Candidiasis: Non-entity or the cause of all diseases?

Candidiasis: Non-entity or the cause of all diseases?

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I received a notice from my home insurer recently. Mold damage, I was informed, will no longer be a covered loss. Apparently claims for mold damage, which were once rare, have become commonplace. That’s consistent, I thought, mold damage in the body, once equally rare, is being seen with increasing regularity.

Candida is the name given to family of yeasts that are commonly found in our environment. These are almost always found as a part of the flora (microorganisms) that inhabit the human body.

When yeasts overwhelm the body’s immune system and begin growing out of control the condition is called candidiasis. Candidiasis of the mouth is called thrush, a common condition in newborn infants. Vaginal candidiasis is the medical term for what are commonly called vaginal yeast infections. Most cases of heat rash are due to candidiasis of the skin.

When a disease persists for longer than 3 months it is considered chronic. Conditions that affect the entire body are referred to as systemic. Therefore, a persistent overgrowth of yeast in the body is called chronic systemic candidiasis.

Ask medical doctors what they think about chronic candidiasis and most responses will run from “What’s that?” to “There’s no such thing!” to “That only occurs with severe immune deficiency as in the final stages of AIDS.”

In contrast, some practitioners state that chronic candidiasis is the root cause of nearly all disease. Do you have headaches? You are a victim of chronic candidiasis. Suffer from chronic fatigue? Experience indigestion? Go through mood swings? Their answer is always the same, “You have chronic candidiasis.” I was even given a book recently entitled The Germ That Causes Cancer in which the author asserts that candidiasis is responsible for the development of cancer.

As is so often the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. Chronic systemic candidiasis does exist, and is, in fact, quite common. It is not, however, the cause of all disease. In many instances the symptoms individuals are attributing to candidiasis are present for entirely different reasons.

Many people believe that a yeast overgrowth is the cause of all their health problems because the condition can trigger such a wide variety of symptoms. Dozens, ranging from fatigue to irritability, from spots in the eyes to muscle aches and pains and from menstrual irregularities to depression, are associated with candidiasis.

It is very misleading, however, to go directly from effect to cause. While candidiasis may be the cause of a post-nasal drip it is not possible to state that all post-nasal drip is due to yeast in the sinuses. While candidiasis may cause difficulty concentrating it does not automatically follow that when someone has difficulty concentrating he or she has a chronic yeast infection. A comprehensive evaluation should be performed to ascertain the root cause of any symptom complex.

It is also important to recognize that an association between two disease states does not mean that one is causing the other. More commonly, both processes have a common denominator that is triggering both conditions. It is true that fungal infections are commonly found in people who are fighting cancer, but it is misleading and, I believe, irresponsible to jump to the conclusion that fungal infections cause cancer.

Cancer occurs when the body’s immune system fails to contain abnormal cells. Widespread and ongoing fungal infections such as candidiasis are seen when the body’s immune system is unable to contain the yeast or mold responsible. It is therefore predictable that the two conditions will commonly be present simultaneously, but one does not cause the other.

It is the fact that yeast is all around us, and is, therefore, typically present in everyone that leads most medical doctors reject the possibility that the germ can actually cause illness beyond local irritations such as occur in the mouth, body folds, vagina or between the toes. Disease does occur, however, when the body is unable to contain the number of fungal organisms.

This is the often the case when an individual encounters a heavy or prolonged exposure to mold in the environment. I have seen several individuals who developed chronic fatigue and became unable to work after living in a home with an overgrowth of mold in the ductwork. One person had struggled with persistent sinus infections, fungal nail infections and fatigue throughout his life after sleeping in a musty basement bedroom as a child.

Several factors weaken the body’s defenses and so predispose to a yeast overgrowth. First and foremost is the frequent or long-term use of antibiotics, which eliminate the bacteria that are meant to compete with yeast and keep their numbers under control. Those who have taken antibiotics continuously for acne control and those who have taken antibiotics four or more times within a year’s time are the most likely to be affected by chronic candidiasis.

