Intestinal Yeast Infections -- The Symptoms And Treatments Of Candida Infections (Candidiasis)
Page 2 -- Symptoms of Candida Yeast Infections, and the “Candida Related Complex” (this page)
Page 1 -- Background Information on Candida Yeast Infections
For background information, please see our page FUNGUS & YEAST GENERAL INFORMATION.
YEAST SYMPTOMS AND THE CONTROVERSIAL "CANDIDA-RELATED COMPLEX"
The traditional medical community recognizes Candida infections when the infection is visible and can be cultured, as in thrush and vaginitis. However, the most common and overlooked site for yeast proliferation is the intestines. Yeast in the intestines release large amounts of allergens, toxins and other hormonally active substances into the circulation, without raising a suspicion of where the problems are coming from. Yeast overgrowth may not be adequate to diagnose an infection, but may be quite enough to overburden the immune system. Yeast proliferation within the intestines, however, is a controversial disorder, accepted by some physicians and rejected by others as a "fad" diagnosis. One difficulty with a proper diagnosis had been the lack of suitable diagnostic lab tests, which are now available.
In the early 1980's, Dr. Orian Truss ("The Missing Diagnosis") and Dr. William Crook ("The Yeast Connection") identified Candida yeast as a causative factor of a more generalized Candidiasis condition that could take many forms, primarily resulting from an occult and perhaps low-grade, but chronic Candida overgrowth of the intestines. Since that time an entire sphere of medical counterculture has arisen that includes a smattering of MD's, a wide variety of alternative medicine healthcare providers, a book-publishing industry, an entire industry of nonprescription herbal medications, and vocal and communicative "patients" -- Candida sufferers, or at least, those who believe that they suffer from a Candida yeast infection.
Yeast Overgrowth, by Many Different Names
This generalized Candida condition was occasionally referred to as "the yeast syndrome" (also the title of an influential book by Dr. John Parks Trowbridge), and is now sometimes referred to as the "Candida Related-Complex", Candida overgrowth syndrome (COS), chronic Candidiasis, or just simply "a yeast problem.". We'll simply refer to it as Candidiasis (which is sometimes spelled "Candidiosis" or "Candidosis"). (Candidiasis is pronounced Can-dih-di’-a-sis.)
Often it is nutritionally oriented doctors who believe that Candidiasis does indeed exist and treat it as they would any medical condition. They contend that Candida yeast overgrowth is a specific disorder, which can be responsible for months or even years of chronic ill health. And they assert that even though Candida remains confined to the digestive tract and vagina, the overgrowth has far-reaching effects throughout the body.
While this condition may be referred to as systemic yeast, it is not truly systemic. It is an overgrowth or infection in the intestines, mucus membranes, skin, or nails but it is not growing unchecked in the blood or other organs. The EFFECTS of the infection are systemic, but the infection itself is not. The TOXINS produced by these infections ARE absorbed into the blood stream and are carried to all parts of the body, creating brain fog and other neurological problems, heart arrhythmias, joint/muscle pain, and numerous other problems. Most of the problems caused or complicated by Candida are caused by the toxins, not the local infection.
However, MD's generally do not recognize this broader spectrum of Candidiasis. Two MD's in New Jersey had their licenses pulled in 1990 for treating Candidiasis, and an MD. in California was censured and eventually abandoned his practice in 1999 for committing the same crime. In general, MD's do not even acknowledge that there is a condition of Candida overgrowth in the intestines, never mind all the ancillary symptoms attributed to Candidiasis.
