Updated: Jul 2
What is Candida
The human digestive tract contains a microbiome, or living environment, housing around 50 trillion bugs that weigh in total a little bit more than your brain. Over millennia we have absorbed and incorporated these bugs into our physiology, and they now perform many important roles within our body. With a greater number of active genes than us, these bugs get agitated very easily by things that upset the internal milieu. As a result they replicate in huge numbers quickly as a matter of survival.
These bugs which include viruses, moulds, yeast, bacteria and other little foreign invaders, are constantly fighting each other for dominance in terms of food and space. Their power struggle is not limited to the gut either.
It is also constantly present within your eyes, nose, mouth, skin, throat, hair, genitalia, and the various connective tracts. Their numbers and activity are tightly controlled under normal circumstances through states of good health and the supply of good nutrition. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle and dietary habits create internal environments that often favour the explosive growth of certain of these warring factions more than others.
Candida yeast is one of these.
The large emission of toxins from this yeast as a result of its proliferation, very quickly upsets the internal physiological balance. The presence of these toxins has been shown to have significant impact on brain function, organs, and systems within the body.
General Systemic effects of Candida
Some of the common physiological symptoms presented as a result of Candida overgrowth include digestive issues, leaky gut syndrome, fatigue, recurring fungal infections, skin problems, allergies, arthritis, headaches, migraines, loss of energy, sore throat, flatulence, IBS, eczema, recurring coughs, MS, bloating. It can even be a factor in Crohn’s Disease, Prostatitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Quite often individuals suffering with autoimmune disorders have been shown to have Candida. It is often difficult to ascertain which was present first. Regardless, the potential link cannot be ignored.
Candida overgrowth can also play a significant role in hypoglycaemia, as it will consume your glucose, and hypoglycaemia can be a primary trigger for cravings.
The cravings for sugary or sweet foods, as a result of Candida, do not stop at just physiological repercussions. The psychological component of these cravings has enormous impact, often resulting in depression and anxiety, which are some of the major precursors to the formation of various addictions.
Research and studies have shown links between Candida and many other psychological effects such as mood swings, aggressive behaviour, explosive anger and violence, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, impaired memory, learning and cognitive dysfunction, OCD, and more. It can even be a factor in more serious conditions like Autism, schizophrenia, and paranoia.
Causes of Candida
Candida overgrowth is usually the result of drugs (Antibiotics) and sugar heavy diets.
Sugar and foods that are broken down into sugar, are the primary source of food for Candida. So diets high in carbohydrates, predominantly, simple and/or starchy carbohydrates, will encourage this yeast to proliferate. Furthermore, in a lot of cases this type of diet is usually lacking in other important nutrients that are needed to maintain a strong immune system, and a weak immune system is an ideal environment for the growth of this yeast.
Alcohol is the most refined sugar you can consume. It does not even have to be digested; it is absorbed directly through the gut wall. So, when you drink alcohol, it is like you are giving Candida anabolic steroids to grow. Its therefore no surprise that Candida often results from alcoholism.
So why are Antibiotics so conducive to the overgrowth of Candida? The problem with Antibiotics is that they are a like a shotgun approach to dealing with an issue, they not only eradicate the bad bacteria that are making you sick, but they also eliminate all the good bacteria in your gut too. These good bacteria help keep you healthy, and one of the ways they do that is by keeping the growth of other bacteria such as Candida in check. So by killing them you create the ideal environment for Candida to gain dominance.
The consumption of foods containing natural antibiotic properties such as onions, garlic, horseradish, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and oregano as part of your diet is a good preventative measure. These natural alternatives do not upset the microbiome the way drugs do.
However, even if you do your best to avoid using pharmaceutical antibiotics, you may be surprised to find out that most western diets are already laden with them. The unfortunate truth is they are present in most supermarket bought meat and dairy products. Unless you are eating organic and antibiotic-free meats and dairy, then you are most likely consuming antibiotics unknowingly.
Whilst sugar/carbs and antibiotics are the main causes of Candida overgrowth, there are a myriad of other causes too. Other causes include things such as contraceptive pills, indigestion tablets, ulcer medication, steroids, acidosis, nutritional deficiencies, toxaemia, pesticides, pollution, and pretty much any drug that upsets homeostasis within the microbiome.
Candida and its relationship to Addictions
There are nearly 80 different toxins released into your body by Candida, but the two we are going to focus on in this article are the two considered to have the greatest impact on addictive state formation and alcoholism. These toxins are Acetaldehyde and Ethanol.
Acetaldehyde is a neurotoxin very closely related to the odorous and highly toxic substance found in laboratories and funeral homes, Formaldehyde. An organic compound, Acetaldehyde can pass through gut and other tissues, and access the vascular system, leaving it free to travel around the body with ease.
