Natural Strategies Yeast Overgrowth
Everyone carries the common yeast Candida albicans in their intestinal tract. Other strains of Candida may also inhabit the colon. Yeasts are normal but apparently non-essential residents of the large intestine. Sometimes, these co-inhabitants of the intestinal tract can grow out of control.
An overgrowth of yeast can cause many problems. The yeasts release waste products that, when absorbed into the blood stream, are toxic to many body systems. These byproducts can be recognized by the immune system and create and immune reaction.
Candida overgrowth results from conditions inherent to modern life: use of antibiotics and other drugs, a Standard American Diet (S.A.D. - especially sugar and simple carbohydrates), a lack of digestive enzymes, and stress. Overuse or misuse of antibiotics is another common cause of Candida overgrowth.
The Elusive Diagnosis
The diagnosis of Candidiasis is often overlooked in conventional medicine. Many doctors say they "Don’t believe in Candidiasis," even though there is ample scientific evidence to document the condition. It is difficult to say exactly why this condition is ignored by conventional medicine in spite of the vast scientific evidence, but I offer you my theories for such conventional medical ignorance:
- The symptoms of Candidiasis are widespread and can mimic many other diseases. There is no definitive lab test that confirms the disease. This makes correct diagnosis difficult.
- Some "holistic" practitioners diagnose everything as Candidiasis, thereby missing other important diagnoses. This has given the problem of Candidiasis a "pop diagnosis" reputation among many physicians. As a result, non-holistic doctors are then reluctant to recognize true cases of Candidiasis.
- One of the primary causes of Candidiasis is the overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills and other drugs. To acknowledge Candidiasis as a disease is to also acknowledge a problem often caused by drugs!
Symptoms of Candidiasis
Toxins absorbed from Candida can affect any tissue. Those systems most commonly affected include the gastrointestinal (GI), genito-urinary (GU), nervous, and immune systems. A person suffering from Candidiasis may have any of these symptoms:
- In the intestinal tract: bloating, excessive feeling of fullness, diarrhea, constipation, alternating diarrhea and constipation, "rolling gas," abdominal cramping, heartburn, indigestion, gas or belching, mucous in the stool, hemorrhoids.
- In the female genital tract: recurrent yeast vaginitis, persistent vaginal itching or burning, persistent vaginal discharge, endometriosis, PMS.
- In the male genital tract: prostatitis, impotence, loss of sexual desire.
- In the urinary tract: urgency or urinary frequency, recurrent urinary tract "infections" but bacteria are NOT found to be the cause.
- In the nervous system: numbness, burning, or tingling, spots in front of the eyes, erratic vision, incoordination, irritability or jitteriness, dizziness or loss of balance, failing vision, ear pain or deafness.
- In the immune system: rashes, post nasal drip, sore or dry throat, wheezing or shortness of breath, recurrent infections, burning or tearing of eyes, cough.
- In the skin and mucous membranes: recurrent skin fungal infections, nail-bed fungus, "jock itch," thrush (yeast overgrowth in the mouth and esophagus), psoriasis, rashes of unknown origin.
- In general: fatigue, mental "cloudiness," joint aches and pains, obesity, depression, memory loss.
How Is Candida diagnosed?
Symptoms of Candida overgrowth suggest the diagnosis. In addition, other causes of a complaint must be "ruled out." For example, if a patient complains of extreme fatigue, we would first determine that this complaint was NOT caused by other factors, such as anemia, low thyroid function, or viral infection. When other known causes of fatigue have been ruled out, especially if the patient has additional symptoms or history that suggest Candida overgrowth, further testing for Candidiasis is warranted. Treatment can be started "presumptively," (meaning before we are sure of Candida overgrowth).
Personal history also suggests the diagnosis. Antibiotic use without bacterial replacement therapy, birth control pills, cortisone therapy, and a history of dietary imbalance (especially sugar, simple carbohydrate or alcohol use or cravings) are also indicators.
A Candida stool test can aid in the diagnosis and guide treatment. Since yeast is a normal inhabitant in everyone’s intestinal tract, some amount of yeast can almost always be recovered in a stool sample. Only when recovered amounts are abnormally high is the diagnosis clear. Because Candida can "invade" directly into the tissue of the GI tract, it is possible to have a Candidal overgrowth but a "normal" amount of yeast in the stool. Since a lack of normal bowel bacteria OR an increase in abnormal bowel bacteria often accompanies yeast overgrowth, a Gastro-intestinal health profile with parasitology is often more useful for diagnosis than the Candida stool test alone.
A Candida Antibodies Test is also available. This test uses a drop of blood to evaluate for an immune system reaction to Candida. It assesses IgG, IgA, IgM immunoglobulins to yeast as well as Candida antigen. A positive finding indicates past or present Candida infection and may allow Candida yeast reactions to be found when stool and vaginal specimens are negative or inconclusive.