Yeast Overgrowth Symptoms
There are dozens of books and innumerable web sites on the topic of Candidiasis. Briefly, the symptoms of Candidiasis, as represented by this counterculture, include but are not limited to:
- Chronic fatigue, especially after eating
- Gastrointestinal problems such as: bloating, gas, intestinal cramps, chronic diarrhea, constipation, or heartburn
- Rectal itching
- Allergies ( including both food and airborne )
- Lowered immunity and susceptibility to infection
- Severe premenstrual syndrome
- Memory loss, severe mood swings, and feeling mentally "disturbed" or ”spaced out”
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
- Recurrent fungal infections such as "jock itch", athlete's foot, or ringworm and all types of skin problems
- Extreme sensitivity to chemicals, perfumes, smoke, or other odors
- Recurrent vaginal or urinary infections
- A feeling of being light headed or drunk after minimal wine, beer, or certain foods
These symptoms may worsen in moldy places such as basements or in damp climates, and after eating or drinking yeast or foods containing sugar.
Candidiasis is now attributed to be a significant cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) (also called Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome -- CFIDS), sudden childhood autism, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD).
Even though evidence is building to support these claims, few MD's consider the possibility. However, in the 70's and 80's when this work first started there were no medical tests that were reliable in demonstrating an occult, low-grade yeast infection of the intestines. IMPORTANT That has changed. There are now a number of tests and diagnostic laboratories that can provide definitive proof of an infection of this type. See our page FUNGAL AND YEAST LAB TESTS for a comprehensive review of tests and labs.
For further reading, refer to our page CANDIDA BOOKS for the most popular selections covering this topic.
THE RATIONALE FOR THE MYSTERIOUS YEAST OVERGROWTH SYMPTOMS
Presuming you can get past the conceptual difficulty of accepting that there might be a condition of Candida yeast overgrowth in the intestines, it is fairly easy to explain the spectrum of symptoms associated with Candidiasis.
It's helpful to understand a little bit about the physical nature of fungus and yeast -- refer to our page FUNGUS & YEAST GENERAL INFORMATION for a quick overview. Here's a summary.
Having Someone For Dinner? (Hannibal Lecter: "I suppose this gives new meaning to 'Having a friend for dinner'.") Yeast makes a meal out of its host. It eats the sugar that you eat, and sucks your blood for more. Our blood and tissues maintain a continuous supply of glucose -- just perfect to provide yeast with a free lunch. But, as an ungrateful guest, it kills its host a little bit at a time.
Killing me softly. Yeast doesn't have feet or a mouth, can't move to find its food, and can't bite it to eat and ingest it the way we do. Instead, it feeds off material in its surroundings, either the substrate it is growing on or organisms and other material floating in the moisture of its environment. Yeast cells live in damp places, and must absorb its nutrients through micro-pores in its cell wall from the surrounding moisture. Some material, such as sugar, can be readily absorbed. But, many things need to be broken down first. Like a typical fungus, yeast produces and excretes enzymes and toxins to kill, dissolve, and digest its food for assimilation. These enzymes and toxins enter our blood stream in two ways: some are injected directly into our tissues by the yeast as it slowly digests you cell by cell, and some are transported into the blood stream from the intestinal tract through porous holes in your intestinal wall created by the yeast (leaky gut).
The hostile effects of some mycotoxins are just becoming well-known -- for example, the adverse neurological effects of "sick building syndrome" caused by mold in the environment. The adverse effects of internally absorbed toxins are less well known, but perhaps equally damaging. A large number of toxins, including aflatoxin, acetaldehyde (similar to formaldehyde), and gliotoxin, have been identified from yeast, including from Candida. Aflatoxin is one of the biological toxins that has been weaponized by Iraq. Gliotoxin causes damage in several ways, including the suppression of important enzymes (important to us, that is), and by killing a variety of human cells, including macrophages, T-lymphocytes, and hepatocytes (the primary cell type in the liver). It directly suppresses the immune system by killing immune cells, and causes other hostile effects. As you might imagine, having gliotoxin floating around in your system isn't good. The injection of gliotoxin and other mycotoxins into the system by Candida is a major cause of the symptoms of the yeast syndrome, Candidiasis.
The well-known “die-off” or Herxheimer reaction is a flu-like response to treatments that kill yeast. The reason is that as yeast cells die, they split open and release these enzymes and toxins, which are then absorbed into the blood stream.
