Candida albicans, also known simply as Candida, is a species of yeast that can normally be found in small amounts in your digestive tract. Candida is responsible for a condition called candidiasis, more commonly known as a yeast infection. Yeast infections can affect the mouth, esophagus and genitals. They’re particularly common in women, with at least 75 percent of women experiencing them during their lives.
Some alternative practitioners claim that Candida is responsible for a condition known as “yeast syndrome,” characterized by an overgrowth of the Candida yeast that normally colonizes the gut. Symptoms of yeast syndrome allegedly range from fatigue and bloating to irritable bowel syndrome, mental health problems and psoriasis. Some even claim that yeast syndrome causes cancers of all kinds. It’s been called a “hidden epidemic” that affects up to 90 percent of the population. Treatment involves a Candida cleanse diet that contains no white flour, dietary yeast like brewers or bread yeasts, cheese or sugar, since the theory holds that these foods promote the over-proliferation of Candida.
But could Candida yeast syndrome really be the hidden cause of vague health symptoms in nine out of 10 people? The research doesn’t support the existence of yeast syndrome, and most conventional practitioners doubt that it exists. Nevertheless, Candida albicans can cause uncomfortable skin infections. If it infects the blood, a condition known as invasive candidiasis, it can be life-threatening.
Is There a Candida Epidemic?
Claims that Candida yeast syndrome is a “hidden epidemic” are based on the idea that intestinal Candida can over-proliferate, causing bloating, irregular bowel movements and abdominal pain and cramping. Eventually, the theory holds, Candida allegedly move from the gut to other parts of the body, affecting the entire system and causing myriad physical symptoms. Yeast syndrome has been blamed for symptoms ranging from frequent yeast infections to food allergies, diarrhea or constipation, muscle pain, itchiness, mental fogginess, low libido, depression, poor circulation, eczema, psoriasis, learning disorders, dizziness, halitosis, sinusitis and more.
In fact, while most people do have a normal amount of Candida albicans living in their intestinal tracts, the cells that line the intestine are resistant to hyphae, the tentacles Candida fungi put out that allow them to cling to tissue and proliferate into a colony. Candida infections of the intestinal tract do not occur for this reason. While it is true that nine out of 10 people have Candida albicans yeast living in their intestinal tracts, this is perfectly normal, even beneficial, and is not considered a secret cause of disease.
Even if Candida were able to over-proliferate into the intestines, doctors would be able to see this during an endoscopic exam of the intestines. Candida infections look like clumps of cottage cheese and are visible even to the naked eye.
How Candidiasis Occurs
In fact, most people will not even suffer from candidiasis of the skin or genitals. Because the Candida albicans fungus is ubiquitous in the environment, your immune system is adept at fighting off the candidiasis infection. However, infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems — such as those being treated for AIDS or cancer — are vulnerable to candidiasis.
So, how come so many women suffer from vaginal yeast infections? Antibiotic use, hormonal changes related to pregnancy or the menstrual cycle and Type 2 diabetes can make women more vulnerable to vaginal yeast infections. These yeast infections are also contagious and can be passed to a male sexual partner.
Infants, especially newborns, are susceptible to yeast-related diaper rash or oral thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth. Babies can spread oral yeast infections to their mothers during nursing. Yeast skin infections of all kinds can easily be treated with antifungal suppositories or topical creams, or with oral antifungals like fluconazole. Most yeast infections go away with a short course of treatment, but stubborn or recurrent infections may require weekly treatment for up to six months. Save money on prescription yeast infection medications when you buy them from the #1 online pharmacy in Canada.
When Candida Becomes Deadly
In rare cases, Candida albicans can infect the bloodstream, and when this occurs, the results can be catastrophic. Invasive candidiasis, or candidemia, allows the yeast to spread throughout the body in the bloodstream.
It occurs when you have compromised immunity and do not get a yeast infection treated promptly, or when you come in contact with Candida-tainted medical equipment. Candidemia is the fourth most common blood infection among American hospital patients. Aside from compromised immunity, risk factors for candidemia include being admitted to an ICU, having recent surgery and having a catheter. Infants with low birth weight are also at an increased risk of candidemia.
If you had candidemia, you would not be walking around feeling bloated, fatigued and foggy-headed. You would be in the hospital. Early symptoms of candidemia include chills and fever that do not improve with antibiotics. Eventually, the condition can cause major organ failure. Treatment requires several weeks of oral or intravenous antifungal drugs.