The human body harbors a variety of yeasts as well as beneficial bacteria to keep out destructive bacteria and toxins in the digestive tract and mucus membranes. For optimal health, it’s necessary to harbor a good balance of yeast and bacteria at all times. An overabundance of Candida albicans (one of the many varieties of yeast that is a normal inhabitant) can cause many unpleasant symptoms – in both the short and long term – that may have a detrimental affect on overall health.
Acute Yeast Infections
Many acute episodes of yeast infections occur in our lifetimes and are easily recognized and remedied. If a female takes an antibiotic for sinusitis or a urinary tract infection, the antibiotic usually knocks out the underlying bacterial infection. But all too commonly, either during or shortly after the course of antibiotics, that annoying vaginal yeast infection sets in with its all-too-familiar telltale discharge, as well as the dreaded itching and burning. As a result of the good bacteria being eliminated, the yeast, which were previously held in check, proliferate and take over.
Antibiotics can also cause diarrhoea as a result of an overgrowth of yeast since they wipe out all those good bacteria in the colon necessary for harmony in the gastrointestinal tract. Conditions like athlete’s foot can also occur from being exposed to a fungus by walking barefoot in a damp place, like a gym shower, locker room, or around the perimeter of a community pool.
Usually these acute, short-term infections are easily identified by their symptoms. The good news is that they are easily rectified with an over-the-counter cream or prescription oral medication. Supplementing with probiotics helps to pave the way for restoring the good bacteria into your system, and candida is usually successfully treated.
But what happens when someone suffers from chronic Candida – a long-term, problematic condition, which is not easily diagnosed and is often missed by patient as well as physician?
Why is Chronic Candida Difficult to Diagnose?
Allergies, digestive problems like heartburn and irritable bowels, headaches, fatigue, food and chemical sensitivities are just a handful of some chronic problems that afflict many people for years. Patients are often misdiagnosed and are often given antibiotics or other wrongly prescribed medicines to calm their gastrointestinal tracts or to ease their allergic disorders. Chronic Candida can mimic other diseases with many of the same overlapping symptoms and sensitivities.
Symptoms of Chronic Candida
Chronic Candida can cause multiple symptoms, varying from patient to patient, with waxing and waning of some of the manifestations over time. Typical symptoms include allergic reactions (hay fever, asthma, etc.) that are often worse in damp or muggy locations. Patients may be reactive to certain foods and label themselves as having a myriad of food allergies. Chronic Candida may make the patient easily affected by changes in the environment and may cause an intolerance to perfumes or other strong odors or chemicals.
Frequently occurring vaginal infections in females, male jock itch, or other fungal infections of the skin may occur. Headaches, migraines, and throat or nasal symptoms, such as congestion or frequent runny noses, may be a symptom of chronic Candida as well. Heartburn, indigestion or diarrhoea may affect a patient’s nutritional state, with patients treating symptoms with antacids, pills, or more antibiotics – which can exacerbate chronic Candida symptoms even more. People afflicted with this condition often walk around in a fog – anxious, depressed and worn out from not knowing what is wrong with them or how to combat their symptoms.
What Causes Chronic Candida?
Some patients are more sensitive to the effects of candida. A history of prolonged antibiotics or several short courses of antibiotics, an intake of corticosteroids, or an impaired immune system can make a patient more susceptible to candida. A poor diet with a high intake of sugar and an emphasis on simple carbohydrates such as junk food will provide fuel for the yeast organism to grow. Foods with a high yeast or mold content, such as alcohol or cheese for instance, can fuel the fire as well.
Proper Diagnosis of Chronic Candida
Unless one looks at the big picture and is familiar with and suspects chronic Candida, the condition is often completely overlooked. If a physician takes a patient’s complete history, understands his or her nutritional state, and investigates with proper testing, there is a better chance that chronic Candida can be diagnosed. Testing may include labs (such as stool cultures for candida or antibody tests to measure levels in the blood).
Even without sophisticated testing, many doctors in tune to the consequences of chronic Candida may suggest the proper treatments through antifungal medications, dietary and lifestyle modifications, and various probiotics and supplements. Chronic Candida can be treated so that the patient’s chronic aches, pains and ailments can be eliminated and the patient can be on the road to good health with energy and a positive outlook once again restored.
About the Author: Dr. Eric Bakker, ND is a naturopathic physician who has dedicated the last 20 years studying the Candida albicans organism. You can read more about the condition and how it is treated at yeastinfection.org.