Causes and Prevention of Yeast Infections

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We are each biochemically unique, thus some people are tolerant of the spread of a certain amount of yeast in their body.
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Stress, nutritional inadequacy, and pollution, as well as the use of specific drugs that weaken the immune system further, cause the overgrowth of Candida albicans.
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“Candida Albicans” by Dr. Leon Chaitow highlights the importance of rebuilding the immune system to enhance health and help prevent future Candida imbalances.

Inflammation and antibiotic treatments disturb the balance of flora in the gut.Candida Albicans: Natural Remedies for Yeast Infection(Inner Traditions, 2016) by Dr. Leon Chaitow explains how to recognize yeast as a personal problem, reveals how overgrowth occurs, and explains its connection to many common health concerns. Chaitow explores how to control Candida naturally with enzymes and herbs, as well as detailing a sugar-eliminating anti-Candida diet to “starve” existing yeast overgrowth in the body. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, “How Candida Can Run Amok.”

Factors in Yeast Overgrowth

Anyone affected by yeast overgrowth is likely able to identify a number of interacting causes. Seldom will only one factor be involved. Among the main causes:

An underlying inherited or acquired deficiency of the immune system: people who are nonsecretors of their blood type are much more likely to be carriers of candida and to have problems with persistent infections. Anyone who has type O blood who is a nonsecretor will be the most vulnerable, since candida finds it easier to colonize (attach to) O blood typecells. it has been shown that women who experience ­recurrent ­vulvovaginal candidiasis (i.e., thrush) are much more likely to be nonsecretors.

Steroids (hormones) and antibiotic residues from consuming nonorganic animal products: Antibiotics and hormones are given to conventionally raised animals to speed up their growth and control their susceptibility to disease. Anyone who regularly consumes factory-farmed beef, pork, veal, and poultry will absorb large amounts of antibiotic and hormone residues. Antibiotic residues are also found in dairy products and eggs unless they are guaranteed organic. Even low-level intake of these foods over many years can have a negative effect on one’s ability to control the growth of candida.

Blood-sugar imbalances: Conditions like diabetes and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) encourage candida to take over. Diabetes involves higher levels of sugar in the blood than are safe. Yet many nondiabetics have fluctuating blood-sugar levels for various reasons, including such habits as nicotine use, high caffeine consumption, high stress levels, or simply a dietary intake of refined sugars and carbohydrates. The anticandida diet is suitable for diabetics as well as those whose blood-sugar levels are unstable for other reasons.

Immune-System Considerations

The body’s response to an intruder such as candida is to produce antibodies to meet a particular antigen (a foreign substance that stimulates a response on the part of the immune system). Candida has many antigens, and the efficiency with which the defensive operation is carried out against any particular one of these antigens can to some extent be inborn (that is, genetic). There is great variation in the degree of response by any one person to the different antigens. This can lead to a situation in which the immune system, unable to counteract and expel the candida invasion adequately, tolerates it in increasing amounts. 

Biochemical Individuality

We are each biochemically unique. This means that there are wide variations in the particular requirements for any of the over forty nutrients that we require for survival and health. Many of these individual needs are determined before birth, and this has led to the genetotrophic theory of disease causation. Simply put, this theory says that because a person has unique inborn requirements that may greatly vary from what might be considered “average” or “normal,” there is a good chance that one or another of these needs are not being met by the normal dietary intake. This leads at best to a lowered degree of function and at worst to a deficiency disease. 

To a large extent this individual genetic factor also applies to our ability to handle the pathogens or microorganisms that can infect us. This is certainly the case in one’s ability to handle candida efficiently. It seems that since infestation by yeast is almost universal, we are incapable of totally controlling its presence in our bodies. Some people will be more able than others to keep it under control and limit its spread. Thus some people are tolerant of the spread of a certain amount of yeast in their body.

The commonest areas for this proliferation of yeast to occur are the mouth, the throat, and the vaginal area. If this initially produces a degree of reaction indicating activity on the part of the immune system, then we would likely see the manifestation of the condition called thrush — a yeast infection (caused by Candida albicans) that is characterized by thick white, lacy patches on top of a red base on the tongue, palate, or elsewhere inside the mouth. This flares up periodically when there may also be other factors involved that lower the body’s general vitality. Eventually, in many cases, the condition might no longer evoke an acute flare-up but would remain in a semipermanent, chronic state. This happens when the body surrenders to the yeast’s foothold and is no longer able to mount attacks on it. This is an indication of impaired or deficient immune function. Among the many aspects of our environment that can influence this are stress, nutritional inadequacy, and pollution, as well as the use of specific drugs that weaken the immune system further.

Drugs and Immune Function

Nowadays we are all familiar with the concept of tissue and organ transplantation as well as joint replacement, which involve the use of powerful drugs designed to prevent the body from rejecting the new foreign tissue or organ. These immunosuppressive drugs have a primary task of stopping the natural defenses from working as they naturally would — in other words, these drugs are designed to suppress the immune system. As a result, the risk of infection by disease organisms obviously increases. Drugs such as steroids (hormones) also have this effect. These are conventionally used for a variety of conditions, ranging from rheumatic disorders to asthma and hormonal imbalances.

Immune System Nutrient Support

There are a variety of nutrients that can assist in the normal functioning of the immune system, including certain vitamins and minerals that have antioxidant properties. This means that they are able to slow down or stop a process in which free radicals cause tissue damage. Free radicals are especially reactive molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons. These can be produced in the body by natural biological processes or introduced from the outside (as in tobacco smoke, toxins, or pollutants). Free radicals can damage cells, proteins, and DNA by altering their chemical structure. Particularly valuable antioxidant nutrients include vitamin C and vitamin E (together with selenium), as well as certain amino acids such as methionine, cysteine, and glutathione. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), zinc, manganese, and other nutrients are also useful for immune-system maintenance. 

