Candida: Causes and Effects; Implications for Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune Diseases and Multiple Chemical Sensitivit

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Candida: Causes and Effects; Implications for Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune Diseases and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

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by Bobbi Lutack, N.D.

Evergreen Natural Health Clinic

Seattle, Washington

Candida. You've probably heard of it. It's a "trendy" disorder, up there in rank with the likes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Immune Disorder Syndrome (CFIDS) as it's now known, fibromyalgia and hypoglycemia. It's a disorder that is present in a good many individuals, and so has developed a reputation because of the number of people being treated for it by Naturopathic and holistic physicians, while most M.D.'s barely recognize it as a problem.

Candida albicans is a form of yeast. Everyone has some candida normally confined to their intestines, skin or vagina, but it is kept in check by "good" bacteria called bifidobacter and acidophilus (as long as you are healthy and have a strong, functioning immune system). Candida only becomes a problem when it overgrows and is no longer balanced by the good bacteria. In other words, Candida is an opportunistic infection and can become systemic in immuno-compromised individuals. For example, it's not uncommon for people who have HIV or AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy to get thrush -- a form of Candida in the mouth, throat or esophagus. Besides systemic Candida, you can also have an overgrowth condition of it "in the gut" or intestines. This is a much more common presentation.

How do you get Candidiasis (or Candida) in the first place? The number one reason is probably antibiotic use. If you receive a broad spectrum antibiotic (the most common type used) that wipes out the good gut bacteria along with the bad AND you don't repopulate with acidophilus after your course of treatment (pharmacists used to recommend eating yogurt after a course of antibiotics due to its acidophilus content or antifungals were prescribed along with the antibiotics, but this practice fell out of favor for some reason) you are set up. Especially with chronic antibiotic use, although only a couple of courses can do the trick -- even if it was 20 years ago! Other ways you might get a Candida infection include: birth control pill use, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, alcohol abuse, too much sugar in the diet, steroid use (e.g. prednisone), anti-ulcer drugs, decreased HCL or enzymes in the digestive tract, etc. Basically, anything that affects the integrity of the gut or digestive system by changing pH, decreasing gut immunity, etc. can cause Candida or yeast to overgrow.

Symptoms associated with Candida in the gut can include: Gas and bloating, PMS, irritable bowels syndrome (constipation/diarrhea), reoccurring vaginal yeast infections in women and prostatitis in men, fatigue, "fog brain," food allergies, cravings for sugar, other sweet things, alcohol or bread, anal rashes, rectal itching, joint pain, hives, etc. You can see why Candida might be an "end all" diagnosis. It covers a lot of symptoms. But, no one should be diagnosed with Candida based on symptoms alone. You can test for Candida with a blood or stool test. The amount that is found can range from trace or light to confluent. A trace amount I would not treat. A light amount can probably be treated with dietary measures alone. Moderate, abundant or confluent amounts need to be treated more aggressively with a comprehensive program including:

Anti-fungal agents to kill the yeast. (M.D.'s prescribe nyastatin, a prescription drug that N.D.'s can also prescribe, but one I choose not to use due to possible side effects including affecting the liver AND because the natural anti-fungals work as well if not better in my opinion.)
Repopulation of the "good" gut flora with acidophilus and bifidobacter.
Colonic irrigation to "wash out" the yeast from the large intestines -- where it clings tenaciously to the sides of the walls, or use a water soluble fiber to bind toxins in the gut and promote excretion.
Adrenal support -- to help the immune system mount a good response.
Avoidance of obvious sugar, alcohol and food allergies (you can determine food allergies by a blood test or do my tried and true favorite -- a food elimination-challenge diet).
And, of course, include the basics -- a good organic diet, a multivitamin with enzymes to help normalize digestive secretions, exercise, restful and adequate sleep, stress management, etc.
Candida is a problem of huge magnitude, but once diagnosed and treated appropriately, can significantly change the health and lives of those who suffer from it. Candida can be the sole source of discomfort and the lone diagnosis for a lot of individuals, but it can also be an undiagnosed condition that is found in combination with other chronic diseases such as CFIDS, fibromyalgia and other autoimmune diseases (e.g. Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis) and multiple chemical sensitivity. If you have one of these conditions and also share symptoms of Candida, consider getting tested for Candida to rule it out as a possible contributor to your symptomatology.

The Holistic Health Network.

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By Bobbi Lutack

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