Do Health Issues Start in Your Gut?
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Do Health Issues Start in Your Gut?

Many health issues begin in your guy. Graeme Bradshaw, the founder of Hong Kong's Integrated Medicine Institute, describes the way that Candida - a yeast that can turn into a fungus - can infect the digestive tract. This can lead to many health problems. Metabolic testing is essential to take out the guesswork.

  • Candida is a common yeast infection that can create food intolerances and various other health problems
  • An Organic Aid Test can give an accurate diagnosis
  • Treatments include anti-microbial herbs, probiotics, indicated nutrients, or dietary modification.

Candida is a naturally occurring yeast. It can form into colonies and become a fungus, which attaches to mucous membrane linings. When your immunity is low Candida can overgrow and colonise the digestive tract.  Because it is invisible it often goes undiagnosed. One way to identify this the OAT test which is a urine test that measures the wastes of the Candida, which like all yeast produces some wastes. Some of these are like alcohol, and there are other yeast wastes that are more telltale signs of Candida.

  • A common gut infection is caused by a yeast infection called Candida albicans.
  • When Immunity is low, it can overgrow and colonise the digestive tract.
  • Candida is a common issue as it is promoted by antibiotics, pregnancy, antibiotics, and prolonged stress.
  • Candida affects the intestinal lining which adds load to the immunity and liver
  • Tests like OAT can reveal a whole range of factors to determine your health that other tests may not detect.

How testing can take the guesswork out of diagnosing Candida and other gut infections.

Are you suffering from these common symptoms?

  • Bloating, belching or intestinal gas  - bloating especially after beer or bread
  • Feeling of being “drained” or tired all the time
  • Feeling “spacey” or “”foggy headed”
  • Vaginal burning, itching or white discharge  
  • Rectal or Anal itching, or in the groin area
  • Muscle aches, Muscle weakness, and or joint pains
  • Chronic nasal congestion or post nasal drip
  • Nasal itching

These are common symptoms, and they might relate to a yeast overgrowth in the gut.

This article is about one common gut infection caused by a yeast infection. The yeast is Candida albicans. Some people guess their symptoms are caused by this yeast overgrowth, but it’s better to test. Don’t guess.

One of the principles of naturopathic medicine is you have to address the underlying cause of a problem in order to get the best result long term. You can’t do that if you don’t know what it is. In this example if you just assume that it’s yeast overgrowth based on some symptoms, that’s not really adequate in terms of making a diagnosis because the symptoms of fungal overgrowth are extremely nonspecific. This article will go onto the test options.

What is Candida?

Candida is a naturally occurring yeast. Small amounts of it live in your mouth, intestines and for women, the vagina. It can form into colonies and become a fungus, which attaches to mucous membrane linings. The image above is an example on the tongue, but you can imagine this could be in the throat, intestines or vagina. Generally the white coating of a Candida yeast infection is lighter than this example.

When your immunity is low Candida can overgrow and colonise the digestive tract.  Because it is invisible in there it is often undiagnosed. This article will highlight one way the hidden infection can be identified. In brief it is a urine test that measures the wastes of the Candida, which like all yeast produces some wastes. Some of these are like alcohol, and there are other yeast wastes that are more telltale signs of Candida. These can be measured from the urine.

Common Symptoms of Candida

Firstly to set the picture, I will point out more of the common symptoms.

  • Bloating, belching or intestinal gas  - bloating especially after beer or bread
  • Feeling of being “drained” or tired all the time
  • Feeling “spacey” or “”foggy headed”
  • Vaginal burning, itching or white discharge  
  • Rectal or Anal itching
  • Muscle aches, Muscle weakness, and or joint pains
  • Chronic nasal congestion or post nasal drip
  • Nasal itching
  • Scalp itching
  • Athlete’s foot, ringworm, “jock itch” (itching groin area) or other chronic fungal infections of the skin, hair or nails?
  • Mouth Ulcers or aphthae
  • Depression with the above symptoms
  • Symptoms worse our damp summer months or in moldy places
  • Sweet food cravings, sugar cravings
  • Poor memory, or concentration, drowsiness  
  • Inability to make decisions  
  • Rashes, or recurrent hives or itching that seems like allergy, often develops as adult
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritable bowel, with gas and loose bowel motions
  • Loss of sexual desire or feeling
  • Infertility
  • Premenstrual tension or mood swings
  • Shaking or irritable when hungry
  • Psoriasis and similar disorders of the skin
  • Wheat, sugar, yeast or alcohol sensitivity or intolerance
  • Chemical intolerance: exposure to perfumes, insecticides, fabric shop odors, or other chemicals provoke symptoms

Few people have all these symptoms, and many are general. However, Candida is a common issue, as it is promoted by antibiotics, pregnancy, antibiotics, prolonged stress or poor sleep and low immunity.

The Problem with Candida

Once Candida forms a colony in the gut, it may attach to the mucus membrane lining there, it send out chemicals to help it root into the gut wall. These are designed to dissolve some of the intestinal mucosal lining to help the rooting process on the wall of the intestine, causing the gut to become inflamed and making the intestinal lining to be more permeable. This is commonly called  “leaky gut”. Leaky gut is not about diarrhoea, it’s about the barrier that the intestine has becoming damaged and more permeable. That allows bigger particles to be able enter the blood. It’s a breach in our defenses adding load to the immunity and liver.

