A number of authors promote the diagnosis and treatment of a syndrome they call Candidiasis Hypersensitivity (sometimes also called "systemic Candida", or "systemic yeast infections."
This diagnosis earned a spot on the Quackwatch.com "Top 10 Health Fraud" list.
Yet thousands of people are absolutely convinced that a long list of generalized symptoms, for which their medical doctor has no remedy, are caused by Candida yeast.
Dr. William G. Crook, who wrote The Yeast Connection and started an organization called The Candida and Dysbiosis Information Foundation, is probably the most famous promoter of this illness, which has never been accepted by mainstream doctors.
Dr. Crook listed many possible symptoms that he claimed were associated with this illness, including lethargy, fatigue, food cravings, depression, infertility, and more. Some authors list as many as 30 vague and generalized symptoms for this syndrome.
Very serious systemic yeast infections are quite common in AIDS patients and others with a compromised immune system, and can be fatal. However there is no proof that Candida yeast will cause the list of generalized symptoms claimed for this syndrome in the general population.
Although authors have claimed to be experts in treating this syndrome for the 29 years, the only common illnesses that scientists have proven to be caused by Candida yeast in individuals without a compromised immune system are skin, vaginal and male yeast infections, and oral thrush. However, some promoters of this syndrome claim that up to 30% of all people suffer from excess Candida yeast.
Dr. Crook himself quotes The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), who looked into this issue and found that:
The Concept is speculative and unproven.
a. The basic elements of the syndrome would apply to almost all sick patients at some time. The complaints are essentially universal; the broad treatment program would produce remission in most illnesses regardless of cause.
b. There is no published proof the Candida albicans is responsible for the syndrome.
c. There is no published proof that the treatment of Candida albicans infection with specific antifungal agents benefits the syndrome.
It is also interesting to note that, in spite of the numerous, (and complicated) "Candida diets" that have been promoted as a possible cure for this syndrome, Dr. Crook based the diet and cookbook he himself recommended on the nutritional research done by Nathan Pritikin, a man Dr. Crook greatly admired.
The Pritikin diet was not developed in response to yeast infections - it was designed to reduce the incidence of heart disease, and research has proven over many years that it is highly effective in reaching that goal.
As the AAAAI suggested in their findings, many, if not all, of the generalized symptoms associated with the so-called candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome could go away simply from eating a healthy, nutritious diet, such as the one Mr. Pritikin developed. There is no way to prove that the symptoms are actually caused by yeast, or if they are simply the body's natural response to poor eating habits, obesity, and a lack of exercise.
Although the "Candida diets" may actually make you healthier, the herbal antifungal remedies that are also suggested for people suffering from the fatigue, lethargy, and other symptoms listed by these authors should cause some concern.
True yeast infections of the vagina, penis, skin and mouth are often the result of the use of antibiotics, which kill the body's beneficial bacteria. These bacteria are needed by the digestive system, and they're your first line of defense against yeast infections.
The herbal remedies that are often recommended by "Candida experts" are known to damage the beneficial bacteria, and this could actually lead to more severe vaginal yeast infections and oral thrush in the future.
It is also known that Candida yeast evolves very quickly to become drug-resistant. The use of any antifungal medications, including herbal remedies, should always take this into account.
This is the reason why your doctor will always prefer to prescribe a topical antifungal medication, instead of one taken by mouth, unless a systemic drug is really needed.
When Candida becomes drug resistant, the next infection is much more difficult to treat, and you could find yourself the victim of chronic vaginal or male yeast infections that can make your life miserable.
For these reasons, it is always a good idea to have a very frank talk with your doctor before beginning any herbal course of treatment for generalized symptoms that popular authors blame on Candida. If you take these herbal remedies without your doctor's advice, you may discover to your dismay that you have created an even bigger problem for yourself, including very unwelcome and hard-to-cure chronic yeast infections.