A review of allopathic and holistic products, devices and therapies.

Posts tagged ‘yeast’

Using Probiotics to Treat Candida “Yeast” Infections

To clarify one thing before answering it is not the treatment of yeast infection but rather a fungal infection.  Candida is a dimorphic microbe meaning it can exist in two forms.  It can exist as a benign yeast or a pathogenic fungi. 

Every person has Candida as it is a natural and beneficial inhabitant of the body in its yeast form.  Not everyone has Candida overgrowth (candidiasis) though , which occurs in Candida’s fungal form.   In is fungal form Candida forms finger-like projections called hyphae that allow the Candida to dig in to and damage tissues.

Whether Candida exists as yeast or a fungus depends on the pH of the terrain the Candida is in.  In areas where Candida is naturally found beneficial acid forming bacteria known as flora are also found.  These are primarily the colon, sinuses, skin and vaginal cavity.  The acids produced by the flora turn off the Candida growth gene and keep the Candida in its benign yeast form.

When the flora are destroyed from antibiotics use or certain other drugs, illness, poor diet, etc. the pH of the tissues where Candida and the flora are found shift from the normally slightly acidic pH to an alkaline pH.  The shift from an acidic to an alkaline pH turns on the Candida growth gene and converts the Candida to convert in to its pathogenic fungal form.

Taking probiotic supplements such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help restore the natural acidic pH that keeps the Candida under control.

When trying to treat candidiasis people often make the mistake of trying to kill off the Candida with antifungal herbs, enzymes, oils, etc.   This rarely works and can actually make the problem worse in some cases.

The primary problem is that as long as the pH of the terrain remains alkaline all it takes in one surviving cell for the Candida to rebound since the alkalinity will keep the Candida growth gene turned on.

Antifungal herbs and oils generally pose the same problem since they rarely adjust the tissue pH back to the normal acidic pH.  A secondary problem with many antifungal herbs and oils is that they often also kill off the beneficial  intestinal flora that naturally keep the Candida under control.  Some of the worst offenders are the berberine containing herbs goldenseal, barberry and Oregon grape root. 

There are some herbs and oils though that can help knock back Candida due to their anti-fungal properties without damaging the flora.  Yucca root powder, Gynostemma pentaphyllum (jiaogulan) and unprocessed coconut oil are a few examples.

I have also seen discussions where products containing the enzymes cellulase and hemicellulase were being recommended to treat Candida.  The concept is that these enzymes will digest the cellulose and hemicellulose in Candida killing it.  There are several problems with this hypothesis. 

Cellulose and hemicellulose are partial components of Candida cell walls consisting of long chain sugar molecules (polysaccharides) made up of repeating glucose units.  As the cellulose and hemicellulose of the Candida cells are broken down in to glucose these glucose units simply become food for the surviving Candida cells.

A second issue with these products is that the flora feed on glucose from fibers by breaking the fibers down using cellulase and hemicellulase.  Fermentation of these fibers by the flora lead to the production of beneficial acids that among other functions help control Candida overgrowth and pathogenesis.   When people take cellulose and hemicellulase for Candida these enzymes do not digest the cellulose and hemicellulose in the Candida solely.  The enzymes also digest the fibers that the flora use for food producing more glucose that can feed the Candida.  In the process the flora are deprived of food decreasing their numbers.  This further reduces the natural acidity allowing the Candida to thrive even more and increasing the risk of the Candida converting in to its pathogenic fungal form.

The safest and most effective way of dealing with candidiasis is by restoring the natural acidic pH by rebuilding the flora so they once again become the predominant microbes. 

Both probiotics and prebiotics can be used to restore the flora.

Probiotics are actual sources of the beneficial bacteria such as capsuled bacteria, liquid Acidophilus,  live culture yogurts, fermented vegetables,  miso, tempeh, kefirs, etc.  These are best for the short term to jump start the growth of the flora.

For long term boosting the growth of the flora though I prefer prebiotics.  Prebiotics are fibers used by the flora as food sources and to generate the beneficial acids that keep the Candida under control.   Examples include brans, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulin, vegetable gums, etc.

The reason I prefer prebiotics  over probiotics for the long run is that there are literally thousands of different beneficial strains of flora in the human body.  Probiotic sources generally only contain between one to twenty different strains of beneficial bacteria.  This leaves several thousand strains of beneficial bacteria not being replenished when candidiasis is present.  Antibiotics and other flora destroyers never kill off all the flora though.  There are always survivors from different strains that can be built back up if properly fed.  Therefore,  prebiotics have the advantage over probiotics in the fact that prebiotics can restore the growth of all the flora rather than just replacing a limited number of strains.

