune System
Taber's Medical Encyclopedia
Alberts, Bruce; Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, and Peter Walters (2002). Molecular Biology of the Cell; Fourth Edition. New York and London: Garland Science.
Janeway, Charles; Paul Travers, Mark Walport, and Mark Shlomchik (2001). Immunobiology; Fifth Edition. New York and London: Garland Science.
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Good luck from: Loni (Researcher and writer ) Donald (Editor and web master).
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