Is it Candida?
By Dr. David Pollack
Many people have already heard of candida. A yeast that naturally lives in our gut, that sometimes overgrows, causing a multitude of problems. People with gut candida often have bloating—especially after eating carbs like bread and pasta. They are often sensitive to vegetables, particularly raw ones. Many complain of brain fog, achy joints, swelling, skin issues, fatigue, depression and anxiety, and more. Many functional medicine practitioners are obsessed with it. Every health issue, they say, must be caused by this nefarious microorganism. Maybe there's something else going on. Let's discuss what's really happening and strategies to combat what I would rather refer to as gut dysbiosis.
Gut dysbiosis is the fancy term for organisms that live in our gut that are out of balance. Our gut is naturally populated with billions of microorganisms including bacteria, yeasts and viruses. When in good health, this balance is healthy and normal. Sometimes, however, this delicate balance of tens of thousands of different organisms alters. Our gut 'flora' can become imbalanced through chronic stress, poor diet, infection, antibiotics use, and other reasons. When one of these organisms overgrows and becomes dominant it can create problems.
Candida is one family of yeasts that normally populates our gut and can overgrow. This often occurs due to repeated or long-term use of antibiotics, combined with a high carbohydrate diet. There are labs that claim to be able to detect which organism is overgrown. Personally, I don’t believe they can determine if a 'normal' constituent of the gut is overgrown or not. In 15 years of practice, I have yet to see consistent results arising from these types of tests and treatment based on their results, which brings up many other issues. Let's examine those issues.
Here is an example of a situation I see regularly in my office. A new patient that has been to one or more other functional/holistic practitioners comes to see me after going down the rabbit hole of stool samples and other advanced testing to find they have some 'overgrowth' of an organism, such as candida. The industry standard is to put them on a low carbohydrate and sugar diet. Often, they are given an anti-fungal supplement blend as well. After many months of hard dietary sacrifice and uncomfortable sensations from the anti-fungal, they don’t see much improvement. In fact, sometimes their symptoms got worse.
You might be wondering why this happens. Starving and using anti-fungal agents can aggravate the organism which causes them to release different toxins and compounds to survive the situation. As an example, normally you wouldn't randomly get an infection on your hand. To get that infection, you need to damage the skin that perhaps may already be weakened by stress or a recent cold/flu. Now, to resolve that infection, you might use an antibacterial ointment or a Band-Aid. However, if you are in good health, you probably don't even need to do that. The body will heal the wound and overcome the infection. Imagine that instead of your hand there was a wound in the digestive tract—a wet place full of nutrients just endlessly arriving. An infection that was able to set in here would likely be difficult to overcome. While yeasts love sugar the most, they can eat anything. This is why the low carb strategy on its own or improperly combined often doesn't yield significant results. The main reason is the never-ending food supply. With a gut infection, the food we eat is not being properly digested. This means the food is sitting in the digestive tract too long, giving the yeast plenty of time and food to eat. You cannot overcome a fortified and fed enemy, Sun Tzu would say.
So how do we overcome this? Beyond the infection we need to identify and repair the digestive organs that are struggling. This will give the body strength to overcome the infection. We often utilize digestive enzyme blends with special herbal formulas to repair and ease digestive function. We pair that with acupuncture, cold laser, dietary modification, and even emotional release work to deal with stress and past emotional trauma. Antimicrobials are great but without dealing with the underlying digestive organ dysfunction these issues often cannot be overcome. These issues have solutions and great health can be achieved.
Dr. David L. Pollack is the founder of Pollack Wellness Institute, located at 66 Commack Rd., #204, Commack, NY. For appointments or information, call 631-462-0801, email [email protected] or visit PollackWellness.com.