Candida, America's Silent Plague
White-paper report from "Dr. Bob" Bob Owen, Ph.D., D.Sc., C.R.,
Candida: The Paradox
Candida is the medical paradox of our times. Some health practitioners believe it infects as many as 89% of US citizens, but many physicians appear reluctant to acknowledge it. Candida albicans is a most frequently colonizing, most virulent and most pathogenic species (Wingard). Yet non-albicans species have also proven to be destructive pathogens in oncology patients.
Candida can be described as a disease that's like a vampire; it can manifest itself in many forms, and like a vampire, it seems impossible to track down. Anyone can be a victim. It seems to draw strength from the strong, leaving them drained. It has almost a mythic presence. But it simply follows the classic pattern of a disease...
Candida has variously been defined as a plague or an epidemic. It is sometimes called stomatitis or thrush when it appears in the mouth; onycholysis, when it appears in or around the fingernails or toenails; vulvovaginitis, moniliasis or genital candidiasis, when it appears in the reproductive organs of females, and jock itch in men. These and other manifestations are symptoms of the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a fungus or mold (the terms are used interchangeably) that's common in the human intestinal tract. However, these conditions are most frequently referred to as "the yeast syndrome," "yeast infection," or simply Candida.
Candida - as it is referred to by most people and professionals - actually should be called "Pathogenic Albicans," which is a form of fungus, a single cell fungi which belongs to the vegetable family. It seems to spread rapidly in the body when your resistance has been lowered due to sickness, injury or surgery.
This yeast normally lives on the mucus membranes of the intestines/digestive tract and the vagina, as do billions of friendly germs. Unfriendly bacteria, viruses, allergens and other enemies find their way into other membrane-lined passageways and cavities. But, when the immune system is strong, they aren't able to break through the blood stream or deeper tissues and cause problems.
Many health professionals suggest that it is possible to prevent and/or recover from Candida overgrowth - along with other irritating and/or painful degenerative conditions - simply by removing the following items from their diets:
- White flour and white flour products
- Cigarettes and alcohol
- Chlorinated water (purified water is safer)
- Industrial Meats and Fowl (that are usually loaded with antibiotic, hormone and pesticide residues)
- Packaged foods (most are usually loaded with chemicalized salt, hydrogenated oils and bleached sugar)
- Antibiotics (except when absolutely necessary)
- Birth control pills * (a major offender)
- Mercury dental fillings (insist on non-mercury fillings, such as ceramic or plastic)
- Processed, enzyme-deficient food
- Sugar and sugary products
- Sweet soft drinks ("pop") (Please refer to Candida/Fungus Self-Test)
* Birth control pills are composed of progesterone-like hormones that, in addition to their intended use, alter the vaginal mucosal allowing Candida albicans to overgrow. Yeast prefers dark, moist or humid places, whether it's in or on your body or in your basement. Increased progesterone is also released during pregnancy, which accounts for the frequent vaginal infections many women now experience at that time.
Candida and Children
Nobody, especially children, is exempt from Candida overgrowth. Many or most children with ear or other infections are given antibiotics, that set them up for a leaky gut, which allows allergens from milk, wheat and other foods to be absorbed. (Candida Yeast, William G. Crook, M.D.)
The explosive use of Ritalin or Prozac among all children is a growing matter of deep concern, as are their diets, which lack many essential nutrients. How can children be healthy when the bulk of their food consists of fabricated foods containing sugar, food coloring and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats? Such diets are also deficient in magnesium, zinc and other nutrients, that people need if their bodies and brains are to function properly. Pollutants in the air, food, soil and water also play a part, along with the burgeoning use of pesticides. All these scenarios create fertile environments for the proliferation of Candida overgrowth, and along with that, a lifetime of impairment in every area of their lives.
Candida and Constipation
Constipation, with few exceptions, is a constant companion of Candida overgrowth. In fact, the two are like Siamese twins, and you would rarely find one without the other. Most health professionals will agree that constipation is a very troublesome condition, causing hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, impaction, toxemia and prolapsus. Although chronic poor bowel elimination is at the root of most diseases, constipation is not natural or normal and there are many contributing factors. As you examine the list below, a common pattern begins to emerge:
- Poor diet: excessive refined and cooked foods lacking in fiber and essential fatty acids
- Insufficient purified water
- Dryness of the colon producing dry, hard stools
- Poor lymphatic drainage due to acidity
- Out of balance pH
- Congested liver and decreased bile production
- Lack of exercise
- Habitually ignoring the urge to evacuate bowels
- "Up-tight" because of excessive stress
- Negative attitudes and emotions
Constipation is more than merely an inconvenience and nuisance; it can result in lifelong subnormal health, lack of energy and worse. The good news, though, is this: Attention to your diet and lifestyle can reverse constipation, with all of its attendant woes. Laxatives are not the answer. They lead to dependence. The answer is to be achieved in correcting the causes. And when you do succeed, the benefits will be well worth the efforts.
Candida and Digestion
A diet that includes fiber and mycelium yeast forms will produce large amounts of fiber to promote the growth of good bacteria in the colon, which produces large quantities of vitamins and lactic acid. Lactic acid production is essential if constipation is to be prevented. Chronic constipation and chronic fatigue are usually associated with Candida overgrowth. So, by healing your body of constipation, you will go a long way in healing your body of Candida. Lactic-acid producing products, Lactic Acid Yeast and others can be very helpful to correct this problem. If the colon is to properly complete the digestive-eliminative process, it must have "friendly" intestinal flora that exists symbiotically (mutually beneficial) with the "bad" or unfriendly bacteria. As with so many physiological functions in your body: it is balance and homeostasis that counts.
Candida albicans is not a bad bacterium. Our bodies need it, and it ordinarily lives quietly in a symbiotic relationship with other bacteria. It's only when the pH of the colon becomes unbalanced (alkaline) and is overwhelmed by an overgrowth of Candida that problems begin. An alkaline colon is to be avoided or corrected. Dr. Bernard Jensen taught for many years that "death begins in the colon," a truth that has been verified repeatedly. If you do not maintain a toxin free colon, your body will begin to degenerate and age prematurely.
Adequate fiber in the colon is vital for the growth of good intestinal flora. A habitual diet of low fiber foods -highly processed and cooked- with few, if any, fresh vegetables and fruit, makes it impossible to develop the favorable intestinal flora needed to produce daily requirements of B-complex vitamins, vitamin K (a fat soluble vitamin) and lactic acid.
When these vitamins are deficient or in short supply, your health will begin to degenerate and you may experience conditions such as: Candida overgrowth, bladder infections, fatigue, cheilosis (cracks /fissures in the corners of the mouth), thyroid dysfunction, bad breath, hemorrhoids, constipation, burning and ulcerated tongue, bruising, nose bleeds, damaged intestinal walls (leaky gut syndrome), acne, vaginal infections, menstrual difficulties, prostatitis and/or a number of others.
If your digestive system is to do its job, you must do yours. First, of course, is the necessity of drinking a glass of water 20-30 minutes before eating, which enables your stomach to produce adequate amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsin. Deficiency of stomach hydrochloric acid makes it impossible to break down and digest protein, calcium, iron, and other important nutrients.
The main clue for the need of supplemental HCl is intestinal gas, which indicates a possible overgrowth of Candida, because gas-forming bacteria exist only in an alkaline gastrointestinal tract. Remember: your digestive system is not a simple "tube" from mouth to anus. It is a total ecological system. To compromise any part of it is to compromise the whole.
Remember: a healthy gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) depends upon an alkaline mouth and saliva; highly acidic stomach; an alkaline small intestine and slightly acidic colon. This is essential. If your body departs from these norms, fatigue, loss of energy, and a host of other harbingers of declining health and premature aging make themselves known.
As mentioned above, Candida overgrowth is one -possibly the first- early warning sign of possible organ malfunction. The use of lactic acid products such as sauerkraut and kim-chi along with other necessary lifestyle and/or diet changes, will turn you in the right direction. No single product or lifestyle change will produce good health. Good health requires consistent attention to your total lifestyle.
Candida and Roadblocks to Digestion
A mistake being made by millions of people is to consider acid reflux or "heart burn" an indicator of "too much stomach acid," causing them to seek something to neutralize stomach acids. This lack of understanding, writes Dr. Jonathan Wright in his book, Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You, "has given rise to the seven-billion-dollar-a-year antacid industry in the United States." Overuse of antacids over a long period of time can result in achlorhydria: virtually no stomach acid. This will prevent or greatly decrease your ability to digest and assimilate protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium and other minerals.
The most common adverse effects of achlorhydria include diarrhea, skin reactions, headache, which can sometimes be severe. And, since anything that hinders complete digestion interferes with the pH balance, making the colon alkaline instead of slightly acid, a significant lack of stomach acid may also result in proliferation of Candida and other yeast fungus organisms. Another troublesome condition for the past-fifty individuals is leg cramps, a direct result of the inability to digest and assimilate minerals.
Antacids are acid-blocking drugs designed and used to treat ulcers and conditions commonly considered as being caused by "excess stomach acid." These acid-suppressing drugs - H2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors - both effectively interfere with the stomach's acid-producing mechanism. A few of these drugs include: Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, Axid, Prilosec, Prevacid, AcipHex, etc.
Those who have read one of my earlier books, The Magic of Minerals, have been introduced to their body's sodium-potassium pump that's responsible for producing your body's hydroelectric power. In this book you have been made familiar with stomach acids, including hydrochloric acid, but few people have heard the term proton pump. This refers to the mechanism inside certain highly specialized cells and glands found only in your stomach lining that produces and secretes hydrochloric acid (HCl).
You should be aware of proton pumps because they directly affect your digestion. Of the two varieties of stomach acid suppressors, proton pump inhibitors are the most potent. It takes only one of these pills to reduce your stomach acid secretion by 90 to 95% for the better part of a day.
Before considering an antacid, I urge you to look up the possible adverse side effects of these and other drugs, because many of them can be quite serious. As mentioned elsewhere, one of the best resources for you to do this is Worst Pills, Best Pills, copies of which are in most libraries and can be purchased at most large bookstores.
Candida and Lactic Acid Producers
Lactic Acid and lactic acid producing products, also called probiotics - such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), etc. - help replenish healthy bacteria in your digestive systems. The term probiotics is derived from two Greek words meaning pro-life. Since an "invasion" of Candida begins in your intestinal tract, if your eliminative system is malfunctioning your whole immune system is compromised.
Lactic acid is formed by the fermentation of lactose when milk sours. The bacterial breakdown of milk sugar results in the acidity of soured milk and yogurt. Small amounts of lactic acid are constantly being formed and neutralized by various cells of the human body, especially those in muscle tissue. During strenuous exercise lactic acid accumulates faster than the body can neutralize it and is responsible for muscle fatigue. Lactic acid can also be produced from sucrose and other carbohydrates by the action of microorganisms such as Lactobacillus acidophilus.
There are many kinds of yeast; for example, the one the baker uses that changes carbohydrate to carbon dioxide to make bread rise, or the one the brewer uses that changes carbohydrates to alcohol. There is also mycelium-type yeast that changes carbohydrate to lactic acid. Lactic acid bacteria (LAPs, "lactic acid producers," is a term borrowed from Majid Ali, M.D.) or their fermented products induce changes in the intestinal microflora. By stimulating phagocytic activity and increasing the number of natural killer cells in the blood, LAPs stimulate phagocytic activity and increase the number of natural killer cells in the blood. (The Lactic Acid Bacteria in Health and Disease, Vol. I, from the chapter titled "Probiotics - A General View," Havenaar & Jos. H.J. Huis in't Veld, Department of Biotechnology, Netherlands.)
Our lives quite literally depend upon the untiring efforts of normal bowel bacteria to do constant battle against the invasion of toxic-acid producers. Your bowel ecosystem is the key to your health. It teams with life and is as rich in biologic diversity as any other ecosystem on Planet Earth. The benefits of lactic acid producers are numerous, including:
- They eliminate or hold in abeyance the "bad guys" of the bowel ecosystem, i.e., the pathogens that overgrow, disrupt the bowel ecology and eventually invade the tissues, causing serious infections and breakdowns.
- LAPs are able to break down most dairy products into simpler sugars by the enzymes they produce. Thus, LAP health guardians make it possible for many individuals to overcome lactose intolerance.
- They also improve the poor protein digestion that's common among those with compromised bowel ecology.
- They produce many life-giving molecules, such as members of vitamin B complex (folic acid and biotin) and vitamin K.
- They support "good" intestinal flora and enable your body to assimilate proteins and minerals, especially calcium.
- They increase the HDL/LDL ratio.
- By normalizing bowel transit time and helping lower tissue and blood levels of free phenols, ammonia and polypeptides, they play a direct role in detoxification.
- By helping acidify and detoxify our colon.
Candida and Leaky Gut Syndrome
You should be aware that if the intestinal tract is not healthy, then the rest of your body couldn't be, because this area is where and how your food and nutrients are absorbed. Your small intestine is responsible for two major functions: 1. It completes the chemical breakdown of food that began in your stomach and, 2. It provides a place from which the products of your digestion can pass into the bloodstream.
This last action is accomplished by millions of absorptive villus that line the entire 22-foot length of the small intestine. Nutrients being moved through the small intestine by peristalsis are absorbed into the bloodstream by osmotic pressure. If Candida is allowed to overgrow, its invasive roots inflame your intestinal lining and poke holes through the semi-permeable membrane. This causes the so-called "leaky gut" that allows unusually large food, bacteria, toxins and other "foreign" substances to enter your bloodstream.
