Intestinal yeast infection isn’t really an infection at all, at least not in the conventional sense that a pathogenic organism has entered the body externally. It is simply a descriptive term for an overgrowth of the yeasts or fungi which are natural residents in our digestive system. When we are healthy and these communities of microflora are working in harmony, they actually provide essential services to the body.
Yet sometimes, and many would believe far too often if the growing incidence of related illnesses are to be considered, these normally beneficial residents of our intestinal tract, grow disproportionately and, as a result, the digestive functions these colonies perform, fail to happen effectively. If we can imagine that within our gut resides a synchronized army of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and enzymes, all working in harmony with acids and alkali not only to break down the foods which we eat and enable distribution of the nutrients throughout the body, but also to rid the body of harmful toxins, then we can get a much clearer idea of what this leaves us susceptible to when it all goes wrong.
A more common term used when the colonies within the gut lose harmony, whether they are bacteria or yeasts, is dysbiosis. This can apply when any of the residents or strains become dominant within the microflora community and start to cause health issues. Because the work of the microflora is essentially disrupted the symptoms which may arise are multiple. These problems can range from digestive issues, to immune responses or even cognitive impairment. In fact, when it comes to dysbiosis, the resultant effects of an imbalance of microflora prove just how important this particular function is to our very survival.
What are the causes of intestinal yeast infection?
Unfortunately in today’s society the possible causes of this illness are considered to be multiple. Many of these we are aware of, but it is just as likely that there are many more which have not yet been established. In general terms we understand that environmental toxins and pollutants are putting the gut flora under increasing pressure to detoxify our bodies, but just how much pressure is impossible to establish.
There have though been numerous studies relating to more specific products, and to date we realize that the following have the capacity to shift the balance of gut microflora and those of yeasts in particular:
Yeasts, and specifically Candida, are negatively affected by the use of antibiotics. Although some antibiotics are strain specific many more are broad spectrum and negatively affect the microflora community on the whole. Establishing whether antibiotics are essential to treat your condition or whether there are alternatives available, is obviously, essential. However there are other, more indirect ways we can take antibiotics over which we have no such control. For example, commercially produced animal products which are likely to contain antibiotics as many species of livestock are fed the drugs as a preventative measure against illnesses. This also, of course, applies to milk and dairy products where animals are reared commercially and the only reasonable solution is to purchase organic products where possible.
Yeasts, and Candida in particular, love sugar and this again comes in many forms ranging from refined sugars through to natural foods which are substantially comprised of sugars and which will break down in the body to feed Candida.
Unfortunately NSAIDs include some of the most common drugs in usage today either via prescription or over-the-counter. Few homes are without Aspirin and Ibuprofen in their medicine cabinet and they are taken for a broad range of conditions ranging from providing relief from ailments such as period pains to regular consumption for chronic conditions. These drugs are now so easily accessed it is hard to imagine how we would manage without them, yet the implications are, that in themselves such drugs may well be contributing to underlying conditions.
Oral contraceptives which usually comprise estrogen are also known to adversely affect yeast growth. The reasons for this may be two-fold. Firstly bacteria are needed to metabolize estrogen and, if they are lacking, an excess may be maintained. Secondly, estrogen is thought to promote the growth of intestinal yeasts and therefore contribute to an excess of Candida.
Quite recently a research study indicated that copper iuds were acting as reservoirs for Candida biofilms. If you have persistent recurring Candida and use an iud, it may well be worth discussing this particular method of contraception with your physician. More information here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18402852.
The full effects of adding chemicals to water supplies are not yet fully understood. However it is considered that both chlorine and fluoride have negative effects on gut bacteria. Health issues arising from such cleansers being ingested are now being more thoroughly investigated and, in the UK, it has been shown that the amount of fluoride added to water directly correlates with incidences of hypothyroid.
Acids and alkali work in conjunction with the microflora within your stomach and intestines to break down food products. Contrary to popular belief, which usually refers to an alkaline pH of ‘the body,’ the pH of the digestive tract changes within each section. By taking antacids on a regular basis you can shift the pH to one which is not conducive to degrading foods effectively and which can subsequently affect not only the beneficial activities that bacteria and yeasts perform but which can also shift the environment in which they live and subsequently the way in which they grow.