What is important to know is that a damaged intestinal lining then allows many poorly digested proteins say from gluten in wheat or casein in dairy products to get into the bloodstream and create a reaction called food intolerances. This involves the immune system creating antibodies to these common foods. It’s a further weakening to immunity, and creates many other symptoms, commonly including sinus congestion, skin rashes, muscle or joint pains. So it can be that life become more affected if the infection is allowed to remain.

This leaky gut can occur with other intestinal infections too, and in following articles I will outline how bacteria in the small intestine and amoeba parasites can also create havoc to health by causing this same type of damage to the gut lining. The bacteria and parasites tend to be associated with more chronic diseases, whereas for most people Candida is causing more common issues with bloating, fatigue, feeling spaced out and having troubles with food intolerances. Sometimes testing for the bacteria, archaobacteria, parasites and yeasts are all needed to fully work out which type of infection is in the gut. But amongst all these it is Candida that most common.

Because antibiotics often trigger Candida overgrowth, the problem is widespread, with many researchers suggesting about one third of populations treated with antibiotics have this excess of Candida as a chronic problem. Pregnancies, oral contraceptives, cortisone drugs and poor immune function, excessive mercury from fish or mercury dental fillings all can also promote yeast infections. A common contributing factor is poor digestion normally caused by stressful habits and/or overeating. Excess sugars, beer or bread, buns and cookies all feed yeast!

The problem with Candida is how to tell if you have it.

How Can You Test if You Have Candida?

Lets go through a case history to give you an example.

I recently saw a patient "Helen", who had been suffering from chronic fatigue for six years. She had gone through all the medical tests: hormonal, blood, etc., but no cause had been identified.

Although she was naturally a positive person, whatever was affecting Helen's health was making moods of depression, especially post partum, a recurring issue. Helen's body ached, especially her muscles, making exercise nearly impossible. She had become very overweight.

Helen's digestion seemed to be the center of the issues, as there was bloating and discomfort often. I wondered about allergies and whether there were any infections in her intestines causing her symptoms.

From a naturopath's point of view, the gut is considered the cause of many health issues, not just those related to digestion. Aching muscles, fluid retention, weight gain, slowed metabolism, joint pains, concentration, headaches or skin problems, as well as depression may have their source in the gut.

After such a long struggle Helen was keen to find the cause. We decided to do a blood test to look for food intolerances and a urine test called the Organic Acids Test (OAT) to find out the facts. The OAT test looks for yeast and fungal toxins, but also many other waste products of metabolism, giving a wide view of the internal functions.

When the results arrived, she had no food intolerances or allergies at all, which was unexpected. However, her urine test revealed the real issue very clearly: she was overwhelmed with toxins produced by yeast in her intestines. See her result here. 

The usual Candida yeast sufferer has two or so of these toxins elevated. In her case: seven yeast toxins, several at extreme levels were causing her fatigue and mood disorders. Helen's report was the worst I've seen, and really she had been coping well with it owing to her positive spirit. If you look at the report 8 of the 9 yeast and fungal markers listed were elevated, some hundreds of times higher than normal.

It turned out Helens kitchen was also very moldy, especially in the fan system in the kitchen. Some of the fungal toxins identified in her OAT test (listed as 2, 3 and 4 on the report) were probably signs of black mould, Aspergillus, which she had been breathing in while cooking.

The markers 6 (Tartaric) and 7 (Arabinose) are the ones that Candida produces.

So Helen had a yeast infection from household mould exposure as well as Candida growing in her gut. All these fungal toxins put a tremendous load on her system.

Other findings from her Organic Acids Test showed her energy producing metabolism was messed up, with high levels of lactic acid in her test result, which was causing her muscle aches and low tolerance to exercise.

Other parts of her test identified abnormalities in her mood-related neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Gut infections often cause a drop in serotonin levels, causing a secondary anxiety, and possibly also depression.

Helen case gives a clear insight into how gut infections can have metabolic effects, manifesting as many other symptoms seemingly unrelated to the gut.

Metabolic Testing Takes out the Guesswork

The Organic Acid Test was able to help us in the accurate diagnosis for Helen. It is a urine test that provides a snapshot of the metabolism, based on the byproducts the body discards through the urine. These discarded organic acid molecules can indicate disorders of metabolism including energy production, the presence of yeast (Candida) or bacterial overgrowth in the gut leading to toxicity and many other issues.

As Candida infections can be hard to identify—Helen had no outward signs of yeast infections at all—it is an accurate way to be certain of the issue, since the yeast has to be alive and active to produce the yeast toxins (in case of Candida Tartaric and arabinose are key markers). The same test can also point us to bacterial infections in the gut as well, which were only mildly elevated in Helen’s case.

Abnormally high levels of unhealthy intestinal microorganisms can cause or worsen behavior disorders, hyperactivity, depression, attention deficits and concentration issues, muscle pain and some movement disorders, fatigue and immune dysfunction in some people. In a later article I’ll relate a case due to small intestine bacterial overgrowth causing high degrees of anxiety as well as chronic constipation for a client.

