Could it be candida?

According to nutritionist, Ann Rowland, ‘One hundred and fifty years ago the average amount of sugar we ate was seven pounds a year – now it’s 120lbs. As some people don’t eat it at all others are overdosing on it.’

Take a look at these symptoms and see if they seem familiar:
  • Thrush
  • Stomach bloating, wind, pain
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Tiredness, fatigue and lethargy
  • Depression
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Muscle aches
  • Food intolerances
  • Frequent colds, coughs and sinusitis
  • Intolerance of alcohol
  • Frequent urinary infections
  • Headaches
  • Menstrual problems
  • Skin rashes
  • Loss of libido
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Bad breath
  • Intolerance to strong odours like cigarette smoke and perfume
  • Symptoms worse on damp days
You could have candida – a yeast infection which is most commonly known to cause thrush, just one of its many symptoms.  See also: Thrush – how to cope

Sometimes a visit to the doctor’s doesn’t yield any results – you could be told there’s nothing wrong with you but surely you know your own body!

Friendly bacteria

Most TV watchers might have heard of these by now! Our gut is full of both ‘friendly’ and ‘hostile’ bacteria battling it out to take a hold on the territory.

Unfortunately if we are stressed, run down, drink too much alcohol, and particularly if we have taken too many antibiotics or steroids the hostile bacteria seem to win. And because animals are regularly fed with antibiotics it’s possible to get them in meat as well (see Nutrition, You Are What You Eat).

We all have Candida albicans yeast in the colon but if it gets out of control it takes over, leading to leaky gut and the yeast seeps into the bloodstream where it affects our immune system.

  • Candida in the gut feeds on sugars producing ethanol and carbon dioxide;
  • The production of gases causes bloating, flatulence and pain;
  • It is often diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome with no particular conventional treatment available.
  • Sugar encourages the fermentation process which causes stomach bloating and pain.

Who to consult

The symptoms are difficult to diagnose and may be confused with PMS or the menopause – there are many similarities. Medical tests may not prove anything conclusive so who do you talk to?

You can try to see a nutritionist: British Association of Nutritional Therapists, www.bant.org.uk or The Institute of Optimum Nutrition: http://www.ion.ac.uk 

Or a naturopath: The General Council and Register of Naturopaths is on 01458 840072  www.naturopathy.org.uk

For more information contact: The Candida Society which has helped 4,000 people so far! www.candida-society.org

How to detect candida

Some practitioners, like Rosalind Blackwell, take a live blood sample and examine it with an ultra-high resolution microscope to see if candida is present. ‘Candida in the blood smear indicates that there is overgrowth in the colon, but if it isn’t present there may still be overgrowth.

‘Colonic irrigation is a definite way of detecting candida as its appearance is unmistakeable. It also takes the candida out of the gut immediately and is a good start to any treatment programme.’

Why do some people get candida?

There are several contributory factors to a build up of yeast including:

  • Use of inhalers;
  • Taking the contraceptive pill or HRT;
  • Repeated antibiotics
  • Diet high in sugar, alcohol and bread;
  • Too much stress!
  • A mouth full of amalgam fillings (see How Teeth Affect Our Health, Amalgam Fillings)

Women are three times more likely to get candida as men because drugs like the contraceptive pill alter the acid/alkaline balance in the body allowing yeast to take hold.

Quashing candida

A one-off attack of thrush may get better with antifungal pessaries which are now available over the counter, but if candida has taken a hold in the gut, more drastic measures are needed!

Nutritional therapists start off by removing yeast-feeding foods from the diet:

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fruit
  • Bread containing yeast
  • Mushrooms (because they are a fungus like yeast)
  • Processed foods for their sugar or yeast content

What they suggest instead:

  • Plenty of vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, brown rice;
  • Eat organic where possible;
  • Lots of water and herbal teas.

The aim is to create an environment hostile to yeast.

Nutritional therapists may prescribe specialist supplements to help to heal a leaky gut and further create a healthy intestinal environment, followed by supplements and herbs which kill off the candida. During these processes the toxins produced by killing the candida can make people feel worse than ever this can be remedied by using supplements which support the liver. 

