Stephen C. Byrnes, N.D., R.N.C.P.
NIGHTMARE OF CANDIDA OVERGROWTH
albicans and candida tropicalis are the names given to common yeasts
that live within our intestines and certain mucous membranes, the
throat, for example. Everyone has candida within them: we are born
with it. Candida usually lives at peace with our other intestinal
fauna, the acidophilus and bifido bacteria, and it is these bacterial
residents that keep candida under control, preventing a "population
burst." Candida's function in the body is mainly to gobble
up any putrefied food matter in our digestive system (mostly caused
by improper digestion due to low stomach acid) before any potentially
harmful bacteria can have a feast, multiply, and become threatening
to our health. After we die, candida acts to decompose the body,
feeding off our corpse, much like a fungal mold on a dead tree.
Candida is usually kept in check by the gastrointestinal "good"
bacteria and the immune system, but trouble can arise when certain
conditions are present. It is in the presence of these conditions
that candida can begin growing out of control in the intestines,
branching out and colonizing the gut. In this process, candida can
eat away at the intestinal walls, spread into the bloodstream, and
infiltrate other tissues. The normally benign yeast has literally
transformed itself into an aggressive, destructive, fungal pathogen
that can cause a variety of seemingly unrelated health problems.
This condition/disease is known as systemic candidiasis.
candidiasis, as a separate disease, was not recognized or defined
until the 1980's, mostly because its symptoms were so varied and
duplicated those of other illnesses, leading doctors to conclude
that the patient was suffering from, for example, sinusitis instead
of yeast infiltration of the nasal passages. Additionally, since
one of the main causes of systemic candidiasis are doctor prescribed
antibiotics, which kill the intestinal bacteria that control candida,
the medical profession was probably not too eager to admit the existence
of this disease. Diagnoses of candidiasis were limited to its visible
manifestations, e.g., a vaginal or oral yeast infection. Treatment
was directed towards eradicating these conditions alone without
addressing the reality of a more serious, but hidden, infection.
symptoms of candidiasis, and their severity, vary from person to
person but the main ones are: chronic fatigue, especially after
eating, depression, craving for breads and sugars (yeast eats sugar),
extreme mood swings, feelings of rage, especially after eating sugary
foods, feeling "drunk" after eating a meal high in carbohydrates
(candida's waste is alcohol), hypoglycemia, excessive mucous of
the throat, nose, and lungs, chronic fungal infections of the skin
(jock itch, athlete's foot) or vaginal/oral thrush, diarrhea, anal
itching, short-term memory loss, feeling "spacy," and
bloating or gassiness after eating.
addition to these, lymphatic swelling, difficult PMS, night sweats,
chest and joint pain, memory loss, incoordination, blurred vision,
intense, random headaches, intermittent vertigo, insomnia, sneezing
fits, and increased food allergies are also fairly common. A person
tends to get extremely sensitive to damp, mildewy environments and,
sometimes, to extreme humidity as well as perfumes, colognes, and
smoke. Since candida can infiltrate the urinary tract, acute kidney
infections, cystitis, and prostatitis are possible.
these symptoms can indicate other illnesses, if certain factors
are present in one's personal history the symptoms are likely to
indicate candida overgrowth. These factors are:
or repeated, use of antibiotics, corticosteroid drugs, and/or
birth control pills, at any time in the past,
diet high in processed sugars which encourages candida growth,
immunosuppression caused by drug or alcohol abuse, multiple
blood transfusions, debilitating illness, organ transplants,
or chemotherapy. All three are NOT required to bring on a case
of candidiasis: excessive "sugar binging" can cause
it just as surely as antibiotics can. Pregnancy also predisposes
women to the condition since pregnancy alters the body's delicate
hormonal and pH balance: candida thrives in an alkaline environment.
stomach acidity leading to poorly digested food and
bowel movements leading to prolonged retention of fecal matter
in the colon: these conditions promote yeast overgrowth.
