A healthy person has natural protection against Candida overgrowth. The two main parts of that protection are bacterial flora and a type of white blood cells called neutrophils. Candida has become a very common and often serious disease in our modern world, due both to modern practices that suppress these immune functions and to a fermenting diet.
Bacterial flora are the bacteria that naturally populate all the non-sterile areas of your body, starting at birth. These include the mouth, nose, ears, throat, esophagus, large airways, most of the intestines, the skin, and the genital areas. Certain bacterial types take up residence in different body areas and live in perfect harmony with your body. Some actually help your body with specific functions, like making vitamin K to help blood clot properly. Bacterial flora is absolutely essential in preventing undesirable microbes — like disease-causing bacteria, fungi and viruses — from infecting you.
The other main protection is neutrophils. These are inflammatory cells that perform surveillance throughout your body and attack invading microbes. They automatically attack invading fungal spores (such as those you routinely inhale just by walking through an area with open dirt) and prevent the spores from getting hold and causing infection. Neutrophils are what prevent people of normal health from getting thrush, an oral yeast infection.
Candida overgrowth and invasion occur when bacterial flora are killed, or when the immune system is suppressed and neutrophils are not as active or abundant. The expansion of Candida is also fostered by eating fermented or aged products and certain sugars, particularly maltose (malt, barley malt, malted barley or maltodextrin).
The usual progression of events appears to be the following:
2. Candida invasion of organs begins, with the liver being one of the most affected organs. This is due to the fact that the liver receives a large blood supply directly from the intestines, where Candida overgrowth usually gets its start.
3. Liver changes, cravings and appetite. Appetite (meaning which foods happen to appeal to an individual) is primarily a liver function. As Candida takes up residence in the liver, it chemically influences the appetite, and one usually begins to prefer or even crave those foods that feed Candida — fermented or aged items and certain sugars. The most common form is the craving for foods in the group of chocolate, bread, alcohol (beer, wine or vodka most commonly), aged cheeses (cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, etc.) or milk itself, nuts or peanuts, and fruit like apples, grapes or bananas. Less common — but seen in the more seriously affected — is the phenomenon of craving vinegar (includes ketchup and salad dressings) and pickles. In children ages 3-8, the very typical cravings are for milk, cheese, yogurt, macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter.
4. Fermenting diet and further invasion. The consumption of Candida-supporting foods in a steady and increasing fashion (a symptom which develops in most Candida patients) gradually but surely allows the Candida to grow more abundantly and entrench itself more deeply in the tissues of the body. Even if one stops eating these foods, established Candida will persist in the body until it's effectively treated.
5. Candida symptoms. Whether through chemicals it produces, its nutritional requirements or through its direct physical presence around cells, overgrown Candida influences a variety of body systems (primarily the digestive, nervous and immune systems), producing a multitude of unpleasant and often serious symptoms.
Unfortunately, there are several common conditions and substances in our modern world that either kill flora, suppress immunity or directly feed yeast, allowing this unwanted overgrowth of Candida. Equally unfortunate is the fact that because fungi grow slowly and therefore bring on their symptoms very gradually, Candida is not understood by many doctors and patients to be a common cause of real disease.
In fact, it is quite typical for patients to not develop serious symptoms until ten, twenty or thirty years after their yeast-promoting exposures.
As an example, in clinical experience a typical patient might develop frequent headaches, depression, fatigue, sleep problems and poor memory around age 35, while the actual main culprits are frequent courses of antibiotics the patient received for ear infections as a young child, chlorine exposure from swimming at the YMCA as an older child, and later being on the high school swim team. Both antibiotics and chlorine kill off normal bacterial flora, gradually allowing Candida to multiply and become established beyond its normal, limited environment.
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Updated: May 11, 2010
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