There are some effective supplements for helping to rid the body of candida (see below) including Pau d’Arco (Lapacho) a good herbal antifungal and Candigest. But it should be stressed that ridding the body of candida can be quite a difficult thing and once taking these antifungals there may be a detoxification reaction – headaches, feeling shivery or  upset stomach.

The good news is that most people who change their diets and lifestyle end up sticking with them, enjoying themselves more and become healthier and more confident!

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CASE STUDY:

Sue Reeves, 52, suffered from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) for 15 years but  the symptoms were tolerable. She came back from holiday in Spain one summer with a bad stomach but it didn’t go away and the pain and diarrhoea got worse. ‘I had abdominal pain, excess wind and a tight bloated tummy, and I felt tired all the time.

‘My symptoms meant I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and so I became depressed, withdrawn and very low. I had some food allergy testing and found I was allergic to eggs, milk, nuts and melons. Despite cutting these out I didn’t get any better.

‘When I went to see a nutritionist I was told I had candida and took a number of vitamins and other supplements to try to combat the yeast infection. Unfortunately they didn’t make me much better.’ If Sue ate a meal she could pretty much guarantee she would become bloated, uncomfortable and suffer from wind. And going out for meals at restaurants or with friends was more of a torture than a pleasure.

Just over a year ago, Sue joined the National Candida Society and this proved to be her turning point – she was recommended to take Candigest Plus, an enzyme based supplement that rids the body of candida. She also took a pure and powerful probiotic called CP1 that replenished the good, live bacteria in her gut.

Within weeks Sue’s symptoms had all but gone. ‘I regained energy and no longer had a ‘dragging feeling’. At first I wasn’t eating anything with yeast or sugar in but as my system got stronger I started to reintroduce the food on her ‘banned’ list and now eats mostly organic food and only has to avoid eggs and chicken. ’I feel really well for the first time in 15 years. I enjoy a glass of red now and again and am happy to join my family and friends for meals at Chinese and Indian restaurants.

Ann Rowland, Dip ION, practises in 01730 821725  and at the Natural Health Centre, Chichester, 01243 786946

Rosalind Blackwell is a naturopath and medical herbalist who practises in Crickham, Somerset,  01934 733040,      rblackwell@thebarnpractice.co.uk, www.thebarnpractice.co.uk

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Thrush – how to cope

Some 80 per cent of women are said to suffer from vaginal thrush at some time in their lives. A fungal infection caused by excess yeast known as Candida albicans, the symptoms are vaginal discharge, itchiness and soreness which can make intercourse painful.Some women get thrush when they are feeling run down or after taking broad-spectrum antibiotics, which might be prescribed for chest or urinary infections. These antibiotics wipe out the healthy bacteria in the gut as well as the organisms they are targeting, allowing space for candida to take a hold and multiply.  See also: Could it be candida?

CHINESE HERBAL MEDICINE

Dr Cheng Hao Zhou, is a Chinese doctor at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York, 01904 343305, www.chinesemedicine.co.uk 

‘Initially I ask the patient a lot of questions, such as how long they’ve had it, what triggers it – is it food, environmental, emotional or change of temperature, or a disease such as diabetes? I also ask about sleep patterns, appetite, periods, family medical history and whether or not they are taking any medication.

In Chinese medicine there are three pulses on each wrist which represent the organs of the body so we are not just checking the heart rate. We put three fingers on each pulse, one for each organ, and check to see if the flow is smooth and strong and if the energy is balanced. In Chinese medicine we treat the whole body, as well as the thrush.

Candida infection which causes thrush indicates dampness inside the system – this is an accumulation of waste which builds up over time and is normally eliminated by the body through sweat, urine and stools. If part of the system is weak dampness accumulates and people often feel bloated, gain weight and have heavy legs as well.

Thrush is stubborn but Chinese herbs are very effective in fighting it. The patient takes home a mixture of herbs which they boil up into a tea twice a day. It tastes rather unusual but after a couple of days they get used to it! After one week I see them again to find out how they have responded, and then they come back fortnightly until they are better.

HOMEOPATHY

Nigel Summerley is a homeopath from London. When someone gets thrush it is a sign that things are out of balance in the body. The homeopathic approach looks at the whole person and what else has been happening in their health and life, as well as the thrush.

