The widespread use of antibiotics, birth control pills and immune-suppressing steroids as anti-inflammatories, combined with modern high sugar diets, has led to the overgrowth of Candida and other yeasts in the upper gut becoming common and leading to debilitating systemic illness.
As an individual living with this for the past 20 years or so I have begun to notice something that should be obvious but nobody I am aware of has written about - that is that many effects of intestinal Candida overgrowth are the same as those that alcoholics experience or are at risk for.
The reason for this is that the main way intestinal Candida overgrowth causes illnesses is through the production of alcohol. Candida is a yeast which ferments carbohydrates in our diet to produce exactly the same type of alcohol that an alcoholic would consume to excess in the form of alcoholic beverages - namely ethanol.
Ethanol is a central nervous system depressant and it is this property that makes social drinking enjoyable since it relaxes us and removes inhibitions. It can however also cause long-term effects on cognitive function and mood. Ethanol is toxic and can damage the body at the cellular level as well as the organ level - the obvious example of the latter being liver diseases including alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
If this weren't bad enough, ethanol is acted on in the body by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase and the product of this reaction is acetaldehyde, which is a chemical cousin of formaldehyde and even more toxic than ethanol itself. To make matters worse for those with Candida growing out of control in their upper gut, acetaldehyde is produced in addition to ethanol by the yeast and both are absorbed into the systemic circulation via the liver - on a chronic basis - but particularly in the few hours following meals.
Acetaldehyde is usually acted on by another enzyme named aldehyde dehydrogenase with the ultimate product being harmless acetic acid which is excreted from the body in urine. Unfortunately, and more than a little ironically, constant consumption of alcoholic beverages in alcoholism or the chronic absorption of ethanol and acetaldehyde from intestinal Candida overgrowth depletes the very nutrients both alcohol and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase need to function efficiently (e.g. B vitamins, zinc). This leads to a build up of these toxic chemicals and allows them to wreak havoc on the body.
So having established that both alcoholics and Candida sufferers are exposed to the same toxic chemicals, let's take a look at a list of diseases which alcoholics are at risk for, since logically Candida sufferers are likewise at risk:
- Liver Disease - e.g. fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis
- Digestive Disease - e.g. gastritis, pancreatitis, nutrient malabsorption
- Cardiovascular Disease - e.g. atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart attack, stroke
- Blood Sugar Problems - e.g. hypoglycemia
- Sexual & Reproductive Problems - e.g. erectile dysfunction, menstrual problems
- Bone Loss - leading to osteoporosis and fractures
- Neurological Disease - e.g. cognitive dysfunction, numbness, dementia/Alzheimer's
- Cancer - e.g. mouth, throat, liver, colon and breast cancers
Source: Mayo Clinic
Clearly there are many serious problems there which mean those who suffer from either alcoholism or intestinal Candida overgrowth need to deal with the problem quickly in order to avoid long-term consequences.
On a personal level I have long suffered the rapid onset blood sugar imbalances and hypoglycemia associated with Candida-derived ethanol. More seriously I have experienced liver and gastrointestinal inflammation and signs of cardiovascular damage e.g. thread veins, venous insufficiency, easy haemorrage. Knowing I have this intestinal Candida overgrowth - as confirmed by many doctors and lab tests e.g. Gut Fermentation Profile, Biolab, London - I hope I can avoid any of the more serious consequences of chronic ethanol and acetaldehyde exposure.
My intention with this blog was not to make you panic but just to make you aware that while Candida is often dismissed as a fad or a non-existant condition hypochondriacs might profess to have, it is very real and can have very real consequences if not treated.
Please search the rest of the site for lots of great information on the treatment of intestinal Candida overgrowth.
- Mayo Clinic Staff (2010) Alcoholism: Complications (Online) Last accessed at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoholism/DS00340/DSECTION=complications
- Roach J & Benyan S (2006) Crash Course: Metabolism and Nutrition (Second Edition) Elsevier
- Trowbridge JP & Walker M (1986) The Yeast Syndrome Bantam Books
About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.