If you could take a highly magnified look around your gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, you might not want a second look. It wouldn’t be a pretty picture.
At virtually every moment there’s a widespread battle being waged between friendly bacteria and bad bacteria. And when the bad bacteria go on a winning streak, the resulting imbalance can cause a multitude of health problems.
When bad bacteria thrive, yeast-like fungi called candida albicans thrive as well. I recently received an e-mail from an HSI member named Colin who says his poor digestion, insomnia, dry skin, severe itching and lack of concentration have all been attributed to a case of candida.
Colin asks, “Do you have a remedy or can refer me to one that can eliminate the problem?” Ordinary probiotics dont do the job. I use no refined foods, only organic, no yeast or fermented foods for the past four years and no sugars, except blended whole fruits. For the past two years the itching is the worst symptom and Ive spent a lot of money trying to solve the problem myself.
Colin is on the right track with his probiotic use. But as well see, thats only one part of an important three-part process. When all three parts are combined, Colin may feel like he is well on the road to recovery.
When I checked in with US HSI Panellist Dr Allan Spreen about candida (also known as systemic candidiasis or systemic yeast), he described it as a monster problem. But he adds that about 90 percent of candida cases can be successfully treated with a methodical approach that includes a diet that is far better than what most people eat anyway.
Dr. Spreen: The most susceptible victims of systemic yeast tend to be women who have had some combination of (or long single experiences with) birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, repeated courses of antibiotics, systemic steroids, high-sugar diets or illnesses that involve extended bouts of diarrhoea (and also vomiting).
Antibiotics kill off the friendly bacteria in the gut, allowing the bad yeast to take over. Then other illnesses or systemic stresses give the yeast a little extra nudge each time they occur, slowly increasing the influence of the yeast until symptoms occur.
Probiotics (foods containing live bacteria such as; L. acidophilus, bulgaricus, bifidus bacteria or combinations) are MANDATORY for re-establishing a more normal gut environment. That said, its almost never successful by itself.
Effective treatment of yeast involves three separate approaches: 1. Kill the bad bacteria; 2. Make the gut environment receptive for re-introduction of friendly bacteria; 3. Re-introduce the friendly bacteria. (Again, I have rarely, if ever, seen #3 alone to be effective.)
Killing the bad yeast can be done with natural agents: caprylic acid, olive leaf extract, and grapefruit seed extract.
Fixing the environment
Setting up the gastro-intestinal tract to be receptive to reintroduction of probiotics can be somewhat involved. Dr. Spreen stresses that candida patients MUST follow a strict diet: Yeast seems to have a defence mechanism that makes the patient crave sugars (as thats what yeast grow best on). Sugars and refined starches must be curtailed…sometimes even natural sugars, depending on the person. High protein, or Atkins-type, diets work well here, since yeast does very poorly trying to use proteins.
In addition, step 2 (fixing up the gut environment) can involve additional supplements, such as garlic extract, Pau dArco (Taheebo) tea, and a cute little item called FOS (Fructo-Oligo-Saccharides). The last one is a fairly sweet-tasting (half as sweet as sugar) agent that acidophilus can eat and grow well with, while yeast cant metabolise it at all (or very poorly). Taheebo tea and FOS are available from online distributors.
I wish there were a simple take this pill and youre cured approach, but alas I havent seen it to be the case. If I had to pick a fast-track routine I’d drop the simple carbohydrates out of the diet and hope that the acidophilus got in there from yoghurt (plain, active culture only). Thats a cheaper approach, but not uniformly effective.
Not in the cookbook
In Colins e-mail, he notes that one of the worst aspects of candida is the misdiagnosis or superficial treatment by doctors (the brush off) of the problem, with the comment that everybody has some form of it and it should be nothing to lose sleep over.
Dr. Spreen agrees that most doctors dont give candida its rightful due. He says that conventional medicine regards the condition as a non-diagnosis. It doesnt fit neatly into the cookbook medical categories – curable by some single miracle drug – so…it doesnt exist. Many patients end up being told the symptoms are in their head, and they really need counselling, or some other form of psychiatric treatment. More than once I’ve had a patient literally break down crying when I tell them they are physically, chemically, sick and that its not in their head.
The problem stems from two things: First, the problem can have a HUGE list of symptoms. Modern medicine doesnt recognise that a single condition can be responsible for such a wide variety of complaints. Plus, true candidiasis is considered only to exist in very rare situations of severe immune compromise, such as AIDS or post-chemotherapy for cancer, etc. So the attitude is: Go get some antidepressants, and get out of my office.
For more information about candida, Dr. Spreen recommends two books on the topic:
The Yeast Connection: A Medical Breakthrough by William G. Crook
The Yeast Syndrome: How to Help Your Doctor Identify & Treat the Real Cause of Your Yeast-Related Illness by John P. Trowbridge
Neither book is new, but as Dr. Spreen puts it, The content is forever. Both are available on www.amazon.co.uk
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