The best probiotic source in my opinion are kefirs, which contain a much broader range of probiotic bacteria than supplements or yogurts.  And they are liver, active cultures.  Many people do not realize that most commercial yogurts do not have liver cultures despite having that claim on the label.  The cultures are killed prior to sealing the containers to prevent further fermentation of the sugars that would make the product less sweet and more acidic and would pop the tops off the containers from the carbon dioxide gas.

Drinking large amounts of kefir helps ensure sufficient bacteria will survive passage through the stomach to reach the safety of the intestines.  

Oral probiotics can also help with vaginal candidiasis.  There is no direct route from the intestines to the vaginal cavity though.  Vaginal flora actually come from the bacteria excreted during defecation and that remain on the perianal skin.  From there these beneficial bacteria migrate in to the vaginal cavity.  

Because of this it can be difficult to get enough of the bacteria to migrate to the vaginal cavity for quick relief from vaginal candidiasis.  Therefore, some women will insert kefir or other probiotic sources directly in to the vaginal cavity, which speeds up the process considerably.

A small amount of water kefir or coconut kefir is best for this purpose.  If these are not available then another option is to put some probiotic powder or open a probiotic capsule in to a small container.  Add just enough water to make a thick solution.  Then an eyedropper is used to suck up some of the solution, the woman lays on her back and squirts the liquid in to the vaginal cavity.  A small amount of the liquid is used so that it does not run out and the bacteria remain to re-colonize the tissues.  This is repeated several times a day.  This will normally clear up vaginal candidiasis within a few days.

Candex

Candex is a product sold to kill Candida by digesting the cell walls of the Candida.  Candex contains the enzymes cellulase and hemicellulase that break down the compounds cellulose and hemicellulose in the walls of Candida microbes.  This can kill some of the Candida present, but this does not mean it will successfully treat the overgrowth of Candida (candidiasis).

To understand why it is important to first understand a few facts.

First of all Candida is a normal part of the body, and everyone has Candida.  Not everyone has candidiasis though.  Therefore, there are clearly some specific factors that cause candidiasis, and the only way to control the Candida overgrowth is to change the terrain that promoted the overgrowth  in the first place.

There have been all sorts of unproven hypotheses as to what causes candidiasis from heavy metals to sugar consumption.  One of the problems with these hypotheses though is that not everyone who fits these claims has candidiasis .  For example, I still have my mercury amalgams and I consume foods with sugar yet I do not have candidiasis.  I also consume fermented foods that some also claim promote Candida overgrowth yet I am still healthy.

The fact is that it is not heavy metals, nor sugar consumption nor the consumption of fermented foods or foods that contain yeast that lead to candidiasis.  How Candida grows in the body is controlled by pH.  In every part of the body where Candida naturally exists we also have beneficial bacteria (flora) that naturally exist.  One of the roles of the flora is to produce acids that control the growth of Candida.  They do this because the acids turn off the Candida growth gene as research has shown.  In addition, Candida is a dimorphic microbe meaning it can exist in two forms.  In a properly acidified environment the Candida is kept in a benign and beneficial yeast form that does not harm us.  When the pH of the terrain changes to an alkaline state though, such as from the use of antibiotics that kill off the acid forming flora, the Candida growth gene is turned on.  In addition, the Candida is morphed in to a pathogenic and highly aggressive fungal form.  In this fungal form the Candida form finger-like projections known as hyphae that allow the Candida to dig in to the tissues causing damage.

One of the big problems I see with Candex is that it does not address the cause of the candidiasis.  In fact, this is a very common problem with many anti-Candida products and diets.  If the terrain is not changed to get the Candida under control it does not matter what you throw at it the Candida will simply grow back rapidly.  In this case this means restoring the flora and thus the natural acidic pH of the tissues where Candida is naturally found.

Candex does not address the terrain though.  Instead the enzymes only digest the walls of some of the Candida cells killing them.  Since the terrain remains conducive to Candida overgrowth though the surviving Candida cells rapidly multiply back once again leading to an overgrowth.

To make matters worse the cellulose and hemicellulose the Candex breaks down are composed of repeating units of glucose (glucose-glucose-glucose-glucose-glucose-…………).   As the Candex breaks down the cellulose and hemicellulose it provides plenty of individual glucose molecules to feed the surviving Candida.  In my opinion this is akin to trying to get rids of weeds in the yard by pulling a few while fertilizing the rest.