Steroids such as prednisone or cortisone weaken the immune system and encourage the multiplication of yeast in the body. Oral contraceptives also create an environment that is friendly to yeast, but they are not as likely to precipitate a problem as antibiotics or steroids.

Once a condition of candidiasis has developed it tends to be self-perpetuating. The fungi crowd out beneficial organisms and prevent them from becoming re-established. The immune system is overwhelmed by the number of fungal forms and becomes more inefficient. B vitamins are depleted in part because the yeast have a voracious appetite for them and in part because the bacteria that play a role in the manufacture of B vitamins are significantly diminished in number.

Since virtually everyone carries antibodies to candida and have yeast in their system, determining their significance can be challenging. I rely upon several criteria. First and foremost, a clearly identifiable precipitating factor must be present. As noted above this might be a history of a heavy mold exposure or it could be a record of antibiotic or steroid use.

Secondly, a wide variety of symptoms consistent with a yeast overgrowth situation must be present. Physical findings such as infected nails, fungal skin rashes, and athlete’s foot are helpful when present, and I look for a characteristic blood picture consisting of changes in type and appearance of white blood cells and the presence of fungal forms called blastospores.

Once the presence of a yeast overgrowth has been identified the challenge of returning the body to its normal balance begins. This is not a simple process; there is no quick fix. It is not possible to take an anti-fungal medication for one or two weeks to correct the problem. Reversal of chronic, systemic candidiasis requires discipline and diligence.

The first step in correcting a yeast overgrowth is changing the internal environment of the body. The body is designed to be slightly alkaline rather than acidic. Typical American diets, which are rich in refined sugars and starches, carbonated beverages, and animal products promote an acidic environment in the body and encourage the growth of pathogens, which are disease-causing organisms.

Foods that encourage the growth of candida should be avoided. These include table sugar, fruit sugar, fruit juices, honey, maple syrup, yeast or mold containing foods such as alcohol, cheeses, dried fruits and peanuts, and milk and milk products.

Foods that can be eaten freely include legumes, skinless chicken or turkey, vegetables, whole grains including brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, rye, wild rice, quinoa and barley, and unsweetened cereals such as oatmeal, Cheerios, millet, or shredded wheat.

Ginger, Cinnamon, thyme, balm and rosemary contain some of the most powerful candida-killing substances available. Use them liberally in cooking. It is also wise to increase fiber intake, a topic that was discussed in last month’s newsletter.

Basic vitamin and mineral supplementation is important. Increased amounts of vitamin A or beta-carotene (25,000 IU twice daily) B-complex (Equivalent to a “B-50” or “B-100”) and essential fatty acids (flax, borage, evening primrose, or Omega-3 fish oils) should be taken. A green plant supplement is helpful in reducing acidity in the body.

While anti-fungal medications such as nystatin, ketoconazole (Nizoral), or fluconazole (Diflucan) can be prescribed, I have not found them to be as effective as nutritional products in bringing about a sustained reduction in the body’s candidal load.

Caprylic acid has been used for fungal control, but I find undecylenic acid much more effective, especially when used in combination with grapefruit seed extract of oil of oregano. Garlic has some anti-fungal activity. Oregon grape has been used with some success as have olive leaf extract and pau d’arco (taheebo).

Probiotics, which are protective bacteria, should be introduced, but these are generally ineffective in clearing an established yeast overgrowth and are best introduced two to three weeks after starting a treatment regimen.

A disciplined approach to chronic candidiasis that includes adherence to sound dietary principles, supplementation of essential nutrients, and utilization of nutritional supplements that alkalinize the body and destroy fungal organisms can result in a rapid reduction in yeast related symptoms with a very low rate of recurrence.

Candidiasis is not the cause of all diseases. The same regimen that brings yeast under control, however, will prevent or bring an improvement in a wide array of disease states as nearly all are due to the same imbalances in the internal environment of the body.

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