Alcohol is now widely accepted as negatively affecting gut microflora. This discovery has mainly arisen due to the many studies which have taken place analyzing both the causes and effects of alcoholism, yet the indications may point to the fact that regular consumption of alcohol on a social level may well be a contributory factor to overgrowth. I have written a comprehensive article on alcohol and yeast connection which you can read on my blog.
Although today we generally consider stress to be that of the emotional variety and related to the pressures of the modern environment, there are in fact other kinds of stress which negatively affect microflora. For example the body can suffer stress of the physical kind from several different sources. These include physical stress related to self induced over-exertion and physical stress due to injury or even surgery. Stress in general is accepted as affecting the internal environment of the gut making it more alkaline in nature which affects not only the ability to digest food but also the way in which the microflora develop and grow. Whatever the stress, the old adage should be remembered - everything in moderation - don’t put your body through hell without also giving it time to recover.
For the last decade it has been shown that fungal infections, particularly those of the Candida strain, are caused by the insertion of medical devises such as joint replacements, heart valves, catheters and dental implants. This correlation is thought to be due to the devises acting as substrates for biofilm formation. For those of you who have not heard of biofilms before today, you may like to read the section on Diflucan treatment below which includes a brief description of biofilms and the part they play in causation and resistance to treatments. This also includes copper iuds which, considering their common usage, I have made individual reference to in a section above.
The effects that Candida has are considered to be one of the main contributory factors to leaky gut syndrome. This occurs because Candida exudes a toxin known as aldehyde which negatively affects the lining of the intestine. The toxin, which is kept under control normally, can reduce the size of the epithelial cells and effectively breaks down the seal resulting in leaky gut syndrome. Recently it has been claimed that some cooking oils, including vegetable, also emit aldehyde and result in the same effect.
What are the signs and symptoms of intestinal yeast infection?
When it comes to yeast overgrowth and dysbiosis in general, it is particularly difficult to establish what are causes and what are effects, I have written a comprehensive page on yeast infection symptoms that you can read here and you can also take the yeast infection quiz here to find how bad is your yeast infection case. For example the issue of malabsorption obviously results in the body not getting the nutrients it needs and a lack of these nutrients will result in certain symptoms. Yet for many people the obvious issue is simply having the ability to effectively establish what is causing these problems, which can be extremely diverse:
Of course, one of the primary signs of intestinal yeast infection is digestive dysfunction. However it would be wrong to say such symptoms always exist or, at least, are the major factors. For many people they may suffer the problem, if indeed it can be defined as a problem, as a consistently rumbling stomach. Although this may seem a very minor issue and at worst an embarrassing occurrence, it does signify in itself that something is amiss with your digestion.
Bowel movements are another, obvious, digestive symptom. In fact it is possibly this issue which will, eventually, send most patients to the doctor. Yet again though, in many other patients this will not be seen to be a problem which is of anything more than an inconvenience. It may even be viewed by a lot of patients as something quite normal for them to relieve themselves every two or three days or, alternatively to empty their bowels two or three times a day. Usually it is only when the problem becomes more frequent or prolonged that many people even think of visiting a physician at all. In other cases, they may have predominately few bowel movements occasionally interspersed with diarrhea or vice-versa which eventually sends them off to the nearest surgery.
Heartburn and indigestion are other indicators of a possible yeast overgrowth. If you have recurring indigestion and antacids only temporarily remedy it, then consider that the problem may be caused by low rather than high stomach acid. This problem is now receiving more attention than it has in the past and it thought to be a common cause of dysbiosis.