Yeast Infections and Leaky Gut Syndrome
When yeast gets the opportunity, it transforms from a unicellular organism into its hyphal form, becoming an interconnected mass of penetrating filaments. These hyphae penetrate the tissues on which the yeast is growing and grow ever deeper as the yeast seeks ever expanding food sources. When this happens to be the inner wall of the intestines, it breaks down the barrier which exists between the closed world of the bowel and the body by opening microscopic holes, increasing porosity and intestinal permeability. Toxic debris, yeast waste products, and partially digested proteins and other food micro-elements are allowed into the blood stream, resulting in allergic and toxic reactions. You now have a "leaky gut" that allows stuff from the inside of your intestines to leak into your blood stream. IMPORTANT There now are diagnostic lab tests for Leaky Gut that look for foreign proteins floating in the blood -- see FUNGAL AND YEAST LAB TESTS for more information.
Yeast Infections and Allergies
Got Allergies? -- to Dust, to Trees, to Food, to Chemicals?? Got Asthma??? We are normally exposed to a continuous barrage of allergens but our allergy response system can manage unless it gets overloaded. It is common wisdom among allergists that controlling the total allergy load is extremely important. If the total load exceeds your threshold, you begin to react, but if the total load is below the threshold you can tolerate it. A yeast infection causes and aggravates allergies two ways: first by injecting the system with allergens that the yeast itself produces, and second by causing a leaky gut. Yeast allergens produce classical allergic responses, causing symptoms of itching, hives, skin rashes, nasal congestion, cough, bronchitis, irritable bowel, and asthma. A leaky gut wrecks the immune system and causes hypersensitivity to allergens-- here's how. The allergens that we respond negatively to are primarily foreign proteins. A leaky gut allows an innumerable variety of these things to enter your blood stream. The immune system tries to manage but becomes overwhelmed with the amount and variety of stimulants, and eventually fail to respond properly. Everything begins to look foreign and you begin to have allergic responses to normal, everyday items.
Feeling a little tipsy after that cake? Like other yeasts, Candida eats sugar and produces alcohol as part of its digestion process. Contrary to information you may come across stating that oxygen kills yeast, yeast actually grows prolifically in an oxygen environment (aerobic). But, it also does just fine in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic). Candida and other yeasts are called facultative anaerobes. ATP is the primary energy source of living cells. Facultatively anaerobic means it can make its ATP either by aerobic respiration, when oxygen is present, or anaerobic respiration (fermentation), when oxygen is reduced or absent. In the presence of oxygen yeast enters a "respiration" mode of metabolism wherein it converts sugar into water and carbon dioxide (CO2), just as we do. In this metabolic mode yeast is able to extract the maximum amount of energy from sugar and will grow rapidly. In the absence of oxygen, yeast enters a fermentation mode of metabolism in which it is unable to completely breakdown sugar, and instead breaks the sugar down into alcohol and CO2. There is still a large amount of energy left in alcohol, which is why alcohol burns. In the fermentation mode, yeast grows much more slowly since a much lesser amount of energy is available from the metabolic process.
Since the dark confines of your GI tract contain almost no oxygen, yeast always functions in the fermentation metabolic mode. This means that when you eat sugar, you get a buzz. Actually, you have a constant buzz, because your yeast is continuously eating your blood sugar and fermenting it to alcohol. It's just that the alcohol production is much greater when there is a more abundant source of sugar.
Got PMS, or do you really just want to kill somebody? Hormonally active molecules are also produced by Candida yeast. The propensity of women to contract Candida-based vaginitis is at least in part influenced by the hormonal activity of Candida enzymes and toxins which interact with the normal cellular lining of the vagina. Symptoms related to the female reproductive system, including PMS, cystic breast disease, infertility, and reduced sex drive, have been reported to improve following treatment with antifungal medications. Those observations are evidence for interference with normal hormonal function by yeast and fungus overgrowth.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I'VE GOT A YEAST OVERGROWTH?
