My Journey with life-threatening Candida

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"I don't know what to do for you," the doctor finally admitted, after watching me unintentionally lose close to 20 pounds in just a few months. After sending me for test after test, which all came back "normal," and hearing of my daily nausea, weakness, chills, digestive problems and extreme fatigue for nearly a year, he was at his wit's end. And frankly, so was I.

This primary care physician suggested everything from "just being in those menopausal years" to suffering from manic depression. I had endured countless insults from specialists who told me to "child out, go out and enjoy life," or see a psychiatrist. My husband was, by this time, convinced that I was a total hypochondriac who had let a "little flu bug or something" turn into an imaginary catastrophe.

Then, one day at a birthday party, I watched a young lady, Kristin, refuse a piece of cake. She said she couldn't have sugar. As she began describing her illness, I recognized some of my own symptoms, and asked her what it was. She said "candida."

She went on to explain that overgrowth of candida, also known as Candida albicans causes "candidiasis," or in severe forms, "systemic candida," and is an intestinal invasion of a yeast fungus. As I began to research this problem, Kristin told me to "step out of the box" of traditional medicine and see an alternative care doctor, which she believed saved her life.

I found an alternative-medicine physician who explained to me that regular laboratory testing does not take into account and individual's chemical balance, lifestyle, weight and other things that compose a person's entire makeup, so candida is almost never detected.

He sent my stool sample to one of just a few special laboratories in the country. They sent back an analysis of everything going on in my "gut." My test came back with "4+ candida," which I was told is the highest count you can have, plus some other bad bacteria. It was determined that a course of antibiotics I had been taking, off and on, for 3 years resulted in the killing-off of most of the "good" bacteria inside my intestinal tract, thereby weakening my immune system. Although everyone has candida in their bodies, the candida can explode and take over when the immune system is weak.

MY UNDERSTANDING OF CANDIDA
With candida imbalance, what ensues is a relentless attack on the digestive system, with, eventually, other organs becoming affected (a vaginal yeast infection may be just the first sign of a bodily invasion). The candida organism dings to your intestinal lining and begins eating what you eat, thereby depriving you of important vitamins, minerals and food nutrients, and compromising your elimination process. As a person begins struggling with various ailments--like acid reflux and irritable bowel -- the food not properly digested pours poisonous toxins into the bloodstream. But the symptoms can be so different that not until candida imbalance is way out of control will a "traditional" doctor recognize it.

MEDICATIONS, DIET AND SUPPLEMENTS
All doctors will not recommend the same remedies, but mine put me on a "flucanazole" (anti-fungal) to jump-start the death of the yeast, and a very strict diet for two to six months. Absolutely no form of sugar is allowed. This meant cane sugar and all its derivatives had to go. I also had to give up white and wheat flour because they block the digestive process. Dairy was out too (lactose is candida's friend, as well as casein, which is a protein also in dairy). I found soy and rice products made wonderful substitutes for dairy. It was also "good bye" to pasta of any kind, and other bowel irritants such as cold cereal, corn and even most fruit.

After the medication came high doses of vitamins and minerals, "healthy" bacterial flora such as lactobacillus and non-dairy acidophilus, caprylic acid, and herbs such as grapefruit seed extract and pau d'arco. Garlic is also a great anti-fungal and natural antibiotic.

HOW I AM TODAY
I have been feeling much better for about six months now, and am adding some foods back into my diet. The irritable bowel and daily nausea are pretty much gone. Unfortunately, having the candida did some other damage. It's been very hard to gain weight back (I'm still only at 101 whereas my normal adult weight is 112 to 114), and I am experiencing some early osteoporosis. So until your immune system is really well again, you should be careful of what you eat and with prescription and even over-the-counter drugs; watch for symptoms and be re-tested if necessary.

Those who would like more information about this condition, look for the new book, Tired--So Tired and the Yeast Connection by William G. Crook, M.D. and Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. (Professional Books, December 31, 2000).

What's your story? All of us at Better Nutrition invite you to tell us your personal stories about health and nutrition. If chosen, we will print your story in an upcoming issue. Send submissions to: editorial@betternutrition.com.

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By Sheryl Young h

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