Although most people associate our emotions as being derived from brain function, our gut is intricately involved with how we feel. Many, if not most people, with intestinal yeast overgrowth will notice that their mood has shifted from what is considered to be their own personal norm. This mood, unfortunately, usually is one which can be described as ‘lower’ in nature. For many people because the changes are initially so subtle they may not even notice it. Others may consider they are getting a little less fun or even more grumpy. However one thing is for certain, if you are normally of a more buoyant and confident nature and you are noticing that your personality seems somewhat muted and don’t have practical issues that would cause it, then before you start reaching for the antidepressants it’s worth having your digestive function checked out.
There is a growing school of practitioners who are investigating nutritional psychology and basically following through on research which started over two hundred years ago when it was noted that when we are suffering from negative moods, such as anger or fear, then the acidity of our stomach becomes more alkaline making it difficult to digest foods. This raises the question once again of cause and effect but there is now little doubt that stresses and digestive disorders are closely linked.
Many of the physical issues that patients report are not as a result of the infection itself but as a direct result of the malabsorption of nutrients. Although today we tend to consider things such as vitamins to be supplementary to our diet, they perform essential actions relative to keeping our body functioning not only at optimum level but at an level at all. A quick glance back in history refreshes the memory as to what happens when say, we are short of vitamin C and problems then occur with the skin. This ultimate results in poor wound healing and can conclude in death from bleeding. Magnesium is essential for muscles to ensure they can tense and relax. Without enough magnesium often are muscles become in a permanent, and painful, state of tension. Vitamin B12, although often referred to as resulting in anemia if a deficiency occurs, contributes far more than making sure our blood carries enough oxygen. In fact the blood problems which arise are only one possible symptom. It is now known that a major function of B12 is to keep our nervous system intact. Without B12 your nerves, anywhere in the body, start to die. This results in numbness, tingling, muscle spasms, optic atrophy and many other problems which often remain inadequately treated.
The common misconception is that if you eat a reasonable diet, then it is highly unlikely you will suffer any vitamin deficiencies. Yet rising incidences are occurring where people have good diets but poor absorption. Thus, this results in deficiencies. It my also appear a strange thing to say but people who eat foods which are highly processed may well be less likely to have vitamin deficiencies. This is because many processed foods, even though they lack nutritional value, are packed full of supplementary vitamins. If you eat well and blood tests reveal vitamin and trace deficiencies such as folate, iron, calcium or B12, these are indicators that something else may well be amiss.
The number of people suffering from food intolerances is consistently rising and the interconnections between yeast overgrowth and such problems are slowly being resolved by research. Because the condition results in leaky gut and food is being passed into the blood stream which shouldn’t be there, the body sets up immune reactions and starts to ‘reject’ a particular food. If you have either immune conditions or intolerances, looking into intestinal overgrowth may well assist resolving the issue.
Diagnosis and Tests Available for Intestinal Yeast Infection
Standard tests which are available include blood, urine, breath and stool. These are non-invasive and can usually be performed through a clinician or naturopathic doctor. In some cases, such as the breath test, kits are now commonly available for home usage. The accuracy of these tests is however still open to debate. My preference is for the stool test which is comprehensive and is taken over three days. This can show numerous things and can even differentiate between commensal or pathogenic bacteria. It will also show if Candida in its various strains, is apparent. In some people when the infection is bad, Candida albicans can appear in all three samples. On top of that it will also help with identifying some antibodies, which many of the blood tests are limited to.
How To Treat Intestinal Yeast Infection if you have it?
Although antibiotics are usually the first arm of attack when it comes to treating yeast infections they are rarely successful in permanently eliminating the problem. My approach is to treat not only the overgrowth itself, but also possible causation. Additionally we need to look at repairing the damage caused and strengthening the immune system to better prepare our defenses.
Although some diets can aggravate intestinal yeast infection, the right diet can go a long way in assisting the elimination of it. This is particularly relevant at the start of your treatment, although, as time progresses, more foodstuffs can be added back in. Obviously, since yeasts feed on sugars then these are best avoided and include refined sugar products such as cane sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, glucose and even refined honey. This is because many honey brands on the supermarket shelves are produced by feeding bees - refined sugar!
Other problem foods are refined carbohydrates such as white flour and rice are also, at least initially, off the menu.
Processed meats and dairy products too, should also be avoided.