20TH CENTURY DISEASE
is truly a modern disease, brought on by medical "innovations"
like antibiotics and the Pill and a more "civilized" diet
of refined, sugary foods and candy. In some naturopathic circles,
the illness is derisively known as "Candy Disease."
all seriousness, however, candidiasis is a serious condition for
two main reasons:
often goes undiagnosed, allowing the yeast to spread unhampered,
numerous symptoms it produces severely tax the immune system,
forcing it to deal with, not only the yeast infection, but the
other conditions the yeast causes. A truly vicious cycle can
ensue: a person is weakened by a candida caused problem, say
cystitis, and goes to a doctor who then prescribes antibiotics
for it. The drugs kill off more of the intestinal bacteria which
control candida, making the candida overgrowth worse, leading
to more infections and more antibiotics, etc. At its most destructive,
candida can exhaust the adrenal glands, leading to Addison's
disease, can interfere with digestion so much that virtually
no nutrients are absorbed from food, and can cause life threatening
infestations of the vital organs and the brain.
standard allopathic treatment for candidiasis is the drug Nystatin,
a mold which inhibits the growth of other molds like candida. Two
other popular drugs are Nizoral and Fluconazole. While these drugs
certainly kill candida, they do not work forever due to candida's
ability to mutate into drug resistant strains, nor do they prevent
candida from coming back.
therapies are the most potent and effective weapons against this
disease and recovery time lasts about 6 to 12 months (or longer
depending on the length of time one has had the condition and the
severity of symptoms). This might seem long, but once candida has
colonized the body, it takes quite an effort to drive it out. Let's
now take a look at the natural therapies most effective against
this adaptable and extremely tenacious invader.
key to conquering candida is in cleaning up the digestive system,
the ultimate source of the problem. In general, one must avoid constipation
at all costs so high water (4-5 glasses a day) and adequate fiber
intake is recommended. Drinking lots of water will also help flush
the dead yeast cells out of your system as you progress with your
treatment. If diarrhea is a problem, psyllium or yellow dock herb,
both available in capsule form, will tighten the colon. These two
herbs are also effective for constipation they are bowel
regulators. Yellow dock is also known as a blood builder, effective
for anemia and low white blood cell counts. If you decide to take
yellow dock, be sure to take it separately from any herb containing
tannic acid to avoid stomach upset.
with acidophilus and bifido bacteria is essential to recolonize
the intestines. While these bacteria will not kill candida, they
inhibit candida's growth and, generally, clean up the bowels, making
it more difficult for candida to thrive. Look for a high potency
supplement, either freeze dried or refrigerated, made without cow's
milk. You will need to supplement heavily with these "probiotics"
throughout your recovery and well after all your symptoms have gone.
Chlorophyll-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables and alfalfa,
also promote acidophilus growth and discourage yeast reproduction.
food digestion is an absolute MUST as nothing makes candida happier
than putrefied, poorly digested food. Unless you have an ulcer,
consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement with hydrochloric
acid (HCL) immediately before or after each meal. If you have an
ulcer, look for digestive enzyme supplements without HCL. Plant
enzyme supplements are excellent. Both pancreatin and plant enzymes
can be taken between meals to hinder yeast growth. Using digestive
enzymes will help your condition dramatically and also take some
stress off your pancreas which might be weary from dealing with
possible candida-caused hypoglycemia. (If you notice any stomach
irritation when using HCL supplements, cut back on the dose at once
to prevent possible ulcer formation.)
enzyme supplements are not available, a cup of German chamomile
tea just before or after eating will stimulate HCL production by
the stomach. Chamomile will also ease any gassiness and/or bloating
and contains potent anti-candida compounds. If you have a history
of ragweed allergy do not use chamomile; fennel or cardamon are
fine substitutes. Another herb to consider for digestion is wormwood.
Wormwood, while extremely bitter, is probably the best digestive
herb around, stimulating HCL and bile production. SIde benefits
of wormwood are ridding you of any parasites, gas, nervousness,
and weak stomach. Wormwood extract or tincture can be found at any
health food store; take the recommended dose just before eating
in a little water. CAUTION: Wormwood should not be used by pregnant
the liver can get overburdened with candida's toxins because it
filters the blood, cleansing this organ is essential for your recovery.
Daily supplementation with hepatic herbs like, dandelion root, golden
seal, wormwood, barberry, Oregon grape root, or bayberry, is highly
recommended. Again, the need for increased water intake is emphasized
here to facilitate internal cleansing. CAUTION: Avoid goldenseal
and barberry if you are pregnant.
