I have read somewhere that as many as 50% of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) sufferers, by virtue of their overload and weakened immunological system, also suffer from Candida (otherwise known as Candidiasis) or opportunistic organisms that are similar to Candida. This is a strong statement. By my suspicious nature, I make an exploration into what the great big fuzz about Candida and RA is all about. And, you know what, it’s no big fuzz, but a great big deal that absolutely deserve my attention.
What is Candida?
Candida is used to describe yeast overgrowth in the body, in short. Like their cousins, the molds, they live around us and within us.
Well, the Candida actually resides in our body. Candida albicans can be found on our skin, in our digestive tracts and for women, in the vagina. Theoretically, the good bacteria in our gut crowd out the yeast and bad bacteria so that the environment remains healthy, while our immune system is the police that keeps out the offenders.
However, the very presence of Candida can be compromised by a state of immunodeficiency induced by diabetes, taking birth control pills, using antibiotics, pregnancy, excessive intake of sugar, chemotherapy, which disrupt the balance of the bacteria and permits the Candida cells to grow rapidly and overwhelms the good bacteria. They are capable of invading, distorting the protective intestinal mucosa, causing disruption to its absorptive capacity, thus allowing antigens (protein molecules), toxins or cellular by-products to enter into the blood stream and diffuse throughout the body, leading to what we call the leaky gut syndrome. Chronic and often undetected, candidal infections are regularly associated with symptoms linked to every system of the body.
One aspect of this is the food allergies. Candida can create foods allergies over time. Our ever-watchful immune system spots the presence of antigens etc and proceeds to construct an antibody to protect us from it. This “antigen/antibody” relationship results in an increasing number of food allergies. Food allergies meanwhile not only produce their own unique health problems, but can also mimic most of the degenerative diseases such as RA. Because of the close similarities of symptoms of Candida with RA, there are cases where patient who suffered only from Candida being ‘diagnosed’ as RA and proceeded to be prescribed damaging Methotrexate. Another reason for the mis-diagnosis being that systematic Candida is not widely accepted as a condition by itself, and hence, the blame goes to the disease known by the name of RA.
The specific yeast, Candida Albicans, is said to possess 6 known switching mechanisms and 7 viable forms, the last being a cell wall deficient form. This microorganism is able to change shape and function according the surrounding environment, say from acid to alkaline; hence, permitting it to survive in new environment. This is perhaps the best explanation for question why so many people with Candida never get well and why there is often a constant return of the organism after what appears to be a ‘cure’ takes place. As a species, Candida, very much like us, wish to survive and ‘learn’ how to survive for millions of years.
Additionally, there are 79 different toxins released by the metabolism and die-off of Candida. This is why people with yeast overgrowth often feel so lousy as the Candida toxins are regularly entering their bloodstream.
The Scourge of Candida
Here is how Candida, as the disease of the intestinal flora deficiency, can be explained in greater details:
Candida is the most dangerous of all the germs that can take over your intestinal tract after being treated with Antibiotics,Cipro or doxycycline.
It is a member of the vegetable family. It is a cousin to “molds”. Yeasts are among the oldest living life forms on earth. They are a single celled life form containing no chlorophyll. There are many different types of yeast. Yeasts are common on plant leaves and flowers, on the surfaces of skin and the intestinal tract of animals. The type of yeast that we use to make bread or brew alcoholic beverages is different then Candida. These are thought as food yeasts. Candida is not a food yeast. It is not allowed to be used in the making bread or beer etc. Candida is thought of as pathogenic yeast. Pathogenic means that it can cause disease.
As”yeast”, Candida is a single cell plant life. It has a large, round, thick spore that is shaped like a chicken egg. It is asexual, which means it does not need a mate to reproduce. It reproduces by “budding” or growing buds. Do you recall seeing buds forming on the branches of trees or plants? Candida looks similar. As it grows it resembles a bunch of grapes. As it spreads it grows more branches, which then “buds” more bunches of “grapes”. This is the way Candida appears in its other form or state, which is “fungal”. Here it looks like lots of little beads strung together by threads. Just like there are safe yeasts, there are safe fungus. Mushrooms are an example of a fungus, which does not produce disease. Eating mushrooms will not cause candida.
Candida eats sugars and some fats that way animals do. This is how it feeds. Candida loves the dark, warm and moist environment of the intestines. It attaches itself to the intestinal wall and when it is in the fungal form tries to bury itself deep into your intestinal lining. It grows roots (like a weed) digging into the lining of your intestinal tract looking for food. When it does this it produces infections and illness in your body.
It can get so deep that it is able to break into your blood stream. It rarely can grow in all its budding glory in your blood. This only happens to very ill (usually terminally ill) people. If it breaks through to your blood tiny amounts of it as “spores” ride the waves of the blood stream and eventually “come ashore” onto a gland, organ or tissue. Here it can reproduce and “bud” invading this tissue and causing disease. This becomes a fungal infection in the tissue.
Source: The Biamonte Center for Clinical Nutrtion
As featured in this video below, it is a good visual representation of Candida in human body:
So, how do You Acquire Candida?
The typical direct routes of it being acquired are as follows:
- Excessive use of antibiotics administered by medical practitioners for infection, which also kills off the good bacteria, leading to an imbalance in the gut flora.
- Chronic and prolonged period of stress that brings about over-burdening of the intestinal environment.
- Regular/daily use of immune suppressive rheumatoid drugs can tip the flora into dysbiosis.
