Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Candida Hoax

Candida Hoax One of the biggest scams to engross the alternative medicine world and the path to overall health is the over-hyped, unproven, misunderstood, and just overall bogus theory of something called candida overgrowth. The theory is based on the "facts" that an army of darkness has invaded your body and it's up to Ash(as seen to the left) with his chainsaw and Boom Stick to keep the army at bay.

The Army of darkness I am referring to is a Fungus called Candida Albicans and apparently it is responsible for every chronic problem known to mankind. (I hope you can see why this is a fallacy right off the bat)

This "hoax" as it stands has become the "it" disease of the alternative medicine world and its fame for "curing" ailments when " candida is eliminated" needs to be put into a scientific perspective seeing as no direct cause and effect relationship has been established between candida and a vague list of symptoms that can be cross referenced to thousands of other afflictions

In science we are taught many things, but one of the most notable things is to separate cause and effect from correlations or associations. We are also taught to be skeptical of people over reaching their claims but unfortunately thinking scientifically comes second where as traits like pattern recognition and cognitive bias come first. This can be a enormous problem for numerous reasons as stated in my critical thinking post and it can result in us falling for yet another scam...

Undoubtedly, Most of us are looking for a quick fix to a vague collection of symptoms so we look to  many different hypotheses for answers. Candida Albicans overgrowth being one of them, the Theory Essentially goes like this:

Poor Health comes from a candida overgrowth** - > to reverse poor health you need to starve the candida with a strict diet and eliminate it with herbs, teas and supplements -> this will give you good health

** Just to be clear, I am referring to the systemic candida fallacy not vaginitis or Oral thrush , these are real medical diseases that require attention. Do not confuse the two, these are separate disease in different parts of the body and have different origins.

Do you see the problems with this logic? We are insinuating that destroying Candida is the ONLY solution to our problems; We are taking a very simple idea and applying it to a very broad and complex system i.e the human body. This is a matter of oversimplification and appeal to "easy logic" as I will go into detail in a later section. So to start with, We have a list of many of the common "symptoms" of poor health associated with Candida Albicans overgrowth :

abdominal gas and bloating, headaches, migraines, excessive fatigue, cravings for alcohol, anxiety, vaginitis, rectal itching, cravings for sweets, inability to think clearly or concentrate, hyperactivity, mood swings, diarrhea, constipation, hyperactivity, itching, acne, eczema, depression, sinus inflammation, pre-menstrual syndrome, dizziness, poor memory, persistent cough, earaches, low sex drive, muscle weakness, irritability, learning difficulties, sensitivity to fragrances and/or other chemicals, cognitive impairment, thrush, athlete's foot, sore throat, indigestion, acid reflux, chronic pain

How a Naturopathic Doctor would Describe Candida:

"It normally resides in the intestinal tract, mouth, throat and genitals, however it can burrow holes in the intestinal tract, enter the blood stream and then make it's way into any organ of the body. To make matters worse it emits over 70 different toxins into the body. Some people may even become allergic to the yeast itself."- (2)

Once this hardy organism proliferates in the body, it wrecks havoc in many ways and is the initiator of many common maladies, conditions, syndromes and illnesses in our population." - (2)

How a Naturopathic doctor would treat candida

1) Supplements (not limited to the following and varies in price range)

+ Threelac
+ Cats Claw, Collide Silver, Oregano Oil, Caprylic acid, aloe juice, Candida Be Gone
+ Probiotic Supplements
+ Herbal Teas

2) Extreme dietary measures

A Strict diet as well that is devoid of all sugars, starchy vegetables, and basically low in carbohydrates (5) One problem with the diets is that so many different sites have different lists of food so we have no idea which list is "correct" for "starving out" the candida which adds more confusion to the average persons thought process. They start to question whether a food is "feeding" the candida and become hyper critical of all their food choices. Typically, this Diet regimen chosen is carried out for 3- 6 months until the candida is "eliminated" and then the symptoms should disappear.

 I hope you can see how this is a problem with food stressing and dis-regulated eating but if we can circle back to my original point which was the cause and effect of symptoms....

Hypothyroid or Candida?

Can we attribute every single symptom listed above to candida alone?

Below is a list of symptoms for Hypothyroid... a real medical condition:

Headaches, Excessive fatigue, anxiety, Heavy or irregular menstrual periods. constipation, depression, Dry Skin, Dry hair, Brittle Nails, low body temperature, High Cholesterol, Low Sex Drive, Weakness in the muscle, low testosterone,  Digestive issues, Memory problems or having trouble thinking clearly, etc

Seems pretty overlapping right? Weight problems, Headaches, Heavy periods, etc

What we need to do here is understand the difference between cause and effect versus a correlation.