Stress and Immunity

Stress, which involves a repeated or constant state of anxiety and all that it entails in terms of depletion of vital nutrient reserves, along with imbalances of internal secretions and functions, is a major cause of immune incompetence. 

The interaction between anxiety and stress, and nutritional imbalances, leads to the immune system being deprived of the ability to operate efficiently. If at the same time there is increased demand on the effective functioning of the immune system to meet the challenges of environmental or nutritional toxicity (pollution of air, cigarette smoke, alcohol, caffeine-rich drinks such as coffee, chocolate, and tea, etc.), then a complex picture emerges in which excessive demands, inadequate nutrition (with associated deficiencies), and perhaps drug usage (such as the contraceptive pill) all interact to weaken immune function. Stress management, therefore, becomes a primary goal when trying to encourage improved immunity.

Candida in Women

Most people with candida problems are women, and most are under the age of fifty. Why is this so?

Imagine a modern young woman who has grown up in an era characterized by the common and widespread use of drugs like antibiotics and steroids. More than likely she has had antibiotics prescribed to her over the years for minor problems such as tonsillitis and ear infections. She may have then developed bladder infections (cystitis) from time to time and had a broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribed for this problem. She may have had acne as a teenager, most probably treated with antibiotics. She may have had steroids for asthma or some other condition. Going on the pill, and subsequently coming off it and becoming pregnant, might have further enhanced the chances of yeast spreading and would have caused more problems, such as the recurrence of acne and cystitis. It’s worth noting that because of the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, a degree of control over candida is lost. Yeast, therefore, finds this a good time to expand its activities in the mother’s body, while the unborn child could be exposed to a variety of antigens from the increased candida activity.

Missing from this picture are all the other variables: nutritional imbalances, which are common in modern society; pollution; excessive use of sugar-rich foods (which yeast loves); and stress factors in general. The picture emerges of a woman who is doing just about all that is humanly possible to bring about the ideal conditions for yeast to thrive.

Dr. Truss notes that antibiotics are often used unadvisedly, in cases in which they have no role to play at all. In this way incorrectly diagnosed viral and fungal conditions may be uselessly “treated” with antibiotics. This actually increases the likelihood of the condition worsening. The widespread use of tetracycline to treat acne is another major factor in the spread of candida. Dr. Truss insists that there is no way anyone suffering from candida problems can control that condition if she (or he) continues with tetracycline. In fact, in many cases acne is actually the direct result of candida infection, and it will only worsen rather than improve on such a treatment.

Dr. Truss also strongly advised against using the contraceptive pill. He points out that chronic vaginitis tends to be at its worst when progesterone levels are high, as in pregnancy, and the luteal (post-ovulation) phase of the menstrual cycle. As the hormone progesterone is an active component of the pill, it is likely responsible for the fact that fully 35 percent of women using the pill have acute vaginal candidiasis. Is Dr. Truss correct in this assessment? Various ­scientific investigations have confirmed his view that the pill, as well as intrauterine contraceptive devices, certain spermicides and condoms, and some habits of hygiene, clothing, and sexual practices (in addition to pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, uncontrolled diabetes, immunosuppression, antibiotics, glucocorticoids use, and genetic predisposition) dramatically increase the risk of vaginal candida infection.

Food and Candida: Exclusion Testing

Yeast thrives on carbohydrate-rich foods. This means that to control candida we must attempt to deprive it of its sustenance by limiting or eliminating altogether all sugar-rich foods and refined carbohydrates — if not permanently, at least for the duration of the anticandida diet. Regarding other foods — particularly those containing yeasts to which you may have become sensitive — a simple self-testing method can be helpful. This involves an exclusionary period of ten to fourteen days, during which all yeast-based foods are eliminated. During this time it is important to keep a careful symptom score. After this period of yeast-food elimination (it takes at least five days for all traces of the excluded food to be cleared by the body) you can introduce a “challenge,” in which you eat a small amount of a yeast-based food (or a fragment of a yeast tablet) twice in one day, observing either or both of the following reactions:

(1) Did your symptoms improve when not eating such foods? And
(2) Did your symptoms return when you reintroduced these foods?

A “yes” answer to either question suggests that you should investigate further, and that you would probably benefit from leaving such foods out of your diet for a while.

The dietary items that are suspect if yeast is not well tolerated include the following yeast-containing foods: vinegar, alcoholic beverages, yeast extracts and spreads, mushrooms, and anything with a mold on it, such as certain cheeses like blue cheese.

It should be clearly understood that avoiding particular foods is necessary only if you have become sensitized — and are therefore allergic or sensitive to — fungus-related substances. If not, there is no reason to add yet another restriction to an already complex program.

Once candida is brought under control, unless a yeast sensitivity or allergy exists there is no reason to keep to a strict prohibition on these foods, although the return of classic symptoms of candida activity (such as abdominal bloating or sudden extreme fatigue after eating one of the offending foods) will tell you if it is time to return to your avoidance strategy.

Just as foods that contain molds or fungi are considered undesirable, it may be found as well that symptoms are worse in humid, damp environments, in which mold and fungus spores are present in the atmosphere. Thus it is very important to eliminate from the home any areas of dampness, such as on walls, floors, etc.

Candida Albicans by Leon Chaitow, D.O., N.D. © 2016 Healing Arts Press. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.

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