What you can eat are more fresh vegetables, organic meats, fruits, but please avoid the dried variety, and high quality proteins.
Although the diet may initially appear quite restrictive, after time some foods can be introduced back to the menu.
Some questions crop up regularly when it comes to yeast infections and here are a few answers to the ones I most commonly receive.
Most Frequently Asked Questions About Internal Yeast OvergrowthAre Diflucan and Nystatin Good Options?
Most people are now aware that not can antibiotics cause, or at least contribute, to yeast overgrowth, but that they are also ineffective in treating it. However fewer people are aware that antifungals can also make the condition worse. At least part of these problems arise due to something known as ‘biofilms’ which some readers may already be aware of. Although the implications of biofilms are only recently being investigated by modern medicine, they are not new and they have not developed in direct response to the introduction of antibiotics. Biofilms have always existed in nature and, in many ways, they are thought to perform positive actions when it comes to human functioning. Although the name may seem slightly ‘sci-fi,’ biofilms are simply coatings which protect communities of bacteria and yeasts. They provide a resistance to not only antibiotics but also the immune system and help the organisms inside perpetuate their existence. Although in the past it was thought that such organisms existed in the body unprotected we are now discovering, the hard way, that this is not the case. In fact biofilms can actually respond to the ‘threat’ of antibiotics and antifungals by making their defense stronger once they have been ‘attacked.’ In the case of not only Diflucan but also Nystatin, it has been proven that many fungal biofilms, and in particular those of Candida albicans, respond in this way. In fact when Diflucan was tested to ascertain biofilm reaction it was shown that within 72 hours of initially coming into contact with it, the biofilm had already increased its resistance to further attack by the drug. In short, Diflucan can make Candida worse rather than better. More info here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC95423/?report=reader#!po=96.0526.Are the symptoms same for both male and female?
One popular misconception about yeast infections and Candida in particular is that it only affects women. This is because women are more commonly affected due to vaginal thrush. However men can also be affected by Candida and, as we will see below, apart from some gender specific symptoms there are many which are common to both sexes.
Some symptoms are, of course, by definition, gender specific. For example only women can get vaginal thrush or Candida but the equivalent as ‘glans thrush’ meaning it affects the head of the penis, is also quite common in men. This is also sometimes referred to as ‘Jock Itch’ which, can be treated successfully using my suggested treatment regimen. Men can also, like women, experience pain and discomfort both when passing urine and having intercourse. Urinary infections, although they are common in both men and women, also often manifest in men as prostatitis. Generally speaking though, biological differences aside, men and women can suffer symptoms equally.Can intestinal yeast infection go on its own?
Unfortunately the answer to this question is, no. It is highly unlikely that such an infection will disappear of its own accord.What if I leave it untreated?
Candida is known to become systemic, which means that it can ultimately affect the whole of the body. The effects relate not only to the overgrowth itself of course but also the fact that you will continue to suffer from problems such as vitamin deficiencies, autoimmune problems and food intolerances. Even if it does not become systemic, what does happen is that the symptoms it produces result in ‘chronic’ illness. That means the symptoms you have will not go away and you will be ill with them in the long-term. They may occasionally go into remission, but, without doubt they will reappear, often worse than previously, and you will have consistent relapses.Is zinc useful or is there a connection between zinc deficiency and intestinal yeast infection?
There is a definite connection between zinc deficiency and intestinal yeast infection and, of course, correcting this deficiency is beneficial. Zinc contributes to our body in many different ways including improving skin and hair quality. Yet it is also needed to make stomach acid and this is another important factor in many people with this condition. Low stomach acid, which means that of a more alkaline pH, is not conducive to degrading foodstuffs. And, without zinc you can end up in a cycle of continually alkaline pH stomach acid which precipitates further deficiencies, including that of zinc.Can you get it during pregnancy?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to yeast overgrowth not least because of hormonal changes. The increase in estrogen results in a corresponding increase in glycogen which increases the chances of yeast overgrowth.Is vinegar a good home remedy?
