The most prevalent and obvious form of dysbiosis is called Candidiasis, fungal infection. Candida is found in nearly everyone, and in small amounts it is compatible with good health.
How is Candida caused?
Candida is usually controlled by friendly gut flora, our immune defence system and intestinal pH. When the bacteria that normally balance Candida are killed, it causes what’s commonly known as a yeast infection because it produces a smell like yeasty bread. It’s called a yeast infection in the vagina, a fungal infection on the nail beds and the eyes and thrush in the throat. Candida albicans is the usual offender, but other species of Candida fungus may cause health problems as well. Candida, amongst other large intestine bugs, can be tested for with a comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA).
What are the symptoms of Candida?
Candida can also colonise in the digestive tract, causing havoc everywhere in the body. Candida colonies produce powerful toxins that absorb into the bloodstream and affect our immune system, hormone balance and thought processes. The most common symptoms are abdominal bloating, anxiety, constipation or diarrhoea (or both), depression, environmental sensitivities, fatigue, feeling worse on damp or muggy days or in mouldy places, food sensitivities, fuzzy thinking, insomnia, low blood sugar, mood swings, premenstrual syndrome, reoccurring vaginal or bladder infections, ringing in the ears and sensitivities to perfume, cigarettes or fabric odours. Although these symptoms are the most prevalent, Candida has many faces and many types of symptoms can occur. Your GP will recognise Candida in many forms but in general they have been unwilling to recognise it in a systemic form. Of those that do, it’s a common diagnosis. In my own experience, I found Candida to be present in a vast number of patients but one thing to be mindful of is Candida is not necessarily a cause; it is a sign of a disregulated immune system. Therefore, the key to eliminating Candida is to improve innate immunity and gastrointestinal immunity whilst looking at leaky gut.
How are Candida infections caused?
Candida infections are usually triggered by the use of antibiotics, birth control pills, steroid medications and consumption of sugar. These drugs change the balance of the intestinal tract, killing the bacteria that keep Candida in check, and fungus quickly takes hold. Candida are like bullies that push their way into the intestinal lining, destroying cells and brush borders. Greater numbers of Candida produce greater numbers of toxins which further irritate and break down the intestinal lining. This damage allows macromolecules of partially digested food to pass through. The macromolecules are the perfect size for antibodies to respond to. Your immune system then goes on alert for these specific foods so the next time you eat them your antibodies will be waiting. The net result is increased sensitivity to foods and other food substances and the environment. Getting rid of Candida or yeast infections, in our experience, involves an individualised approach as certain foods that will be okay for some people to eat will not be okay for other people. A usual programme will involve healing the gut, improving the individual’s immunity and then getting rid of the bugs that may be in the large intestine, including Candida, and then rebalancing the large intestine further.
When the Candida are killed, the protein fragments and endotoxins released trigger an antibody response. This can initially produce a worsening of the person’s symptoms and is commonly known as a die-off reaction, or a Herxheimer reaction. Therefore, it is important to begin therapeutics generally with small doses and gradually increase. Most people begin to feel dramatically better within two weeks of starting a programme but if they don’t then it’s unlikely you’re dealing with a Candida problem.
How is Candida treated?
Historically, nutritional practitioners had recommended clients a very strict diet of no fruits, no sugars and no carbohydrates with the intention that this would starve the Candida but this approach is pretty outdated and Candida can still live off protein and other foods that the host may consume so the real approach to getting rid of this particular bug is to regulate the immune system, improve digestion and repair the intestinal lining.
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The London Clinic of Nutrition is a multi-disciplined health practice offering personalised nutritional medicine and naturopathy using the functional medicine approach.
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