Candidiasis is an infection caused by strains of the yeast, Candida, the most common being Candida albicans. Candida is normally present in the digestive tract and the vagina. During certain favorable conditions such as warm, humid weather or when an individual’s immune system is impaired, the yeast can infect the skin. Mucous membranes in the mouth and vagina are commonly infected. In rare instances, Candida can invade blood and deeper tissues causing life-threatening infection.
People may sometimes develop a Candida infection after taking antibiotics. The antibiotics kill the bacteria that normally keep the Candida under control, allowing the Candida organism to grow unchecked. Pregnant women, diabetics, and obese people are also prone to Candida infections. Corticosteroids, given after organ transplantation, can also promote growth of Candida.
Commonly Infected Areas
Skinfolds, including the navel and anus. Symptoms include a red rash with patchy areas oozing whitish fluid. Pus may also appear. The area will itch or burn. Perlèche is a Candida infection at the corners of the mouth, creating cracks and tiny cuts. It is often caused by ill- fitting dentures.
Vagina (vulvovaginitis), occurring most often in pregnant women, those taking antibiotics, or those with diabetes. Symptoms include a white or yellow discharge, with burning, itching, and redness on the walls and the external areas of the vagina.
Penis, occurring mostly to men having diabetes or whose sexual partner has a vaginal Candida infection. A red, scaly, often painful rash appears on the underside of the penis. However, an infection of the penis (or vagina) will not always cause discernible symptoms.
Thrush, caused by a Candida infection of the mouth. Creamy white patches will appear on the tongue or sides of the mouth. Thrush can appear in a healthy child; however, in an adult it may be a symptom of a more serious disorder such as diabetes or AIDS. The use of antibiotics can also cause thrush.
Paronychia is caused from Candida growing in the nail beds resulting in a painful swelling and secretion of pus. Infected nails may turn white or yellow and separate from the surrounding skin.
Candidiasis and the Yeast Syndrome
Most conventional physicians restrict a diagnosis of candidial infection to the previously mentioned conditions. When there is doubt, cultures may be obtained to prove the diagnosis and check for susceptibility to antifungal agents. Conventional physicians may also encounter the particularly vexing problem of women who have multiple vaginal yeast infections that are difficult to control. Many of these women are treated with multiple courses of potent antifungal drugs, often without relief.
Another, more controversial perspective is that which was popularized by Crook in The Yeast Connection. Dr. Crook used the term candidiasis to mean something different from what conventional medicine has described. What Crook and others refer to is a syndrome in which the predominant features are fatigue, a generalized malaise, gastrointestinal complaints, recurrent chronic infections, allergies, skin problems, decreased concentration, depression, irritability, and craving for sweets or carbohydrates.
The mechanism is purported to be an overabundance of yeast in the bowel and perhaps elsewhere. While this has not been investigated and subjected to the rigors of peer review scrutiny, there is certainly substantial clinical and anecdotal evidence that this syndrome exists and appears to be connected with the overuse of antibiotics. Many patients who have been diagnosed with yeast syndrome do get better when they follow a diet essentially devoid of sugar, yeast-containing substances, and wheat.
Physicians experienced with this condition can also look for Candida antibody levels in the blood and do an ELISA-ACT test for T-cell mediated allergy. It is also useful to check the acidity of the stomach and the alkalinity of the first part of the duodenum with a Heidelburg test. This is a noninvasive test utilizing a small capsule with a sensitive pH probe and radio transmitter that is swallowed by the patient. A radio receiver picks up the signals and measures the perspective values. The capsule passes harmlessly into the test probe afterlife! Abnormalities of stomach and pancreatic secretions can be corrected with the proper supplements.
Treatment of Candida depends upon the location of the infection. Infection of the skin is easily treated with medicated creams and lotions often containing nystatin. Suppositories may be used for vaginal and anal infection. Thrush medications may be taken as a liquid swished around the mouth or as a slowly dissolving lozenge. Along with an antifungal cream, hydrocortisone for skin infection may be used to relieve pain and itching. Keeping the skin dry will help to clear up the infection and prevent its return.
Treatment with Natural Agents
Most people have an occasional bout with a candidial infection at one time or another in their lives. This discussion is directed to the patients that either have recurrent infections or suffer from yeast syndrome. It is very important to screen for the more obvious and common predisposing things like diabetes or chronic steroid use.
The challenge is to look for more subtle problems that impair immunity. One must realize that especially in yeast syndrome, there is a vicious circle. A person may become predisposed because of antibiotic overuse. Then when the syndrome takes hold, immune function is further impaired, making it all the more difficult to treat. Therefore, based on the clinical experience of many physicians, it is fair to say that anyone suffering from either recurrent yeast infections or the yeast syndrome should adhere to most of the suggestions that follow, especially with respect to dietary changes.
The importance of the removal of sugar from the diet cannot be overemphasized. For reasons that are not entirely clear, many patients suffering from this problem have serious sugar and carbohydrate cravings that are of an addictive nature. There is no magic bullet. Failure to change the diet will result in failure to recover from the problem. Anyone who tells you that you can merely take an antifungal drug to cure the problem is mistaken! If ELISA-ACT testing reveals food allergies, those foods need to be avoided during the recovery period.
Some authorities suggest that decreasing honey and fruit juice during the period of recovery is sufficient. Many physicians feel that people may need to eliminate these foods entirely during the recovery period and reintroduce them slowly following recovery. The same may be said for dairy products. Yeast-containing products are a definite no. The reader is referred to Dr. Crook’s book for an exhaustive description of the proper diet. In addition, as mentioned, consideration should be given to supplemental hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes if indicated.
Many readers are probably thinking “how long must I stay on this diet?” The truth is that as far as sugar is concerned, one should never resume its use. The other foods may often be reintroduced slowly. Again, it is wise to work with a physician experienced with recurrent yeast infections. It may also be said that as a person gets more attuned to their body’s health a certain sensitivity develops letting one know that eating certain things leaves one feeling “not right.” This question is the same as when a patient asks how long they should avoid using an injured limb. The answer, of course, is “when it no longer hurts!” Your body knows what is right and wrong for it. It always knew. One just has to relearn by self-observation.
Often a person will report that after following this diet for 2 to 4 weeks they begin to feel worse. This is most probably a result of the yeast dying off and releasing toxins. It is for this reason that the diet should include plenty of fiber to ensure proper elimination. Additionally, 2 to 4 weeks of a proper diet should be undertaken before initiating treatment with antifungal agents, natural or otherwise.
Natural agents are frequently neglected for the treatment and prevention of selected intestinal and vaginal infections. Placebo-controlled studies demonstrated that natural agents have been used successfully to prevent antibiotic-associated bacterial infections and Candida vaginitis. Few adverse effects have been reported. There is now significant evidence that administration of selected microorganisms is beneficial in the prevention and treatment of certain intestinal infections, and possibly in the treatment of vaginal infections. These are called probiotics and are particularly useful in treating yeast syndrome.
Used with permission