Candida is a common yeast in the environment, on our bodies and in our bodies. It competes for space with 'good' bacteria on the skin and anywhere that it is warm and moist- like the digestive tract. If the immune system is strong, the yeast is harmless and unnoticeable, but if the immune system is stressed, Candida can win the competition for space and cause infection. No one denies the existence of common Candida infections like 'thrush' in the mouth and yeast infections of the vagina, but the debate occurs where the intestines begin. Many believe that Candida can also overgrow in the intestinal tract and cause symptoms that are commonly associated with so many chronic health problems today: fatigue, fuzzy thinking, body aches, chemical sensitivities and frequent infections are only some of the many complaints attributed to an 'Intestinal Candida Infection'. Most traditional doctors, however, do not believe this theory but are generally unable to find an explanation for these symptoms, leaving sufferers without answers or relief from their health problems.
The Facts about Candida
The fact is, Candida can overgrow almost anywhere in the body and cause an infection. According to ' Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Candidiasis: 2009 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America', "Candida species are the most common cause of invasive fungal infections in humans, producing infections that range from non life threatening mucocutaneous disorders to invasive disease that can involve any organ." So, typically doctors believe that Candida can cause infections anywhere, but that infections in the digestive tract are rare; when they do occur, they simply don't cause the symptoms that people attribute to them.
Interestingly, researchers studying these patients found that when they gave people who complained of 'Intestinal Candida' a sugary meal, there was a measurable increase in blood alcohol concentration! Furthermore beer and wine makers have known for centuries that yeasts have a remarkable ability to create alcohol from sugar, while beer and wine drinkers have known for centuries that alcohol ingestion can cause sensations of fatigue, 'brain fog' and other seemingly vague symptoms. More studies showed that this ability to make alcohol after sugar administration went away and patients felt better after antifungal treatment and a low carbohydrate diet. In the 1980's, Dr. William Crook began to successfully treat patients based on this theory and became one of the most vocal proponents of the theory of Candida infection as the cause of these symptoms. But a specific organism has never been proven to actually be the CAUSE of this phenomenon, so researchers have not been so eager to call it 'Intestinal Candida'; instead, it was given the unusual name of 'Gut Fermentation Syndrome' or 'Auto Brewery Syndrome'.
Comment: For a more in depth look at how Candida can cause numerous health issues read the forum thread Candida- The Silent Epidemic
There is, however, further support of the 'Candida Infection' hypothesis in the book 'Alcohol in Health and Disease' where they cite cases of thirty-nine women in Japan with intestinal abnormalities and Candida overgrowth infections who became intoxicated after a high carbohydrate meal. Also, some clinics will test patients with common 'Intestinal Yeast Infection' symptoms for Candida Albicans antibodies. Many of these patients DO have high levels of antibodies, pointing out that they either have a Candida infection or have had one somewhere in their body at one time, and they generally improve with antifungal treatment and the low sugar and carbohydrate diet that Dr. Crook describes.
Comment: Additional information about the Anti Candida Diet can be found here: Anti-Candida, Inflammation, Heavy Metals Detox and Diet
So while this common malady may not absolutely conclusively BE an 'Intestinal Candida Infection', there is a large body of circumstantial evidence that this condition very well COULD be from Candida. But whether you call it an 'Intestinal Candida Infection', 'Auto Brewery Syndrome' or 'Gut Fermentation Syndrome', what is clear is that thousands of people suffer from a very real and often disabling condition that could be caused by yeast. What else is clear is that symptoms in most people substantially improve with the elimination of simple sugars in their diet; something most would be better off without whether they have Candida or not.
Revisiting the Source of Candidemia: Skin or Gut?
Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Candidiasis: 2009
Candida-associated diarrhea in hospitalized patients.
About the author
Kerri Knox, RN is a Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner.
With over 14 years of experience in health care, she has the unique perspective of being solidly grounded in Conventional Medicine and being well versed in Alternative Medicine.She can help you to to find and repair the underlying causes of illness using cutting edge in home lab testing that finds nutritional deficiencies, hidden infections and chemical and metal toxicities that contribute to ill health.
She has a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, but works primarily by Telephone Consultation so that she can help you wherever you happen to live in the US. She can be reached through her website