Yeasts are tiny micro-organisms which are naturally present on the surface of all living things. The most common type of yeast is called candida albicans, it thrives in dark and moist cavities and can be found in the mouth, digestive, genito-urinary tracts and the skin. In a healthy person friendly bacteria control the number of yeasts in the gut by eliminating some of them. When the immune system is depleted or if there is not enough healthy intestinal flora or if something feeds yeasts, candida grows out of control and threatens the health of individuals, this condition is known as candidiasis or frequently candida.
Dr Orian Truss a doctor in Alabama, was one of the first to highlight the existence of candida in the seventies. Since then little research has been undertaken and candida is not always accepted as a condition by general practitioners. When candida proliferates in the intestines it can change its yeast-like form to a fungal form: thanks to its roots it can attach itself to the gut walls and if it is not stopped it can cause tiny holes in the gut lining. The holes allow partly digested proteins and toxins as well as candida itself to leak into the blood stream and spread all over the body. This condition, also called systemic candidiasis, can have far reaching consequences on the immune system. The most severe form of candida is called candida septicaemia, it is characterised by blood poisoning and an infection of all organs, this type of candida only occurs in patients who have life threatening disorders.
Women tend to be more prone to candida, this is probably due to the fact that the anatomy of a woman suits candida. It also affects babies as they can get infected through breast milk, and children (see the link between ADD/ADHD, autism and candida at the end of the fact sheet). The incidence of candida still remains unclear, it is not a condition which is easily accepted and diagnosed by doctors because there is a lack of research, candida is however regarded as a major disorder by holistic practitioners believe that several factors favour the overpopulation of candida.
Factors which trigger candida
Individuals who have been on repetitive courses of antibiotics or have taken them for a long period are more prone to suffer from candida. It is believed that antibiotics kill the good bacteria and promote the colonisation of candida. William Crook, an allergist in Alabama who followed Truss's work, explains that individuals who take antibiotics may find themselves trapped in a vicious circle, they are prescribed antibiotics to boost their immune system, however these antibiotics create an outgrowth of yeasts which in turn weaken the immune system and more antibiotics will be prescribed. William Crook believes that antibiotics are often found in the food we eat, especially in meat and dairy products as it is common practice to give antibiotics to animals. The other drugs which may cause candida are: corticosteroidal medication, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or imunosuppressants, the pill and medication for hormone replacement therapy. Most doctors disagree with this theory.
The main culprit appears to be sugar: individuals who have a diet rich in sugar are more likely to have candida, especially those who eat a lot of sweets, processed food (ready made meals, sauces, tinned food) or carbohydrates. Stimulants such as tea, coffee or alcohol are the second group of food that feeds yeast, large quantities of these drinks can stress and exhaust the adrenals and cause stored sugar to spurt out into the bloodstream. Generally food allergies can cause a leaky gut which prepares the ground for candida.
3- Hormonal changes
One of the reasons why women are more affected by candida than men is because of their hormones, it is believed that candida has oestrogen and progesterone receptors, progesterone is produced in abundance during the menstrual cycle, its levels are also high during pregnancy, therefore pregnant women
Stress can deplete the immune system, in response to stress the normal secretions of the digestive system become more acidic and the natural bowel movement less frequent which will endanger the good bacteria.
Environmental toxicity may also be responsible for candida, exposure to toxic metals such as lead or mercury or continuous intake of chlorinated water can contribute to the growth of yeast. It is believed that yeast reacts to the mercury in amalgam fillings creating methyl mercury in the gut, the presence of this toxic substance makes it more difficult to eradicate candida. Laboratories can test mercury and other heavy metals with a simple sweat test.
Symptoms of candida
The most common symptom is thrush; a whitish discharge often described as "cottage cheese". There are two kinds of thrush: vaginal thrush, which affects women who have candida, and oral thrush, which is characterised by a discharge in the mouth and affects children with a depleted immune system as well as AIDS and cancer patients who receive chemotherapy.
Because candida can affect various parts of the body it is associated with several symptoms:
|- Fatigue, lethargy
|- Sleep problems
|- Dark rings under eyes
|- Poor concentration
|- Memory loss
||- Muscle pain, Chronic back pain, neck
|- Foggy head
||- Food cravings
||- Cannot lose weight
|- Mood swings
||- Bad breath
|- Headaches, migraines
||- Numbness in the extremities
|- Clogged sinuses
||- Fungal infection on the nails
|- Breathing problems
||- Kidney stones
|- Symptoms similar to hay fever
|- Sore throat
||- Skin rashes
||- Recurrent herpes infections
|- Constipation or diarrhoea
|- Infant colic
|- Abdominal pain
Please note if you suffer from one or more of these symptoms you may not have candida. A proper diagnostic should be established by professionals.
