In brief, Candida albicans is a fungus living in our intestines that produces 180 chemical toxins capable of making you feel dizzy and fatigued, shutting down your thyroid, throwing your hormones off balance, and causing you to crave sugar and alcohol, and gain weight. It’s associated with PMS, loss of libido, painful intercourse, infertility, numbness, tingling, MS, Crohn’s, colitis, IBS, acne, Lupus, insomnia, drowsiness, white tongue, breath bad, body odor, sinusitis, bruising, sore throat, bronchitis, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, spots in front of eyes, and dozens more symptoms.

To the great detriment of the health of our society, this fungus is growing rampant in a large proportion of the population –mostly women. It’s one of the many diseases of civilization – the culmination of the side effects of drug and food technology and the disservices of our stressful way of life. The miracle of antibiotics has its downside as an underlying cause of yeast overgrowth. The refining of sugar and wheat has its downside by creating a simple food source for yeast. The tremendous levels of stress hormones that flood our bodies daily, hourly, and every minute in our sped up world also make us prey to yeast.

Candidiasis (yeast overgrowth) has been around for decades, ever since we began to use antibiotics but neglected to replace the good bacteria that are destroyed along with the bad. Yeast itself, a cousin to molds, has grown in human bodies since Adam and Eve. Candida albicans is the main yeast in the human body; it lives there happily enough, kept in check by beneficial bacteria in the intestines. These bacteria make small amounts of vitamin K and B12 and help digest excess sugar that gets past the small intestine. A very special group of bacteria also make lactic acid, which protects the gut and vagina against yeast.

Candida is one of the 400 organisms that make their home in our mouth, digestive tract, vagina and on our skin. For the most part, yeast get along with their neighbors. When you begin taking antibiotics, however, the whole delicate balance is lost. Antibiotics don’t discriminate, they wipe out most of the good along with the bad bacteria leaving yeast unharmed.

Leaky Gut: An Open Door To Our Tissues

In the absence of competition, yeast colonies grow into all the empty nooks and crannies of the large intestine and even the small intestine. It is a scientific fact that when yeast cells reach a certain critical mass they change from a round budding stage to a thread-like tissue invasive stage. They are running out of food and looking for more, so they pack their bags and emigrate to the small intestine from their main home in the large intestine.

In the small intestine, the yeast threads poke microscopic holes in the intestinal lining. Such a phenomenon is called “leaky gut” – a superhighway to the blood stream with nothing to block toxins trickling across the gut lining. Instead of absorbing life-giving nutrients through an intact intestinal wall, yeast’s chemical by-products (all 180 of them), the inflammatory products they produce, undigested food molecules, bacterial toxins, and other chemicals take a one-way ride. The holes are not necessarily big enough to allow yeast to get into the blood stream, so the blood is not infected with yeast, but it carries hundreds of waste products that cause inflammation from head to toe.

Yeast and Inflammation

When yeast, bacterial, and food toxins hit the blood stream they trigger widespread inflammatory reactions by either directly attacking tissues or creating allergic reactions along with the production of histamine. Some of the yeast toxins like acetaldehyde, alcohol, zymosan, arabinitol, and gliotoxin have been named by mycologists –people that study fungi but rarely do they extend their discussion to the human suffering caused by these toxins. A similar lack of attention is being paid to toxic mold that threatens the Gulf states after the Katrina devastation. Any home still standing that was flooded will be covered in mold, and that mold and its toxins could be deadly.

Acetaldehyde is produced when yeast digests sugar. It is a particularly potent toxin that can damage all the tissues in the body including the brain. It is also produced when you drink alcohol, breathe the exhaust from cars, and smoke cigarettes. What most people don’t know is that yeast also produces alcohol in the body—enough to make some people feel drunk and give a positive reading on a breathalyzer test. When alcohol breaks down in the body, it produces acetaldehyde. If you have yeast overgrowth and also drink alcohol you are hit with a double dose of acetaldehyde hangover or brain fog. In actual fact, most people with yeast overgrowth can’t touch alcohol because it makes them feel so rotten.

Acetaldehyde readily combines with red blood cells, proteins, and enzymes; travels to all parts of the body; and even passes through the blood brain barrier. It damages the structure of red blood cells making them unable to squeeze through tiny capillaries to convey oxygen to needy tissues. Acetaldehyde also blocks the attachment of oxygen to red blood cells. Your brain uses 20 percent of all the oxygen that you inhale but stiff red blood cells cut down that amount considerably leaving you gasping for air and feeling whoozy. Acetaldehyde damages nerve cells, induces deficiencies of an important nerve vitamin, B1 (thiamine), the energy and neurotransmitter vitamin, B 3 (niacin), and vitamin B5, which is crucial for normal brain function.

Zymosan causes inflammation and has been directly associated with psoriasis. Arabinitol attacks the immune system, nervous system, and the brain. And gliotoxin disrupts the DNA in white blood cells killing them outright. Other toxins account for the long list of symptoms attributed to yeast overgrowth and that are eliminated when yeast is brought under control. Researchers have also proven that Candida antibodies cross react with all tissues in the body that have been tested. That type of cross reactivity sets the stage for autoimmune disease.

Weight gain is very common in yeast overgrowth. Our bodies create pounds of fluid retention in an attempt to dilute the inflammatory toxins that yeast produces. Over time, tissue toxins and fluid build up lead to cellulite and weight gain. The gas produced by yeast can cause abdominal bloating that can increase your waist size up to 6 inches from one meal to the next.

The Yeast Questions

The following questions can help you decide whether you should look further into yeast overgrowth as a cause of your inflammation and chronic symptoms.

1. Have you taken several courses of antibiotics in the past?

2. Have you been on the birth control pill?

3. Do you react to the smell of damp moldy places?

4. Do you crave sugar and bread?

5. Do you feel drained to the point of exhaustion?

6. Do you have symptoms of intestinal gas, bloating, and cramping (IBS)?

7. Are you troubled by constant vaginal infections?

8. Are you bothered by itchy burning eyes?

Where’s the Cure?

Unfortunately, the treatment for yeast does not lie in a pill as many women have learned. Even if your doctor is one of the few that does recognize yeast overgrowth, the most common treatment recommended is a week or two of antifungal medications. Most doctors don’t understand that yeast overgrowth requires a 6-Point Yeast Fighting Program. Information on this approach is freely available at www.yeastconnection.com and follows in a very abbreviated form.

  • Diet: avoid sugar, wheat and dairy as well as fermented foods, and alcohol.
  • Probiotics (good bacteria): the best ones are acidophilus and bifidus. Obtain products that guarantee 2-10 billion organisms per capsule.
  • Antifungal supplements: garlic (eat one or two cloves a day), oil of oregano (take 2-3 capsules per day) and grapefruit seed extract (take two to three capsules per day) or take a formula that also includes caprylic acid, pau D’Arco, black walnut, beta carotene, and biotin.
  • Exercise every day, at least 30 minutes, to move the lymph circulation that clears toxins from the body.
  • De-stress with prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, and/or yoga to reduce the amount of natural cortisol that stimulates yeast overgrowth.
  • Work with a caring physician. Download a comprehensive physician’s packet to take to your doctor from yeastconnection.com. The last step of the 6-Point Program is prescription antifungals from your doctor, but only if you also continue steps 1-5.

It is mainly through diet and lifestyle change that you can overcome yeast overgrowth—but you can overcome it and reduce the amount of inflammation in your life with some effort and support.

Dr. Carolyn Dean MD ND

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