Yeast Overgrowth: Is There a Connection?
by Miryam Williamson
Author of Blood Sugar Blues: Overcoming the Hidden Dangers of Insulin Resistance

Revised Oct. 9, 2001 

Copyright 1998.  Permission is granted to download, print, and distribute but not to sell.
Support group leaders : Accepting contributions to cover the cost of copying is not the same as selling. 

Candida albicans is a single celled yeast-like plant that is part of the normal population of the human gut. Under usual circumstances it lives peacefully within us. It reproduces by putting out buds, which is what makes it like yeast. One Candida cell can reproduce billions of times. Friendly (to us) intestinal bacteria, various enzymes, and some hormones normally prevent a population explosion of C. albicans organisms and its presence in our bodies is of no consequence. Some events in our lives can provide the proper conditions for Candida to flourish. Among those events are taking antibiotics, corticosteroids, or oral contraceptives. A weakened immune system can permit Candida to proliferate, as can various nutritional deficiencies. 

I started doing research on Candida for highly personal reasons. I had been losing my hearing at a rate that increasing age could not explain, nor could the ENT doctor I consulted suggest any other possibility once he had ruled out autoimmune inner ear disease. Frightened at the thought of impending deafness, I did what I always do when something threatens me: I set out to learn everything I could about it. I found reference to the treatment of hearing loss with oral Nystatin, a bacterium commonly used to treat yeast infections. I got my doctor to prescribe it for me, and it stopped the progressive hearing loss during the two months I took it and for two months after than.  Then the hearing loss resumed.  I resumed taking Nystatin, this time for six months, ending in April 1998.  I have had no recurrence of the hearing loss since then.

During that time, though, events conspired to weaken my normally strong immune system, and I found myself overrun by yeast despite taking Nystatin. Again, I turned to research and discovered a long list of symptoms attributed to yeast infestation that sound very much like what we experience with fibromyalgia. I'm not suggesting that fibromyalgia is caused by yeast, but it's clear to me that many symptoms associated with FM can be made worse by yeast overgrowth. Among the symptoms that caught my attention are (in alphabetical order):

  abnormal sensitivity to light
  blurred vision
  cognitive difficulty, attention deficit disorder
  cravings for carbohydrates, including sugar
  dry eyes
  edema (swelling of tissues)
  feeling particularly ill on days when humidity is high
  frequent/urgent urination
  hearing loss
  low grade fever
  multiple allergies and chemical sensitivities
  night sweats
  numbness and tingling
  persistent and severe headaches
  shortness of breath on minor exertion
  tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  vaginitis / vulvar pain

I also learned that yeast overgrowth can interfere with absorption of nutrients in the gut, which is where we absorb most of the beneficial components of the food we eat. This could — I'm not saying it does, only that it may — explain phenomena such as the inability of some people with fibromyalgia to get the benefit of tryptophan in foods they eat. It may have a great deal to do with our hormone imbalances in general. 

I'll continue learning what I can and will post here what I find out. Meanwhile, this is what I have learned to do for myself: 

I adopted a diet consisting almost entirely of proteins and vegetables, depriving my yeasts of the starches and sugars they need to grow and reproduce. I thought I'd do this until the yeast was gone and then resume a normal American carbohydrate-dominant diet. But I started feeling so much better on a low-carb regimen that I don't expect ever to go back to that old way of eating.  In fact, I've written Blood Sugar Blues  to tell others what I've learned about the connection between a diet high in carbohydrates -- even if the carbs are not refined -- and a host of conditions and diseases that plague Western civilization.  During the yeast elimination phase I added three dietary have added the dietary supplements: acidophilus (a bacterium friendly to us but death to yeasts), caprylic acid (an essential fatty acid that kills yeast in the gut, and deodorized garlic (real garlic is fine, but it makes you stinky.) 

Some doctors scoff at this, so don't be surprised if you mention it to your doctor and are told to forget it. There is plenty of research on the behavior of yeast in people who have diabetes; HIV disease, or AIDS; and in people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy to treat cancer or by long courses of steroids.  But there is little to be found on yeast in otherwise healthy individuals. I'm sure this will not be true for much longer.   

I felt strongly about the role of diet and nutrition before I started learning about yeast.  Now I feel even more strongly. 

I don't want to leave you with the impression that fibromyalgia is caused by yeast, but I think that people who have fibromyalgia and excess yeast must feel much worse than those who don't have yeast overgrowth. 

You can download the yeast elimination diet that I used by clicking here

If you are having trouble with your hearing and your doctor doesn't know why, you may want to download an unpublished paper sent to me by its author, a specialist in hearing loss. It tells of the use of Nystatin for this problem.  Click here for the paper. 

If you want a quick way to decide whether to pursue this subject yourself, I suggest you find a copy of one of the Yeast Connection books by William Crook, M.D.  There are several books with these words in the title; they all have the same questionnaire about your history and symptoms.  The resulting score will give you an estimate of how likely it is that yeast overgrowth is part of your problem. I found Crook's yeast elimination diet too liberal.  The food list I used, and that you can download from here, is an adaptation of one I found in The Yeast Syndrome, by John Trowbridge, M.D..  If you want to read more about yeast overgrowth, that is the book I recommend. 

Copyright ©1998, Miryam Ehrlich Williamson - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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