Careful consideration of a patient’s symptoms, "ruling out" other known causes of the complaint, evaluation of dietary and drug history, and use of laboratory tests are the way that Candidiasis is accurately diagnosed. Diagnosis can be challenging because Candidiasis shares symptoms with many other conditions. For this reason, it is recommended that you consult an holistic physician for correct diagnosis and treatment.
What is the Treatment?
Cessation of the causative factors is most important. Whether it be a particular drug, a high sugar/refined carbohydrate diet, or an excess response to external events (more commonly known as "stress"), these triggers must be corrected. An anti-yeast substance with concomitant bacterial replacement therapy, corrective diet, stress reduction and immune system boosting are all crucial to the success of the treatment. Your holistic physician will be able to help you determine your best course of action in treating this modern-day "plague."
Yeast "Die-Off": Avoiding the Herxheimer Reaction
Yeast cells that are quickly killed by treatment cause a "die-off" reaction known as the Herxheimer reaction. Die-off is caused by the release of large amounts of toxins from dying Candida cells. These toxins pass through the gut wall and enter the bloodstream where they can trigger immune reactions. Die-off reactions can last from a few days to several weeks but usually clear up in less than a week.
In order to avoid die-off reactions, I recommend high doses of activated charcoal and plenty of fluids. The charcoal adsorbs the killed yeast cells and their toxic waste products and carries them out of the body in the stool before they are absorbed into the bloodstream and can create a Herxheimer reaction.
Diet And Lifestyle Recommendations
- Avoid ALL foods that are high in simple carbohydrates (sugar, corn syrup, honey, molasses, fruit juice, dried fruit, other sugars or foods containing them), yeasts (all raised, yeasted dough: bread, crackers, bagels), ferments and molds (mushrooms, alcohol, vinegar, peanuts, cantaloupe), milk products except yogurt (milk is high in the sugar lactose), high carbohydrate vegetables (potatoes, corn, parsnip). Eat "Super Foods" plentifully, especially fresh garlic.
- Avoid all known food allergens (see Food Allergies).
- Avoid antibiotics, birth control pills, steroids, immune suppressing drugs unless absolutely medically necessary. (Do NOT stop medications without physician guidance).
- Maxi Multi: A deficiency of any vitamin, mineral or trace mineral can weaken this immunity and predispose to Candida overgrowth. For this reason, a high potency multiple vitamin/mineral/trace mineral formula is a critical first step in treating Candida. Be SURE that only yeast-free, hypoallergenic supplements are used. Maxi Multi is yeast and additive-free and hypoallergenic. Dose: 3 caps, 3 times per day with meals.
- Similase: digestive enzymes reduce bowel inflammation, improve digestion which in turn nourishes normal gut flora (good bacteria) and decreases yeast die-off reaction. Dose: 1-2 caps, 3 times per day with meals.
- Berberine: Highly effective against candida. Dose: one capsule two times daily for up to fourteen (14) days with water at mealtimes
- Activated Charcoal: charcoal binds toxins released as yeast dies. This prevents them from being reabsorbed into circulation and carries them out in the stool. Charcoal is especially good for preventing the "Herxheimer Reaction" (yeast die-off, see above).
Charcoal capsules: Dose: 12 capsules 2 times per day, once between breakfast and lunch and once at bedtime with a full glass of water.
- Suprema-Dophilus (Ultra high-potency probiotic): Replacement of normal "good bacteria" helps crowd out yeast and prevent their recurrence. Note that many probiotic formulas are not enteric coated and therefore do not survive stomach acid before making their way to the colon. SupremaDophilus is enteric coated to insure proper delivery to the colon. Dose: 1 cap before bed.
- 35 Billion ProBiotic is "Supremadophilus on Steroids" - Sometimes, bigger really is better. Our new super-high-potency Supremadophilus has 35 billion viable probiotics compared to 5 billion in Supremadophilus. Recommended during and after antibiotic treatment and for those times when a more vigorous gut bacterial replacement is indicated. Dose: one capsule per day at bedtime or as directed.
- Immune Support: Dose: 2 caps, 2 times per day with meals
- Tea Tree oil: Essential oil of tea tree can be used on skin and nails for fungal infections. Tea tree oil may be used in water as a douche for yeast vaginitis.
- Candida stool test. A culture can be done by a specialized lab to determine which anti-yeast herbs or drugs will be more effective.
- CANDIDA ANTIBODIES: Low-level overgrowth of Candida yeast species can cause a wide variety of health problems, but yeast may not be found in a stool specimen. This is because the yeast may have invaded elsewhere in the body, such as in the urinary tract, sinus passages, vagina or elsewhere.
This test uses a drop of blood to evaluate for an immune system reaction to Candida. It assesses IgG, IgA, IgM immunoglobulins to yeast as well as Candida antigen. A positive finding indicates past or present Candida infection and may allow Candida yeast reactions to be found when stool and vaginal specimens are negative or inconclusive.
- Gastro-intestinal health profile with parasitology is often more useful for diagnosis than the Candida stool test alone because it also examines normal and abnormal gut bacteria and parasites.