I have had an increasingly high number of patients suffering from Candida and I wanted to explore the issue further due to the wide use, and misuse of this term in the media, which can cause confusion with patients. Traditional medicine has become more expectant of Candida (where as in the past, some doctors didn’t think it existed). However there is still a lot of misinformation regarding this topic.
Candida Albicans are a form of yeast that is normally found in the lower bowel, the vagina and the skin. In healthy individuals the presence of Candida Albicans is a normal part of the intestinal flora, but if grown to larger amounts, can lead to problems.
Once this organism proliferates in the body, it reaps havoc in many ways and contributes to common maladies.
Some of the most frequent Candida symptoms are: Abdominal gas, headaches, migraines ,excessive fatigue, cravings for alcohol, anxiety, vaginitis, rectal itching, cravings for sweets, inability to think clearly or concentrate, hyperactivity, mood swings, diarrhea ,constipation, acne, eczema, depression, sinus inflammation, pre-menstrual syndrome, dizziness, poor memory, persistent cough, earaches, low sex drive, muscle weakness, irritability, learning difficulties, sensitivity to fragrances and/or other chemicals, thrush, athletes foot, sore throat, indigestion and acid reflux to name a few.
Candida may play a role in just about any health condition or chronic illness you can think of, not just yeast infections. Yeast overgrowth is considered to be a leading contributor in irritable bowel syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities, crohn’s, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, pms, endometriosis, fibromyalgia syndrome, prostatitis, attention deficit disorder, multiple sclerosis, asthma, food allergies, muscle and joint pain, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, asthma, repeated urinary tract infections, hormonal imbalances, migraines, digestive disturbances, difficult menopause, psoriasis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and many more.
Candida symptoms can vary from one person to another and often move back and forth between systems within the same individual. One day you may experience symptoms in the musculoskeletal system and the next day it could be the digestive system.
Candida is tough because it is very resilient. When trying to eradicate this organism, it tends to change form and easily resist anti-fungal agents. Traditional medicine normally uses systemic pharmaceuticals such as nyastatin for eradication and while those can be effective, they are extremely harsh on the body, especially the digestive system.
As you probably remember from previous newsletters, our digestive tract has many kinds of bacteria, and while some are bad, some are very good and necessary for proper GI function. These pharmaceuticals, similarly to anti-biotics, destroy the beneficial flora along with the Candida so unless the good bacteria are replaced and the intestines are healed, the patient has an extremely high chance of relapse.
The approach used by many integrative practitioners is much more holistic, meaning it takes a look at the whole body not just at the Candida, therefore the success rates are overwhelmingly high.
I use the 4 R protocol to eradicate Candida and improve the whole digestive system in the process.
First it is important to remove foods that feed Candida. These are simple sugars, white flour, and gluten containing grains (wheat, barley, rye, oats). Dairy may also have an effect so I normally suggest lowering that for the duration of the cleanse.
Then I focus on removing the pathogens through natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial agents. If I have stool test results, this process is a bit easier because we can see what type of Candida the patient has as well as the agents that this type of Candida is sensitive and resistant to. However even without a stool test, it is possible to pick general anti-fungal agents. Since Candida is very resilient, the trick is to use several killing agents and rotate them over a few days to prevent resistance. I like using things such as potent garlic extracts (alacin), grapefruit seed extracts, walnut husks, berberines, and caprylic acid in rotation to eradicate the fungus. In more stubborn cases I also use special enzymes that destroy the cell wall of the Candida organisms adding to the “killing” effect of the anti fungals. While energy levels may be low, it is important not to take many vitamins and minerals during this phase because as the nutrients help your cells, they can also help the bacteria thus strengthening it and making it harder to eradicate. This phase can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the severity of the problem.
While cleansing, it is possible to experience something called a die-off reaction. This happens when Candida is killed off and releases certain toxins that may cause some uncomfortable symptoms. The type and severity of the symptoms vary greatly between patients. Some people may experience muscle or joint pain, itchy runny nose and eyes, or congestion. Some women may experience a temporary flare up of a yeast infection as well. While it is a good sign that the Candida is dying off, if the symptoms become bothersome, we lower the dose of the natural killing agents to slow down the process and the symptoms subside.
Once the Candida becomes more manageable, I start to re-inoculate the body with good flora to take the place of the preexisting Candida and crowd out any remaining Candida. This is a very important step and often missed by traditional medicine. If this is not done properly, the chance for relapse is enormous. Re-inoculation is done with probiotics which are the good flora. While there are many probiotic supplements out on the market, they are not all created equal. In order to be effective, they have to be refrigerated (unless they are specifically coated to be stable at room temperature which is hard to find) and they have to contain the right kind of human bacteria stains in high amounts. There are many probiotics nowadays that are made from soil based organisms. While they are becoming popular and boast results in their infomercials, I am hesitant to use them. They have not been around long enough and many probiotic experts agree that soil based organisms do not belong in the body. Once ingested, they never leave and there is not enough research showing what actually happens to them after a period of 10 or even 20 years. Human strains however have been studied for many decades and have actually been identified in our GI tract.
It is also important that the probiotic contain several strains such as lactobacillus, bifida bacteria, and boulardi instead of just one strain to get a complete result. Finally, the quantity of organisms is another crucial fact.
Most products contain about 1 billion organisms, but while that seems like a huge number, it is not nearly enough. Some better health food store brands may contain 5 or even 10 billion, but even that is on the low side compared to professional products. I normally start out with 400 billion for a few days and then move down to 50-100 billion to get the re-inoculation started, and finally using 20 billion for maintenance for a few months. Some of you may have heard that yogurt also contains beneficial bacteria, but because yogurt is pasteurized, many are killed off and only about 1 million survive. With those amounts, you would have to eat thousands of yogurts daily. Furthermore, many yogurts such as activia contain sugars which feed Candida thus making it counterproductive.
Once the good bacteria are in, we have one final but also very important step to heal the lining of the GI tract. When someone has Candida or any other intestinal pathogen, they often develop what is called leaky gut. This happens when bacteria attach to the GI lining and actually make tiny microscopic holes in the intestines. While they are very small, many things can still seep into the blood stream. Protein particles from improperly digested foods are the most common and when they leave the intestines and enter the bloodstream, the body starts to form anti-bodies and food allergies and sensitivities are developed. The holes may also give entrance to Candida and other organisms out of the intestines and into the bloodstream to become a more systemic infection. Skipping this phase also often leads to relapse. The amino acid glutamate is one of the best ways to correct this, as glutamate is used as a food source for the cells lining the intestines. Other healing herbs and extracts such as aloe, diglycerized licorice, okra, and skullcap root are great healers as well.
When all 4 stages are done, the patient’s gastrointestinal system starts to function properly and symptoms are eliminated. Some may still experience some fatigue however because when Candida is present, there is often mal-absorption and nutrients are not getting to the cells. After we heal the GI system, I start replenishing the necessary nutrients based on vitamin test results to repair the thyroid and adrenal gland and get the patient’s nutrient levels back up.
If you have a question about Candida or know someone that may be suffering with this very common condition please do not hesitate to contact our office.