I’ve been reading a fascinating article about the role of Candida albicans in human illness. It was written in 1981 by a doctor who specialized in mental illness.
He makes the point, which is widely known, that the severity and frequency of Candida infections has greatly increased since the use of antibiotics, birth control pills and immunosuppressant drugs became so widespread. He also makes the observation that prolonged high carbohydrate intake is a factor in the surge of Candida infections.
He recounts how he came across so many cases of depression and anxiety, impaired memory and decreased concentration, that he began to wonder if Candida could cause a disturbance of brain function. After 16 years of study, he published a paper in which he attributed a diagnosis of schizophrenia and one of multiple sclerosis to Candida infection. The evidence? When he provided anti-yeast therapy, the symptoms cleared completely.
Now this is fascinating stuff, because virtually any organ in the body can be affected by Candidiasis. This doctor’s thesis is that a wide variety of complaints can develop at the same time as vaginal or intestinal yeast infection, which in turn are often traceable to antibiotics or other factors that affect the body’s ability to control fungus naturally.
The most common symptoms, he says, are depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, hyperirritability, urinary tract symptoms (often presenting as cystitis), acne, dry skin, menstrual cycle disturbance, decreased and absent libido, and various other hormonal dysfunctions. Furthermore, impairment of memory and concentration was a notable sign of infections with Candida – and going beyond this, he believes that behavioral issues can also be linked to these infections.
As he observes, the first broad spectrum antibiotic was developed in 1947 and thereafter the number of scientific and medical articles describing yeast infections associated with the use of antibiotics increased dramatically each year.
He describes another case, in which a 14-year-old girl presented with severe asthma, acne, severe disruption of her menstrual cycle, mental confusion, depression, inability to learn, and frequent thoughts and vocalizations around suicide. Previously, she had been given antibiotics for acne, and had developed a headache, vaginitis and constipation. This time, suspecting a yeast infection, the physician administered nystatin and prescribed a low carbohydrate diet. There was a gradual improvement in all aspects of her condition as the yeast infection subsided.
So what this appears to indicate is that the impact of the antibiotic was manifested as vaginitis caused by Candida infection, constipation and headache; as the infection developed, she became more sensitized to the breakdown products of the yeast’s metabolism, which caused severe brain, skin and bronchial symptoms.
Ascribing her recovery to the administration of nystatin, the physician suggests that his interpretation of events is likely to be correct. What he also emphasizes here is that an appointment with a psychiatrist had been made for these mental symptoms, and he speculates as to what the outcome of that consultation might have been had she not been cured of her yeast infection. (Medication? Therapy? Who knows?)
The physician concerned says that this story is typical of many, and he goes so far as to suggest that the increasing rise in suicide among adolescents might be linked to similar etiology as in the case above. He describes a case of 15-year-old girl who had anorexia nervosa, and at the time was barely alive.
One of the carers noticed that she had oral thrush, and she was administered nystatin; from that point her recovery was rapid and remarkable. Again, the circumstantial evidence is not any kind of proof, but the physician who wrote this article certainly regards it as an interesting case, and speculates as to whether there may be a link between the increase in anorexia nervosa in recent decades and the increase in yeast infections.
But to say that Candida albicans can be responsible for a wide range of symptoms – both mental and physical – begs the question as to why this is not been recognized by the wider medical or psychiatric community.
The answer, says the physician, lies in the fact that almost everyone has Candida living in their bodies or on their skin. So it is commonplace, and likely to be overlooked as the cause of more serious illness.
Furthermore, the label “psychosomatic” is often applied to conditions such as those seen in yeast infections – at least in his experience. Depression and agitation are often linked to complaints about memory loss and an inability to concentrate. Someone presenting with such symptoms may be subject to a battery of laboratory tests and x-ray studies which reveal nothing physically wrong, so it’s much easier to apply the label psychosomatic – for the doctor to say, “there is nothing wrong physically”, even when anxiety and depression are such marked symptoms of the problem.
Faced with this dilemma, most doctors would regard the diagnosis of psychosomatic illness as “almost irresistible”, he says. And of course, once you’ve reached this diagnosis, you’re automatically going to assume that emotional issues are causing all the person’s symptoms, both physical and mental.
So his attitude and approach is different: as an allergist, he sees the brain as just one of many organs that is part of an overall allergic response. In this way, depression and anxiety, mental confusion and other concentration problems, are simply the outward manifestation of some kind of internal interference with the chemical and physiological processes of the brain.
In short, the symptoms are secondary to an allergy, even when psychological in nature.
Through observation and reasoning like this, the doctor reaches the conclusion that Candida albicans is the cause of many problems to which it is rarely linked. Instead, somebody may be diagnosed as suffering from a psychosomatic illness.
He goes on to talk about immunologic tolerance. Broadly speaking, this refers to a progressive loss of immunological reaction to an invading organism. Such a response is seen, for example, in conditions such as leprosy. He suggests that immunologic tolerance can occur when Candida albicans slowly increases the colonization of tissue in the host after years of use of antibiotics, immunosuppressant drugs, birth control pills, and diets high in carbohydrates…. among other things.
This is another aspect to the spread of Candida albicans in the body: it appears to reduce the body’s ability to suppress rejection of its own tissues, thereby promoting and allowing autoimmune processes to develop. He describes a number of cases where nystatin once again brought about a recovery in patients apparently suffering from autoimmune problems. He describes how the reaction of a normal antibody in the brain to the acetylcholine receptor protein can block the full expression of acetylcholine and lead to severe loss of memory and concentration and grossly altered the acetylcholine / dopamine relationship in the brain.
In this context, he also describes a condition that became infamous in the 1970s and 80s, described by some as “20th-century disease” or “total allergy syndrome”, which appeared to be an allergy to almost everything in the environment, and suggests that the real cause of these syndromes was chemical sensitivities caused by yeast infections and alterations in the balance of white blood cells so that autoimmune disease processes developed.
Once again, in patients witnessed by the doctor in question, the administration of anti-yeast medication produced recovery. The same was true in some cases of severe Crohn’s disease.
So here is a revolutionary idea, which actually bears out many of the claims made in Yeast Infection No More. That is to say, that conditions as diverse as irritability, hyperactivity, learning disability, disruption of mood and intellectual functions, interference with hormonal physiology, sensitivity to foods, drugs and chemicals, even schizophrenia and similar illnesses, may all be due to the growth and influence of Candida colonies within the human body.
Certainly for some it will be a stretch to believe that so many different diseases could be caused by a common underlying basis. But, the very presence of Candida albicans in the human body from soon after birth until death may well be the very fact that has prevented it from being recognized as a universal and common factor in such illnesses.