Candida – Part One

Candida (the chronic yeast syndrome) is a condition that is all too common among people who don’t feel well. I think there is a real need to talk about it because it is so often mis-diagnosed.

As a naturopath, I recognize the seriousness of this condition. Where conventional medicine has often been ineffective in treating Candida, complementary methods offer much hope for relief.

Mary is typical of a Candida patient. She walked into my office a few weeks ago complaining of fatigue, bloating and inability to concentrate. She felt she was getting more and more allergic. She had itchiness in various areas of her body and she just has a real sense of feeling unwell.

When a patient presents to me like this I know that one of the diagnoses can be Candida.

Candida is a form of yeast normally confined to the lower bowels, vagina and skin. In healthy individuals with a strong immune system, it’s harmless and kept in check by the good bacteria in our small and large intestines. But if the balance of the intestinal environment is altered by a compromised immune system or too much sugar or too many antibiotics or too much stress or too many allergens, this yeast will proliferate.

Antibiotics are the single most causative agent of Candida. Antibiotics are life saving cures for so many diseases but they don’t discriminate. They kill the good intestinal bacteria along with the bad, leaving space for Candida to overgrow. When Candida overgrows it puts down minute rootlets, which penetrate the tissue of the intestine. The roots break down the barrier between the bowel and the rest of the body. Toxic debris, yeast, waste products and partially digested proteins can now enter the blood stream. This results in allergic and more toxic reactions.

Healthy bacteria in the intestinal colonies can withstand one or two short episodes of antibiotics without serious harm. But if antibiotics are used frequently or over a prolonged period of time, the spread of Candida is inevitable.

Candida can affect areas of the body far removed from the Candida colonization in the gastro-intestinal tract or vagina. Candida is believed to cause a wide variety of symptoms in every system of the body: the gastro-intestinal, genital-urinary, endocrine, nervous and immune systems.

The symptoms of Candida can include fatigue, bloating, gas, cramping, diarrhea and heartburn, itching, allergies, mood swings, inability to concentrate, a feeling of lightheadedness after minimal alcohol or certain foods and recurrent infections.

Candida is diagnosed through a handful of screening methods including a comprehensive Candida questionnaire, a clinical evaluation by a naturopathic physician or a Candida screening on the Vega machine.

I will discuss treatments in my next column.

Dr. Paulette Roscoe is a naturopathic physician who practices in Nanaimo. She welcomes your calls at 754-1733.