Could You Have Yeast Overgrowth?
Jan 02, 2013 05:54PM
By Tracie Leonhardt, DO
What are yeasts? Yeasts are single cell fungi which belong to the vegetable kingdom. They are related to the mold family, and like molds, live year round. The species Candida albicans normally lives in the body, primarily in your intestines and other parts of the digestive tract. This is the reason that when we take antibiotics, some people get a yeast infection. Yeasts are normally unable to cause infection in a healthy individual with an intact immune system. They only cause trouble when our defenses are weakened. That is why the severity of the disease will depend on the person and how weak their resistance is, rather than on any disease-producing properties exhibited by the fungus. Candida albicans accounts for the vast majority of diseases caused by yeast.
There are several different types and classifications of yeasts, including brewer’s yeast, baker’s yeast, yeasts found in beer, ale and wine, and some are lactose fermenters like those found in fermented milk beverages. Foods high in yeast include alcoholic beverages, cheeses, dried fruits, peanuts, mushrooms, potatoes, winter squash, yams, apricots, figs, melons, raisins, and breads and baked goods containing yeast.
Most of us are familiar with some of the common conditions associated with yeast, such as thrush, diaper rash, nail fungal infections and vaginal infections. But why do these fungi overgrow and how do they make us sick? A few families of yeast germs normally live on the mucous membranes, along with billions of friendly germs (the normal, healthy gut flora). Yeast especially feels at home in the warm, dark recesses of the digestive tract and vaginal vault. Unfriendly bacteria, viruses, allergens, and other enemies also will find their way into these membrane lined passageways and cavities, including the respiratory tract. But with a strong, healthy immune system they are not able to get into the deeper tissues or blood stream and cause illness.
When we are given antibiotics, especially when taken repeatedly, many of the friendly germs are "wiped out". Since yeasts are not harmed by antibiotics as they are not bacteria, they will spread out and colonize. Yeast such as Candida becomes attached to the intestinal wall and the connective tissue between the cells. This creates holes through the cell membranes which then release toxic waste products back into the system.
Yeasts contain decarboxylases which are enzymes that convert or putrefy amino acids causing alterations in the permeability of the blood vessels and other tissues. This process can cause permeable gut otherwise known as leaky gut syndrome. Candida albicans produces chemical toxins that suppress the immune system by decreasing the production of white blood cells. Other things that may also weaken the immune system include nutritional deficiencies, environmental chemicals, food allergies, environmental molds, emotional stress and physical stress. When you combine several of these together, you are highly susceptible to illness.
What encourages yeast growth? Many things encourage growth but the main causes are a high sugar diet, high yeast diet, diabetes, birth control pills or oral estrogens, pregnancy, hormonal changes, low stomach acid known as hypochlorhydria, menstrual cycle, impaired liver function, altered bowel flora, chemotherapy and cancer, steroids and antibiotics.
What does someone feel like with yeast overgrowth? Associated symptoms of Candida overgrowth are feeling sick all over, spaced out, muscle aches, digestive problems, sugar cravings, unusual sensitivity to tobacco, perfume, and other chemicals, and food sensitivities. Many patients have sought help repeatedly from multiple health care physicians.
Women usually experience recurrent vaginal yeast infections, PMS, recurrent urinary tract infections, sexual dysfunction, dyspareunia, vulvodynia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis and infertility.
Men usually experience fatigue, headache, digestive symptoms, muscle and joint pains, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, sugar cravings, memory loss, sexual dysfunction and depression.
Children usually experience constant colds, irritability, skin rashes, ear problems, sleep problems, digestive issues, hyperactivity, poor school performance, and food and chemical sensitivities.
Additional illnesses associated with yeast overgrowth include asthma, chronic sinus infections, lupus, myasthenia gravis, acne, Crohn’s disease, eczema, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
What do you do if you suspect Candida overgrowth? Your physician can use a specialty lab that can test for yeast overgrowth. The first thing you want to do is avoid foods which promote yeast growth. The liver needs to be supported as when yeast die off they release an endotoxin. This endotoxin release often makes the patient feel like they have the flu after the start of treatment. Yeast die-off may start several days after the initiation of treatment and repeat itself about three weeks later. Sometimes treatment may require the extended use of an antifungal medication. You want to avoid antibiotics if possible or at least take a good probiotic when taking an antibiotic. Herbal remedies include caprylic acid found in coconut oil, garlic, berberine, and essential oils such as oregano, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and tea tree.
Just remember, we all have yeast in our bodies, however, it is the overgrowth that causes illness and symptoms.
Dr. Tracie Leonhardt is medical director of Peaks of Health Metabolic Medical Center, and is board certified in anti-aging and regenerative medicine and emergency medicine. She can be heard Tuesdays and Wednesdays on her radio show on 1110 am. She has lectured nationally and currently has seminars monthly at her office. Dr. Leonhardt believes in providing her patients with the individual care they deserve. Peaks of Health is located at 7600 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite D, Largo. Call 727-826-0838 or visit PeaksOfHealth.com.
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