Candida albicans is a fungus which, along with thousands of other species of fungi and bacteria, lives symbiotically within the human body (1). Proper Th1 (a type of lymphocyte) response of the immune system keeps its numbers in check as it goes about its daily business rendering it virtually incapable of producing infection or disease in the healthy host (1). In immune suppressed persons, such as HIV patients or persons taking immunosuppressant medications, invasive growth may occur.
Candidal infections usually take over warm and moist areas of the body such as underarms, oral and genital areas. Itching and irritation accompanied by rashes, blisters or painful cracks in the corners of the mouth (in the case of oral thrush), as well as discharge that resembles cottage cheese (in the case of vaginal infection) are the most common signs (2). In rare cases, usually as a result of significantly depressed immune system function, the infection may spread to other areas of the body, and can affect the organs and blood (2). In such cases, symptoms are more severe, usually painful, with or without fever, and, if the infection is in the blood and spreads to the brain it can cause significant disruptions in mental function. Infections of this magnitude are usually life threatening (2).
Candidiasis affecting the skin, oral and/or genital cavities is treated with over the counter or prescription medications for a few days or a couple of weeks, whereas, infections affecting organs and the blood require hospitalization and intravenous medications as they can be fatal.
Infections affecting organs and the blood (aka “systemic infections”) occur primarily in hospital settings among patients undergoing immune system suppression (usually in the wake of transplant surgery or auto-immune disease/disorder treatment) (3). The infection tends to recur several times during the first six months following surgery or immune system suppression treatment (4). Its signs and symptoms are generally severe and require aggressive interventions. Even so, death occurs in more than 1 out of 2 infected patients (3). The good news is that infection rates hover around 2.9 per 100,000 people in Canada and anywhere between 6 and 10 per 100,000 people in the USA (depending on geographical region studied), making systemic candidiasis infections relatively rare (3).
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE TAKE ON THIS
A surprising number of websites and their authors (who often also publish books on the subject or sell their own brands of remedies) may tell you that C. albicans is the leading cause of afflictions too many to list here, ranging from general fatigue and brain fog to asthma and obesity. It takes over the body, organs, and blood, they claim, but keeps its population in check somehow, thus, remaining undetected by conventional methods, because, they say, physicians do not, or pretend to not, have the necessary technology. However, they tell us that if we spit in a glass of water and watch what the saliva does over the course of 20 minutes, we can detect the infection ourselves. Of course, everyone’s saliva is going to do something similar (or exactly the same) to what is described in this so-called “test”, rendering it less than useless.
Whatever your symptoms, C. albicans is generally considered to be the main culprit and changing your diet (which almost always includes taking whatever supplement the website author is peddling) is the remedy of choice. Science based medicine is often seen as having an agenda that keeps it from diagnosing and treating the infection. Assuming the diagnosis and treatment would involve trading money for services / tests / medications rendered, this agenda must involve something far more valuable than mere dollars. Whatever it is, its value exceeds the potential windfall that treating nearly 90% of the population (the number of people afflicted by C. albicans systemic infection, according to the “treatment” promoting websites – a far cry from the less than 0.0003% actually documented by the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases) would provide (3).
C. albicans, in the absence of a normal immune system response, will do what any pathogen will do: it will spread relatively quickly until something stops it. That something is usually medical intervention that restores immune system function and/or attacks the fungus itself. When no intervention takes place, infection spreads unchecked and death soon occurs. This process does not take years- or decades-worth of suffering from nebulous afflictions. An out of control infection acts relatively quickly, its signs and symptoms don’t beat around the bush, and even with the best of care and prompt intervention, odds of survival are not good.
- Kosonen J, Rantala A, Little CH, Lintu P, Harjamaki PR, Georgiou GM, Cone RE, Savolainen J. Increased levels of Candida albicans Mannan-specific T-cell-derived antigen binding molecules in patients with invasive candidiasis. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 2006;13(4):467-474.
- Molero G, Diez-Orejas R, Navarro-Garcia F, Monteoliva L, Pla J, Gil C, Sanchez-Perez M, Nombela C. Candida albicans: genetics, dimorphism and pathoginicity. Internatl Microbiol, 1998;1:95-106.
- Bow EJ, Evans G, Fuller J, et al. Canadian clinical practice guidelines for invasive candidiasis in adults. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol, 2010;21(4):e122-e150.
- Danovich GM, Handbook of Kidney Transplantation, Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010:269.