Other related disorders linked to low immune system: Infertility, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, colitis, athlete's foot, lack of libido, scleroderma, myasthenia gravism, endocarditis (when candida affects the lining of the heart) and epilepsy.
Generally candida sufferers are sensitive to mould, cigarette smoke, perfumes or pesticides. Symptoms worsen in muggy or damp conditions and after consumption of yeast.
William Crook's questionnaire William Crook devised a questionnaire which has been used as a reference by many practitioners and authors of books on candida. The questionnaire consists of a score sheet where the patient is asked to answer a series of questions, the first category refers to the medical history of the patient, the second part assesses the severity of the symptoms experienced, the total score gives an appreciation of whether the patient is at low or high risk of having candida.
9 Weymouth Street
Tel: 020 7636 5959
The Gut fermentation profile costs £40. You will need a referral from your doctor.
The Institute of Individual Wellbeing
1 Cadogan Gardens
Tel: 020 7730 7010
"The test used is based on the measurement of two types of antibody namely IgG and IgM class antibodies. A positive IgM antibody level is indicative of a recent acute phase infection. Where there is a positive level of IgG antibodies present, the infection is usually more long term" The cost is £50.
Genesis Diagnostics Ltd
Eden Research Park
Henry Crabb Road
Tel: 01353 862220
Genesis Diagnostics can send an Elisa screening kit to patients who visit the Immunology@Home website.
Health Interlink Ltd.
Unit B, Asfordby Business Park
Tel: 01664 810011
Health Interlink offers several candida tests, their prices vary from £40 to £125. The laboratory also represents the Great Smokies and Great Plains laboratories.
The Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory
63 Zillicoa Street
Tel: (001) 800 522 4762
The Great Plains Laboratory
11813 West 77th
Tel: (001) 913 341 8949
Organic acid test: $250. This comprehensive test analyses yeast activity in the gastro intestinal tract, neurotransmitters and amino acids. If you live in the UK contact health Interlink for further details.
AAL Reference Laboratories, Inc.
1715 E. Wilshire #715
Santa Ana, CA
Tel: (001) 714 972 9979
The Kinesiology Federation
PO Box 17153
Tel: 0870 011 3545
Applied Kinesiology is a diagnostic system that uses muscles to indicate imbalance in the body's system and its sensitivity to food and toxic substances in the environment. It is a non-invasive way of diagnosing candida.
The treatment for candida can be long and demanding, holistic practitioners believe that taking anti yeast medication is not enough to get rid of the problem and that a selective diet, as well as supplements to restore the friendly bacteria, should also be prescribed. They recommend rotating the anti yeast treatments so that candida does not get used to the medication.
1- Diet to starve off the yeasts
It is essential to cut out sugar by excluding all sweets, processed foods, fruits, and fruit juices, carbohydrates and any other food that has sugar. All foods containing mould, yeast, fungi and starches should also be avoided. Exclude bread, mushrooms, potatoes, aged cheese, melons, black olives, peanuts, alcohol, dried fruits, soy sauce, vinegar and condiments. The candida diet should mainly consist of fresh vegetables especially leafy greens as they are a good source of vitamin K which is deficient in individuals with candida. Food allergies should also be dealt with as they cause strain on the immune system and create more candida. The main allergens are gluten and casein, for more information see our fact sheet on gluten and casein allergies. In order to stop new intolerances developing it is important to rotate the diet, i.e. only have the same thing every four days, this way it is possible to find out which foods upset the digestive system. After most of these foods have been excluded it is possible to reintroduce them in small quantities, however if there is any reaction after eating it is best to carry on excluding the culprits.
2- Conventional and natural anti yeast drugs
Anti-yeast drugs, local creams, suppositories and mouthwashes are widely available at chemists. Nystatin is the most used drug to treat candida, it is an anti-fungal drug which has been used for several decades. It is believed to be safer than other antibiotics as it stays in the digestive system and does not get into the bloodstream although some holistic practitioners suggest that this medication can have some side effects when taken in high doses and cause toxicity in the long run or another form of candida called candida tropicalis. They believe that certain natural remedies have the same action with no side effects and they recommend taking Nystatin only for a short period. Diflucan and Sporanox, are two other drugs also frequently used.
a) Probiotics Probiotics encourage the growth of good bacteria.
