By Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.
Advisor to www.yeastconnection.com, Website of the late Dr. William Crook
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia are similar conditions, with long lists of symptoms for which there are few real remedies. While they are called different disorders, CFS and fibromyalgia are close cousins, sharing many of the same symptoms. They are often spoken of in the same breath.
In fact, they may be connected. Certainly their similarities, beginning with a shared feeling of profound fatigue make it easy to find a connection between the two.
Only recognized by the CDC since 1988, CFS, now called Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), is characterized by the following factors:
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic headaches
- Swollen glands
- Periodic fevers and chills
- Sore throat
- Numbness and tingling of the extremities
- Inability to cope with any stress
- Cognitive dysfunction
Not until 1990 did the American College of Rheumatology establish diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia that included incapacitating fatigue, muscle and joint pain, neuralgia, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, cognitive confusion and digestive problems.
It appears that CFIDS and fibromyalgia may also be connected to yeast overgrowth for the simple reason that a significant number of sufferers from these two syndromes find relief when they follow an anti-candida diet and other protocols to address Candida albicans yeast overgrowth, including prescription antifungal medications when necessary. The decided lack of interest by the scientific establishment in studying candidiasis alone or as it affects people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia leaves a distinct gap in our ability to treat these conditions.
However, Carol Jessup, M.D., who treated 1,000 CFIDS patients with anti-fungal medication, found that up to 75 percent of patients with CFS also had candidiasis. She is convinced that if candida is treated, the majority of CFIDS patients will recover.
A study by Dismukes in 1990 on only 42 patients given a double-blind trial of therapy with the prescription antifungal medication, Nystatin, claimed to "prove" that chronic candidiasis did not exist because neither Nystatin or placebo benefited the patients. Dismukes also declared that since chronic candidiasis was not reproducible in an animal model, it was not verifiable.
However, the country's foremost authority on yeast infections, the late Dr. William Crook said that Dismukes got it all wrong. Dr. Crook said Dismukes' study was, in fact, successful. It was successful in proving that Nystatin alone is not the treatment for chronic candidiasis. Dr. Crook's approach to candidiasis involved a combination of diet, probiotics and antifungal supplements and antifungal medication when necessary.
In spite of Dr. Crook's decades of dedicated work on the yeast connection, conventional medicine has not given chronic candidiasis sufferers any support. Perhaps, it's because conventional medicine only seems to investigate drug treatments and only uses one drug at a time in research. By continuing this one-sided approach, they may never catch up with Dr. Crook and the benefits he gave many thousands of people affected with candida. Patients, however, for the most part, are left struggling to find answers themselves.
The complaint of being "tired, so tired" and "sick all over" is a common link between sufferers of CFIDS, fibromyalgia and yeast overgrowth. So is the litany of multiple visits to numerous physicians without relief, and the laundry list of symptoms in common.
Even though they are so similar, CFIDS and fibromyalgia have some defining differences.
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The CFIDS Association estimates that 800,000 Americans suffer from this condition, but no more than 16 percent have been diagnosed. In addition to muscle pain, multi-joint pain without swelling or redness, and lack of refreshing sleep, CFIDS sufferers complain of:
- Deep fatigue lasting more than 24 hours after exercise
- Impairment of short-term memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Tender lymph nodes
- Headaches of a new type, pattern or severity
The association adds, "CFIDS brings with it a constellation of debilitating symptoms... It is characterized by incapacitating fatigue experienced as a profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina." Although many doctors tell patients suffering from these symptoms that "it's all in your head," it is not a psychological disorder.
Unfortunately, there are no specific diagnostic tests for CFIDS, and no cure has been found. There are a number of treatments that can be helpful, along with yeast-related treatments. Many people with CFIDS are highly sensitive to drug therapy and find much more relief taking natural nutrients and non-invasive therapies.
Some of these include:
- Supplements for digestive problems and nausea that often accompany CFIDS, including probiotics, digestive enzymes and ginger
- Supplements for depression and anxiety, including St. John's wort, tryptophan, and 5-HTP
- Supplements for muscle and joint pain, including magnesium malate, glucosamine sulphate
- Counseling, to help develop coping skills necessary to live with a debilitating chronic disease (not overdoing it is the most difficult skill to acquire)
- Gentle exercise (yoga is great!)
