Yeast is not only all around us – it’s in us too. We all have some yeasts, and some fermentation in the gut, usually confined to small amounts in the colon. We also eat yeast, most commonly baker’s yeast, in breads and bakery products, and in brewer’s yeast in beers. However, there are natural yeasts in fruit that are employed to ferment wine. One in five people are yeast allergic so, overall, you are likely to feel better if you have less yeasted breads and drinks.
One of the most common gut infections of all is an overgrowth of a kind of yeast called Candida albicans. The infection is technically called candidiasis. This is what is meant by a yeast infection. The name Candida albicans means ‘sweet and white’, suggesting something delicate and pure but in reality Candida albicans is a minute microbe, a yeast, which multiplies, migrates and releases toxins. All of us have some Candida present as part of a normal balanced gut ecology. However, when it overgrows, it can afflict us with countless symptoms, both physical and mental - bowel problems, allergies, extreme fatigue, hormone dysfunction, skin complaints, joint and muscle pain, thrush, infections and emotional disorders - many of which mimic other diseases and are frequently misdiagnosed.
Candida overgrowth occurs when we feed it the food it loves the most: refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates. In addition, antibiotic use wipes out friendly bacteria in the gut, leaving the way clear for Candida to proliferate; steroid drugs and hormone treatments depress the immune system so that it cannot keep Candida levels under control; and lack of breast feeding ensures an early imbalance in gut ecology.
Dr William Crook published a questionnaire in his book, The Yeast Connection, which can help ascertain the presence or severity of an overgrowth of Candida. It if shows a high score and if doctors have failed to make any other diagnosis, it makes sense to embark on an anti-Candida campaign, ideally with the support of a healthcare practitioner.
The Candida Questionnaire - How do you score?
Have you taken tetracycline or other antibiotics for 1 month or longer?
Have you, at any time in your life, taken other “broad spectrum” antibiotics for respiratory, urinary or other infections (for two months or longer, or in shorter courses four or more times in a one year period)?
Have you, at any time in your life, been bothered by persistent prostatitis, vaginitis or other problems affecting your reproductive organs?
Have you taken birth control pills for more than two years?
Have you taken cortisone type drugs for more than a month?
Does exposure to perfumes, insecticides, cigarette smoke and other chemicals provoke noticeable symptoms?
Are your symptoms worse on damp, muggy days or in mouldy places?
Have you athlete’s foot, ring worm, “jock itch” or other chronic fungal infections of the skin or nails?
Do you crave sugar, bread or alcoholic beverages?
Score 2 points for each ‘yes’ answer.
Do you often experience fatigue or lethargy?
Do you ever have the feeling of being ‘drained’?
Do you suffer from depression?
Do you have poor memory?
Do you ever experience feeling ‘spacey’ or ‘unreal’?
Do you suffer from an inability to make decisions?
Do you experience numbness, burning or tingling?
Do you ever get headaches or migraines?
Do you suffer from muscle aches?
Do you have muscle weakness or paralysis?
Do you have pain and / or swelling in joints?
Do you suffer from abdominal pain?
Do you get constipation and / or diarrhoea?
Do you suffer from bloating, belching or intestinal gas?
Do you have troublesome vaginal burning, itching or discharge?
Do you suffer from prostatitis or impotence?
Do you ever experience a loss of sexual desire or feeling?
Do you suffer from endometriosis or infertility?
Do you have cramps or other menstrual irregularities?
Do you get premenstrual tension?
Do you ever have attacks of anxiety or crying?
Do you suffer from cold hands or feet and / or chilliness?
Do you get shaky or irritable when hungry?
Score 1 point for each ‘yes’ answer.
Add up your total score.
If you score above 30 there’s a strong likelihood that you have candidiasis. If you score above 20 there’s a possibility that you have a degree of candidiasis.
If you do have a high score you should see your healthcare practitioner who can run diagnostic tests for Candida. The most reliable tests are the Candida antibody test (saliva or blood tests for IgG and IgA antibodies) and the Organic Acid urine test (ask your nutritional therapist).