Gut Yeast Infections

Effective Natural Cures for Gut Candida Overgrowth

A gut yeast infection is perhaps more common than most people would think. Candida, the genus of yeast that is responsible for infections, normally lives commensally in nearly every human’s gut microbiota. Research published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology [13.1 (1980): 45-56] shows that about half of the dry weight of human feces is bacteria. That may sound a little shocking; however, it shows you how packed with bacteria a healthy intestinal system is. When this bacteria gets attacked by broad spectrum antibiotics, it greatly alters the balance of power in the gut! Yeasts, which are not affected by antibiotics, find themselves alone and surrounded by an abundance of space and food to consume. And yes, nearly all humans have some Candida in their gut! Consequently, they feast and overgrow rapidly. The result then becomes a gut dominated by Candida. The species of Candida that causes most infections–about 80% of them, is Candida albicans; and, it is safe to assume gut colonization is largely by Candida albicans (Fidel, et al.; 1999).

In the past, before the advent of antibiotics, gut yeast infections were not a concern.  But today, with so many people utilizing various antibiotic drugs, yeast have become a serious concern.  Immune diseases or stresses, that impair immune system function, can also give Candida the ability to overgrow.  With the advent of radiation therapy and other drastic medical procedures, Candida has also become more prominent.  Diseases like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) also can allow Candida to spread through the body and sometimes prove fatal.

In some people, they have so much yeast in their intestines that they suffer from bouts of drunkenness after they eat.  Candida is a yeast; and, yeast produce alcohol as a byproduct of their metabolic processes.  Dr. William Crook, in his book The Yeast Connection, has a short chapter dedicated to “drunken diseases;” a condition which causes people to randomly get drunk.  This drunkenness is due to their being a still in their digestive system – yeast rapidly churning sugars eaten into alcohol.  In the chapter, he tells a story about one man with this condition who had a run in with the law over drunk driving–yet he had drank no alcohol at all!

Gut Yeast Symptoms

You may not be one of the rare victims of drunkenness via Candida; however, the yeast in your gut does produce some alcohol and other toxins that can be a real detriment to your health.  If you seem to always feel bad and always seem to be sick; Candida in your gut may be the source of your problems.  Some of the following symptoms can occur when you have too much yeast in your body; see if any seem like what you are experiencing:

  • You feel lethargic or tired
  • You seem to feel depressed frequently
  • Poor memory
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Lack of ability to concentrate
  • You frequently get headaches
  • You’re sensitive to tobacco smoke, perfumes, and other chemical odors
  • You get inappropriately drowsy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • You seem to never stop getting vaginal yeast infections
  • You have persistent digestive problems (gas, diarrhea, heartburn, abdominal pain, etc.)
  • Symptoms seem to flare up on damp days or in mouldy places
  • Symptoms get worse when you eat highly glycemic foods
  • Generally, you just feel “lousy” way too much!

(Gut Yeast Symptoms Source: Dr. William Crook’s The Yeast Connection)

Candida May Travel Through Intestinal Lining

Candida is so capable at invading a host when it overgrows, it likely can actually cross the intestinal barrier mucous membranes and enter the bloodstream.  This means that the smaller toxic molecules Candida produce also likely enter the bloodstream.  If the whole yeast can penetrate this barrier, what does that say about the smaller toxins yeast produce?  Another capability of many Candida species that may allow them to penetrate the intestines is the ability to grow germ tube hyphae. By growing germ tubes into the mucous membranes of the intestines, they can effectively start drilling holes into your body’s tissues.  These holes may be a source of inflammation which further exacerbates the damage to the intestinal lining.  The yeast responsible for 80% of Candida infections, Candida albicans, grows germ tubes.  Consequently, the vast majority of the yeast in people’s guts is probably germ tube growing Candida albicans.

One study that shows this is likely how Candidemia (Candida in the blood stream) can start.  The study was published in the Journal of Hospital Infection [72.1 (2009): 9-16].  The study took samples of the strains of Candida that were infecting the blood and compared them to the strains of Candida in the digestive tract and other areas of the body.  The study found that 19 out of 25 patients with Candida albicans Candidemia had matching strains of Candida albicans in their blood and rectum.  This suggests that the yeast migrated from the rectum to the blood stream through the intestinal wall.  Candida albicans can grow long hyphae and burrow into mucous membranes–possibly even penetrate deep enough to enter the bloodstream. The study’s authors had this to say about their findings:

“Our findings suggest that GI tract colonisation is the source of C. albicans candidemia, as a high proportion of patients had rectal and/or oropharyngeal colonisation with the same molecular clone that caused candidaemia. In an animal model, GI tract colonisation, mucosal invasion and bloodstream spread were the most common route of endogenous infection.” 

