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Archive for July, 2007

Candida albicans

This post is in response to a very reasonable question: what is Candida?  

Candida albicans is a kind of yeast, and we’re all born with it in our bodies.  Ususally, our intestinal and vaginal flora keep it in check, but under excessive stress, auto-immune disorders, high sugar consumption, or antibiotics, Candida gets out of control.  Antibiotics may be the most insidious cause of Candidiasis, because, while antibiotics kill off the bad micro-organisms to make you “better,” they also kill all of the good micro-organisms, thereby making you sicker.  Suddenly, with your intestinal flora depleted, you are open to an overgrowth of Candida albicans, which wreaks havoc on your body on its own and makes your body more vulnerable to other kinds of infections. 

 For this reason, if you treat a urinary tract infection (UTI) with antibiotics, a vaginal yeast infection (YI) often follows, sometimes leading to a vaginal bacterial infection (BV).  Then, if you treat the BV with an antibiotic, you get another YI.  It’s a vicious cycle, and one that I’ve experienced first-hand since my wedding 10 months ago.  It’s terrible.  

After one too many rounds of antifungals and antibiotics, I switched doctors.  I wanted to address the root issue, which ended up being a compromised immune system and systemic yeast overgrowth (and it’s not clear which happened first!).  It turns out that I’ve had this problem building a lot longer than I realized–probably since infancy.  My mom recently told me that the pediatrician put me on antibiotics for 10 weeks to “cure” a peristent ear infection.  Sadly, the treatment probably didn’t even help; the vast majority of ear infections are viral.

So what exactly does Candida do?  The following are common symptoms of Candidiasis (from Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch): “constipation, diarrhea, colitis, abdominal pain, headaches, bad breath, rectal itching, impotence, memory loss, mood swings, prostatitis, canker sores, persistent heartburn, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, congestion, nagging cough, numbness in the face or extremities, tingling sensations, acne, night sweats, severe itching, clogged sinuses, PMS, burning tongue, white spots on the tongue and in the mouth, extreme fatigue, vaginitis, kidney and bladder infections, arthritis, depression, hyperactivity, hypothyroidism, adrenal problems,” gas, bloating, and hypoglycemia.  It also worsens existing allergies and can even cause your body to develop new ones (which are temporary, assuming you can get control of the yeast). 

Bottom line: Candida albicans prevents your body from working the way it’s designed to, whether it be digestion and absorption of food, elimination of wastes, or hormone regulation.

Because Candidiasis has so many different kinds of symptoms that seem totally unrelated, doctors often misdiagnose the disorder.  Fortunately, once it has been accurately identified, it is manageable, though it is a long, arduous, often unpleasant process. 

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Okay, “superfood” may overstate things a bit, but I am really excited about Kombucha and its many health benefits.  My naturopath introduced me to it for the purpose of fighting Candida (see below for other uses).  He told me to start drinking a few ounces three times per day.  Great.  Where do I find it?  Is it dried? 

“Oh no.  It’s fermented tea.”  

“Excuse me?  You want me to drink what?” 

“Really, it’s not so bad,” he assures me.

Right.  I try to imagine fermented tea.  No, that can’t possibly taste good.

Then again, I’m pretty desperate.  So I dutifully drop by Whole Foods on my way home and discover a multitude of flavors in the refrigerated section.  Besides the Original flavor, I snatch one each of Gingerade, Citrus, and Multi-Green. 

Upon arriving home, I inspect my purchases more closely.  Hmmm.  Weird, stringy stuff swirls around the bottom of the glass jars. 

I shudder.

I select Original for my test run.  After all, it can only get better from there, right?  I shake, shake, shake it to disperse the hideous stringy stuff, then twirl the cap reluctantly.

 Oops.

It seems Kombucha reacts much like a coke when manhandled.  I roll the bottle over in my hands and see “Do NOT shake” printed very clearly.  Obviously, I didn’t inspect my purchase carefully enough, but it appears that no real harm has been inflicted. 

I take a tiny sip. 

Wow.  That’s actually–no, can’t be.  I take another, larger swig.  Who would have guessed?  It is good! 

 Now five days into my Kombucha-drinking regimen, I love it.  It’s refreshing, a little bubbly tasting (from the fermentation), and somehow satisfies my sweet tooth.  That last bonus is huge, because I don’t even get to relish fruit anymore.

So, besides Candida-fighting qualities, what are the other benefits of Kombucha?  According to everything I’ve read, Kombucha (sometimes called Kombucha tea) is swimming with probiotics, enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants.  This fermented tea fights Candida, promotes alkalinity in the body, boosts immunity, and supports digestion, among many, many other benefits.  And that stringy stuff at the bottom?  It’s just the mother–like the stuff you find at the bottom of raw apple cider vinegar. 

You can purchase Kombucha at health food stores or online.  Be sure to select organic, raw varieties. 

The brand I found at Whole Foods is GT’s: www.GTSkombucha.com.  The Original is light and refreshing, the Ginger is very gingery (read: will open your sinuses; consider yourself forewarned), the Multi-Green is slightly bitter (but really healthy!), and the Citrus is delicious.

www.kombu.de/candida.htm This page explains why Kombucha, a fermented product made with yeast and sugar, helps kill off Candida.  I found it very helpful, because the reasoning is a little counter-intuitive.  First, the yeast and other cultures eat the sugar in order to produce all the important probiotics and nutrients.  Second, the kind of yeast used in Kombucha is actually a strain that’s antagonistic to Candida albicans.  Result: Candida die-off!

For even more information about Kombucha, browse the entire international site of www.kombu.de or do a Google search.  It’s great stuff.

To your health and mine,

Pennythoughts

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