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  • Writer's pictureClaire Svoboda

Candida and thrush connection

Candida: The Yeast Connection

What is Candida?

Candida albicans is a fungus that is normally present on the skin, and in the mouth, vagina and bowel. For most people, it is completely harmless, but under certain conditions, it may multiply and invade the skin and mucous membranes causing itching and inflammation. It is most common in the vagina, where it may be recognised as adherent white plaques or patches.

This is known as ‘thrush’ or candidiasis and may also occur when the bacteria which maintain a low vaginal pH are discouraged by douches or antibiotics or when the vagina is unusually dry. Candidiasis in other parts of the body is uncommon and only occurs when a person’s immunity has been weakened by serious illness, treatment with steroids or chemotherapy.

Symptoms attributed to Candida Hypersensitivity

IIt has been claimed that many people have an allergy or hypersensitivity to Candida and that this can cause a whole range of common, otherwise medically unexplained symptoms.

These include fatigue, irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety, unexpected weight gain, muscle and joint pain, cravings for sugar or alcoholic beverages, dizziness, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal bloating, difficulty in concentrating, earache, breathlessness and wheezing, fre- quent coughs and colds, acne, eczema, headaches, premenstrual tension, rectal itching and many more. Some of these symptoms may be similar to those of IBS, which raises the question whether IBS is caused by overgrowth of or hypersensitivity to Candida.

However, there is no medical evidence that Candida is responsible for IBS or any of the symptoms included in the above list.

Where did the idea come from?

The leading exponents of ‘candidiasis hypersensitivity’ have been C. Orian Truss MD and William G. Crook MD. Crook became interested in yeast problems after reading one of Truss’s papers and in 1983, published his book, The Yeast Connection.

Crook stated that ‘if a careful check up doesn’t reveal the cause for your symptoms, … it’s possible or even probable that your health problems are yeast connected’. Thus, according to The Yeast Connection, any unexplained symptom is probably caused by Candida. Crook further commented that tests such as cultures don’t help much in the diagnosis because ‘Candida germs live in everybody’s body’. So candidiasis hypersensitivity is more a matter of belief than fact.

What is thought to cause Candidiasis?

Crook claimed that the problem arises when the immune system is depressed and when anything upsets the healthy balance between yeasts and ‘friendly bacteria’ that normally keep them in check.

So, according to The Yeast Connection, candidiasis may be triggered by:

• Lower levels of gastric acid in the stomach

• A course of antibiotics or steroids

• The contraceptive pill, use of oestrogen tablets, hormone replacement therapy

• Withdrawal of tranquillisers and sleeping tablets from long term use.

• Diet high in refined foods, sugar and yeasts.

• Stress

• Diabetes mellitus

• Immuno-suppressive drug therapy and weakened immune system

Crook’s ideas are a mixture of fact and fancy. While it is true that antibiotics, birth control pills, diabetes, steroids and anything that suppresses the immune system can stimulate overgrowth of yeasts, particularly in the vagina, yeast infection or hypersensitivity should not be diagnosed without clinical signs of inflammation, such as itching, soreness, rash and discharge.

What treatment is recommended?

Crook advocated antifungal drugs, vitamin and mineral supplements, diet and lifestyle changes.

Foods to omit

Crook believed that certain foods feed the yeast and it may be necessary to cut them out altogether or at least for the initial few months. These include:

• All sugar and products containing sugar – cakes, biscuits, sweets, honey, jams, pickles, fruit juices.

• All food containing yeast and moulds – bread, Marmite, pizza, mushrooms, cheese, vinegar, soya sauce.

• All milk – lactose (milk sugar) can cause Candida overgrowth in some cases.

• Alcohol, tea, coffee.

• Refined carbohydrates – white flour, white rice, pasta, modified starch, some cereals.

• Food and drink containing artificial sweeteners, flavourings, monosodium glutamate and preservatives.

• Meat and fish which have been smoked or pickled.

Foods to eat

• Fresh vegetables (especially greens), onions, potatoes. (Adding powdered vitamin C to the water when washing vegetables will kill moulds).

• Fresh fish (oily types best).

• Meat, but avoid beef and pork and make sure meat is free from chemicals, preferably organic.

• Cottage cheese, soya milk.

• Small amounts of fruit especially limes, lemons, avocados, fresh nuts.

• Seeds, beans, millet, brown rice.

• Ginger, cider vinegar.

• Natural fungicides, such as garlic and caprylic acid (from coconut oil).

• Plant oils, such as grapefruit seed extract, virgin olive oil, evening primrose oil and blackcurrant seed oil may also be helpful.

• Caffeine.

General Advice:

Also cut out smoking and caffeine, get plenty of exercise, fresh air and sunlight, make relaxation part of your day and massage can be valuable for your sense of well-being

Thus, according to the proponents of the Candida hypothesis, you need what many doctors and health care professionals would advocate as a balanced healthy diet, concentrating on wholefoods rather than processed foods, and a balanced un-stressful life style. So does it matter whether or not candidiasis hypersensitivity can be proven or not, as long as the treatment is beneficial?

The power and the dangers of belief

Confidence and belief plays a very important role in any system of healing, and doctors and healers should not necessarily challenge a patient’s beliefs if they cause no harm and are helping them to get better. Candidiasis hypersensitivity is a plausible diagnosis that appeals to many people in search of a reason for why they feel so ill and, as a focus of belief, it encourages the patient to take responsibility for their condition by assuming a healthy diet and life style.

Treatment of Candida is not entirely harmless, however. Antifungal drugs, such as nystatin (Diflucan) and ketoconazole (Nizoral) can occasionally cause toxic reactions. Severe dietary restrictions can also result in nutritional problems.

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