Candida: The Often Missed Culprit
In over 20 years of medical practice, I have seen hundreds of patients come to me as their last resort for help regarding the diagnosis of candida. These women and men have seen numerous doctors who have told them that nothing was wrong with them and that their problem was all in their heads. These patients did have a wide array of symptoms. Many had stomach issues and were told they had Irritable Bowel Syndrome of unknown cause. Many women had vaginal issues that were not helped by commonly used antifungal creams. And others had more unusual symptoms that included weakness and dizziness, which led them to believe they had some type of hypoglycemia.
The common links between many of these patients were that they had been on antibiotics for over a month at a time, and they had extremely poor diets that were heavily weighted with sugar and processed foods. In addition, many had times in their life when their stress levels were extremely high. These and several other factors can add up to set the stage for the overgrowth of yeast in the body. We all have some yeast in the body, but when an imbalance occurs, that is when a disease can set in. Patients that have or develop Candida may also have other established medical conditions, like Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, or an Autoimmune disease (i.e. Multiple sclerosis, Psoriasis, etc.)
How Do We Diagnose Candida?
In my practice, I take an extensive history of each patient myself (no PAs or nurses), and I do medical detective work to see if the evidence adds up. I also do a Candida skin test which can be valuable in showing a patient’s reactivity to Candida immediately. A patient with a strong immediate reaction to the Candida skin test can see for themselves how the Candida is involved in their immune system. Remember: like any proper medical diagnosis, a positive or negative test doesn’t make the diagnosis of Candida, but in the proper setting, it can be helpful.
How Do We Treat Candida?
The core of treatment is to reduce the overgrowth of Candida in the body and restore proper immunity to Candida. The reduction of Candida can be done with a Yeast-free diet. This mainly involves taking out the sugar in the diet, and by avoiding simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cookies, milk and dairy (which have lactose–a sugar.) The diet also involves avoiding many fruits, which can feed the Candida. While this diet might appear Draconian, it is very similar to the Paleo diet many athletes and entertainers are using to stay svelte and healthy. We have handouts for patients that give them choices and menus to follow to make it workable.
The medical treatment of Candida involves using antifungal herbs and medications to eradicate the overload of Candida. I will typically use a short course of antifungal medication such as Diflucan to target the Candida and to begin the process of Candida control. After a 2 week course, I will often switch the patient to a milder antifungal called Nystatin, which keeps the Candida in check as the body takes its time to adjust. There are also herbs that can be used in conjunction with the antifungals to keep immune balance–Pau d’ Arco and Oil of Oregano are examples.
Probiotics also are important in establishing a proper balance of the good and bad bacteria in the body. I will frequently recommend Probiotic Pearls or Primadophilus to be taken before meals.
The final way that I can help patients develop immunity is by desensitization or sublingual immunotherapy to Candida. This is a special approach that involves the patient taking drops under the tongue to build up their immune system in a slow, safe and comfortable way so that the Candida does not return.
Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island