The Candida and RA Connection
Reports dating back to as early as 1960s as well as more recent studies indicated that candida-induced arthritis has existed as long as candida and antibiotics have been around. Here are some findings on this Candida-RA connection:
- Candida produces several enzymes which help it to promote inflammation and break down tissues to acquire nutrients, one of which is the Phospholipase A. This enzyme is an example of Candida metabolite that is found to affect inflammation and joints.
- Researchers in Japan found that cell wall beta-glucans derived from Candida have the capacity to induce and exacerbate autoimmune diseases such as RA. Beta-glucans can create a very strong immune response that increases pro-inflammatory immune responses.
- Meanwhile, researchers in Netherland found that the presence of even small amounts of Candida in the body is very potent in aggravating arthritic joint, hence polarizing towards a more destructive arthritis.
- A strong correlation between increased Candida levels and autoimmune arthritis had been established by another researcher, Christina Zielinski.
How can You Test for Candida Overgrowth?
The diagnosis for Candida, seemingly easy, but can be quite tricky in the sense that everyone is bioindividually different in terms of tolerance towards Candida and its by-products. While a person with strong constitution may be capable of hosting large Candida overgrowth with minimal symptoms, another person may suffer greatly in presence of a mild overgrowth scenario.
Either way, let’s take a look at a number of tests that do the detective works:
You may try this at home. First thing in the morning, before you put anything in your mouth, fill a clear glass with room temperature bottled water. Work up a bit of saliva and spit into the glass of water. Check the water every 15 minutes or so, for up to an hour. Look out for where the saliva goes.
- If it stays on top, it indicates that there is no excessive mucus in your mouth that harbours the Candida.
- If it grows tentacles that hang down towards the bottom, you may have Candida in your gut.
- If it sinks to the bottom, you are likely to suffer from significant Candida overgrowth in your gut.
You can order a blood test at most any labs to check your levels for IgG, IgA and IgM candida anti-bodies. High levels indicate an overgrowth of Candida. There are two shortcomings though: firstly, these blood tests can often come up negative even when stool test comes up positive. Secondly, it may reveal if you have developed highly specific types of allergic responses to any level of Candida (such as normal to high range). However, it may fail to reveal other types of immune responses and consequences in the other body systems which are also possible reactions to increased Candida levels.
So far, many would prefer this test, citing it as being relative more accurate. It is also preferred for its ability to check Candida in the colon or lower intestines. A comprehensive stool can determine the species of yeast as well as which treatments will likely be effective against these yeasts. However, if the stool test reveals that your level of yeast falls within a ‘normal’ range, which reflects the average of what is normal for a control group/other people. It may not necessarily mean that that level of yeast is ‘normal’ or okay for your body.
Electro-dermal test can be done by a naturopath, and it may tell you if Candida overgrowth is the most stressful issue that your body is facing right now. This will be useful when it is reviewed against Candida symptoms assessment questionnaires. There is a possibility that if you have another serious illness that is associated/consequential to the Candida, this test will reveal this being the highest priority of your body concerns than to Candida.
Candida Symptoms Assessments
In addition to the above, you may increase your accuracy of diagnosing Candida by reviewing if you are suffering from the long list of Candida symptoms below:
- Skin and nail fungal infections, ie ringworm, saborrheic dermatitis, dark and light patches on the skin, etc
- Hair loss, dandruff, itchy scalp, scalp sores and dryness.
- Chronic fatigue – lethargy, drowsiness, etc
- Digestive issues – bloating, constipation, pain, gas, mucus in the stools, ulcers, suffering from bacteria, i.e. salmonella, E. coli, h. pylori, etc.
- Autoimmune diseases – RA, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Ulcerative Colitis, etc
- Heart palpitations and irregular heart beat.
- ADD or ADHD,
- Mind and mood – anxiety attacks, crying spells, feeling spaced out, depression, mood swings, irritability, nervousness, jitteriness, difficulty in concentration, poor memory, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, etc
- Skin issues – eczema, hives and rashes
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
- Vaginal infections or itching
- Urinary tract infections, hemorrhoids, and rectal itching, rash, irritation and redness.
- Severe seasonal allergies or food allergies
- Environmental and chemical allergies or intolerances
- Hay fever and asthma
- Bruising easily, cold hands or feet or low body temperature
- Flu-like symptoms – sinus inflammation, swelling and infections, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, itching, dryness, cough, bronchitis, wheezing, shortness of breath, etc.
- Joint pain, stiffness or swelling (arthritis), muscle aches and pain, numbness, burning or tingling, and lack of strength and coordination.
- Tinnitus, ear infections, erratic vision, spots in eyes, redness of eyes, excessive tearing, headaches, migraines, brain fog, dizziness, mouth sores, blisters, canker sore s, bad breath, white coating on tongue/thrush, dryness in the mouth (too little saliva), blocked salivary glands or swollen lymph nodes.
- Others – urinary frequency/urgency, lack of appetite, weight gain,body odour, etc.
Just having one or two of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean you have Candida, but if you notice several or more of these symptoms, that could be a sign of Candida overgrowth.
What to Do Next
Because you develop Candida overgrowth, the usual approach is to take a ‘broad spectrum’ antibiotic which will be prescribed by a physician who does not quite understand the Candida problem. These antibiotics will in fact promote more overgrowth in the already weakened body, and the vicious cycle continues. It is often noticed that when fungal overgrowth becomes worse, so does a patient’s allergies.
Quite the opposite, when a patient begins treating the Candida, the allergies usually begin to improve, albeit slowly. Once an overgrowth of Candida is identified, it needs to be treated immediately to break this vicious cycle. What is needed next will be a a four-pronged Candida battle plan that makes an effective treatment protocol, which will be revealed in the next post. Stay tuned for the attack plan!