In last week’s post I explored the physical events in my life from childhood that might have resulted in the inability to sustain a healthy weight. Whilst I could pinpoint an hormonal imbalance from puberty, and a cycle of crash dieting as contributors to my eventual morbid obesity. It was the more important discovery of a series of extended courses of anti-biotics at age 10, that was to result in a breakthrough.
It is not just my health that was compromised, many millions of the population, particular in developed countries also have been put at risk, with an estimated 70% of us with a candidal albicans overgrowth, seriously undermining our health.
Just to recap….
What is Candida Albicans
Candida is a fungal infection of the intestine. There is a delicate balance of bacteria in our gut and it works very much like a waste-disposal unit. However, certain conditions can activate changes in the balance between healthy flora and this opportunistic fungus, and this can result in Candida taking control of the intestine. Candida is a yeast that thrives on sugar. Among the many symptoms of this condition is an irrational craving for sweet foods including high sugar savoury foods such as pasta sauces.
The list of symptoms attributable to Candida seemed endless, but when I completed the questionnaire, my score was so high that there was no doubt at all that I was indeed suffering from an overgrowth in its most chronic form. While it was an enormous relief to have identified what had been causing my problems, it was devastating to realise that Candida had been a part of my life since childhood and was likely to be one of the main reasons for my weight problems. It was not just a childhood event that had triggered Candida, but its fire had been fuelled several times since.
You will not be surprised to learn that one of the prime causes for this condition is the over use of antibiotics, and also some other medications prescribed for conditions such as asthma. Once I realised this, I put together a chart showing the periods in my life when I had experienced weight gain. Bingo! In every instance the weight gain followed heavy doses of antibiotics prescribed for a variety of reasons. In one way this discovery was reassuring.
Overweight people often look for a physical problem to blame for their condition, such as their glands, so it was a revelation to learn that there might indeed be a physical reason for my excessive weight gain.
Before I look at Candida in more detail… I am often asked the difference between probiotics and prebiotics. This difference is important as diet is the key element of keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut, and our modern diet, that includes far more industrialised foods, does not provide the elements needed to maintain this balance.
Probiotics are the bacteria and yeasts that are classified as ‘friendly’. They inhabit our digestive tract and are a vital part of the process of digesting food and turning it into something that the rest of the body into a form it can utilise. Without a healthy balance of these probiotics, systems such as the immune function, can be compromised, as well as the health of other operating systems and the major organs. If you eat live dairy products, including Kefir, or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, it will encourage the essential bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to flourish.
Prebiotics are processed from insoluble carbohydrates in most fruit and vegetables including Apples (skin on) bananas, beans, artichokes etc (which is why we need to eat several portions of vegetables and fruit daily) This survives the stomach acid and digestive process that some foods such as yogurts might not do, and reaches the gut where it acts like a fertiliser for the existing probiotics and maintains a healthy balance.
As far as Candida Albicans is concerned this balance in the intestinal flora is crucial and I will explain that as we mover through the upcoming posts.
We are all familiar with the concerns about the rain forests and their devastation and long lasting consequences for our planet. Well our gut is an eco-system too – teeming with life that is as varied and as exotic as in any rain forest. And, like the many species that are at risk in the wider world, our bacteria that populate our gut and keep us alive, are under threat too.
All humans contain Candida Albicans in small amounts in our gut and urinary tract. In those amounts it is harmless – however – advances in medical treatment, and our modern diet, have given this opportunistic pathogen all it needs to develop from harmless colonies to massive overgrowths. It is also referred to as Monilia, Thrush, Candidiasis and Yeast Infection.
The most at risk are those with an already compromised immune system, but because of our high sugar, white carbohydrate and processed foods in our diets, most of us are now at risk.
We have also been treated with broad spectrum antibiotics for the last 65 years, as well as newer drugs that we take long term, that manipulate our hormonal balances. We as yet do not know the long term impact on our bodies of the modern drugs we take, and it may be generations before we do. Which is why there is now great concern that the pathogens are becoming more and more resistant to drugs such as antibiotics.
The eco-system which is our gut.
Our intestinal tract, like our hearts, brains, livers, kidneys etc is a major organ. Some refer to it as the ‘gut brain’ – How many times do you mention your gut feelings? Without it there would be no way to process the raw ingredients we eat to keep our immune system healthy enough to protect us from pathogens. The good bacteria or flora in the gut, two of which are, Bifidobacteria bifidum and Lactobaccillus acidophilus normally keep the Candida in balance.
In most cases antibiotics are broad spectrum, not specific, because, without a lab test it is difficult to tell the specific strain of bacteria responsible for an infection. The use of broad spectrum drugs usually guarantees that the bacteria in question will be killed off.
- Unfortunately, not only the bad bacteria are killed off but also the good bacteria in your gut.
- Candida remains unaffected because it is not bacteria it is a yeast and this is where it takes full advantage.
What happens to Candida to allow it to take over?
If Candida yeast is allowed to grow unchecked, it changes from its normal yeast fungal form to a mycelial fungal form that produces rhizoids. These long, root-like components are capable of piercing the walls of the digestive tract and breaking down the protective barriers between the intestines and the blood. This breakthrough allows many allergens to enter the blood stream causing allergic reactions. Mucus is also formed around major organs and in the lining of the stomach. This prevents your digestive system from functioning efficiently. The result is poorly digested food and wasted nutrients. Your body begins to suffer a deficiency of these nutrients and it leads to chronic fatigue, an impaired immune system and disease.
There would appear to be a strong link between this overgrowth of Candida Albicans to a huge list of symptoms and illness. Here is a snapshot.
- People who are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME usually test positive for Candida although there are also other issues involved in this complex condition.
- Numbness, burning or tingling in fingers or hands.
- Abdominal pain,
- Chronic constipation or diarrhoea,
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Thrush and Cystitis,
- Sexual dysfunction and loss of sexual drive.
- Endometriosis or infertility
- PMS and heavy and painful periods.
- Depression and panic attacks
- Irritablity when hungry.
- Unexplained muscle or joint pains often diagnosed with arthritis.
- Headaches and mood swings.
- Chronic rashes or hives
- Food intolerance.
- Liver function due to build up of toxins leading to chronic fatigue, discomfort and depression.
The list is virtually endless – which just adds to the confusion at the time of diagnosis.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then you may have a varying degree of overgrowth.
If you would like to complete the Candida questionnaire yourself then please email me on email@example.com.
In the upcoming posts this week I will be featuring some of the health problems associated with an overgrowth of Candida Albicans and the strategies to reduce levels to normal, and rebalance the flora in your gut.
You can find the previous posts in this series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/size-matters-the-sequel/
©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019
A little bit about me nutritionally.
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/
If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments.. or if you prefer send in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org