Bob is a typical AA member. It's Friday night, and he is attending the regular meeting at a local church. As the speaker rambles on, Bob stirs two heaping teaspoons of sugar into a large cup of coffee. He has already helped demolish a huge chocolate cake. During the two-hour meeting, Bob also drinks two cans of Coke.

As the meeting winds down, Bob finishes his second pack of cigarettes for the day. He coughs several times as he gets up to leave and resolves once again to quit smoking that weekend.

Of course, Bob doesn't quit, and by Monday his little cough has escalated into full-fledged sinusitis and bronchitis. His head aches, and he is running temperature of 101 degrees. On Wednesday, Bob stays home from work and goes to see his family doctor, who prescribes amoxicillin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. In a few days Bob's fever has subsided, but he still has a headache. For the next two weeks, he feels "just plain rotten." To make matters worse, the antibiotic gave him diarrhea.

Later, as he slowly recovers, Bob realizes that the infection was his third of the year; each time, it has taken longer to recover. He is worn out, worried about his health, and depressed by his physical discomfort. Bob has been depressed like this before. The only thing that seems to help is alcohol. Within days he'll fall off the wagon again.
Bob's nagging suspicion that something more than simply lowered resistance is responsible for his ill health is right on target. He has an infection with a yeast called Candida Albicans. If you have ever been to an AA meeting, you can appreciate why candida infections are so common among both drinking and recovering alcoholics. Described by a university researcher as a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde trouble-maker" because of its elusive but destructive nature, this yeast thrives on sugar. Most alcoholics serve as tasty breeding grounds for candida because their systems are loaded with sugar.

The Nature of the Yeast

Candida Albicans is a microscopic plant about the size of a red blood cell. It is a cousin to the molds that live in damp basements and is also related to the fungus that causes jock itch and athlete's foot. The textbook Medical Mycology describes Candida albicans as "mild mannered creatures incapable of producing infections in normal, healthy individuals. [A yeast] can only cause trouble in the person with weakened defenses ... because of its rapid ability to make itself at home on mucous membranes, it can take advantage of many types of host alterations. The clinical manifestations of candida infections are exceedingly variable [and] account for the vast majority of diseases caused by yeast.”

In recent years, the collection of problems related to this yeast has come to be known as candida-related complex (CRC), a term coined by allergist George Kroker, M.D. CRC embraces a variety of conditions ranging from mild to fatal. Candida can cause infections of the vagina (candida vaginitis) and mouth (thrush), as well as infections of the ears, nose, sinuses, fingers, toes, tongue, throat, esophagus, and the entire digestive tract.

Investigators at the University of Iowa report that 80 percent of the population harbors Candida Albicans. Another researcher, David Soil, M.D., calls it a "microscopic monster capable of inflicting infections ranging from annoying (vaginitis, jock itch) in otherwise healthy people to fatal in patients weakened by leukemia or bone-marrow transplants. Dr. Soll was the first to observe that candida is "capable of changing its looks and then changing back to its original form." This quick-change capability may allow the fungus to elude some of the body's immune-system mechanisms.

Back to Bob

Unfortunately, Bob's doctor was unaware of the problems candida can cause (this is not unusual, as I will explain later), and the treatment he recommended actually encouraged the overgrowth. He prescribed an antibiotic that killed not only the streptococcus bacteria infecting Bob's throat and lungs, but also the normal, helpful bacteria inhabiting his digestive tract.

Once this normal balance was altered, the candida in Bob's body grew unimpeded. Candida is opportunistic; it leaps in and takes over when the body's immune defenses are down. The renegade soon covers the mucous membrane lining the small and large intestines in patches large enough to interfere with normal digestion and absorption of nutrients. The most obvious result is diarrhea, a signal that the body is trying to eliminate the candida and restore normal bacterial balance.

In Bob's case, the rapid growth of the yeast resulted in the production of toxins that altered his body's normal biochemistry and set the stage for the other disorders he developed.

Alcoholics and Candida

Results of a pilot study of the medical records of 213 patients treated at the Health Recovery Center were published in the International Journal of Biosocial and Medical Research in 1991. They showed that 55 percent of the women and 35 percent of the men had histories indicating probable candida overgrowth. At HRC, we use a candida questionnaire (Chart 10 in Seven Weeks to Sobriety) developed by William Crook, M.D., to determine whether our clients are suffering from CRC. Take it to find out whether any of your symptoms could be caused by candida overgrowth.

When you talk to your doctor, explain that the yeast problem identified in the Health Recovery Center client population is systemic, not the mucocutaneous type that usually affects the vagina (yeast vaginitis) or mouth (thrush) or the invasive type that can damage the kidneys of patients on immunosuppressant drugs after organ transplants. Candida-related complex stems from many factors that involve not just yeast overgrowth but such variables as chronic stress, excessive sugar intake, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, lowered immunity, environmental pollution, and, in some patients, prolonged use of oral contraceptives and corticosteroids.

Treating Candida

At Health Recovery Center candida-related complex is treated with a combination of powerful non-drug yeast destroyers and, sometimes, the prescription drug Dyflucan (fluconazole). Dyflucan is an anti-fungal agent that effectively fights systemic Candida Albicans infections. This drug can give a boost to your attack plan in the war to clear these yeast invaders from your body.

A candida screening test and excellent formula to correct the condition can be found in your book Seven Weeks to Sobriety.

Diet tips for Candida Control:

  • Do not eat refined sugars or high-carbohydrate, simple-sugar foods.
  • Avoid dairy products.
  • Do not eat foods that are high in mold or yeast. These include cheese, peanuts, alcoholic drinks, and dried fruits.

Bob scored high on his candida questionnaire (found in Seven Weeks to Sobriety) and a laboratory candida antibody assay. After six weeks of treatment for CRC, his depression had vanished his energy was on the upswing, and his cravings for alcohol and sugar had disappeared. "Even my postnasal drip is gone” proclaimed Bob.

Bob did recover, but he had to change many of his ways. Today, when he attends AA meetings, he drinks herbal tea. He stopped smoking and brings his own snacks to meetings-whole grain bread with almond butter, a few pistachios and filberts, carrots and celery sticks. