Millions of people around the world suffer from fungal infections. And thanks to our modern lifestyle and longer life expectancy, this type of infection is becomingly increasingly prevalent. One of the most common fungal infections is Candida, which is caused by a yeast known as Candida albicans. Whilst Candida yeast is naturally present in all our bodies, it can grow out of control, for example when our immune system is weakened or our body is out of balance. Left unchecked, Candida may lead to a number of unpleasant side effects that can have serious health implications further down the line.
Many doctors refuse to even acknowledge that the Candida infection exists and therefore don’t recognise the symptoms. This means that we can often have the condition for several years before it’s actually detected. Determining whether you suffer from Candida is an important step in creating a healthy intestinal balance and thus eliminating the condition for good.
What is Candida and what happens to your body when you have it?
Our digestive system, urinary tract and reproductive organs contain a variety of different yeasts that normally live in harmony with our ‘friendly’ bacteria. However, the natural flora in these organs can sometimes be thrown out of balance, usually when our immune system is weakened through illness, when we are taking antibiotics or when following an unhealthy diet. If this happens our friendly bacteria is rapidly overtaken by ‘bad bacteria’ and the Candida albicans yeast is able to grow totally unrestrained.
The most common places for Candida to manifest in the body are:
In the reproductive organs
Women are far more likely than men to suffer from Candida and some 60 per cent of all UK Candida cases affect women. This is because the most common type of Candida infections are vaginal. Indeed, most women will suffer from a vaginal Candida infection at some point in their life (Edwards, 2004), and for around 75 per cent of them this will be during their childbearing years (Mitchell, 2004). The condition usually occurs when the acidity in the vagina changes, providing a breeding ground for the naturally present Candida yeast and allowing it to develop into a full blown fungal infection.
On the skin
Candida infection of the skin usually occurs between the fingers and toes, around or under the fingernails, on the inside of the thighs, around the anus (Candida albicans is often present in the stool) and on the penis. Fungal infections of the skin are frequently found in places where the skin rubs together or where the skin is most moist, such as in the skin folds under the breasts or of the genital organs (Bennett, 2004).
Around or in the mouth and throat
Oral Candida, also known as ‘thrush’, can be identified from yellow-white spots found on the lips and tongue, inside the cheeks or on the palate. This form of Candida is usually painless, except for when it occurs on the corners of the mouth (a condition called Perlèche). Thrush is most prevalent in premature babies and those with a weakened immune system, such as HIV patients (Bennett, 2004).
In the intestines
An imbalance in your intestinal flora can allow Candida to settle into the intestinal wall and cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. The toxic by-products that the yeast produces subsequently enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, manifesting in a number of unwelcome ailments including psoriasis, depression and bladder inflammation. A leaky gut can also affect the balance of our thyroid hormones, triggering the production of cortisol and increasing the risk of autoimmune diseases. According to Dr William Crook, author of “The Yeast Connection”, this can also lead to significant weight gain in both sexes. In addition, intestinal Candida is thought to be responsible for Colitis (inflammation of the colon) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
In the body
Candidiasis is a systemic Candida infection, or an infection caused by Candida in the body, and is a serious condition that must be treated immediately. It is characterised by fever and a range of other distressing symptoms such as a rash, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and in the most severe cases, multiple organ failure. This potentially fatal disease can seriously damage vital organs such as the kidneys, spleen, liver, lungs, eyes, brains and heart when left untreated. Fortunately Candidiasis is extremely rare and normally only affects those with aggressive skin or mucous membrane lesions, a history of prolonged corticosteroid use, a weakened immune system, or those who have undergone organ or stem cell transplants or suffer from life-threatening diseases that require hospitalisation.
The cancer connection
It’s dangerous to view Candida as simply an annoying and unpleasant inconvenience. Leading cancer experts such as Dr. Tullio Simoncini, oncologist and author of “Cancer is Fungus”, believe that fungi are at the root of cancer development and that cancer itself is actually a fungus. According to Dr. Simoncini, the body develops tumours in an effort to protect itself from these fungi and studies have revealed that between 79 and 97 per cent of cancer patients also suffer from Candida. Based on this information, it’s tempting to conclude that cancer might be treated with antifungal medication. Unfortunately it’s not that straightforward – fungi can adapt and transform within just 3 to 4 days and no medication is able to keep up with this.
The symptoms of Candida
There are a multitude of symptoms associated with Candida. The most common are:
• A vaginal yeast infection – a thick, white discharge, often accompanied by itching, irritation and a burning sensation, and which may also result in painful sex, painful urination and redness around the vagina and inner thighs.
• Thrush – white-yellow spots in and around the mouth, which can spread to the oesophagus, making swallowing difficult and painful
• Sugar cravings
• Food allergies
• Heartburn, belching, abdominal pain, flatulence and / or bloating
• Chronic fatigue, particularly after eating
• Low body temperature
• Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
• Fibromyalgia (pain in the muscles and connective tissue)
• Skin rash (especially in skin folds)
• Memory loss
• Anxiety attacks or confusion
• Reduced libido
• Adrenal fatigue
• Nappy rash (in infants)
The causes of Candida
An overgrowth of Candida fungus occurs when the ratio of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in your body is out of balance. This can be due to several factors:
• Excessive amounts of sugar (glucose) and carbohydrates in your diet, which feed the yeast and allow them to multiply.
• The use of medications, such as antibiotics (which don’t only kill bad bacteria, but also “friendly” bacteria), contraceptive pills and corticosteroids (both of which are known to promote the growth of fungi).
• A weakened immune system and / or an imbalance in the body’s acidity levels (pH), caused by chronic stress, disease and exposure to toxic substances (e.g. heavy metals and pesticides).
• A hormonal change or imbalance resulting in a change in acidity levels (pH), for example during pregnancy, the perimenopause, before and after menstruation, or triggered by the use of contraceptive pills.
What should you do if you suspect that you have Candida?
If your doctor diagnoses Candida then you’ll probably be prescribed antifungal medication such as anti-fungal creams, antifungal shampoos and / or antifungal mouthwash. Unfortunately these only tackle the symptoms of Candida and not the underlying causes described above. In order to prevent and banish Candida for good, you’ll need to promote a healthy intestinal balance and strong immune system. This can be achieved through a range of practical measures such as cutting out sugar and carbs from your diet and harnessing a selection of powerful superfoods and probiotics to stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria and boost your immunity. In next week’s article you’ll learn exactly how to treat and eliminate Candida forever, using three simple, yet highly effective techniques.
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