I respect fungi. I truly do. They are as fascinating as they are a brutally tough adversary. They’ve been on my mind, so, yes, this will be a slightly more personal post, but mostly, I’d like to get my thoughts out there on the brilliance and genius of fungi.
Fun Fungi Facts
- Fungi are in their own kingdom. That’s right. They are not plants. They are not animals. They are separate.
- Fungi are not photosynthetic. They are saprophytic, deriving their food from dead and/or decaying organic matter.
- Fungi are inconspicuous. We normally notice them only when they flower, e.g. the mushroom caps that we eat. They really have extremely strong and complex networks underground and within and around other organisms. They are everywhere!
Fungi you know: mushrooms and truffles (for eating), yeast (for bread, wine, beer, and countless other things that are fermented), antibiotics including penicillin (you know, for preventing us from dying from all the seemingly simple diseases and raised life expectancy by close to 30 years within a century), and much much more.
- Fungi grow and thrive in our bodies. One common method for their survival is symbiosis with animals and plants.
- Fungi are the molds that grow on our cheeses and breads and all things nasty rotting in our fridge. In fact, fungi are responsible for the breakdown of most dead things.
- Fungi are really important – They are the top and bottom (whatever way you see it) of the food chain – breaking things down, so that plants can use them again.
- Finally, fungal infections are perhaps some of the most difficult things to get rid of. Take it from me. Most of the time, you never think it’s that bad. A chronically upset stomach. Some embarrassing itching. Some peeling skin on your feet and fingers. Like the fungi out in the world, burrowing deep and forming vast networks, our symptoms are the tip of the iceberg. And the creams and pills doctors prescribe usually only treat the symptoms. Which means the fungus doesn’t really die “all the way.” Remember, it burrowed. It may become stronger, and then it will come back, again, and again, and again. Because it never really left. And it adores feeding off of us.
All in all. All in all. My issues with fungi in several of my bodily tracts have recently flared up again. Not surprising as I’ve gotten a bit lax with my eating habits. Not as terrible as a couple years ago when I was in fungus-crisis-mode. I know the early symptoms now. And I know that to get rid of a fungus, or at least keep a really firm grip on it, you have to starve it. Now, some would say my approach is “alternative.” But after having a 6-month painful off-and-on infection taking prescribed medicine after prescribed medicine and doctors telling me to give it a chance, that it’s in my head, bla bla bla, I finally, tearfully panicked, went to a Chinese healer who gave me very specialized plant tinctures to take several times a day for months. Along with some diet modifications, it did the trick. So…because I’ve been eating way too much sugar the last few months…I’ve got to get back into gear. I’m not happy about it, but that’s the way it is.
How do you starve out a fungus? Fungi thrive on sugar. Period. Sugar means sugar of all sorts: granulated, honey, fruit, white processed starches. Also, fungi are in lots of our foods already. Anything that was fermented. Breads. Wine. Beer. What does this mean for me? I’m on a diet of leafy greens, and although I love leafy greens, the first few days without standard carbs is killing me. You’d be surprised how many sandwiches we eat. How many croissants. How much sugar in our coffee. How many fruits (as healthy as they are – I once had a violent outbreak right after eating a juicy pear). No ice cream. No chocolate. No spaghetti. No potatoes (too starchy, easy sugar).
So I went to the shuk (market), and I bought huge bunches of kale, celery, sorrel, mint, green beans of two varieties, garlic (excellent for anti yeast), cilantro, ginger, and rocket. I made a large pot of mostly-sorrel soup last night with some zucchini and lots of ginger (in actuality, almost all the greens went in in various capacities, but sorrel for a soup base is incredible – a great thickener, and the sour taste is really something). I had a rocket-cilantro-tahini salad for breakfast. I had a small bowl of soup for a snack. I had a lettuce-radish-endive-egg salad for lunch. And I am friggin starving. Thank goodness tahini is allowed and recommended by some. Almonds and most nuts, too. But I want my chocolate. I’d like some crackers and popcorn. I want a glass of scotch (alcohol=sugar and it was fermented, so there could be yeast…bla, bla, bla). I want an easy cooking job like boiling some noodles. Greens have such a low caloric count that you really understand why cows have to constantly eat.
Ideas to make it better – I am starting with the whole grains again. A lot of those are allowed. Oatmeal is awesome. Buckwheat should be OK. Quinoa, too. At the suggestion of a friend, I also bought some peanut butter and cocoa powder to mix together — perhaps it will fulfill the urge for desserts. Tahini does that for me sometimes. I am not ashamed to admit I will sit around and eat whole cucumber after whole cucumber dipping them directly into raw tahini when there isn’t anything else I can eat. I think of it as tahini fondue. Yogurts are great too, but too much dairy is also not good, so you have to be moderate there. Apple cider vinegar, although of course fermented, is heralded by many as a miracle cure. I’ve taken to drinking some diluted in water. I also take a pro-biotic supplement.
Another note: I avoid antibiotics as much as possible these days. Why? Despite the fact that it kills off infection, and it’s terribly important – it weakens us, and it destroys the balance of all the little creepy crawlies inside. Because antibiotics kill off bacteria (not just the infected area), fungus has the space to thrive. Glaring infection of a completely different sort. And that weakens us further. We take prescription anti-fungals, this often causes the bacteria to over-multiply now, and we’re back to square one. I take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary (part of why I’ve cut out all meat products).
So there you have it. Most of us eat too much sugar. Most of us have had athlete’s foot. Some of us have some rotting nails, chronic digestive issues. Many – perhaps a majority of women (and even some men) have had yeast infections. Some people have had oral thrush. And goodness knows, many of us have experienced unexplained bouts of sluggishness, depression, and other disturbing things. A lot of this, if not all, can be attributed to fungus, most notable, Candida. Living everywhere – on our skin, mostly notably, in the gut. We can all stand to cut a lot of sugar out of our lives, pump lots of greens back in, and eat whole grains as opposed to processed everything (which is usually the case if you don’t go out of your way to get special breads and pastas, and eat foods out of boxes and cans, etc).
I hope this was elucidating rather than boring or disgusting. I really welcome comments on this. It’s an important subject to me, and goodness knows, I’m really not an expert. I may have unknowingly exaggerated or confused some facts, above, so let me know. I want to learn, too.