The most important friendly bacteria are lactobacillus acidophilus and bifido bacterium. These probiotics can be found in milk products, some special yoghurts also contain lactobacillus bulgaricus which helps with constipation. Nutritionists usually advise their patients to take non-dairy probiotics as dairy products may cause allergies. It is important to buy good quality products, probiotics must be sold in vacuum-sealed containers, as they do not survive in the air, and kept in the fridge.
There are claims that probiotics are not efficient as they get destroyed as soon as they enter the digestive tract, to boost the action of probiotics a course of prebiotics may also be prescribed. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients (fructooligosaccharides and inulin) that pass directly into the colon where they stimulate the activities of the probiotics.
b) Antifungal supplements to kill the yeast
- Caprylic acid (a fatty acid that occurs naturally in coconut oil)
- Olive oil (contains oleic acid which stops candida's transformation from yeast to fungus)
- Garlic (a powerful antimicrobial, it is also a good immune enhancer)
- Biotin (a B vitamin which has the same properties as olive oil)
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Pau d'arco
- Berberine found in goldenseal (hydrastis canadensis) and barberry
(berberis vulgaris), it relieves diarrhoea.
- Maitake (boosts the immune system)
- Tea tree (in the form of suppositories can help relieve vaginal thrush)
- Aloe Vera (it also heals the gut lining)
- Borage seed oil
c) Supplements to boost the immune system
- Co-enzyme 10 (also heals the gut)
- Colloidal silver
- Folic acid
- Milk thistle (can regenerate liver cells)
- Vitamin B, C, D, E
d) Vitamins to heal the gut
- Aloe vera
- Butyric acid
- Essential fatty acids: (e.g. flax seed oil)
- Glutamine (an amino acid nutrient for the cells of the intestine )
- N- acetyl glucosamine (important for the membranes of the intestine)
- Vitamin A (beta-carotene), C
The yeast die off or Herxheimer reaction
When starting an anti candida treatment it is quite common to feel worse in the first few weeks, it is a normal reaction created by the candida die off. When candida cells are attacked they break up and massively release their toxins, the immune system mobilises against the dead cells causing headaches, fatigue, bloating, and aches. To counteract this effect it is advised to start taking low doses of antifungal products and increase the quantity slowly. Taking probiotics supplements to boost the immune system before starting the treatment will also reduce the intensity of die-off. If the die off process doesn't stop after a few weeks a new anti fungal treatment should be introduced.
Exercise is highly recommended, yoga, homeopathy (a special homeopathic remedy is available), osteopathy and aromatherapy are also beneficial.
International Health Foundation, Inc. (headed by Dr. William Crook)
P.O. Box 3494
Tel: (001) 901 660 7090
National Candida Society
P.O. Box 151
The Society has an extensive database, organised on a regional basis, of practitioners who have varying backgrounds from nutritionists to medically qualified doctors. The helpline operates Thursdays and Fridays 10-4 and Sat 1-5.
The Wren Clinic
All Hallows House
Tel: 020 7283 8908
All Hallows was created by Jane McWhirter who wrote "The practical guide to candida"
Candida Wellness Center
4365 North Bedford Drive
This is a commercial organisation.
General Council and Register of Naturopaths
2 Goswell Road
Somerset BA16 0JG
Tel: 01458 840072
The British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy
3 Sumpter Close
120-122 Finchley Road
London NW3 5HR
Tel: 020 7435 7830
These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We have not necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.
- Chaitow Leon. Could yeast be your problem? ISBN: 089281795X
- Chaitow Leon. The antibiotics crisis. ISBN 0-7225-3556-2
- Chaitow Leon. Diets to help Candida. Thorsons. 1996 ISBN 0-7225-3423 X
- Jacobs Gill. Beat Candida. 1996 ISBN: 0091813867
- Lewith George. Candida and Thrush, BioMed Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-87983-375-0
- McWhirter Jane The practical guide to candida. Available from Genesis Network, 10 Eweford by Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1RF, e-mail: email@example.com
- Schmidt Michael. Beyond Antibiotics : Boost Your Immunity and Avoid Antibiotics ISBN: 1556431805
- Simon Martin. The natural way: Candida. 1999. Element Books Ltd (around £3). Very complete and simple book.
- Truss Orian. The missing diagnosis. 1985. ISBN: 0961575808
- http://YEAST-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU Free newsletters.
- http://members.tripod.co.uk/CarolMason/candida/candida.htm Personal site.