While the above is true, Does it mean that the drinking of water causes death? "Of coarse not" you say to yourself, "that is silly." So isn't it possible then that your weight problems, heart burn, and bad breath are not Caused by candida. Could there possibly be another answer?

Back to my hypothyroid example:

So how do we distinguish between a candida overgrowth and a hypothyroid condition?

This is a matter of probability theory and data collection.  When we use science and probability theories we tend to find that extreme examples like candida overgrowth are on the small end of the spectrum of possible explanations for your affliction which is why most doctors will not test for it. Essentially, a true Candida Albicans overgrowth is an extremely rare condition. Candida is normal part of the intestinal is necessary for gut health. So the notion that you need to "eliminate" or destroy it with a diet and herbs is not only superfluous it's literally impossible.

"Candida albicans is a diploid fungus that grows both as yeast and filamentous cells and a Candida cure, Candida Fake, Candida Overgrowth overweight, Candida cleanse, Sugar feeds Candida, Low Carb candida, Candida Symptoms, SAD Diet Candida, Candida Bogus, Candida Acnecausal agent of opportunistic oral and genital infections in humans.[3][4] Systemic fungal infections (fungemias) including those by C. albicans have emerged as important causes of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients (e.g., AIDS, cancer chemotherapy, organ or bone marrow transplantation)."- (3)

"C. albicans is commensal and a constituent of the normal gut flora comprising microorganisms that live in the human mouth and gastrointestinal tract. C. albicans lives in 80% of the human population without causing harmful effects, although overgrowth of the fungus results in candidiasis (candidosis). Candidiasis is often observed in immunocompromised individuals such as HIV-infected patients."- (3)

"In a process that superficially resembles dimorphism, C. albicans undergoes a process called phenotypic switching, in which different cellular morphologies are generated spontaneously. Of the classically studied strains, one that undergoes phenotypic switching is WO-1,[16] which consists of two phases: one that grows as round cells in smooth white colonies and one that is rod-like and grows as flat gray colonies. The other strain known to undergo switching is 3153A; this strain produces at least seven different colony morphologies. In both the WO-1 and 3153A strains, the different phases convert spontaneously to the other(s) at a low frequency. The switching is reversible, and colony type can be inherited from one generation to another. While several genes that are expressed differently in different colony morphologies have been identified, some recent efforts focus on what might control these changes. Further, whether there is a potential molecular link between dimorphism and phenotypic switching is a tantalizing question."- (3)

"The causative agent of the Candidiasis disease is a fungus Candida, usually Candida albicans. Candida are thin-walled, small yeast (4 to 6 microns) that reproduce by budding and are one of the most common causes of opportunistic mycoses worldwide. Candida is a normal part of ordinary flora of skin, mouth, vagina, and stool. It is a pathogen and a colonizer; also found in the environment particularly on leaves, flowers, water, and soil. The genus Candida includes about 154 species. Six of them are more frequently isolated in human infections. The colonies of Candida are cream to yellowish in color. They grow rapidly and mature in 3 days. The texture of the colony may be pasty, smooth, dry, wrinkled and dull, depending on the species. Candida is unicellular yeast, though it can be a multicellular mold. Although this fungus reproduces sexually and asexually by formation of spores, yeast is reproduced via budding. " - (7)

"Candida is a ubiquitous fungi organism. It has been one of the many eukaryotic organisms that work in symbiotic existence with humankind for as long as we know; however, when the delicate balance of coexistence that keeps each one at bay is disrupted it becomes an opportunist by over populating."- (7)

 Candida (a fungus) and many other bacterial strains/ Yeasts have evolved with humans overtime and some are harmful, some are beneficial and some can change to either/or in different contexts. Like I said, go ahead do the reading for yourself, there is little information out there suggesting that candida is the plight of mankind.

This is the "easy logic" is was referring to in the above paragraph...A great way to position one self in the alternative medical world is to make up a disease that accounts for a vague list of symptoms , like what was listed above, for which the medical world has no answers for. Then sell a bunch of placebo pills and diet mythology to a customer base with limited knowledge of medicine and physiology and a desperation for relief of their chronic what have you. Sounds like a quick way to make buck to me, don't you think???

"So you’ve got all the elements in play for a good scam: a potentially wide-spread yet undiagnosed disease; a means of keeping things vague by downplaying medical science; appealing to people’s belief that it’s the rogue scientist that dared to stand out who’s making all the advances (people watch too many movies); and a mechanism of making sure people won’t ask questions, which is critical when duping people, be it religion or fitness. If you have a way of keeping people from asking questions that could expose the weak links in your belief system, you can’t go wrong." -(6)

"By appealing to the “flawed” nature of the medical science system and the inherent distrust of doctors and such professionals, you can make it easy to give your mystery disease, and thus yourself, great importance." -(6)

"...the most kindergarten response in the fitness industry is that any research that goes against your belief in supplements “must, of course” be funded by the evil medical or pharmaceutical industries who just want to keep people sick. Really folks? I mean, REALLY??? Are you all really that incredibly na├»ve? Because, if there is a truth here about who is manipulating research for their own ends, it is ALWAYS the supplement and diet and ‘holistic’ pushers of pills and potions. " -(7)

These are the basic fundamentals of how scams work and have been used and practiced by scam artiest for thousands of years.