Your body reacts instantly." Even if these extra large food particles are good food, they are larger than your body can normally handle. Since your defense system does what it was meant to do with these extra-large molecules, it attacks and attempts to destroy them. Additionally, it develops an antibody (see Glossary) that will recognize that substance any future time it appears in your bloodstream. This is how your body develops "allergic reactions" or allergies symptoms such as:
- Fatigue and depression
- Chronic skin infections, i.e., rashes, acne, etc.
- Indigestion and/or abdominal bloating
- Intestinal gas
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Chemical sensitivities
- Premenstrual tension
- Brain fog, inability to concentrate, memory loss
- Frequent mood changes
- Rheumatoid arthritis, and more
When a "leaky" condition has developed, the stage is set for other "invasions." These large spaces will now allow the absorption of toxins that normally would have been unable to penetrate the protective barrier of the gut. These toxins may further overload your liver so that chemicals can't be detoxified. Now you have both food and chemical sensitivities, and your liver is unable to cope with both assaults, as well as keep your normal levels of Candida in check.
Candida and Lymphatics
Your Lymphatic System is a vast, complex network of capillaries, thin vessels, valves, ducts, nodes and organs that help to protect and maintain the internal fluid environment of the entire body by producing, filtering and conveying lymph and producing various blood cells" (Mosby's Medical, Nursing & Allied Health Dictionary). The importance of this system is of primary concern to your health.
Lymph needs nutrition to remove waste matter from your cells, and is then filtered through lymph nodes back to the bloodstream by which it is eliminated. You may recognize these tiny "garbage pails" as the occasional painful lumps in your armpits and groin. There is no other route through which excess proteins and large particulate matter - that seeps from the blood capillaries into these spaces around the cells - can return to the circulatory system.
This protein/particulate matter - including overlarge fat molecules from a leaky gut - called "trapped proteins" "must be removed from the spaces between cells, or we would die within 24 hours" [emphasis added] (Textbook on Medical Physiology, Ninth Edition, Guyton & Hall). Much of the protein and other debris Dr. Guyton refers to consists of Candida, alive and dead, picked up from the GI tract, that has become trapped, causing fluid retention in the spaces around the cells. So-called "trapped" proteins that are unable to find their way back into the bloodstream produce inflammation, pain and disease.
Your Lymphatic System has no pump, such as the heart that pumps and circulates your blood, it depends upon exercise to keep it moving, especially walking and weight bearing exercise. This is so because it's the expansion and contraction of muscles that pumps and moves the lymphatic fluid throughout the body.
For example, routine exertion pushes lymph through its network at the rate of only about 4.25 ounces per hour. However, vigorous exercise boosts this amount to as much as 61 ounces, or approximately two quarts of fluid. Too little exercise will result in lymphatic stagnation, edema of lower limbs and inadequate removal of waste matter from around the cells. It is this congestion that allows infection to flourish. (The Seven Golden Plus One, C. Samuel West, N.D.)
It's a vicious cycle: Because of Candida over-growth you developed a leaky gut condition, which allows foreign invaders into your bloodstream. This results in the formation of antibodies to oppose the invaders creating even more overgrowth! Round and round it goes - until such debris is trapped by your lymphatic system and eliminated from your body.
Candida and Your Pancreas
Many of the degenerative diseases common today are linked to an underactive or suppressed pancreas that's responsible for producing the widest variety of digestive enzymes in your body. These powerful enzymes play a very large role in helping you control the overgrowth of Candida. Your pancreas changes the partially digested, highly acidic contents from the stomach to alkaline by the bicarbonate solution that it produces.
Your pancreas produces and secretes digestive enzymes that help digest various kinds of food. When it's in good condition your pancreas works tirelessly to help keep you healthy. However, a weakened or worn out pancreas can lead to several problems, beginning with "untamed acids," from a lack of bicarbonate production, leading to ulcers; incomplete breakdown of proteins, which can lead to leaky gut syndrome, allergic responses, breathing difficulties, fever and hives or even worse, not the least of which could be Candida growing out of control.
One of the best ways to care for your pancreas is for you to drink a full glass of water one-half hour before each meal. This simple act accomplishes a number of important functions. First, it supplies your stomach with sufficient water with which to produce stomach acid to start the digestion of your food. Second, it supplies your pancreas with sufficient water to produce pancreatic enzymes.
