Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters – The Sequel – Candida Albicans – Sally Cronin


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.
  • Insomnia,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhoea,
  • Bloating,
  • 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 sally.cronin@moyhill.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 sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters – The Sequel – #Obesity – Change and #Stress Reaction by Sally Cronin


When I wrote the original Size Matters at age forty-three I recognised I had lived an unusually nomadic life. I wrote about my childhood and the constant moving around with my father who was in the Royal Navy that continued throughout my first marriage and up to that point in 1996. To be honest little has changed since then.

Over the last twenty years I have worked with hundreds of clients, and one of the key sections in the comprehensive questionnaire that I asked them to complete, was on the changes in their lives that they felt had impacted them significantly, particularly those as a child.

These changes might have involved moving home frequently, family disruption, health and life-changing trauma. And it was interesting to see, that whilst some of these changes might have taken place to anyone of us at some point, when it occurs in childhood, it impacts that essential sense of security that we need at that vulnerable age.  I was surprised how vivid some of these memories were in most of the adults who had weight issues, and there seemed to be a strong connection to one form of eating disorder or the other. Including anorexia as opposed to overeating.

When I first explored this concept with regard to my own obesity, it contradicted one of my personality traits that people often commented on. My positive attitude to life and its ups and downs, and my ability to make fun of myself and things that happened to me. But perhaps that was a coping mechanism, and internally, my body was reacting in a very different way. With a stress reaction.

Before I take a closer look at the  two main forms of stress and the way they impact the body, I am going to share a chronological list of the changes in my life up to the age of fourteen, when I was already having issues with my weight. If you have had weight issues since childhood or your teens then you might find it interesting to do a similar list.

I firmly believe that obesity, especially when it becomes morbid obesity, has its roots in a number of elements apart from overeating. Just reviewing a food diary from a two week snapshot, is not enough information to identify the root cause of an eating disorder such as obesity, and is another reason I am not keen on crash or fad diets. They might temporarily reduce the intake of food but if the underlying reason for weight gain is not identified and addressed, the weight will simply come back again and again.

As I will be looking at physical and emotional changes in our lives that might contribute to an eating disorder, this list below is simply the environmental changes in my life until I was fourteen.

  1. We move to Sri Lanka in 1954 when I am 18 months until three and a half years old with my family.
  2. Back to England in 1956 move from home in country to new house in city and first school at four years old in 1957
  3. Go to Malta 1959 age six to a new school for two years.
  4. Return to the UK in 1961 back to new school for two years.
  5. Go to South Africa 1963 age ten and go to new school, new language, new curriculum – take entrance exams for secondary school in UK.
  6. Return to UK 1965 and start secondary school in Lancashire, a year behind at twelve years old, but put into 2nd year anyway, without first year French, Latin, English Literature, English Language, history or Geography.
  7. At fourteen in 1967 we move to the south of England and I start new school with different curriculum two years before O’Level exams.

That is the bare bones of it, and as I look back, I recognise that whilst there was excitement, a sense of adventure and privilege in traveling so extensively as a child. Each time we moved, it meant leaving all my friends behind, and starting all over again in a new place, environment, culture and sometimes language. Of course my family, particularly my two older sisters until they left home when I was seven year’s old, provided a support system. However, I am aware that by the time we went to South Africa at ten years old, I had already become quite a loner, and whilst I would have classmates, I don’t recall special friends. After all, I knew that I would be leaving them behind in two years. My weight at this time began to be a concern as found comfort in food and buried my nose in books. It led me to consider the fact that I was suffering from chronic stress and my body’s natural reaction was contributing to the weight gain.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competitive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be cave lions or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss, financial worries and traffic jams on the way home. This is particularly the case as a young child, since you are usually unable to leave the family unit, but which might explain the high number of teenage runaways.

There are two types of stress. Acute and Chronic stress and both have very distinctive patterns.

Acute stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes, days or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the human body, after a few hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response, and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example on-going stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland that are the master controllers for the body to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear. If not controlled stress leads to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and ulcers. Mental health is also affected as people struggle to contain what is essentially a heightened sense of fear.

How does this influence weight loss and gain?

I understand after all these years, that my relationship with food has always been dependent on my stress levels. It is learned behaviour. As a child our parents or older family members did not just reward us with sweets and food if we had been good. They would also indulge us if we skinned our knees, banged our heads, were frightened by next door’s dog, and had an earache. How many of us have run off, lost sight of our mother or father, been in panic mode, been found and given a great big hug, lots of attention even if it meant being scolded, everybody so happy to see you. “Come on we will all have an ice-cream. That will make it feel better”. How many times have we seen the toddler, working up a head of steam, stamping feet, getting red in the face being appeased by a cuddle and some food?

Once we become old enough to make our own decisions about food that we eat, especially outside of meal times, we develop our own reward system for a good or bad day. When under chronic stress this can turn into a dependency on food, providing us with a constant factor in our lives whatever else is going on.

What I want to illustrate is that we are not just at the mercy of outside stress, we also are quite capable of working ourselves up into a frenzy and creating a physical response that activates all the same reactions. The expression “worrying myself to death” is firmly established in our modern language.

If you are mentally, physically and emotionally under pressure, being concerned about the food you are putting in your mouth seems to take a back seat. Just give me chocolate!

The hormone response to stress.

When hormones like cortisol, which have normal, daily functions in the body are being secreted all the time, your maintenance systems are affected. Cortisol should be at different levels at certain times of the day – highest in the morning and lowest last thing at night. This makes sense as it helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, raising it early in the morning as you wake up and decreasing it as you go to sleep.

You can imagine how confused the body is going to get, if you are pumping cortisol into the system at increased levels throughout the day in response to your stress. Cortisol is also necessary for metabolism or the fats and carbohydrates that we eat for that fast hit of energy, and also the management of insulin and blood sugar levels.

We have all experienced a sugar high we get after eating too many sweet foods, and then the sudden drop that urges us to consume even more of the nectar…. And that is why diving into the chocolate biscuits or the tub of ice-cream when stressed is so predictable. Particular if this has been your learned response since childhood.

As I mentioned earlier during a stress response the digestive process stops. That may be fine for an hour or two, but if you are stressed the whole time, you are not going to be able to process any healthy foods that you do eat efficiently.

Long term this can lead to nutritional deficiency syndrome that encourages your body to store rather that utilise fat.

Where did my life go after the age of fourteen?

The last fifty-two years have shown little change to my nomadic childhood and early teens. I have moved physically twenty-five times in seven countries, learned two more languages and left far too many friends behind. There have also been some interesting physical and emotional challenges that I will look at in following chapters as they also add to overall stress, and have a bearing on my ability to put on weight and keep it on.

I hope that this has given you something to think about… If you have a weight issue that never seems to be resolved, then I suggest you spend time looking at your childhood and the changes over the first 14 or 15 years, pinpointing key events that might have created a stress response and a dependency on food.

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 sally.cronin@moyhill.com