This one simple urine test, the Organic Acids Test (or OAT for short) can reveal:

  • High levels of intestinal yeast (Candida) overgrowth
  • High levels of bacterial and other toxins from the gut
  • Assessment or urinary levels of neurotransmitter relevant to anxiety, addiction or depression
  • Assessment central nervous system function for brain inflammation
  • Evaluation of energy production by the mitochondria
  • Detect nutritional and antioxidant deficiencies
  • Determine problems in fatty acid metabolism
  • Determine the need for Vitamin B12 or folate

The test report can take the guesswork out of treatments when the cause is hard to identify. Here's a sample report.

If you look at the first page you will see "Yeast and Fungal Markers" and "Malabsorption and Bacterial Markers" markers.

The sample report there shows a yeast overgrowth problem clearly because of the elevated levels of tartaric and arabinose. Tartaric will cause fatigue and muscle weakness or pain, while arabinose causes attention and concentration issues and interferes with normal brain chemistry affecting the moods.

A patient with a report like this could be classified as suffering "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" or GAPS for short. He/she would be put on a low fermentation, low sugar diet along with anti-fungals and probiotics to correct the mood and concentration issues.

If abnormalities are detected using the OAT, treatments can include anti-microbial herbs or medications, or supplements, such as probiotics, indicated nutrients, or dietary modification.

Upon well focused treatment, both the patients and IMI practitioners have reported significant improvement such as decreased fatigue, regular bowel function, increased energy and alertness, increased concentration, improved verbal skills, less hyperactivity, and decreased abdominal pain.

I recommend the OAT as the initial screening test, especially for the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Colitis and Crohn's Disease
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Movement Disorders - including muscle pain and muscle fatigue
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Recurrent Infections such as cystitis or sinusitis
  • Tic Disorders and Tourette Syndrome
As well common symptoms indicating gut infections may include:
    • Gas-bloating
    • Flatulence
    • Abdominal discomfort
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Anal fistula
    • Steatorrhea or floating smelly stools
    • Weight loss
      Features associated with micronutrient deficiencies - needs for extra vitamin B12 and folate are well indicated for example.

        Graeme Bradshaw (B.Sc, Diploma of Nutrition, Diploma of Homeopathy, Diploma of Herbal Medicine, Naturopathic Doctor) is a Homeopath, Naturopath, Founding Director at Integrated Medical Institute (IMI) Hong Kong. 


        Appendix: Organic Acid Test – A Few Markers Explained

        Arabinose: A yeast metabolite causes functional Vitamin B deficiencies, affecting the brain, nerves (neurotransmitter production) and energy production. Depletes the cellular defense systems (enzymes such as glutathione and SOD) causing increased and multiple chemical sensitivity. Interferes with normal sugar metabolism.

        4-Cresol - Marker for Bacteria Including Selected Clostridia: Indicates a possible overgrowth of intestinal bacteria that are specific p-cresol producers including selected Clostridia. 4-Cresol is a phenolic product poorly metabolized in children with autism. High-potency multi-strain probiotics may help rebalance GI flora.

        DHPPA – Marker for Beneficial Bacteria: Harmless or beneficial bacteria mediate the breakdown of chlorogenic acid to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylpropionic acid (DHPPA). High values of DHPPA are associated with increased amounts of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

        5-Hydroxyindoleacetic (5-HIAA): Gives some indication of Serotonin levels in the body

        Quinolinic Acid – Marker for Inflammation and Neurotoxicity: This acid derived from the amino acid tryptophan and can be neurotoxic at high levels. Quinolinic acid can over stimulate nerve cells, causing the cells to die. Brain toxicity due to this acid has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease, autism, Huntington's disease, stroke, dementia, depression, HIV-associated dementia, and schizophrenia.

        Quinolinic Acid/5-HIAA Ratio – Marker for Neurotoxicity and Inflammation
: A high ratio of quinolinic acid to the metabolite 5-hydoxyindole-acetic acid indicates excessive inflammation, which will age and damage the brain. High levels of these markers could be due to recurrent infections, including persistent infections in the gut, immune overstimulation, too high tryptophan intake, excessive adrenal production of cortisol (stress), sleep deprivation, and frequent exposure to phthalates (chemical used in plastics and many household items).

        Malic Acid – Marker for Mitochondrial Dysfunction: When malic acid is elevated simultaneously with citric, fumaric, and alpha-ketoglutaric acids, it may cause Cytochrome C Oxidase Deficiency, a metabolic disorder disrupting energy production.

        Tartaric acid: Tartaric acid and other yeast byproducts are also elevated in urine samples of adults with the disorder fibromyalgia, a debilitating disease associated with muscle and joint pain, depression, foggy thinking, and chronic fatigue. The Tartaric acid made by Candida also has the ability to cause sugar cravings and low blood sugar levels through blocking the Krebbs Cycle for energy production in our cells.

        Uracil: Indicates folate deficiency

        Methylmalonic: Indicates Vitamin B-12 deficiency

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