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The theory of Candida Albicans in the alternative medical world is based on pseudo science and I would challenge that it can most commonly refereed to as a zebra...

Quote taken from the show Scrubs:

Dr. Cox: Newbie, do you happen to know what a zebra is?

J.D.: That patient just mocked me!

Dr. Cox: It's a diagnosis of a ridiculously obscure disease when it's much more likely that the patient has a common illness presenting with uncommon symptoms, in other words, if you hear hoof beats, you just go ahead and think horsies and not zebras, mkay mister silly bear? - (1)

Does this sound like you??? Don't know what to believe or what to eat in fear of feeding the candida? I would suggest actually picking up a biology or physiology textbook first before diving into the alternative health abyss. By actually learning and understanding the fundamentals of the human body we can be better equipped to avoid these types of health scams and keep our wallets that much fuller.

So, If candida Albicans isn't the reason I feel so tired all the time than what is Mr. Smarty Pants???

The More likely Explanation

The more likely reason we as a nation are feeling the way we do can be more notably linked to afflictions like pre-diabetesdyslipidemia, poor glucose control, Hypothyroid etc and in some cases "symptoms" of candida can be similar to those caused by Yo-yo Dieting.

Poor blood sugar control can bring on numerous symptoms that are similar to "candida albicans" as previously noted but are much easier to measure and test in a scientific manner. However like I said in the beginning of this article, It is human nature to look for the answers to our problems in irrational places; we look for patterns that sometimes hold no meaning or we attribute meaning to them, We put too much faith in testimonials from others with shared experiences and do not examine the broad spectrum of possible explanations, and We apply biases to our current understanding with each new set of data we examine. This is why Science is important and Richard Feynman said it best:

"Science is what we do to keep us from lying to ourselves" 

It is because of this that my research is now based around glucose metabolism and reducing mitochondrial stress as a way to become healthier which can be read in the below as I discuss the importance of carbohydrates in our diets.

Carbohydrates, the Liver and the Pancreas
Understanding Cellular Respiration and Glucose Metabolism
Exploring the De Novo Lipogenesis Pathway
What Makes us Fat? Fat Storage on the Record
The Actions of Insulin Explained
What is Lipo toxicity?

...and to read more about my diet philosophies and how I arrived at these conclusions check out the Getting Started Page in the top nav bar.

 The problem with diet philosophies like the candida diet is that many us look for extreme examples or theories as the most logical and probable explanation and refuse to believe that eating a balanced diet, de-stressing our life, and adding in some anaerobic and aerobic exercise will really solve our problems.

This is what coach Abel would refer to buying the sizzle and not the steak...this getting healthy concept does not need to be as complicated as we make it out to be...

"...real research is about a search for objective truth; not a search to bolster what you believe and further your agenda." - (7)

Matt Stone offers a pretty good explanation for why these cleanses are often not appropriate and can actually cause digestive stress. (Just FYI Matt is very sarcastic please don't go out and buy a sugary alligator)

 Just to be abundantly clear, this article is meant for those who are little overweight, out of shape, maybe have some bad skin, and have some poor lipid/glucose profiles; Not those with oral thrush, vaginitis, or real systemic candida overgrowth coming from a severely comprised immune system. Candida is more than likely not the absolute source of your problems if you fall into the former category. A healthy well balanced diet, that is caloric dense, filling, and palatable along with a diverse and moderate amount of exercise will always get you much farther in life than taking a superfluous amount of placebo pills and subscribing to unscientific diet ideologies.

The best way to clear up a "systemic candida" problem is not to have one. What I mean by this is that a true candida overgrowth ( in the intestines that is life threatening) is rare but to be manipulated into thinking you have a imaginary condition with persuasive rhetoric is very common.  Don't go on a candida diet, don't buy the supplements or encompass the ideology into your thought process. Just eat real food and stop buying into advanced holistic theories that really hold no weight.

Still not convinced, read my next article on The Candida Hoax Here for the low low one time price of $19.99...just kidding it's free and you can understand why I put all this time into researching and sharing for no financial compensation here.

I also encourage you the reader, yes you! the person reading this who has bought into the candida diet mentality,to scour my blog and find as much information as possible related to Body Temperature and the dangers of Dieting. This a good place to start.

And remember, There is really no point in finishing first in a backwards marathon.