When it comes to vinegar and yeast overgrowth what we are actually talking about is apple-cider vinegar as opposed to the standard malt vinegar on the supermarket shelf. Apple-cider vinegar is made from fermented apples, or even apple peelings and cores, and not only raises the acidity of the stomach acid but is also now thought to contain phytochemical properties which are as a direct result of the fermentation process. When buying apple-cider vinegar make sure you buy the raw variety or that which is described as ‘with Mother.’ Apple-cider vinegar which has been pasteurized or adulterated with additives does not have the same beneficial effects. You can also make ACV at home very easily and cheaply and, as I mentioned before, it can be done with apple peelings and other waste after you have finishing putting together the Apple Pie!Can toddlers get it as well?
Babies and toddlers can suffer from an overgrowth of Candida. Sometimes this is transferred from mum to baby either through a normal vaginal delivery or via breastmilk. Other ways in which a baby can develop thrush is if antibiotics are prescribed. Babies can also suffer from Candidiasis in the form of rashes and particularly that of diaper rash. This is when candida overgrowth appears on the skin rather than internally.Can I have body odor or smell down there if I have it?
Many people ask this question because yeast infection does actually result in increased body odor. This can happen even when they have stepped straight out of the shower. It is thought to occur because the gut is fermenting foodstuffs rather than degrading them as it should. This fermentation process, which is often reflected by the bloating or gas which accompany it, actually produces a smell which is released from the body in several different ways. This increased body odor is very common in people suffering from yeast infection and should, as treatment progresses, become much less noticeable or, preferably, be resolved completely.Can it cause rashes?
Rashes caused by yeast overgrowth are one of the more common symptoms to manifest. Unfortunately such rashes are rarely uniform in nature and can appear on various parts of the body which sometimes delays diagnosis. Commonly candida rashes are found on areas of the body where you would expect fungi to thrive: dark, warm and moist. These areas include sections of the skin which are commonly folded, such as in the crook of the elbow or behind the knee. Other, more common sites, are in-between the fingers and toes, under the arm and in the groin. Rashes can be either white or red and are, usually but not always, itchy.Is it even real or is it just a hoax?
It is now generally accepted that yeast overgrowth does indeed exist. The controversy now usually surrounds what it is responsible for when it comes to symptoms. For instance, in the UK you will generally find it referred to as ‘thrush’ and each symptom is attributed its own title. For example, oral or vaginal thrush. Yet they also refer to thrush being strongly suggestive of patients having other nutritional deficiencies. It would seem that the opinion you get depends entirely on where you live and how well the skills and knowledge of the medical professionals involved have been updated. A good indicator of whether any condition is ‘real’ or not is simply to ascertain if there is a test available for it. If laboratories are providing tests, then, because they have to register with a broad range of authorities, you can usually bet that the condition actually exists. The division between the ‘believers’ and the ‘non-believers’ when it comes to yeast infections can not be better highlighted than by the study below which clearly shows that in some cases not only can it become systemic but also that there is a mortality rate associated with Candida albicans in particular. Read research here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3196127.Are probiotics good for it?
In most people probiotics are good for yeast overgrowth. However that is not to say they will cure, as in reverse, the condition entirely. What they do is restore at least some of the balance by providing the body with organisms which are meant to overwhelm the pathogenic. Many people find that by taking probiotics regularly they see their symptoms reducing in intensity and this is quite likely due to the high lactic acid content of most probiotics. However they are not all equal and I would recommend a product which is natural, and if possible, home made.Can you experience some sort of body pain because of it?
Body pain can arise from several sources when it comes to yeast overgrowth. The immune reaction may cause it, as will mineral and vitamin deficiencies or it may also arise from toxins which accumulate and which the body cannot deal with. Another common problem relates simply to irritation and inflammation which can arise and particularly that in the stomach region.Can it cause nausea?
In some people yeast overgrowth can cause nausea and even vomiting. This is often associated with chest pain or tightness. However although it is a recognized symptom, nausea is not common in all patients. Neither, obviously, is nausea in isolation reflective of yeast overgrowth.Can it cause weight loss or weight gain?
