Candida: a disease and a symptom

I estimate that Candida, also known as dysbiosis or overgrowth syndrome, is present in a majority of Americans.  Is this just a disease of women who get “yeast infections?”  No.

What is “Candida?”             stock-photo-the-human-digestive-system-illustration-136302158

Our gastro-intestinal tract contains pounds, literally pounds of beneficial bacteria.  We do not survive well without these beneficial bacteria that help us fight infection, help us produce vitamins we need, and help to maintain the proper balance in our gut.  The problem we have is that antibiotics, a diet high in sugar, multiple surgeries, even chronic high levels of stress can suppress these beneficial bacteria.  Studies show that antibiotics kill over 90% of them.  If we don’t replenish them with supplemental probiotics (note the difference: antibiotic – kills – vs. probiotic – promotes life) within 2 weeks opportunistic organisms, like Candida and other fungi, overgrow.  When we do not counter the opportunistic organisms over time, they can grow to the point where they “wreak havoc.”  Candida is not the only organism that overgrows and thus in some ways is a misnomer for this problem.  However, using the term to describe this syndrome is the common usage.

In my office this week I saw 5 new patients of whom 4 were suffering from this problem.  How did they present? Two came in complaining of sinus pressure and headaches for several weeks.  One complained that her allergies were the worst they had ever been.  Another complained about her bloating and abdominal pain.  All of these people had been seen by other doctors who found “nothing” wrong with them.  One of those complaining of chronic sinus issues and post-nasal drip is a man.  That means 80% of my new patients were suffering from this overgrowth syndrome.  Each of them described how miserable he or she was feeling.  Thus the Candida – dysbiosis – overgrowth syndrome is a disease.

Candida is also a symptom.

I explain to my patients that it connotes that their body is out of balance, that they have a “compromised” gastro-intestinal system, and that they need to address their diet and supplement intake in order to improve.  The vast majority of the patients crave sugar and carbs.  Because the Candida and fungi live on these foods, they somehow contribute to these cravings.  That makes it harder to stop them.  Yet that is the first and most important aspect of treatment, namely to stop eating sugary foods and simple carbohydrates like cakes, cookies, and sweets.   People also need to stop drinking alcoholic beverages while they are trying to reduce the load of the fungus in their gut.

The last part of the basic candida treatment is taking probiotics and nutrients that support the growth of the beneficial bacteria again.

The average American diet promotes the imbalance of the ecology of our gastro-intestinal tract.  Here is the big problem!  We can only be as healthy as our gastro-intestinal tract.  We tend to dismiss its importance in our culture.  Yet this is how we get the nutrients we need to survive.  Those nutrients are not so abundant if we eat the wrong foods and destroy the ecology of our gut.

What should we eat?  The basic food group that is most important is vegetables.  Yes, our diet should be mostly vegetables with some meats.  Fruits; modestly.  Grains; small amounts.

In summary, if you find you are not feeling well or that you get sick frequently and no approach has been successful, consider candida treatment.

About Cathie Lippman, M.D.

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