CANDIDA ALBICANS, CANDIDIASIS and THRUSH
By Natasha Trenev and Roger French
Infection with the fungus, Candida albicans, known as ‘Candidiasis’ or ‘thrush,’ is affecting more and more people as the use of antibiotics and the consumption of refined sugar continue unabated in Australia.
Candida organisms are normally kept in check by the friendly gut bacteria. A discussion about maintaining the health of the gut bacteria appears in this edition.
The following account of Candida albicans infection is based largely on material provided by probiotic scholar, Natasha Trenev. You will find more information on Candida in Natasha’s books, Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers and The Power of Probiotics: Secrets to Great Health.
Moulds (or fungi) are members of the plant kingdom, and yeasts are part of this family of organisms. They do not have roots like other plants, but absorb their nutrients from surrounding organic material after secreting enzymes to digest it. Organic material is matter that is or has been alive.
A variety of fungi have made the human body their home, but, unlike the friendly bacteria, they offer no benefits in return. For example, Aspergillus is associated with infections in the upper respiratory system and tonsils, and Trichophyton is associated with ‘athlete’s foot.’ The best known and possibly the most troublesome is Candida albicans, normally found on the skin and in the lower bowel and vaginal regions. So, living inside of us is a host of uninvited fungal squatters, although if all goes according to nature’s plan, none of them should ever cause harm.
When things do not go according to plan, Candida albicans is capable of causing conditions such as vaginal thrush, oral thrush and cradle cap in infants, as well as more serious complications.
Candida is present in every adult and child on the planet and normally does no harm. It is kept under control because of competition from an alert immune system and from the specific strains of the all-important beneficial probiotic bacteria. These include selected strains from the Bifidobacteria species and those specific strains that are hydrogen peroxide positive (producing H2O2 as a feature), including only Lactobacillus acidophilus NAS and the dairy-based cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 and L. bulgaricus LB-51.
TAME AND AGGRESSIVE FORMS
Candida albicans is a member of the fungi family and can exist in two different forms. In a healthy body, Candida exists as a non-invasive, sugar-fermenting yeast. However, when things go wrong, Candida turns into the typical mould form, a rampantly aggressive mycelial form that puts down root-like structures (rhizomes) and spreads rapidly.
These ‘roots’ can penetrate the lining of the area in which they normally reside, such as the intestine. When this mucous membrane is penetrated by rhizomes, it becomes possible for partially digested food particles, toxic wastes and yeast breakdown products, etc., to pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, resulting in allergies, food sensitivities and a constant drain on the immune system – resulting in chronic fatigue. This condition is known as ‘leaky gut’. If this aggressive mould form blooms in the mucus lining of the mouth or vagina, the resulting symptom is thrush.
WHAT CAUSES CANDIDA TO BECOME AGGRESSIVE?
Candida’s change from a simple yeast to its mould form can be triggered by a variety of events, in particular:
- The use of antibiotics which kill not only the pathogenic bacteria, but the beneficial probiotic bacteria as well, thus removing one of the major controls of Candida.
- Use of steroid hormone drugs, such as cortisone, the contraceptive pill or other drugs which suppress the immune system.
- Persistent infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (glandular fever) or cytomegalovirus which can exhaust the immune system. These infections will, in turn, be the result especially of faulty diet and ‘burning the candle at both ends’ which also impair immune function.
- A high level of sugar in the blood, resulting from excessive sugar consumption or diabetes.
- Deficiency of the B-vitamin, biotin. It has been found that biotin produced by beneficial probiotic bacteria can prevent the conversion of Candida.
- The fatty acid, oleic acid, abundant in olive oil, seems to prevent this conversion.
The importance of maintaining a healthy colony of gut bacteria cannot be over-emphasised because Candida overgrowth cannot develop when these beneficial bacteria are strong.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE A CANDIDA PROBLEM?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward way of knowing if the symptoms that a person is experiencing are caused by Candida overgrowth.