Its presence destroys enzymes and creates deficiencies in nutrients such as Thiamine (Vit B1), Niacin (Vit B3), Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (Vit B6), Ascorbic Acid (Vit C), Alpha-Tocopherol (Vit D) and Acetyl Coenzyme A. It also triggers a surge in free radical generation and lowers the liver’s antioxidant defence system. Disrupting thyroid function, creating hormonal imbalance, reducing oxygen utilisation by the mitochondria, accelerating lipid peroxidation, and preventing the repair of various nucleoproteins, are just some of the other negative effects of this toxin. One of the areas this potent substance tends to collect in most is the brain, where it has been shown to cause damage both structurally and functionally.
However, it is Acetaldehyde’s unusual ability to combine with two primary neurotransmitters in the brain, Serotonin and Dopamine, and form tetrahydro-isoquinolines, that is most significant in terms of addiction formation. These substances are very similar to opiates and elicit the same kind of ‘high’ as those derived from opiates.
Recognising this impact on these neurotransmitters is hugely important in terms of addiction management or treatment because imbalanced neurotransmitters are the primary cause of addiction.
Therefore, whilst the removal of the primary manifestation of an addiction (i.e. drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or another substance) is definitely a step forward in managing the problem, achieving craving subsidence and a state of sobriety in presence of a Candida overgrowth is practically impossible. Why? Because this yeast emitted toxin, Acetaldehyde, is still feeding the neurophysiological pathways creating the addictive high. So, if this ‘greasing of the psycho-neurological pathway’ is still present, then the chances of removing craving sensations are slim to none.
Removing as many sources of Acetaldehyde is critical to progress effective treatment. Therefore Candida must be carefully looked at as a possible potentiator within a diagnosis/treatment framework. Unfortunately, Candida is not the only potential source of Acetaldehyde, it is also found in polluted environments. Car exhaust and cigarettes provide a source of this toxin that is easily absorbed into the bloodstream. So it is essential that anyone looking to remove this toxin cease smoking, and to try avoid polluted environments for a period of time to enable detoxification to occur effectively.
Candida and Alcoholism
The second toxin emitted by Candida, Ethanol, points to a direct link between Alcoholism and Candida. They are frequently found together as both elements fuel the presence of each other. The presence of Candida overgrowth can result in cravings for alcohol and the consumption of alcohol encourages the proliferation of this yeast.
Candida converts any carbohydrates or sugar you consume to energy through fermentation. This process creates the energy that it needs to survive, but it also produces alcohol as a kind of waste material along the way. So if your diet is carbohydrate or sugar rich, as are most modern diets, then you are providing an endless supply of substrate that Candida needs to create energy with the resultant toxic by-product of alcohol. In fact, in extremely high sugar-based diets there is a phenomenon called auto-brewery syndrome. This is where the level of alcohol present in the body from Candida is so high that the individual may behave as if they are intoxicated. Individuals may even fail breath tests for drink driving under such conditions, even though they have not had a drink.
Obviously, the presence of such a high level of Candida produced alcohol in the system clearly makes recovery from alcoholism impossible. But it doesn’t take high levels of Candida derived alcohol to cause problems for recovery.
Even small amounts will create enough of an internal ‘high’ to ensure that the nervous system keeps the neurological embedded message that ‘Alcohol = Sugar = alcohol’ alive and transmitting.
This is often one of the main reasons why nearly all alcoholics crave sugar in the absence of alcohol when going through recovery. It is this sugar craving driven by Candida that can seriously undermine any alcohol addiction treatment.
It has been shown in many studies, that Candida overgrowth, if present and not addressed, leaves addiction patients in recovery at an exceedingly high risk of relapse. This is not true only of alcohol addiction, but of any addiction, and it is primarily due to the effect on the nervous system of these two toxins emitted by Candida. It is essential therefore to regain balance of intestinal bacteria such as Candida within the gut, and to facilitate detoxification from the system of substances such as Acetaldehyde and Ethanol, in order to rebalance neurotransmitters prior to any addiction management protocols commencing.
For clients joining The Edge Program, the first step is always to help their body optimise its detoxification ability. As a result, the risk of Candida overgrowth or influence is minimised.
I say ‘help their body optimise its detoxification ability’ purposely, as this is an especially important distinction and understanding I need my clients to take on board. This whole marketed idea that YOU can detoxify the body is so much horse manure. The body detoxifies itself and has done since the day you were born. It is a natural health/life preserving mechanism within your physiology, and if it did not exist you would be dead pretty quickly from internal poisoning. However, like most primeval systems within in the body it can become overwhelmed by the modern lifestyle and diet. Therefore, you must do everything you can to help it run optimally if long term health is your goal. The use of dietary manipulations and lifestyle changes are techniques and tools that can assist the detoxification process or enable it to work more effectively and efficiently.
Optimising detoxification is a fundamental step for all my clients, even those with no apparent addictions. This initial process is critical in order to rebalance the body and remove the physiological, and subsequent psychological, influential side-effects created by non-nutrients present in the body. It is also essential to re-align the natural rhythms and cycle timings that are disrupted by modern lifestyles and diets heavily laden with processed, manufactured, or non-natural foods.
In a future article I will discuss ways to reduce or the manage Candida overgrowth, and how to help the body maximise its natural detoxification capability.