What is the Truth About Candida?
Candida Albicans is a yeast organism which peacefully coexists in and with many people when it is present in modest amounts. When circumstances lead to the excessive growth of candida in the body, one can develop myriad symptoms of chronic illness. The conditions of overgrowth is called Candidiasis.
The numerous problems which can result from this are called Candida Related Complex or Candida Colonization/Hypersensitivity Syndrome.
What frustrates me is that though there is a great deal of information written on this subject, traditional physicians are not paying any attention to it.
This creates tremendous confusion for those suffering from this problem.
Those patients who seek consultation from physicians who acknowledge and diagnose candida are met with scoffing and disbelief when they report this to their more traditional physician.
Why all the misunderstanding? Because most doctors only recognize a brief vaginal "yeast" infection known as monilia, a brief oral "yeast" infection known as thrush, or a serious life threatening "systemic candidiasis" found only in those with severe immune deficiency such as in Aids patients.
But these doctors fail to recognize that the same fungal overgrowth which can occur in the mouth or vagina can occur in any mucous membranes in the body.
This includes the entire gastrointestinal tract, the sinuses, the ears , nasopharynx, and entire respiratory system, & the genitourinary tract. And of course, fungal overgrowth can occur on the skin and under the finger and toenails. Furthermore this may not be the short-lived condition they attempt to treat with 1-3 days of antifungal medicine.
Some people develop a short term fungal overgrowth related to antibiotic treatment which can be readily cleared with a few days of meds. Yet a larger number suffer from Chronic Candidasis which is a far more complicated situation.
I have seen published figures that this is as high as 80 million Americans. I don't know how they got those figures, but I know I have seen it frequently in my patients for many years and I and family members have been previous victims of Chronic Candidiasis. I got my start by being a sugarholic for many younger years and promiscuously using antibiotics for the frequent sore throats I was getting during the rigourous hours of Medical school and training.
Then, they knew very little about it, so I grappled for years before the problem was taken care of --by me.
Recurrent antibiotic use, steroid drugs, use of acid blockers, birth control pills, excess sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, alcohol, diabetes, decreased immune function, severe chronic stress, and familial factors are the main predisposers to chronic candida.
What Are The Symptoms?
Anyone who has and knows they have chronic candida knows how many different symptoms can be stirred up. Unfortunately, most who have this disorder are unaware of it.
Such individuals may crave sugar, breads, carbohydrates and alcohol -- though they are often alcohol intolerant. They may be bothered by the smell of tobacco smoke and more symptomatic when exposed to chemicals, such as household chemicals, perfumes. They may feel worse in damp muggy locations and not infrequently develop inhalant mold allergies.
- General symptoms may be fatigue, drowsiness, muscle aches, weakness, or tension, joint pain or swelling, dizziness, loss of balance, incoordination, fluid retention and tissue swelling, numbness, burning or tingling.
- Cognitive/emotional symptoms may be a sense of spaciness or mental fog, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, depression, anxiety, frequent mood changes, and irritability.
- Head symptoms may be headache, nasal congestion or postnasal drip, nasal itching, chronic sinusitis, visual changes, burning, tearing, or itching eyes, fluid in ears, ear pain and congestion, recurrent ear infections, draining, itching ears, sore or dry throat or mouth, and scalp lesions.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms may be constipation or diarrhea, bloating, belching, and flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, esophagitis, bad breath, & mucous in the stools.
- Respiratory symptoms can be persistent cough, pain or tightness in the chest, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
- Genitourinary symptoms can be genital itching, burning, or irritation, loss of sexual feeling, thick white lumpy vaginal discharge, painful intercourse, menstrual cramps, urinary urgency or frequency, burning on urination, PMS, endometriosis, prostatitis, and impotency.
- Skin symptoms can be rashes and itching, especially in areas which are moist and get little air circulation. Sometimes there are fingernail and toenail fungal infections.
This is a logical question and the reason the manifestations can be so widespread is complex. Some of the symptoms are related to local inflammation of the mucous membranes caused by the overgrowth of the candida yeast.
Then the candida organisms can produce 79 different toxins which can cause other inflammatory responses anywhere in the body. Most notable of these is acetaldehyde which is the same chemical to which alcohol is metabolized. These chemical overloads may directly induce symptoms, as well as chronically affecting the system so that chemical hypersensivity reactions occur. The toxic metabolites further suppress the immune system which may already be compromised.
The individual may become allergic to the candida organism, so that reaction is added and also may become allergic to other foods and inhalant molds.
The inflammation and production of chemicals in the GI tract alter the intestinal membranes making them allow particles to pass into the system which would ordinarily be blocked. This increased intestinal permeability is one of the root causes of delayed food hypersensivity reactions, so food allergy symtpoms get added to the list.
Most serious of all are the autoimmune and endocrine disorders which may develop after years of significant chronic candidiasis. Decreased adrenal, thyroid, parathyroid, and ovarian functioning may also be associated with autoimmune disorders of those glands.
Other associated disorders may be hair loss, vitiligo, malabsorption, chronic hepatitis, dental enamel dysplasia, and disorders of the thymus gland.
How Do You Treat Candida?
The most critical part of treatment is dietary change. There must be no sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, white flour products, fruit juices, dried fruits, melons, yeast, moldy cheeses or foods, or alcohol. One must read labels to be stringent. The allergy rotation diet doubles as an anti-candida diet if you delete melons and dried fruits.
Unfortunately those prone to chronic candida are also prone to relapse if they stop their dietary program and complete wellness may require life- time dietary modifications.
It is also necessary to eliminate the predisposing factors listed earlier in this news as much as possible.
What about Drugs versus Natural Antifungals?
Depending upon the severity of the blood test and stool findings, I am prone to prescribing antifungal medication, which may need to be taken relatively long term in more severe cases. Those medicines are Nystatin capsules or powder ( not the tablets), Nizoral, Diflucan, and Sporonox. The last 2 are very expensive.
Additionally there are a number of natural antifungal agents I may recommend. However, one reason I recommend the meds is that often when I do order the culture and sensivity the candida is resistant to many of the natural items, except for something called Tannins and grapefruit seed extract. But with milder cases, where there is no culture and sensivity we opt for the natural items.
It is important to restore the normal acidophilus and bifidus organism in the GI tract which are killed with antibiotics and predispose to candida.
If there is a situation of low stomach acidity , betaine HCL needs to be added as the candida organisms thrive best in an alkaline environment. You want to make an inhospitable neighborhood for them. If food allergies have developed, further digestive enzyme support may be needed.
It is also helpful to support the immune system with thymus fractions.
Author Profile: Priscilla Slagle, M.D. is in the private practice of Nutritional/Functional Medicine and Psychiatry in Palm Springs, California. She has helped thousands overcome the effects of stress, low moods, depression and a variety of chronic symptoms and diseases. Dr. Slagle is a pioneer in the Alternative Medicine Field and one of the foremost experts on the prevention and treatment of conditions by incorporating vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, natural hormones and other natural substances in her practice.