Dr. Warren Levin, M.D., at the LIA Conference this past weekend, provided some insights into the snagging, nagging problem of candida in the Lyme disease sufferer and in the chronically ill in general.
First, according to Levin, candida is prevalent for five reasons:
1) Sugar consumption is out of control in the western world. It exists in everything, even in products that shouldn't have it, such as bread and yogurt.
2) Overuse of antibiotics. In the western world, we are antibiotic-happy. Physicians will prescribe endless months of antibiotics to a person with a few pimples, without considering the long-term ramifications that these have upon the body.
3) The use of cortisone-type drugs in the chronically ill, which impairs immunity.
4) Birth control pills.
5) The introduction of stomach-acid supressing drugs. Why is this a problem? Because stomach acid protects the body against pathogens!
How then, can a Lyme sufferer determine whether he or she has candida? According to Levin, the diagnosis should be based not only upon lab results, but also a clinical diagnosis. Symptoms of thrush, bloating, gas, IBS, vaginitis, fatigue, pain, cysts, rashes, hives, dandruff, PMS, mood swings, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), fibroids, cysts, fibromyalgia, and a history of having taken antibiotics, can all indicate that candida is present. Phew. That's quite a list. But since symptoms of candida mimic Lyme disease and other conditions, it's good to follow up with a reliable lab test. Note the key word here: reliable. If you are going to use a blood test, one that measures the presence of antigens (foreign proteins) as well as antibodies, is best. Saliva tests are also useful, as is PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, which measures the presence of a microbe's DNA in the body. By using several different types of tests, a more accurate diagnosis can be realized. Furthermore, while stool tests are often used to determine the presence of candida, according to Levin, many people who have candida often have negative stool cultures. Every testing method has its limitations, and for this reason, a clinical diagnosis, combined with multiple lab tests, is the best way to discover whether candida is present. Also, doing a trial run of a candida protocol and watching for herxheimer reactions or symptom changes can lend support to a diagnosis.
Another fascinating theory offered up by Dr. Levin is that most vaginal yeast infections actually come from the colon. Because of the short distance between the vagina and colon, infection from the colon can actually pass through to the vagina. Where this is the case, treating the vagina for infection is rarely helpful, since the real culprit lies in the digestive system.
Also, Dr. Levin notes that more than fifty percent of those with Lyme disease and candida also have parasites. I would take that analogy further and state that most of those with Lyme disease have parasites, candida, mold and a host of other infections. I have yet to meet a Lyme soul who has only borrelia and a few co-infections.
So how in the heck do we treat this pernicious infection? First, we must stop feeding the infection! Staying away from refined sugar may not be enough, either. Avoiding the sugar that is found in dairy products, as well as high-glycemic fruits and complex carbohydrates may likewise be important. Second, according to Levin, we must kill the infection. Diflucan is one highly effective drug for candida, although it is hard on the liver and must be used with caution. Other products may be more helpful. I have heard that cream of tartar can be effective, and I have used Tri-Guard Plus, a grapefruit seed and tea tree oil product, with good results.
Yet, according to Levin, anti-fungal resistance is a complex, gradual, multi-factorial issue, and the efficacy of any regimen will be compromised by a weak immune system. Therefore, a sufferer should also focus upon improving immunity, as well as killing the yeasties.
Finally, he suggests taking probiotics to promote healing in the gut. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, finding a quality product is of utmost importance, as most probiotics are junk. Premier Research Labs, www.prlabs.com, and Garden of Life, www.gardenoflife.com, are two good places to find effective probiotics.