- http://candida-yeast.com/information.htm William Crook's site
Yeast allergy in autism and ADD/ADHD
Some of the typical symptoms shown by children with ADD/ADHD or autism are: confusion, hyperactivity, lethargy, fatigue, irritability, depression, stomach-aches, headaches, frequent diarrhoea or constipation, bloating, nausea, cramps, sleep problems, dark rings under eyes, poor concentration, depression, catarrh, ENT, food cravings and hypoglaecemia. A child who displays these symptoms is not necessarily autistic or hyperactive, a proper diagnosis needs to be established by a professional practitioner.
The link with autism, ADD/ADHD
Two factors seem to promote the growth of candida in autistic and hyperactive children:
Many children have ear-nose-throat problems and especially otitis or glue ear. These children usually necessitate repetitive courses of antibiotics, however there is evidence that in the long term antibiotics destroy the gut flora and promote the colonisation of candida. William Shaw, the director of the Great Plains Laboratory, explains in his book "biological treatments for autism and PDD" that the use of antibiotics has enormously increased since the 1950's, he believes that this overuse of antibiotics is responsible for the increased incidence of ADHD and autism.
The diet of children today has dramatically changed in comparison to the 1960s or 1970s. Many children's pack lunch consists of sweets, soft drinks and crisps which contain hardly any nutrients and are full of additives. Sugar is found in most products, even in savoury products. According to the Hyperactive Children's Society Group in Chichester, poor nutrition is the main cause of ADHD. A survey published in January 2000 by the Food Standards Agency showed that British children's diet was dominated by "junk food", although it concluded that this type of diet may cause illnesses later, the survey did not mention the correlation between sugar and candida.
The Great Plains laboratory
William Shaw analysed and compared the urine sample of several autistic children, he discovered abnormally high levels of fungal metabolites (yeast waste products); tartaric acid was one of these compounds, it is highly toxic, 12 g can cause death to humans and at a lower dose it can damage the muscles and the kidneys; high quantities of arabinose (a substance found in sugar) were also found,. William Shaw believes there is a direct effect of candida toxins on the brain.
The Organic Acid Test
William Shaw analysed the urine samples of many children and found the same yeast abnormalities for children with autism, ADD/ADHD and other neurological disorders. Chemical compounds are extracted from urine samples using organic solvents such as ether or ethyl acetate. Urine is preferred to blood as the concentration of a compound is much higher in urine. The organic acid test allows a quantification of these compounds. Samples are loaded on a module called a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, the data is then transferred to a computer where it is analysed.
It is essential to look at food allergies and especially gluten and casein allergies. A supplementation of vitamins and minerals should be given to autistic and hyperactive children. Bernard Rimland, director of the Autism Research Institute, in America, has suggested that vitamin B6 is extremely beneficial to autistic children, William Shaw believes that this is due to the fact that Vitamin B6 may reduce the effects of the yeast reaction. Zinc, magnesium and dimethylglycine are also reported to be deficient in these children. If antibiotics are prescribed it is important to take probiotics and prebiotics at the same time. Finally the anti-candida treatment can last from six weeks to six months.
- Hagerman R., Falkenstein A. An association between recurrent otitis media in infancy and later hyperactivity. Clin Pediat 1987. 26: 253-257
- Konstantareas M., Homatidis S.. Ear infections in autistic and normal children. J Autism and Dev Dis 1987. 17: 585
- Kennedy M., Volz P. Dissemination of yeasts after gastrointestinal inoculation in antibiotic treated mice. Sabouradia 1983 21: 27-33
- Ostfeld E et al. Effect of systemic antibiotics on the microbial flora of the external ear canal in hospitalised children. Pediat 1977 60: 364-66
- Roberts J., Burchinal M., Campbell F. Otitis media in early childhood and patterns of intellectual development and later academic performance. J Ped School 1994. 19: 347-367
- Schmidt Michae. Rapp Doris. Healing Childhood Ear Infections : Prevention, Home Care, and Alternative Treatment. ISBN: 155643216X
- Shaw W.Biological treatments for autism and PDD. ISBN 0-9661238-0-8
- Shaw W., Kassen E., Chaves E. increased excretion of analogs of Krebs cycle metabolites in two brothers with autistic features. Clin Chem 1995.41: 1094-1104
- http://neuro-mancer.mgh.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/search.cgi Excellent webforum run by the Harvard Medical School.
- http://www.healing-arts.org/dbasics/wwwboard/board/ Excellent site on autism. It covers diagnosis, treatment.
- http://www.isn.net/~jypsy/autilink.htm Excellent site on autism: full of links.
- http://www.icdl.com/forparentsbyparents/biomed/biomedcontent.htm Good links