by Marek Doyle of www.blueprinthealth.co.uk.
Marek is a nutritional therapist, allergist and personal trainer operating in London and Basingstoke, UK.
Chronic fungal infections affects people's lives. The one thing that links all sufferers of fungal infections such as candida is that every individual wants to rid themselves of it. While mainstream medicine stays ignorant of the problem, an array of popular treatment protocols have developed with numerous similarities and multiple differences. However, these methods of dealing with systemic fungal infection tend to share one common factor; they rarely work.
All those knowledgeable with chronic fungal infections agree that treatment must follow a defined course. First, the yeast organisms must be starved through the reduction of carbohydrates and an elimination of sugars; next, the weakened yeast populations must be eliminated through the introduction of anti-fungal compounds; finally, good bacteria should be used to repopulate intestinal bacteria. In principle, this simple plan works well. In reality, it is one that is bereft with problems and failures.
Conducted correctly, the 'candida diet' follows a fairly predictable path. An elimination of all sugars (bar the very small amounts found in vegetables and nuts) and a reduction in overall carbohydrates to a low level around 60g-80g per day is enough to instigate a 'die-off' response in the fungal populations. Known as the Herxheimer Reaction, this initially increases the severity of the symptoms and often results in a temporary flu-type feeling in the patient, but is an essential part of a successful treatment protocol. Failures in the dietary aspect of treatment normally resolve sticking to the plan long-term. Weekend misdemeanours, such as alcohol intake and the 'small' cupcake that turns into six cupcakes, are more of a problem rather than the day-to-day adherence. Unfortunately, delivering such a large amount of concentration of sugar into the intestines only fortifies the previously-weakened fungal species, ensuring that elimination takes much longer. Consistently sticking to a zero-sugar, low-carbohydrate diet is not a negotiable part of clearing fungal infections.
However, carbohydrate restriction in as a stand-alone treatment is rarely enough to deal with the problem. Whilst removing their fuel will seriously deplete any candida population, anti-fungal agents are implicated in all cases to complete this task. Many treatment protocols fail because the anti-fungal supplements or foods selected are used in isolation. There are many different anti-fungals available to the candida sufferer, which range from prescription agents like nystatin and diflucan to an enormous array of natural compounds like coconut oil, garlic, grapeseed extract, berberine, lapacho, oil of oregano, undecylenic acid and uva-ursi. Selecting an appropriate combination requires an understanding of the interactions between these compounds and the microbes they interact with.
Each bacterial and fungal species - whether candida, trichosporan or otherwise has a varying sensitivity to anti-fungal chemicals and herbs. This sensitivity determines how quickly and effectively the yeast cells die when exposed to the agent. The more sensitive a species is to an anti-fungal, the quicker it dies. However, there is no set sensitivity for any given species. So whilst a candida albicans infection in Mrs Smith may have cleared up nicely with the use of coconut oil, an overgrowth of the same species in Mr Jones may be totally unresponsive to the same coconut oil. Equally, a trichosporan infection in one person may be very sensitive to garlic, whilst you may get best results from undecylenic acid in the next patient. A sure bet is to order a microbiology test from Genova Diagnostics; this will not only show you what pathogens are present in the gut, but also tests them for sensitivity to a variety of anti-fungals. The next best thing to this would be to use a combination of at least four anti-fungals at any one time, leaving very little chance the fungus in question will escape destruction.
Even with the most carefully and targeted treatment, there will never be a full elimination of a bacterial or fungal species; however, the microbial count can be successfully suppressed to a dramatically low level where problems do not occur. As such, any approach that considers treatment finished as soon as the symptoms disappear are doomed to failure; susceptibility to candida allowed the organism to flourish previously, and the same is likely to be seen once more unless conditions in the intestines change. This is where the use of probiotics comes into play.
Probiotics should be used during and following anti-fungal therapy. Probiotics provide a vital injection of live organisms to help re-populate the intestinal wall. These organisms, such as lactobacillus strains, work in harmony with the host and functions include enhanced mineral absorption, increased production of short chain fatty acids and, vitally, protection from pathogenic species that would otherwise take over. 'Good' bacteria control protect their host by providing a physical lining along the mucous membranes and through the release of bactericidal and fungicidal secretions. These helpful species are the police force that patrol 24 hours a day. Effective treatment requires at least five billion viable species each day, ideally made up from a number of bacterial strains, taken with food but away from anti-fungal supplements. Only a minority of probiotic products meet this specification, another reason why the outcome in candida treatment is so often disappointing. Although the higher potency capsules the desired effect, a perfect way to provide the probiotic support required is through the used of kefir yoghurt made from coconut milk.