The answer to this question is, yes. Because of the nutritional deficiencies which occur when digestion is impaired obviously some people will simply not absorb the nutrients they need to maintain a healthy weight. However in others the opposite occurs and they not only gain weight but also find it difficult to lose. There are many theories as to why this occurs but it is probably a combination of several reasons. Some of the symptoms of yeast infection clearly are not conducive to living a healthy lifestyle. For example, fatigue or bone pain. The more sedentary we become then the more likely we are to gain weight. Other factors which may affect efforts to lose weight are that in both men and women fat cells produce estrogen. This in turn may attract even more fat cells and you end up with a cyclical effect. Another issue relates to that of the lymphatic system. If the lymphatic system is slowed or becomes dysfunctional, it can result in an accumulation of fluids. This often happens when the ‘smooth muscles’ which control the flow of the lymphatic system are affected by either chemical or physical changes.
The problems associated with weight gain can be a little more clearly understood at least in terms of potential difficulties even though it is not impossible. Yet it should be noted that unless your weight is impeding you on a daily basis or is causing your health to deteriorate, then your shape is probably one you should cherish.Is joint pain related to it?
Joint pain is associated with yeast overgrowth however the ‘jury is out’ on exactly why this pain occurs. Because Candida albicans can enter the blood stream it is thought to affect joints, however some clinicians claim that Candida cannot survive in the blood itself. Yet there is also immune response to consider and this too can result in joint pain. However there is little doubt that joint pain and yeast overgrowth are associated and, no matter how this causation occurs, it results in pain and distress for the patient.Is hair loss associated to it?
Hair loss is most certainly associated with yeast infection. The reasons put forward for this can be multiple however there is little doubt that the hair follicles are adversely affected and this may be as a result of hormonal imbalance. When we talk of hair loss however we must be careful of two things: not to automatically confuse hair loss with alopecia and not to limit discussion of hair loss to the head. Many people simply find their hair ‘thins’ rather than they experience complete baldness in certain areas. Others find that body hair loss is affected, for example on legs or under arms, and that the growth slows as opposed to stopping completely.Is hydrogen peroxide a good option?
Food grade hydrogen peroxide is believed by some to kill off yeast overgrowth if ingested. However there are many grades out there and it is imperative you purchase the correct one and not the liquid used to bleach hair. In this case purchase via a pharmacy and ask for specific instructions on how to take as directions can vary between 3 and up to 30 drops per day.What are some signs of die-off?
The tendency today is to attribute any negative responses to treatments or changes in diet to ‘die-off.’ However we have to be careful not to apply this reaction each and every time. It must be remembered that die-off was originally identified when patients with serious illnesses such as syphilis were treated with mercury and it is difficult to compare this to someone experiencing die-off after eating yogurt for candida. Die-off occurs within the first few hours of trying a different treatment and one of the major signs is that of flu like symptoms which include chills, headache and nausea. Yet the symptoms themselves, although severe, are usually transient. It is also prudent to note that the original study which suggests die-off might occur occasionally in some patients suffering from yeast overgrowth, was referring to the reactions some patients experienced after being treated with nystatin rather than natural treatments. More information here http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1980/pdf/1980-v09n04-p287.pdf.Can it cause constipation?
Many symptoms which arise in illnesses associated with gut dysbiosis such as SIBO, IBS and of course, Candida, are difficult to establish as either cause or effect. When it comes to constipation it may well be that this is caused by slow gut motility rather than the yeast infection itself. This is because yeast infection is thought by some to be caused by slow gut motility and the failure of the intestinal rhythms to effective clear the gut of excess organisms.Is a blood test reliable way to find if I have it or not?
Blood tests for yeast overgrowth generally focus on Candida by looking at antibodies for the condition. Whether this is a reliable method of diagnosing yeast overgrowth is certainly debatable and currently there are other tests available which are less likely to result in false negative results.
Copyright © 2003 Candida-Yeast.com - Site Restored in Memory of Dr. Crook by Group of Naturopaths