DO'S AND DONT'S
candida loves sugar, it must be avoided in all its forms (dextrose,
sucrose, glucose, maltose, lactose, fructose). Say goodbye to all
fruits, except the low sugar ones like strawberries, cherries, and
papayas which can be eaten in strict moderation. Read the label
of every food product you buy to be sure there is no added sugar
(a near impossible task these days!).
you'll see below, diet is crucial in preventing and combating
yeast infections. Yeast
Infection No More, a comprehensive how-to book on naturally
curing yeast infections, shares more diet information as well
as natural remedies. - Editors
is your main weapon against candida, but also the most frustrating
as you will have to give up a number of foods. Bid farewell to:
wheat, rye, milk, cheese, alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, potatoes,
honey, mushrooms, and vinegar: all these foods promote yeast growth
or can aggravate already present yeast colonies. Keep your food
well covered in the refrigerator to prevent mold formation. When
eating out, be sure to ask how a dish is prepared and tell the server
to hold any undesirable ingredients like soy sauce or mayonnaise.
general, a low carbohydrate diet is preferred. Carbohydrates, even
complex ones, eventually break down to glucose (sugar) in the digestive
tract, and sugar feeds candida. Its also adviseable to avoid the
starchier vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips, and winter squashes.
Different people, however, have different sensitivities. I've worked
with patients who can handle wheat, despite a candida problem. You
and your body are your best guide as to which foods to avoid. At
rock bottom, however, all sugars MUST be avoided.
to the restrictions, you may be wondering at times, "What the
hell am I supposed to eat?!" Books will be listed at the end
of the article to help with food selections and recipes.
the positive side, assuming you have no allergic reactions, you
can enjoy all of the following: fish, poultry, meat, all vegetables,
brown rice*, eggs, seeds, all nuts except cashews and peanuts, herb
teas, beans* and lentils*, goat milk*, corn*, amaranth*, kamut*,
quinoa*, buckwheat*, oats*, and spelt*. Check with a local health
food store for sugar free breads made of kamut, millet, or spelt
and consider eating corn tortillas to replace wheat bread. (*: moderate
amounts only.) To ease their digestion, all nuts, seeds, and whole
grains should be soaked for at least seven hours before cooking
or drying. Soaking initiates the sprouting process and breaks up
the enzyme inhibitors and phytates found in these foods.
to popular belief, foods containing yeast may be eaten if no allergic
reactions are present. Brewer's yeast, for example, is a very nutritious
and immune enhancing food and can be eaten for nutritional support
during one's recovery.
your symptoms disappear, you can cautiously add back the forbidden
foods, one at a time and slowly. Do not eat any refined sugars for
at least 6 months after your recovery. Having candidiasis once predisposes
one to getting it again so be very careful after you are well. Indulging
in too many foods too quickly can, as I can painfully attest to,
cause a relapse.
following herbs should assist in recovery:
- a powerful antifungal and immune stimulant. Garlic will also
help with constipation, gas, excess mucous, and blood cleansing;
it is antiparasitic and hypotensive also. Some people are sensitive
to garlic so increase your dosage slowly to discern any unpleasant
side effects. If there are none, include it liberally in your diet,
everyday. If you prefer to take garlic tablets, look for ones that
are enteric coated to insure that the garlic is released deep inside
the intestines where candida thrives.
Seal, Barberry, Oregon Grape Root - the berberine in these herbs
is lethal to candida. Berberine is also a powerful immune stimulant.
Don't overuse golden seal as too much will irritate the liver: take
for 2 weeks on, one week off. All of these herbs can also be used
to assist digestion. Golden seal can be topically applied to ringworm,
and made into a tea for athlete's foot. These three herbs are excellent
for urinary tract problems, being diuretic, antibacterial, and antifungal.
Like wormwood, golden seal and barberry should not be used by pregnant
root - Though not antifungal, licorice will soothe the inflamed
intestines so common with candida, thus helping to prevent malabsorption
of nutrients and food allergies. Licorice also tones the adrenal
glands and helps regulate blood glucose, controlling sugar cravings.
This herb is also excellent for excessive mucous, cough, and constipation.
- This popular Chinese herb is excellent for stimulating the immune
system, essential for recovering from candida or any other infective
condition. Aloe Vera- a must if sufferring from fungal skin infections.
