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Immune System: Our Microbial World Part 1/3

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

When we have a cold, flu, or other immune illnesses, we often attribute them to a bacteria or virus without knowing what these terms actually mean. I will explain these and other terms by defining microbes that make up and interact with our bodies. This process will equip us to better understand how microbes impact our bodies and, in turn, we’ll learn how to better support our immune system.

The word, microbe, comes from the Greek word “microorganism” which literally means “any small living form of life.” It can typically be broken down into 5 categories--fungi, algae, protozoa, bacteria and viruses. Many microbes are extremely beneficial to humans. They remove wastes and toxins; recycle that waste; keep our mouths, skin and gut healthy; act as enzymes and breakdown our food; and perform many other incredible unseen functions!

Our first stop is a look at the largest category of microbes which are not always microscopic--the fungus: any group of spore-producing organisms that feed on organic matter which include molds, yeasts, mushrooms, and toadstools. Unlike plants, fungi have no chlorophyll. They live off of other plants and animals, which makes them a parasite. [1] There are millions of different species of fungi on the earth, and only about 300 of these are known to cause sickness when they become present or overgrown in a weakened immune system.

A common example of a fungus gone wrong is Candidiasis: an overgrowth of the yeast Candida in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina. Symptoms of this manifests as thrush, yeast infections, acne, toe fungus, and sugar cravings.

On the other hand, a fungus that provides incredible benefits to our body is the mushroom. Various species of mushrooms provide the body with a rich supply of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants that fight free radicals and prevent cancer. Some mushrooms are capable of “inhibiting viruses and decrease the severity of illness in those who are already sick. For example, certain types of mushrooms are shown to increase production of B and T lymphocytes, which are the crucial immune cells that help control our response to pathogens (harmful bacteria), viruses, toxins and other substances that can make us fall victim to disease.” [2] Some of the incredible mushrooms to add to your diet include white button, reishi, shitake, cordyceps, and enoki.

Next time we will take a look at protozoa and algae before finishing up with a thorough discussion of bacteria and viruses.

[1] A Parasite is an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense.


If you have questions or comments for Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Maria Adam, contact her at

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