SANDRA JUSTICE, PD, FACA
An overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract of the usually benign yeast Candida albicans has become recognized as a complex medical syndrome known as chronic candidiasis or the yeast syndrome. Specifically, the overgrowth of candida is believed to cause a wide variety of symptoms in virtually every system of the body, with the gastrointestinal, genitourinary, endocrine, nervous, and immune systems being most susceptible.
Normally Candida albicans lives harmoniously in the inner warm creases and crevices of the digestive tract (and vaginal tract in women). However, when this yeast overgrows, immune system mechanisms are depleted, or the normal lining of the intestinal tract is damaged, the body can absorb yeast cells, particles of yeast cells, and various toxins. As a result, there may be significant disruption of the body processes resulting in the development of the “yeast syndrome.” It can be triggered by AIDS, antibiotics, steroids, pregnancy, chemotherapy, allergies, or simply a weak immune system.
TYPICAL CHRONIC CANDIDIASIS PATIENT PROFILE
Age: 15 to 50
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of energy
- General malaise
- Decreased libido
- Bloating, gas
- Intestinal cramps
- Rectal itching
- Altered bowel function
Genitourinary system complaints:
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Frequent bladder infections
Endocrine system complaints:
- Primarily menstrual complaints
Nervous system complaints:
- Inability to concentrate
Immune system complaints:
- Chemical sensitivities
- Low immune function
- Chronic vaginal yeast infections
- Chronic antibiotic use for acne or infections
- Oral birth control usage
- Oral steroid hormone usage
- Craving for foods rich in carbohydrates or yeast
DIAGNOSIS AND CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT
Your health care provider may have you fill out a candida questionnaire which is a comprehensive health history. He or she may call for laboratory tests such as stool cultures for candida or the comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA) and measurements of antibody levels to candida or candida antigens in the blood. The CDSA is a battery of integrated diagnostic lab tests that evaluates digestion, intestinal function, intestinal environment, and absorption by carefully examining the stool. It provides information that is useful in leading to the correct diagnosis of causes and the development of appropriate treatment.
Conventional treatments include a number of antifungals that come in various dosage forms such as oral rinses and tablets, vaginal tablets and suppositories, and creams. Treatments may last from one day to several months. Compliance to treatment regimen is important to prevent the return of the infection or reinfection by a different strain of candida.
The diet of the average North American consists of food that is over processed, low in fiber, and high in refined sugar. We also consume large amounts of red meat, dairy products, and wheat. This kind of diet results in fewer “friendly” bacteria in the intestinal tract and a congested, dysfunctional colon.
Candida thrives in this environment. Yeast can become so prolific that it escapes the confines of the intestinal tract and causes havoc throughout the rest of the body. A clean colon is essential in the battle against candida and can be achieved with proper dietary modifications. Alternative therapies aim to “starve” the yeast and use natural antifungals.
- Eliminate refined sugar, all sugar containing foods and sweeteners, and refined, bleached, enriched, chemically treated flour.
- Eliminate meats treated with synthetic hormones or chemicals, pickled and smoked meats and fish, sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, pastrami, bacon, and ham.
- Avoid fruit juices- either canned, bottled or frozen. Exception: Freshly prepared juice.
- Avoid coffee and tea. Exception: Traditional medicinal herb teas.
- Avoid watermelon, honeydew melon, and especially cantaloupe.
- Avoid all types of mushrooms
- Avoid all types of cheeses. No buttermilk, sour cream, or any other sour milk products.
- Restrict or eliminate dairy products, other than butter or eggs.
- Use a salt free of dextrose and chemical additives, such as sea salt.
- Avoid black pepper, but cayenne pepper helps digestion.
- Avoid chocolate.
- Avoid dried herbs. Fresh herbs are fine, in particular garlic, cloves, oregano, cinnamon, sage (antifungal spices).