The classic tests, such as culturing a stool sample, do not always produce accurate results, especially if there is a chronic infection. Blood tests for antibodies against Candida may simply indicate that the immune system has defended itself against the yeast, or, if the immune function is weak, there may be no antibodies even though Candida is spreading. A third clinical test method involves looking at a drop of blood under a microscope and viewing it greatly magnified on a screen – called live blood analysis. This can give a good indication of overgrowth, provided the practitioner or technician is able to correctly identify Candida organisms on the screen.
The most practical and reliable method is to look at your history and your symptoms, and if Candida overgrowth is indicated, go on an anti-Candida program as a trial. Here are the key points to look for in history and symptoms.
Regarding your health history, if one or more of the following has been or is true for you, this suggests that Candida is active.
- A course of antibiotics for eight weeks or longer or for a number of shorter periods four or more times in one year.
- Antibiotic treatment for acne for a month or more.
- A course of cortisone, prednisone or ACTH (steroid treatment).
- The use of the contraceptive pill for a year or more.
- Treatment with immunosuppressive drugs.
- More than one pregnancy.
- Chronic multiple infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic) such as exist in anyone with AIDS or pre-AIDS syndrome (AIDS-Related Complex). Rampant Candida is one of the most obvious signs of a thoroughly depressed immune system, for whatever reason.
- A very high sugar content in the diet.
If, in addition to the above, you are also experiencing two or more of the symptoms shown below, then Candida is probably the cause of your current problems.
- Recurrent or persistent cystitis, prostatitis or vaginitis.
- Thrush (oral or vaginal) more than once.
- Athlete’s foot, fungal nail or skin infection.
- Extreme sensitivity to chemical fumes, perfumes, or tobacco smoke.
- You feel worse after eating yeasty or sugary foods or drinks.
- Multiple allergic symptoms.
- Abdominal bloating, distension, diarrhoea or constipation, and/or itching rectum.
- Premenstrual syndrome (fluid retention, irritability, etc.).
- Fatigue, lethargy, poor memory, inability to concentrate.
- Muscular aches for no obvious reason, tingling, numbness, etc.
- Swollen or aching joints for no obvious reason.
- Vaginal discharge, irritation, vaginitis.
- Menstrual cramps or pain.
- Impotence or loss of sexual desire.
- Erratic vision or spots before the eyes.
- Craving for sweet foods or alcohol.
- Frequent upper-respiratory-tract infections, colds, post-nasal drip, etc.
- Chronic acne.
As with all self-help of this kind, a person should be very careful to not jump to conclusions. It is possible that even if the above criteria are met, the cause of the symptoms could still be factors other than Candida, so, if there is any doubt, a lifestyle-minded practitioner should be consulted. Fortunately, an anti-Candida program is one that would benefit the health generally, so, even if the diagnosis was wrong, it is very likely that the result would be beneficial.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT CANDIDA INFECTION?
What Needs to Be Avoided
Yeasts of all kinds love sugar and therefore it is necessary to avoid all sources of refined sugar and even concentrated natural sugars such as honey and dried fruits.
Because of the abnormally high level of Candida in the body and because the bowel wall may now be pervious to yeasts, the body has probably become sensitised to yeasts and is likely to react in an allergic manner. Therefore, any foods or other substances derived from or containing yeasts, moulds or other forms of fungi will need to be avoided. These include chocolate, tea and coffee – which may all contain sugar – vinegar, mushrooms, dried fruit, stale nuts, wine, beer and other forms of alcohol, miso, yeast extract spreads, matured cheese and many other foods. In fact, it is necessary to avoid any food or drink which has involved fermentation, other than live yoghurt made with selected strains of live Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which generally are not found in significant quantities in commercial yoghurt. Avoid all yoghurts except those that are plain and unsweetened.
Avoidance of these should continue for several months until Candida is well under control and a certain amount of desensitisation has taken place.
In Summary, Avoid the Following
- All refined sugar, whether white, brown or black, and all foods containing it such as confectionery, jams, jellies, glacé fruits, pickles, sauces, preserved fruits, etc.