Canditoxin and Candida Metabolites

According to the late pioneer of yeast related health issues, Dr. William Crook, Candida can drastically affect your body.  Dr. Crook states that when Candida overgrows in the digestive system, toxins created by the yeast begin to seep into the bloodstream and disseminate through the entire body.  These toxins are known as Canditoxins; and, can cause allergic reactions and weaken the immune system.  The reaction in the body is similar to anaphylactic shock.  The allergic response to these toxins can cause a wide array of symptoms.

A study, published in Contributions to Microbiology and Immunology [4 (1976): 77-85], stated that Candida albicans created high and low molecular weight toxic substances.  In the study, the researchers suggested that these toxins can work as immunosuppressants–working to impair the host’s cellular mechanisms for immunity.  These substances were able to assist Candida colonize its environment.  It is also suggested that other Candida species also create Canditoxins; thus, it is possible Candida albicans is not the only yeast which creates such toxins.   

It would make sense, that if Candida organisms themselves can penetrate the mucous membranes of the digestive system and enter the blood, how much more easier will it be for the toxic molecules produced by the yeast to infiltrate the blood?  Dr. Crook, in his books, often speaks of the wide array of symptoms these toxins can start to instigate.  Feeling tired, feeling sick all over, memory loss, feeling foggy, digestion problems, and recurrent vaginitis are all some of the things digestive system yeast overgrowth can cause.  

The Cycle of Yeast Growth, Infection, and Antibiotics

The toxins created by yeast can also pave the way for other bacteria to infect various parts of the body.  Once Canditoxins and ethanol produced by the yeast weaken the immune system, bacteria can start to infect various areas of the body.  A frequent course of action, taken by physicians, is to prescribe antibiotics for these bacterial infections.  This in turn wipes out Candida’s natural probiotic competitors in the digestive system and vagina.  The result is more yeast overgrowth.  Next, the expanding colonies of yeast produce more toxins; further weakening the immune system. Eventually, repeat bacterial infections and generally impaired health soon follow.  Antibiotic regimens are then again sought out to cure the toxin induced bacterial infections.

This vicious cycle of infection, antibiotics, and further yeast overgrowth can be the key reason some people seem to feel bad regularly and get sick again and again.  Dr. William Crook, in his book The Yeast Connection and the Woman, warned that this vicious cycle could be the reason some people seem to stay sick.  The real issue that must be addressed is eliminating the yeast in the gut.  Only then will this cycle be terminated.

Candida and Gut Diseases

A study published in Current Opinion in Microbiology [14.4 (2011): 386-391] sought to examine Candida colonization interplay with various inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).  The study looked at various related research and determined that crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and gastric ulcers were all potentially further complicated by gut yeast infections.  These diseases all cause inflammation of the intestines; and, this inflammation can allow for Candida to more easily attach to the intestinal wall and colonize the gut.

Crohn’s Disease: A large study was conducted on people with crohn’s disease and their relatives that were perhaps genetically predisposed to this condition.  Other healthy individuals were used as controls.  Both crohn’s disease positive patients and their relatives had a higher rate of candida colonization than the control individuals.

Ulcerative Colitis: In a study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases [197.7 (2008): 972-980], individuals suffering from ulcerative colitis for five years or more had significantly higher levels of Candida colonization.  Those patients who had ulcerative colitis and took fluconazole (a prescription antifungal medication) saw reduction in the size of the inflammatory lesions.  Research has indicated that reducing Candida colonization corresponds to an amelioration of ulcerative colitis.

Gastric Ulcers:  Candida can colonize ulcers, especially when they are large and perforated.  Individuals who had their stomachs colonized by Candida also did not have their ulcers heal as quickly as Candida free people.  Studies indicate that Candida’s presence is positively associated with more severe ulcers.