The fresh gel is effective against ringworm, jock itch, and athlete's
foot and will also help heal cracked, damaged skin. Use bottled
gel if the fresh herb is not available.
useful herbs are clove, ginseng (all varieties), ginger,
pau d'arco, and cinnamon. For proper doses, check
the labels, but higher doses may be taken without fear of toxicity
except as noted above.
tree oil, from Australia and New Zealand, is very deadly to
candida and may be used topically for athlete's foot, jock itch,
and ringworm. It can also be used as a gargle or douche when mixed
with water and can be safely taken internally (3-4 drops, 3 times
a day, do not exceed this dose). Be absolutely certain the brand
you buy does NOT say "For external use only" on its label.
acid, a short chain fatty acid, is extremely effective against
candida and is, fortunately, available over the counter at health
food stores. Look for a slow release formula of about 300-500 mg.
and arrange for a dose of 500 to 1000 mg. with each meal.
silver, and the newer olive leaf extract, are excellent
antifungal agents and lethal to candida. Though expensive, my clients
have had excellent results with these products. Look for a silver
supplement of at least 40 ppm with a micron size of no more than
.001. Follow the instructions on the labels for the correct doasages.
is an antifungal compound. Taking stabilized oxygen products, like
flavored peroxide combinations found in health food stores, can
also be employed in one's recovery.
latest in candida treatment are enteric coated essential oils. Oregano,
peppermint, and rosemary oils are all extremely powerful
against candida and some supplement companies already have formulas
using these oils on the market. Oregano oil is estimated at being
100 times more powerful than caprylic acid. Be prepared for some
explosive diarrhea when using this product. As the yeast cells die,
the body makes every effort to expel them.
supplementation is a good idea to not only insure that adequate
nutrients are ingested, but also to help the immune system fight
the infection. The following are suggested daily guidelines. For
individual needs, its best to see a health practitioner who is familiar
with approaching candidiasis: Vitamin A (as retinol and beta carotene)-
75,000 iu; vitamin C- 3 to 5 gms.; selenium- 200 mcg.; zinc- 50
mg.; vitamin E- 400 iu; iron- 10 mg.; essential fatty acids- 4 gms;
high potency multi vitamin/mineral- 1 a day.
particularly useful nutrient is the free-form amino acid glutamine.
Glutamine is very pivotal in maintaining proper muscle mass, brain
function, intestinal integrity, and stable blood sugar levels. It
is often prescribed to recovering alcoholics by natural therapists
to control alcohol cravings. 1-3 grams before each meal is suggested.
Glutamine is excellent for helping to heal leaky gut syndrome,
a very common symptom of intestinal candidiasis. Also, since weight
loss is usual with severe candida infestations, this amino acid
helps protect against muscle loss. Glutamine is also very stimulating
to the immune system. Do everything you can, then, to acquire it
and be diligent about taking it.
are homeopathic preparations of Candida albicans on the market.
From personal and professional experience, you have to be very careful
with these products as they can cause a severe Herxheimer Reaction,
or temporary worsening of your symptoms due to the rapid die off
of yeast cells in the body. The best way to use homeopathics is
to start with a weaker preparation of about 12X potency, and gradually
work your way up to more powerful doses 30C and above. A
slow build up avoids the unpleasant hassle of aggravated die off.
will sometimes feel like a walking medicine chest from all of the
supplements, herbs, probiotics, and antifungal products you'll be
taking. Inconvenience aside, it is necessary as candida is a very
tenacious organism. You must be persistent and unwavering in your
efforts to recover or you will get nowhere; the total approach is
you take away candida's food, sugar, and attack the yeast with herbs
and supplements, it will die, causing a condition known as die off.
Die off will last from a few days to a few weeks and the severity
of symptoms will vary from person to person. Usually present are
nausea, headaches, gas, irritability, diarrhea, severe energy loss,
sugar cravings, and blurred vision.
and water will reduce your symptoms by flushing the dead yeast cells
more quickly from your system. Use your herbs smartly as many of
those listed before can help, e.g., cinnamon or clove tea will help
allay nausea and gas, as well as help disinfect your digestive tract.
a former candida sufferer, and a naturopath who has dealt with affected
individuals, I can confidently tell you that your greatest weapons
against it are your diet and your patience. Frustration is likely
to run high during your recovery as candida is an incredibly tenacious
organism. Stick it out, however, and know that you will eventually
recover for the rewards are great.
& RECOMMENDED READING
Candida Directory and Cookbook by Helen Gustafson and Helen
O'Shea. 1992; Celestial Arts Publishing.
Yeast Connection by William Crook, M.D.. 1986; Vintage Books.
Albicans: Could Yeast Be Your Problem? by Leon Chaitow, N.D.
1985; Thorsons, U.K.
late Stephen C. Byrnes was a Naturopathic Doctor and Clinical Nutritionist.
He wrote frequently and was the author of Overcoming AIDS with
Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties
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