What is Candida?

Candida albicans is a yeast. This particular yeast typically lives in almost all the areas in our body in small numbers. Here, it competes with bacteria for food sources - and with our immune system which, when we are healthy, keeps its numbers low.
It is only when we are ill, or if the balance in our system is disturbed, that Candida becomes a problem.

What are Yeasts Like?

Yeasts are found everywhere on earth. They are microscopic in size, have a cell wall and a nucleus. For their nutrients, they depend on a wide range of food sources. However, they always need food from organisms which have been alive. Sugars (from plants or from animals) are preferred food.

CandidaYeasts have developed the ability to break down cells which they then feed on, by sending microscopic root-like tubes into those cells. These root-like structures (hyphae) - illustrated by the longer, dark coloured rods in this photo, produce chemicals which break down the food's cell membranes which allows them to kill the cells and use the nutrients for their own growth.

Yeasts are therefore formidable opponents. For their own defense they create antibacterial chemicals (antibiotics) which repel bacteria and which can also kill bacteria. Bacteria feed on many of the same food sources as yeasts and are in a life struggle with them.

Bakers yeast buddingThus is a microphotograph of yeast cells in the process of budding. If they are given the right environment and food, yeasts can literally explode with growth.

Both bacteria and yeasts synthesize chemicals which they use against each other. Bacteria create anti-yeast substances which are the starting point for many of the commercial anti-yeast drugs (i.e. Nystatin™). Yeasts create anti-bacterial substances. Many modern antibiotic drugs started as discoveries of these substances from nature. Penicillin grew by accident on agar plates in Fleming's lab. Tetracycline came from a yeast recovered from a sewer in Sardinia etc.

Both yeasts and bacteria 'view' the human body as food. The yeasts would be very 'happy' to have us dead or alive and work actively to kill us. Thus when we find the yeasts getting stronger it means that we are less alive than we really want to be. This may be because we are ill or because our diet has included too many sweet foods. Yeasts seize this opportunity to 'prosper'. Other situations may also produce a condition in which the yeasts love to grow - women who take the pill (the vaginal secretions become sweeter), those on steroids or chemotherapy, and most important, those who have recently taken antibiotics.

Could Yeasts and Bacteria work together?

Yes- usually for the worst for us. For example, it is often the case that children with an ear infection (otitis media) get an antibiotic, get better, and then in a short time get another infection requiring another dose of antibiotics.

It seems to me that what happens here is that the first antibiotic kills most of the bacteria and upsets the balance with the yeasts in the body. Unchecked, the yeasts proliferate and cause swelling, irritation and a fluid discharge in the middle ear and the eustatian tube - the narrow tube connection the back of the mouth and the ear. This sets up a condition perfect for the bacteria to begin to grow again. Then another antibiotic is prescribed, setting up repeating round of infections. This is explained at greater length in the section on ear infections.

This harmful cycle can be broken with a reduction in the foods which feed Candida and by taking probiotics during the course of antibiotics and for quite a while afterward.

In health, the bacteria and yeasts are in a kind of balance in our body. In our digestive system, in heath, the bacteria are work in our favour. We help our immune system by fostering the growth of the beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. These friendly bacteria are called probiotics. Probiotic means pro-life and they perform immune miracles in our intestine.

How does Candida cause us trouble?

Small amounts of Candida live in our body all the time. It is only when they grow out of control that they can harm us. The harm comes in several forms. Chemicals produced by Candida cause local swelling and irritation. These same chemicals also cause 'brain fog', fatigue intestinal cramping, diarrhoea, and sugar cravings.

In the intestine yeasts consume sugars and create gas leading to bloating and cramps (irritable bowel). Also, their ability to send out root-like hyphae which can penetrate between the cells of the intestine wall as well as entering cells and killing them, make them, in my opinion, one of the leading causes of inflammatory bowel syndrome .

Normal small Intestine

The healthy small intestine is illustrated above.

The pathogens in the yellow area (the interior of the digestive tract) represent the bacteria and yeasts which would like to feed on us. They are kept at bay by our healthy immune defenses.

The single cell thick layer of the intestine wall (grayish hairy looking cells) is defended by a mucus layer (turquoise), full of antibodies created by the immune cells (purple) and, living on the surface, a healthy number of probiotic bacteria (green), which help to ward off potential harmful bacteria, yeasts, and viruses.

By contrast, the following picture represents active invasion by yeasts (Yeast destroys small intestine cells brown blobs), with their roots reaching out and destroying the lining of the intestine. This is the usual condition of the intestine in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

So it is crucial that we take care of our probiotic allies by feeding them, giving them reinforcements as needed, and when they are being overwhelmed by harmful forces, help them with diet change and eliminating the foods and substances which can hurt them.

You can heal a Candida invasion but you have to really work at it, and it will take time. Please start with the suggestions in inflammatory bowel.

Following the Candida diet is crucial to achieve healing. For some people it may be necessary to take a herbal combination to reduce the yeast population. If the yeast is overwhelming the person's immune defenses an anti-fungal drug like Nystatin™ or Diflucan™ may be of benefit for a short time. The problem with using medications like these is, in my opinion, the possibility that the super strong yeasts will resist being killed and will remain to create even greater problems later. I feel the best approach is to starve the yeasts by eating foods which nurture and strengthen you, but don't feed them. The supplements below have, in my experience, proven to be very helpful for many patients.

Everyone with Candida will require probiotic support, digestive enzymes, and some type of supplement like WGP™ beta-glucan to boost their immunity.