On the subject of yoghurts and fermented foods, many practitioners call for the removal of all fermented foods throughout the course of a candida treatment. This advice is never explained and rarely necessary, as in many cases fermented foods can play an active part in re-populating the intestinal wall. Only individuals that should consider cutting out these foods are those who have developed an allergy to the candida itself. Clinical experience shows that around half of patients with a chronic fungal infection develop an allergy against the microbe in question; this means that they produce antibodies to the fungus, which can then cross-react with similar yeast organisms in the diet. Between 20-60% of anti-candida antibodies will cross-react with dietary yeasts, depending on the food in question. The best way to ascertain any allergy/cross-reaction is to remove all yeast-containing foods for 10 days, then try them one at a time; if symptoms re-appear, a reaction is confirmed. If no reaction occurs, then these foods can be consumed safely.
There are still many occasions when a well-controlled diet, diligent administration of anti-fungals and thorough use of probiotics have not been enough to eliminate re-emergence of the fungus. This occurs when the function of the body's immune system is not considered or dealt with. Whilst the activity and scope of the immune system are unparalleled, what is of particular relevance in fungal dysbiosis is the Th1/Th2 balance within the patient. These terms describe the two different arms of the immune system; the Th1 branch is required to deal with tumours, intracellular bacteria, viruses and fungus/yeasts, while the Th2 branch is responsible for the formulation of specific antibodies. Both arms counter-regulate one another, ensuring there sinot an excessive response. Problems occur when side of the equation begins ceases to function effectively; commonly, candida sufferers present with a diminished Th1 action and Th2 dominance. Effectively, that means that regardless of how many anti-fungals they dose themselves up with, their immune system cannot complete the job of killing and removing candida.
Specific nutrients are a necessary factor in repolarising the immune system response back towards Th1. These include vitamin C and plant-based antioxidants, probiotic supplementation, licorice root, colostrum and, more than any other, zinc. Zinc has has been described as 'the switch' in regards to turning Th1 function back on again, and it is hard to argue with the importance of this key mineral. However, even the confirmed power of zinc is rendered impotent in the face of high circulating levels of cortisol. Cortisol, the body's major stress hormone, drives the body into Th2 dominance; this increases the incidence of allergy and hinders attempts at dealing with fungal infections. Stress levels rise as a result of psychological stress, hunger and lack of sleep, which demonstrates why there is absolutely no point in tailoring an well-considered and detailed treatment protocol for candida infection if the individual is not getting good sleep. Equally, if the brutal stress levels from a challenging job are not addressed, the chances of recovery are limited at best. The same goes for an individual who is not eating regular meals throughout the day.
As well as simply ensuring the presence of adequate nutrients for a well-measured immune response, it may sometimes be necessary to check for the presence of toxic compounds that can inhibit the metabolism and the immune system. In this regard, heavy metals such as mercury are the most likely candidate and, should a provoked urinary screen reveal excessive deposits of any of these toxic metals, then the elimination of candida may have to wait until full immune system function has been restored.
The approaches detailed above have proven therapeutic value. Nonetheless, the benefits associated with lapacho tea, for example, or the improved bacterial balanced expected from probiotic consumption, may fail to appear if the body's basic and general requirements are not tended to. If an individual is not getting sufficient sleep quantity or quality, then therapeutic intervention of any kind will not have the intended effect. The same rules apply if someone is dehydrated, stressed or suffering from impaired digestion. If the internal metabolism is disrupted, there is no platform from which effective change can occur from external changes.
Clearing such disruptions to the internal metabolism demands a lifestyle that suits our evolution and a dietary intake that provides all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients required for optimum function. These two aspects are the cornerstones of Primal Reconstitution Therapy, which starts with a full-spectrum multinutrient supplement, increased antioxidant support and increased intake of magnesium, zinc and iodine. During winter, addressing vitamin D3 levels is always necessary.
Any systemic fungal infection affects all parts of the body, not simply the area where symptoms appear. There is always more than one cause and, equally, the solution is just as multi-faceted. Understanding the true nature of a candida infection allows an understanding of all the angles that must be covered to restore the human body into optimal health. When all angles are covered, elimination of these troublesome microbes becomes simple task; if they are not, then treatment is destined to take the same path as all similar approaches that went before it.
About the Author:
Marek is a London nutritionist and the pioneer of the Combined Allergy Test. He is also an elite personal trainer with studios in West London and Basingstoke. He has been recognised as one of the top trainers in the UK and counts world champion athletes, cover models and TV personalities amongst his clientele. His website is www.blueprinthealth.co.uk.