A study showing that Candida can more easily colonize an inflamed intestinal tract was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases [197.7 (2008): 972-980].  Experimental mice were given dextran sulfate sodium which caused colitis (inflammation of the colon) and control mice were not given dextran sulfate sodium.  Both groups of mice were then inoculated with Candida albicans.  The mice with induced colitis were colonized by Candida much more than control mice.  Also, Candida albicans colonization increased the inflammation originally caused by dextran sulfate sodium.  This study can be used to conclude that if you have an inflammatory bowel disease you are more susceptible to gut yeast infections.  And, yeast in your gut will further inflame the gut; causing a vicious cycle of inflammation and yeast colonization.

So, what does medical experience teach us about Candida’s relationship to overall physical well-being?  One physician, Dr. C. Orian Truss, wrote a wonderful paper talking about the relationship between Candida and general health.  Dr. Truss is one of the late Dr. William Crook’s favorite medical doctors to pull experience from.  In Dr. Crook’s extensive writings (The Yeast Connection series), he frequently refers to Dr. Truss’ expertise and opinion regarding yeast related health issues.  Dr. Truss was one of the pioneers in exposing the medical community and individuals to the realities of yeast related health issues.  But, regarding the aforementioned paper authored by Dr. Truss, it details the cases of several individuals who had severe mental and physical problems that led them to get medical attention.  The paper was entitled The Role of Candida Albicans in Human Illness – PDF.

One of the stories related by Dr. Truss in his paper was of a 14-year old girl who had severe mental confusion, inability to learn, and frequently voiced thoughts of committing suicide.  Most people may suddenly assume this girl had some type of psychological issue; however, this was not the cause of her mental or physical problems.  These symptoms were very acute (they suddenly and rapidly appeared), and had begun five days after the girl had taken tetracycline antibiotics for mild acneDr. Truss related her story as follows:

“One year ago a girl, also 14 years old, was brought in because of mental confusion and sudden inability to learn, associated with severe depression and frequently voiced thoughts of suicide. This condition had begun abruptly five weeks earlier, on the identical day that for the first time in her life she broke out with severe hives and developed severe asthma. The hives were severe every day and in the two weeks prior to her visit asthma had required hospital emergency room treatment three times. She had experienced menstrual periods only ten days apart after two years of normal 28-day cycles.”

To summarize the conclusion of this adolescent girl’s story, Dr. Truss analyzed the girl’s medical history and suspected her difficulties to be Candida related.  Dr. Truss prescribed her the prescription antifungal nystatin and put her on a low carbohydrate Candida diet.  The girl’s response was remarkable; immediate improvement was seen in her mental well-being, and the hives stopped as well.  Her full mental health was fully restored some time later while the girl continued the antifungal therapy.  All of the sudden problems this girl had were totally eliminated by attacking the root cause: systemic yeast overgrowth.

Another story related by Dr. Truss relates in his paper, was the story of a 15-year old girl who had anorexia nervosa.  The girl’s condition was severe; in nine months she had went from 120 to 59 pounds, and had not eaten for weeks.  The girl ended up in intensive care and was only alive because of a feeding tube.  Fortunately, this girl happened to be symptomatic for oral thrush.  When the medical personnel noticed the thrush, they administered a small amount of liquid nystatin.  The next day the young girl finally ate; and, three days later she ate a big Thanksgiving meal.  After 3 more weeks had passed, the girl had put on 72 more pounds and made a normal recovery!

Dr. Truss points out that a few isolated incidents may not be able to prove too much; however, he argues that the 100-fold increase (at the time of his writing) of anorexia may also be related to the advent of yeast related illness. Dr. Truss’ paper also presents other medical findings that seem to make a convincing case for the need to understand systemic yeast colonization effects on the body and mind.  Dr. Truss states the following:

“If, as I believe, chronic infection with Candida albicans can be responsible for such a variety of symptoms, the legitimate question arises as to why this has remained unrecognized by the internist, allowing the tragic misdirection to futile psychiatric therapy of patients with a medical illness. It seems to me that two factors contribute to this situation. First, the evidence is strong that this yeast lives in virtually every human being… The second factor leading, in my opinion, to the mistaken psychosomatic label is the overall clinical picture. It could hardly be a more ideal example of psychosomatic theory. Depression and agitation are almost always among the more prominent complaints. Their frequent association with complaints of loss of memory and concentrating ability sets the tone even as the internist begins the exhausting job of listening to symptoms referable to almost any system of the body…”

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