- Sleep and rest management (St. John's wort, tryptophan, and 5-HTP are also very useful for sleep)
For more about these solutions, visit our Web store.
Yeast: The Missing Link?
There are numerous theories about the causes of these two debilitating illnesses, ranging from viral infections, neurotransmitter imbalances, immune system failure, intestinal bacterial and yeast overgrowth.
One way of looking at chronic candidiasis, CFIDS and fibromyalgia is from an immunological point of view:
- CFIDS is defined as an immune disorder
- The symptoms of fibromyalgia indicate widespread immune involvement
- Candidia albicans releases dozens of toxic waste products that trigger immune reactions throughout the body
We also know that in the most severe immune disorder we know--acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)--100 percent of patients have candida overgrowth and candidiasis symptoms. I've talked and written about the downward spiral into candidiasis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia for decades.
Here's how the story goes beginning chronologically at birth and medically leading to candidiasis, CFIDS and fibromyalgia:
The Baby Years
- Diaper rash, caused by candida, is treated with cortisone creams that encourage the growth of more candida
- Childhood ear infections can begin at birth as yeast infections. The infant picks them up from Mom passing through her candida-overgrown birth canal. Rounds of useless antibiotics are given for undiagnosed fungal infection resulting in oral thrush (candida in the mouth)
- Ear infections become chronic and children are given multiple courses of antibiotics, leading to intestinal candida, irritable bowel and diarrhea.
- Colic develops due to antibiotics
- Inability to digest milk due to an irritated bowel leads to frequent changes of formula and further digestive disturbances
- Ear infections swell the adenoids and tonsils. Surgery is recommended. Anesthetics used in surgery add another toxin to the mix
- Symptoms still occur and more surgery is recommended to place tubes in the ears
- Gas and bloating and eczema result from a hard-to-digest soy formula
- Eczema is suppressed with cortisone creams (homeopaths say this practice leads to asthma)
- Allergies to foods especially sugar, yeast, wheat and dairy arise from leaky gut syndrome caused by Candida albicans invading intestinal tissue
- Asthma is treated with medications including cortisone inhalers
- Multiple colds and flus are treated with many courses of antibiotics and annual flu vaccines. The mercury in vaccines acts as an antibiotic in the gut and leads to more candida overgrowth. Mercury also causes widespread immune impairment and toxicity
- Craving for sweets triggered by candida overgrowth causes and aggravates hyperactive behavior in children
- Allergic reactions are treated with allergy shots, antihistamines and cortisone sprays
- Children receive toxic mercury amalgam fillings, with absorption of mercury leading to more candida overgrowth and toxicity
- In young women, birth control pills (BCPs) cause chronic vaginal yeast infections that are often treated with antibiotic creams creating more candida
- Many adolescents take long-term oral antibiotics for acne caused by hormonal imbalance and poor diet
- Many teens and young adults, especially in the malnourished, beer-drinking college years, develop mononucleosis. Up to 20 percent never feel quite as healthy again and may go on to develop CFIDS
- Bladder infections, common after intercourse, are treated with antibiotics, which cause yeast infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and high dose antibiotic treatment are common in young people because fewer men use condoms due to the BCPs
- Infertility is increasing and the treatments include powerful fertility drugs that increase candida
- After childbirth, chronic sleep deprivation and poor diet is common and is a major stress on the immune system unable to cope with over growth of candida
- Intestinal infections from traveling are usually treated with antibiotics
- Hospitalization for infections or surgery usually warrants intravenous antibiotics and a host of other drugs
- Major colds and flus can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia, which are treated with strong antibiotics
- Dysmenorrhea, irregular periods, infertility and worsening premenstrual symptoms occur due to a build-up of toxins and lack of nutrients. Long term BCPs are recommended for women with these symptoms
- Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and palpitations are treated with anti-depressants creating more drug toxicity in the body
- Infection with mononucleosis in college, the build up of infections, and thousands of chemicals in our air, food, and water accumulate in a toxic, inflammatory overload resulting in symptoms of CFIDS and fibromyalgia. They are treated symptomatically with anti-inflammatory drugs, sleeping pills, and anti-depressants, which often make the symptoms worse
- Environmental allergies develop in people with CFIDS and fibromyalgia. They experience extreme sensitivities to inhalants, especially perfumes, colognes, household products, pesticides and molds, which are treated with cortisone
Yes, it's a nightmare scenario. It may seem extreme, but you have only to look around you, talk to a neighbor or look at your own health history to see the pattern.