I take a full medical history and ask questions about diet, exercise, sleep, work, lifestyle, relationships, periods, emotional make-up and family medical history. Homeopathy works on the basis of curing like with like, giving a microscopic dose of a substance which, if given in a large dose, would cause the symptoms we’re trying to remove.

Stress or emotional upset can play a part in creating imbalance in the body, leading to physical symptoms such as thrush. I try to find a remedy which matches each individual case taking any emotional factors into account.

There are a variety of remedies for treating thrush. Staphisagria is for a victim personality who is badly affected by anger or grief and finds sex painful; Platina suits an egotistical and highly sexual person, who has very itchy thrush and is plagued by fears that the relationship will end; Sepia patients tend to be irritable, spiteful, depressed and indifferent to loved ones, and the thrush feels better in the evening but is worse before a period; for weepy people Pulsatilla is a suitable remedy particularly if they are not thirsty, don’t fancy warm food and symptoms are worse in the evening.

For an unhappy person who cannot cope with stress and whose thrush is worse before a period, Calc Phos is suitable; Nat Mur is for someone whose thrush is worse for heat, who is rather closed off, emotionally vulnerable and doesn’t like being consoled; while Nat Phos suits someone who doesn’t want to be consoled but is stressed out and unhappy with fears that something awful will happen. .

I usually give the homeopathic remedy in liquid form and ask them to take one dose daily for five to six weeks at which point I like to see them again. It may take a couple of months before they are well enough to stop taking the remedy.

In addition I suggest that they drink plenty of water, avoid sweet foods such as sugar, fruit juice, pastries, chocolate and also alcohol. Live yoghurt applied locally can reduce the itching, and it can be placed on a tampon but not left in too long.

Thrush can be a long-term problem and seeing a professional homeopath is preferable to self-treatment.

NATUROPATHY

Jonathan Shore practises at Goldings Hill Clinic, Loughton, Essex, 020 8518 5581, www.goldingshillclinic.com

Naturopathy looks at all aspects of a person’s life including their diet, relationships and lifestyle. Thrush reflects a weak immune system, often due to the knocking out of healthy bacteria by broad spectrum antibiotics. It can hang around for quite a long time and antifungal pessaries do not always succeed in killing it off.

Daily douching is helpful to improve the quality of tissues to the area, boost circulation and improve drainage of blood. I suggest running a warm, not hot, bath to hip height, and maybe adding a teaspoonful of salt, or a couple of drops of either lavender or tea tree essential oils. Strong soaps and gels should not be used as they upset the delicate balance of the mucus lining of the vagina. After five or ten minutes wash with cool water and get out.

A healthy but light diet is important to get rid of thrush with plenty of Vitamin A, from carrot or pumpkin soup, and Vitamin C from fresh fruit, and raw garlic which can be crushed into soups or on to vegetables. Organic produce is preferable but if it is unavailable wash fruit with apple cider vinegar to cleanse it of pesticides. Avoid too much protein and cut out red meat, tea, coffee and alcohol. Yeast loves sugar, so don’t eat any sweet things.

Yoghourts are probiotic (as opposed to antibiotic) and an organic natural live yoghourt should be eaten every day as it helps to put the healthy bacteria back in the gut and keep yeast at bay. The same effect can be achieved by taking acidophilus capsules, which are available in health food stores.

Good local hygiene is essential and cotton underwear should be worn rather than nylon. Ensure good circulation of air around the vagina by avoiding tight pants or trousers.

The Society of Homeopaths can give details of homeopaths in your area: 01604 621400
The British Homeopathic Association supplies a free booklet entitled How to Get Homeopathic Treatment on the NHS, and a list of medically qualified practitioners: 0207 566 7800.

A list of Chinese herbal practitioners can be obtained from the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, 01603 623994,  www.rchm.co.uk
The General Council and Register of Naturopaths is on 01458 840072,  www.naturopathy.org.uk

Pao d’Arco is a herbal antifungal which is very powerful so initial detox may induce headaches, pain in the abdomen and diarrhoea, but it is very effective!

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