The presence of an overabundance of Candida can be deduced empirically from an assessment of medical history, such as by a questionnaire, or it can be determined by diagnostic tests. Prior to the existence of useful laboratory tests, a medical history evaluation was the primary guide, despite it being a slippery method of establishing a medical diagnosis. The very existence of Candida-Related Complex was hotly criticized by the medical community because of a diagnosis formed by the exclusive use of medical history and questionnaires, rather than definitive lab tests and the presence of clinically identifiable symptoms (a broken arm is clinically identifiable, being tired all the time is not). Nevertheless, medical history, or the equivalent in the form of a symptom checklist or point-rated questionnaire, can be illuminating.
The Yeast Infection Symptom Questionnaire
Dr. Crook first introduced a point-rated questionnaire in "The Yeast Connection" to evaluate the possibility or probability of medical symptoms being caused by a Candida overgrowth. It's been reproduced and used widely over the last twenty years in a large number of books, pamphlets, and online sources. The original questionnaire (60+ questions) and a more recent shorter version reappear here: CANDIDA QUESTIONNAIRE LONG VERSION, and CANDIDA QUESTIONNAIRE SHORT VERSION.
If a range of symptoms suggest a deeper cause, then perhaps definitive diagnostic tests are justified to determine if there is Candida involvement. Please see our page FUNGAL, YEAST, and PARASITE LAB TESTS for a comprehensive review of medical tests and diagnostic labs specializing in digestive illnesses and associated technologies.
The final determination, however, as to whether or not your symptoms are caused by yeast is impossible to answer, even if they are on the standard lists for Candidiasis symptoms, even if you scored high on Candida questionnaires, and even if diagnostic lab tests definitively show a current Candida infection. The only way to know if yeast can be causing indirect symptoms (allergies for example), is to follow an effective treatment course for Candida. If your symptoms improve, then they were likely caused by Candida.
This is the dilemma faced by the traditional medical community -- even if you find the presence of yeast and eradicate it, and if tangential symptoms improve, that is not proof that those symptoms were in fact caused by yeast. You may have a suspicion, there may be a possibility, or even a likelihood -- but there is no way of proving cause and effect. If MD's were all trained as psychiatrists perhaps they would be more accepting of ambiguity, but instead they are taught to find the tumor and cut it out. They live in a black and white world.
YEAST INFECTION TREATMENT DIFFICULTIES
Once established, sub-clinical colonization with yeast in the body may persist unrecognized for many years. And the medical profession, slow in recognizing the Candida Albicans problem, considers it a fad diagnosis and cannot treat it correctly because they have yet to understand it. Those most eager to treat it have been nutritionists, chiropractors, and nutritionally oriented MD's. However, judging by how many patients relapse, the success rates appear to be inadequate.
There is a bewildering array of treatment plans for Candidiasis: diet only, diet plus our unique product(s), no diet -- just our unique product(s), prescription drugs only, prescription drugs plus diet, prescription drugs plus diet plus our unique product(s), colonics and intestinal cleansing (with or without any of the previous), acupuncture, and so on. There also is an overwhelming array of vendors who promote their unique product(s) for Candidiasis. So, one of the major difficulties in treating Candidiasis is simply figuring out what treatments and treatment protocols might be effective -- there certainly is no consensus, and no proof. Any number of alternative healthcare providers will cite statistics like "successfully treated over X thousand of Candida sufferers". But, who knows how many really were cured, and how many simply never came back.
One serious problem is that the cell structure of fungi is similar to the cell structure of animals, in that the plasma membrane of animals has cholesterol as a primary constituent, whereas fungi have ergosterol. Unfortunately for us, there is enough chemical similarity between cholesterol and ergosterol so that antimicrobial intended to attack ergosterol tend to disrupt cholesterol as well. Consequently, there are few antifungals, and some of those have dangerous side effects. The majority of the antifungals have other, less effective modes of operation -- most interfere in some way with fungal cell growth rather than the more dramatic mechanism of ripping the fungus apart. IMPORTANT This is why prescription medications for treating fungal nail infections take ten months -- the drug isn't really killing the fungus, just stunting its growth. The treatment then depends on your body's immune system to finish the job, plus the growth of replacement tissues and nails to eventually displace the infected region.
