Candida has received a great deal of attention in recent years, and has earned a rather dubious reputation in the public mind. It is said to be the cause of an untold number of human ills. All manner of symptoms have been attributed to it, from temper outbursts to impotence. In fact, if you read through the nonmedical books on the subject you will find at least fifty different symptoms thus blamed on Candida. The medical community, on the other hand, is not so concerned. It recognises that Candida can cause oral, skin and genital infections, of course, but these respond very rapidly to treatment. It further recognises that patients with compromised immune systems are prone to more serious and widespread Candida infection. Apart from these clearly understood infections, doctors generally consider Candida to be an innocent bystander. Let’s take a closer look at this contentious issue.
What is Candida?
Candida is a family of yeast. In fact, it is a rather large family consisting of at least 200 different species, brothers and sisters, so to speak. The most important of these, from a human point of view, is Candida albicans. This yeast inhabits the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, vagina and skin of healthy humans. There is nothing unusual about this, for many micro-organisms inhabit our bodies in this way. The relationship we have with these, our resident microbes, is a symbiotic one: they scratch our back and we scratch theirs. We provide them with a place to live and nutrients to live on; and they, in return, provide us with several important services, including (i) assistance with digestion, (ii) provision of some vitamins, and (iii) some degree of protection from more harmful microbes.
Our resident microbial colonies compete with each other for space and food. This is healthy competition. It ensures that an ecological balance is struck between bedfellows, it ensures that the Candida yeasts are held in check. The immune system, meanwhile, keeps a watchful, balancing eye on all of this ecological pushing and shoving. In summary, then, we all have Candida. And, in health, it is an innocent bystander. Having thus rescued its reputation, it must be said that Candida can cause several problems: we can be allergic to it, we can be infected by it and we can have too much of it.
Some people are allergic to Candida, there is no doubt about this. Urticaria, rhinitis and asthma are sometimes triggered by this allergen. The medical literature also contains indisputable descriptions of Candida allergy in the bowel and genitalia. These are less well-known entities, but very real nonetheless.
Candida allergy in the bowels causes ‘mucous colitis’, a condition characterised by slimy and sometimes profuse diarrhoea.
Candida allergy in the vagina causes vaginitis, an inflammation that looks like infection. The symptoms include pain, itch and redness.
Candida allergy on the penis also causes inflammation. The symptoms are itch, pain and swelling.
Note: In all of these cases, a skin-prick test to Candida will be positive, and the patient will enjoy dramatic symptomatic relief from anti-Candida treatment.