Finally, this water brings your blood to the correct viscosity (consistency) necessary to flow through your system. Without this extra water half an hour prior to taking food - especially if it is made up of fat or protein - your blood might be too thick to flow easily through your circulatory system, which is a problem you certainly want to avoid.
To reemphasize: It is poor food choices over a long period of time, such as an overabundance of highly processed and overcooked food (with few or no food enzymes), that forces your overworked pancreas to deplete its own store of enzymes. Many years of such a diet makes tissue and body breakdown inevitable. We are seldom immediately aware of the fruits of our poor food and eating habits. Only years later do we see the resultant damage of such habits.
Candida and Sugar
Why all the concern about sugar? The majority of health professionals, medical doctors and researchers are in agreement that the single most important factor in Candida overgrowth is overuse of sugar. The abuse of this substance is closely followed by the exploding overuse/misuse of antibiotics and other immune suppressing substances.
How widely used is sugar? Various estimates range from 120 pounds to 150+ pounds annually for every person in the United States. This is roughly 100 times the amount that was used by our grandparents and great-grandparents 100 years ago. Our bodies were never intended to get sugar in the amount and in the refined form as we do. Originally all our sugar came from the eating of fruits and vegetables, plus a small amount of honey. How greatly this has changed!
"The United States has consumed one-fifth of the world's production of sugar every year but one since the Civil War... Through war and peace, depression and prosperity, drought and flood, sugar consumption in America has risen steadily. It is doubtful there ever has been a more drastic challenge to the human body in the entire history of man." (Dufty, op cit.)
Candida Out of Control
As stated earlier, when an overgrowth of Candida albicans occurs in your intestinal tract, it damages your gut lining by poking holes in it, allowing large protein molecules to pass directly into your bloodstream. The result is creating increased intestinal permeability, also known as "leaky gut syndrome." That's just the beginning. Candida overgrowth causes cravings. Cravings for breads, sugars, starches, yeast containing foods of all kinds. This becomes a vicious cycle. The sugary, starchy foods feed the Candida, which creates even more demand for the very foods that started the whole thing in the first place.
Candidiasis (yeast overgrowth) is quite widespread (estimates range from 80% to 95% of the population), yet is generally overlooked by the mainstream medical establishment. This may be at least partially the case because the multiplicity and wide variety of its symptoms (see partial listing below) closely mimic those of many other conditions.
- Chronic fatigue, especially after eating
- GI problems: intestinal cramps, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn
- Severe PMS
- Rectal itching
- Recurrent vaginal or urinary infections
- Memory loss, severe mood swings, feelings of being mentally disturbed
- Food and/or airborne allergies
- Lightheadness after minimal amounts of wine, beer or certain foods.
These and other such symptoms may worsen in moldy places, basements, damp climates, exposure to environmental toxins such as insecticides, farm or orchard herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, and/or after eating or drinking sugary or yeasty foods.
(Alternative Medicine, The Definitive Guide, The Burton Goldberg Group.) Alternative physicians recognize the seriousness of candidiasis, and where conventional medicine has often been ineffective in treating it, various alternative methods offer much hope for success.
- antibody - a specific antigen that recognizes a hitherto unknown substance (nutrient, bacteria, etc.) as (anti) foreign or "against" one's body.
- achlorhydria - the production of little or no stomach acids, a potentially very dangerous condition.
- antigen - a substance, usually a protein that causes the formation of an antibody and reacts specifically with that antibody.
- Gastrointestinal tract - the organs of digestion, from the mouth to the anus.
- GI tract - see gastrointestinal.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - a chronic bowel disorder, often given other indefinite medical labels, manifested by many different symptoms, such as pain, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
- OTC - "over the counter," refers to drugs that may no longer require a prescription, making it possible to purchase them "over the counter."
- peristalsis - wave-like action of muscles encircling the small intestine that move contents along.
- pH - is the relationship between acid and alkaline and is scientifically measured on a scale of 1 - 14. The scale is known as pH. From 1 - 7 is acid, with 1 being more acid than 7. From 7 - 14 on the scale is the alkaline range, 7 being less alkaline than 14. On the pH scale 7 is neutral, meaning optimum. Thus, pH of the interior of the cell denotes its natural, slightly alkaline state. This state promotes health because it is the state that best suits the enzymes that function inside the cells.
- proton pump - the mechanism that produces and secretes HCL (hydrochloric acid).
- villi, villus (plural) - fingerlike projections lining the entire length of small intestine, through which nutrient-containing chyme from the stomach is absorbed through the semi-permeable membrane of the villus into bloodstream.