If you have chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, headaches, muscle aches, memory loss, digestive disorders and other symptoms listed above, you may benefit from a comprehensive treatment program that includes the following five-step approach:
1. Diet and exercise
Eat a diet rich in meats, fish, chicken and eggs (free range and organic), seeds and nuts, vegetables and oils while avoiding sugars, grains, and fermented products like vinegars and preserved meats. This diet restricts the amount of fuel available to the yeast in your intestines. A grocery list of foods to get you started is available at our Web site.
Once you've started on the diet, begin to exercise, even if for only five minutes a day, especially for people with CFIDS. You'll also find help with an exercise program at our site.
Probiotics: These supplements contain friendly bacteria that help you keep a natural, healthy balance of microorganisms in your digestive tract. There are many different forms and brands of probiotics available in foods and pills and capsules. However, to be effective, they need to be able to bypass harsh stomach acid and deliver at least 1 billion live organisms to the intestines.
Digestive Enzymes: These supplements help break down foods so that incompletely digested food molecules don't enter the intestines and become absorbed, which causes food allergies and sensitivities. Most good products contain several enzymes to promote optimal digestion.
Herbs and Nutrients: These elements inhibit the growth of candida albicans. Before resorting to prescription antifungal medications and their possible side effects, a variety of herbs and nutrients can help support a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria, reining in yeast growth. Among the nutrients that work together to stop candida overgrowth are caprylic acid, pau d'Arco, oregano oil, black walnut, grapefruit seed extract, garlic, beta carotene and biotin.
Vitamins and minerals: Taking a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement daily helps supply your body with the nutrients it needs to help you regain your health. A good calcium-magnesium-vitamin D supplement is also essential to optimal health, especially for women.
Visit our site for recommendations on each of these supplement groups.
3. Avoid exposure to chemicals
Chemical sensitivities and allergic reactions are very common in people with yeast overgrowth. Avoid exposure to paints, pesticides, herbicides, household cleaners, perfumes and scents.
4. Address emotional and psychological issues
This step also profoundly impacts your ability to cope and helps balance the chemistry of your body and brain. Visit our site for advice.
5. Work with a kind and caring health professional
Spend some time interviewing doctors and finding one willing to work with you. You'll find links at our site to help you in this search.
Dr. Crook wrote, "I feel that CFIDS and fibromyalgia are often yeast-related. People with these disorders seem to develop them because their immune systems are weakened (by yeast overgrowth), viruses are activated, yeasts multiply, food and chemical allergies become activated, and nutritional deficiencies develop."
Dr. Crook was careful to note that he didn't think that yeast overgrowth was the primary cause of CFIDS and fibromyalgia. I fully concur, yet based on Dr. Crook's experience and my own, following a diet free of sugar and processed and refined foods plus the correct supplementation, can be exceedingly successful in helping people suffering from these conditions.
Extensive resources on yeast overgrowth, related conditions and ways of treating them are available at our site.
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Dismukes, W. E., J. S. Wade, J. Y. Lee, B. K. Dockery, and J. D. Hain. 1990. A randomized, double-blind trial of Nystatin therapy for the candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome. N. Engl. J. Med. 323:1717-1725.
About the Author:
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., is medical advisor to Woman’s Health Connection at
www.yeastconnection.com and is featured on the Web site’s "Ask A Pro" page. Her latest books are The Miracle of Magnesium and Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments.
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