- Avoid yeast
- Avoid antibiotics, specifically penicillin, streptomycin, ampicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins, and sulfonamides.
- Avoid peanuts and pistachios.
- Reduce fats (use those rich in Omega-3- fish and olive oils).
- Avoid alcoholic drinks and other fermented beverages, such as cider and root beer.
- Eat fresh and raw vegetables.
- Avoid dried and candied fruits.
- Avoid left-overs. Molds grow in improperly refrigerated foods. Freezing is better.
- Avoid condiments, sauces, and vinegar-containing foods. Freshly squeezed lemon juice may be used as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings prepared with unprocessed vegetable oil.
Next, eliminate colon toxicity by using natural agents such as psyllium, and caprylic acid. Using a psyllium mixture once or twice daily and adding caprylic acid every fourth week for five consecutive days will clean out a colon and keep candida in check.
Candida interferes with absorption of vitamins and minerals and the candida diet limits food one can eat. Therefore, it is common for candida patients to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It is recommended to take hypoallergenic, yeast-free nutritional supplements to provide your body with essential micronutrients and to boost immunity.
- Vitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg per day), vitamin E (200 to 400 IU per day), and selenium (200mcg per day) are anti-inflammatory.
- Essential fatty acids: anti-inflammatory, a mix of omega-6 (evening primrose) and omega-3 (flaxseed) may be the best (2tbsp. oil per day or 1,000 to 1,500 mg twice a day).
- Biotin (300mcg) inhibits a form of candida that is the most irritating to membranes.
- B-complex: B1 (50 to 100 mg), B2 (50mg), B3 (25mg); B5 (100mg); B6 (50 to 100mg), B12 (100 to 1,000mg), folate (400mcg per day).
- Calcium (1,000 to 1,500 mg per day) to correct deficiency often found in people with yeast infections, and magnesium (750 to 1,000 mg per day) to balance calcium intake.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (2 to 5 million organisms three times per day) to help restore normal balance of bowel and mucous membranes.
- Caprylic acid (1 gram with meals in a time-release form) is an antifungal fatty acid.
- Restore normal digestive secretions through the use of supplemental hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, and substances which promote bile flow such as choline and methionine and /or cysteine.
- Water- soluble fiber sources such as guar gum, psyllium seed, or pectin promote elimination of toxins. Dosage is 3 to 5 gm at bedtime.
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body’s systems. As with any therapy, it is important to ascertain a diagnosis before pursuing treatment. Berberine- containing plants such as Goldenseal have shown antibiotic activity against fungi, including Candida albicans. Diarrhea is a common symptom in patients with chronic candidiasis. Berberine has shown remarkable antidiarrheal activity. Adult dosage recommendations for berberine would be 25 to 50mg three times daily. Berberine-containing plants are not recommended for use during pregnancy and higher dosages may interfere with B vitamin metabolism.
Garlic has demonstrated significant antifungal activity. Recommended daily dose is a total allicin potential of 4,000 mcg. This amount is equal to approximately on clove (four grams) of fresh garlic.
Volatile oils from oregano, thyme, peppermint, and rosemary are powerful antifungal agents. Since volatile oils are quickly absorbed and are associated with inducing heartburn, enteric- coating is recommended to ensure delivery to small and large intestine. An effective dosage for an enteric-coated volatile oil preparation is 0.2 to 0.4 ml twice daily between meals.
Silymarin, milk thistle, exerts tremendous affect on protecting the liver from damage as well as enhancing detoxification processes. The standard dosage for silymarin is 70 to 210 mg three times daily.
RESTORING PROPER IMUNE FUNCTION
Restoring proper immune function is one of the key goals in the treatment of chronic candidiasis. There really isn’t a magic bullet which can immediately accomplish this. Instead, a comprehensive approach involving lifestyle, stress management, exercise, diet, nutritional supplementation, use of herbs, and maintenance of good hygiene is key to successful elimination of chronic candidiasis.