- Honey and dried fruits.
- All alcohol of any kind.
- Anything made from refined (white) flour. These can be replaced beneficially with wholemeal products.
- Any foods or drinks containing artificial flavourings or preservatives.
- Frozen vegetables if they contain added sugar.
- Breakfast cereals containing refined sugars or made from refined grains.
- Avoid fruit juice (unless diluted with water 50:50) during the first 3 to 4 weeks and, if symptoms are severe, also avoid fresh fruit. This restriction may be relaxed after the first month with the gradual introduction of fruits, although grapes, oranges and melons should continue to be avoided. There is controversy about the avoidance of fruit. One practitioner, who has been very successful in treating candidiasis, has found that the eating of fruit makes no difference to recovery whatsoever, as long as the above three are avoided. In rare cases, sufferers may be sensitive to other fruits, especially bananas and green apples.
- Avoid all yeast-derived or fermented foods (except live yoghurt) including bread (can have unleavened or sourdough bread), mushrooms, soya sauce, tea, stale nuts and seeds, cider, beer, wine, ginger ale, cheese (other than cottage cheese), all malted sauces, MSG, anything containing bread crumbs, anything containing added citric acid (usually yeast-derived), and for the same reason, most canned or frozen citrus drinks, and mayonnaise.
- Vitamin or mineral supplements unless guaranteed to be yeast-free or to come from a yeast-free source.
- Antibiotics – except in a life emergency or when otherwise absolutely unavoidable.
- Meats and poultry which might contain antibiotics or have been cured.
- Stimulants such as tea, coffee, cola drinks and cigarettes.
Have the Following:
Foods: After the formidable list above, is there anything left to eat? Yes, plenty. You can hoe into fresh vegetables and, unless indicated otherwise, fresh fruits. Also suitable, provided they are fresh, are nuts, nut butters, legumes, seeds, whole grains including pastas (and for those whose diets are not vegetarian, fresh fish, other seafood and free-range red and white meats). Fresh herbs and wholesome seasonings will be acceptable. Some commercial jams are made without sugar, and apple juice concentrate can be used as a sweetener in many recipes.
Rotation Diet: Anyone with continuing symptoms of food sensitivity or allergy would benefit by rotating problem foods or problem food families, such as all grains or dairy products. If problem foods do not appear in the diet more than once every four days or so, the reaction to them is lessened or disappears altogether. This in itself reduces the constant drain on the immune system which repetitive allergy or food sensitivity produces.
Supplements of Friendly Bacteria: The use of antibiotics, which so often precedes Candida overgrowth, means that many of the friendly, beneficial probiotic bacteria will probably have been killed. The mere fact that the Candida population has exploded indicates that the bacterial colony is weak, and therefore, it is of fundamental importance to strengthen this colony through probiotic bacterial supplements, appropriate diet, and the other factors listed in the earlier article ‘Beyond Acidophilus.’ ?????????????????
It appears that certain strains of L. acidophilus produce substances such as H2O2, which retard the growth of Candida. Additionally, when species such as Bifidobacterium bifidum are added, they not only add to the swamping of Candida, but also enhance detoxification via the liver.
Anti-fungal Substances: The following will help destroy the fungi:
- Extra virgin olive oil (for its oleic acid).
- Biotin as a supplement.
- Caprylic acid, a derivative of coconuts, used as a fungus killer in preference to the commonly used drug, Nystatin. It has been found by Washington University School of Medicine that when Nystatin is discontinued, Candida often increases to higher levels than were originally present, whereas caprylic acid has no such rebound effect. We never try to get rid of the yeast completely, merely get it under control.
- Oregano oil.
- Olive leaf extract.
Amino Acids: It is of great importance to have adequate protein, without having too much. Because people with Candida often have weak digestive systems, they may not be obtaining enough protein, even though there is adequate in the diet. This is where a natural therapist might recommend supplements of the essential amino acids, between 5 grams and 15 grams daily in total, taken with water half an hour before meals or half an hour afterwards. A practitioner’s guidance is essential, as this kind of need should not be guessed by the lay person.