A second, serious problem is that Candida is not only present in large numbers inside the intestines, it also invades and permeates the intestinal wall. IMPORTANT So, an effective treatment plan not only needs to kill and remove the exposed yeast, it also needs to kill off yeast and yeast fragments that are deeply imbedded. Diet certainly will not accomplish that goal, nor will most prescription drugs or herbal remedies.
A third serious problem is that the yeast thrives in a protecting layer of mucous. Many Candida sufferers have a white or yellowish coated tongue -- this is thrush, oral Candidiasis or oropharyngeal Candidiasis -- a yeast infection of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. It is apparent that mucosal environments favor the growth of Candida. Since the entire GI tract is coated with mucous, there is strong reason to suspect that the environment throughout the GI tract is just like your tongue, coated with a thick, sticky layer of yeast and mucous.
An effective treatment plan will require a comprehensive approach. Read some suggestions on our page CANDIDIASIS TREATMENT PLAN.
INFORMATION SOURCES USED FOR THESE TWO PAGES
Candida, Autism, Chronic Fatigue, Dr. William Shaw, Ph.D., Director Great Plains Diagnostic Laboratory
Slide Presentation on Fungi, Tom Volk (Professor, Dept. of Biology, U. of Wisconsin -- La Crosse) see slides 10-24
Dr. Elmer Cranton, MD:
Oral Candidiasis (Thrush) from Project Inform (for HIV/AIDS)
Chronic Candidiasis from DoctorFungus.org
Oxygen -- Respiration vs. Fermentation in Yeast (a discussion forum for winemaking, but general info on yeast)
Yeast -- An Informational Handout for Biology 111a, Professor Richard Briggs, Smith College, Northampton, MA
Tutorial on Enzymes and Digestion from DC NUTRITION, a web site of Dr. Winston Greene, DC,
In addition to a host of other sources on the Internet, information was also drawn from several Candida-related books; please see our selections on our page CANDIDA BOOKS.
REFERENCES & INFORMATION RESOURCES
The following three books first introduced the topic of Candidiasis to the public and were the most influential -- they still carry that reputation: Two of these books are still in print and are available through our Amazon connection -- please go to our page BOOKS ON CANDIDIASIS.
- The Missing Diagnosis, by Dr. C. Orian Truss, MD, The Missing Diagnosis , 1983
- The Yeast Connection, by Dr. William Crook, MD, Random House Inc., 1983
- The Yeast Syndrome, by Dr. John Parks Trowbridge, MD, Bantam Books, 1986
AUTISM: Yahoo! has several hundred discussion groups devoted to Autism. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ If you then search on the term "autism", the resulting list of 800+ entries includes a column showing the number of list members.
CHRONIC FATIGUE: Yahoo! has 253 discussion groups devoted to Chronic Fatigue. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ If you then search on the term "Chronic Fatigue", the resulting list of 253 entries includes a column showing the number of list members.
ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER: Yahoo! has 160 discussion groups devoted to ADD. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ If you then search on the term "attention deficit", the resulting list of 253 entries includes a column showing the number of list members.
OTHER DISCUSSION GROUPS AND TOPICS: Please note that there are many other commercial and noncommercial sites that host discussion forums on every topic of human discourse. If you have an interest in a different topic, simply use appropriate search terms to discover discussion forums of interest to you. The above references to Yahoo! discussion groups are only an aid. There no doubt are very similar discussion groups hosted by AOL, MSN, and many other "full service" ISP's (Internet Service Providers). Netnews, the original and ongoing Internet discussion forum hosts discussion groups on over 23,000 topics (netnews is also called newsgroups and usenet). If you are familiar with netnews, have a go at it. If you aren't already familiar, stick with Yahoo!, AOL, or MSN.