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I am a 48-year-old female, and I have gained weight that does not
want to go away. I exercise and monitor my food intake but have
been unable to shed the pounds. I'm also tired all the time, no
matter how much sleep I get. I am fuzzy-headed - in a fog all the
time, and I cannot get rid of the bloating and gas. I am prone to
vaginal yeast infections and have asked my doctor if the other complaints
I have could be yeast related. He emphatically says they are not.
What do you think?
A: Your symptoms sound very suggestive of yeast related illness,
an extremely common condition. I would also make sure,however, that
your doctor has tested you for a sluggish thyroid (testing your
free T4, free T3 and TSH-more on thyroid in a future article) Yeast
organisms, Candida albicans, are normal inhabitants of the bowel
along with billions of bacteria, some favorable and some unfavorable.
When the good bacteria outnumber the yeast and the unfavorable bacteria,
there's an excellent chance of good gastrointestinal health, and
overall health as well.
yeast can overgrow if too many courses of antibiotics kill the good
bacteria. Women often get vaginal yeast infections as a result.
But both men and women can also get more widespread symptoms from
an intestinal overgrowth.
When the balance is shifted toward
too much yeast, the results frequently include intestinal bloating,
gas, diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel. If the condition
worsens, the yeast can release toxins into the bloodstream, causing
symptoms elsewhere in the body, such as extreme fatigue, a fuzzy-headed
feeling, and sinus or throat irritation.
Weight gain can also be a part of
the syndrome. As you complain of all these symptoms, I would not
be surprised if you experience some of the other common complaints
that often affect candida sufferers: recurrent respiratory infections
(sinus, bronchial, throat, ear); asthma; depression; headaches;
mood swings; recurrent bladder infections; dry, rashy or itchy skin;
muscle or joint pains; premenstrual symptoms (often severe); and
intolerance to many kinds of fumes such as perfumes, exhaust, cleaning
agents, marker pens and smoke.
Among my patients, I also suspect
that yeast is at work if the symptoms are triggered by eating sweets
or drinking alcohol, or if the patient has used oral contraceptives
for more than two years, has had any pregnancies (especially more
than one), has had prolonged antacid therapy, has used cortisone
or immunosuppressant medications, or has undergone chemotherapy
Do not be surprised if your doctor
gets irritated when you suggest that yeast might be related to your
symptoms. Only a small (but growing) share of physicians consider
the yeast syndrome valid. Most of these are physicians who practice
integrative, nutritional or holistic medicine. For patients who
are very ill or have complicated cases, it is important to work
with such a doctor or another health practitioner who has experience
with this syndrome. Many individuals, however, have made quite substantial
progress using the self-care program available in books on the subject,
such as Dr. William Crook's "The Yeast Connection" or
my own book "Optimal Wellness"
I test for yeast in my patients using
stool and throat cultures, and a blood test for yeast toxins (serum
candida antigen). Blood levels of yeast antibodies can also be measured.
The tests do not always show the yeast problem, so I rely quite
heavily on the symptoms and history each patient presents to me.
I may, therefore, decide to treat a patient even if the tests do
not substantiate the problem.
I usually recommend a treatment consisting
of a candida-control diet, supplementation with acidophilus and
bifidus bacteria to help rebalance the intestinal flora, and an
anti-fungal agent. The diet is a balanced one, with primarily a
restriction on sweets. It includes a two-week trial elimination
of yeast and mold-containing foods - such as bread, aged cheese,
alcoholic beverages and vinegar - as many yeast sufferers develop
an allergy to one or more of these items. Reintroduction, one at
a time, can usually determine which of these items can be kept in
the diet and which still need to be avoided. I also suggest avoiding
excessive carbohydrates and, in some individuals who can afford
to lose weight, a moderate restriction of carbohydrates, as these
can feed the yeast.
Anti-fungal agents I often recommend
are prescription items like Diflucan, Nystatin and over-the-counter "natural" yeast fighters such as oregano oil, garlic,
caprylic acid and others.
The detection and treatment of yeast
overgrowth can make an important difference in those who are chronically
unwell. Whether symptoms involve the gastrointestinal, genitourinary,
dermatologic, musculoskeletal, brain, nervous or immune systems,
the successful treatment of yeast can provide critical relief.
is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as
a substitute for professional advice. Although the material may
help you understand a diagnosis or treatment, it cannot serve as
a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner.
Any application of the material set forth is at the reader's discretion
and sole responsibility.
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