It is not possible to do a series on the digestive system without spending time covering our intestines and the delicate balance of bacteria that populate it. More and more research is showing that an imbalance has a profound effect on our overall physical and mental health. There are many diseases that have their root cause in the gut brain of our body.
It is not my intention to lay the blame for all diseases at the feet of Candida Albicans but it is I belief important to understand how an overgrowth of this pathogen can result in a lifetime of health issues. I will share how this impacted me later in the post.
Over the next few posts I will be repeating the Candida series and I hope that those who have already read two years ago will still find something of interest.
Recently I was asked about the difference between Probiotics and Prebiotics and will explain that now before we get into the issue of this rogue gut inhabitant.
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 functionn 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.
I am 42, 330lbs/150kilo and with severe health problems in 1994
My acquaintance with Candida Albicans was back in the mid 90’s. I was determined to lose my additional 10 or 11 stone and so began studying nutrition and in the process I decided to create a timeline to identify events and activities in my life from childhood that might have triggered weight gain.
At age 10 I suffered a number of bouts of tonsillitis and was given penicillin at least five times before the tonsils were removed. Before these infections I was a normal size child – three months after the operation I was three stone overweight. Something had changed.
It took me a while once I began to study nutrition, but slowly over a period of about five years I began to join the dots and came to the conclusion that this first trigger and subsequent thrush and cystitis infections, crash dieting, sugar and bread cravings were linked in some way. Candida Albicans began to get more publicity and I compared my symptoms with those described and I experienced at least 80% of them.
My first book that I originally wrote as a journal,was published in 2001.Size Matters was the story of my journey of my weight loss from 330lbs to 180lbs, and how this most common human fungal pathogen was largely responsible for my weight and health problems.
Before I cover the scary bit – because it is overwhelming to think that there is this predatory pathogen inside the majority of us (mainly living the western world and our high sugar diet!) There are steps we can all take to ensure that our diet and lifestyle support our immune system by keeping the intestines in balance with plenty of beneficial bacteria to maintain Candida in its proper proportions.
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.
70% of 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 also have 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.
©sallycronin 1998 – 2017
Next time I will be looking at ways to feed the body but starve the fungus…
You will find other posts in the Top to Toe series in this directory.
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