Digestive Enzyme Supplements: If digestion is poor, supplements of enzymes to aid digestion, at least initially, can be a great help. Again, a practitioner’s advice should be sought. Taking one-half teaspoon to three teaspoons of Bulgaricum dairy powder mixed in filtered water before meals will help.
ABOUT TAKING SUPPLEMENTS
There are a lot of supplements that can be taken to fight Candida, depending on the approach taken by the practitioner supervising the program.
The importance of avoiding yeast-based supplements cannot be over-emphasised. Buy only brands that guarantee that the contents are not extracted from or derived from fermentation of yeast.
It will be very helpful to plan when to take each supplement and to write it down. Some are taken on waking, some between meals, some with meals, some after meals, and others at bedtime, and so on. Without a plan that becomes automatic, mistakes may render some of the supplements almost useless.
Summary List of Possible Supplements
- The products should be dairy-based to ensure H2O2 activity.
- High-potency friendly gut bacteria with guaranteed potency at a ‘use-by’ date and to be kept refrigerated at all times. L. acidophilus DDS-1 dairy powder and B. bifidum Malyoth dairy powder – one teaspoon to three teaspoons of each in filtered water, taken two or three times daily away from meals. Also L. bulgaricus LB-51 dairy powder – one-quarter to one-half teaspoon in filtered water taken with or after meals. Also, fresh, unpasteurised yoghurt will be beneficial. In addition to or in lieu of the powders, you may consume a special probiotic product that contains all three super strains in one capsule formulated with an oil matrix carrier, which effectively keeps the bacteria separate and non-competitive. The highest quality products offer 5 billion L. acidophilus (NAS super strain), 20 billion B. bifidum (Malyoth super strain), and 5 billion L. bulgaricus (LB-51 super strain) per capsule. The recommended dose is one to three capsules per day.
- Biotin – 500 microgram doses taken with meals.
- High-potency garlic capsules, unless a great deal of raw garlic is being consumed. Take 3 to 6 capsules daily with meals.
- A dessertspoon of olive oil daily on salad.
- Caprylic acid – take three time-release capsules with each meal. This powerful anti-fungal agent is not absorbed but passes through the intestines.
- Aloe vera juice, an anti-fungal agent. Take several teaspoons in water daily.
It is suggested that the supplements be taken for not less than six months by anyone with a persistent Candida problem.
DIRECT ACIDOPHILUS APPLICATION FOR VAGINITIS AND RECTAL ITCH
If Candida overgrowth is producing vaginitis or itchiness of the rectum, it can be very helpful to apply selected strain acidophilus culture, that is H2O2 positive, directly to the area. Only the dairy-based DDS-1 found in Natradophilus has independent validation that it is H2O2 positive. This increases the local acidity as well as killing some of the invaders, and may bring dramatic relief from itching or burning pain.
Either digitally or using a special applicator that can be purchased, apply a prepared mixture of, say, one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of high-potency, H2O2-positive selected strains of acidophilus dairy powder in enough plain yoghurt to fill the applicator. For vaginal use, lie on the back with the knees bent and insert the yoghurt into the vagina. For rectal use, it is probably most convenient to lie on the left side with the upper knee drawn up to the chest and insert the yoghurt into the rectum using the applicator.
Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers by Natasha Trenev
The Power of Probiotics: Secrets to Great Health by Natasha Trenev
Natasha Trenev is the Founder and President of Natren, Inc, a renowned author, probiotic scholar, developmental scientist, educator, lecturer and health advocate. As the author of several books, host of TV and radio shows, guest lecturer at leading universities, researcher and scientist, she has surpassed her 750-year family tradition of culturing probiotics. She is now leading the scientific community in the acquisition of knowledge about probiotics and their applications for improved human health, and is devoted to passing on that knowledge to the general public.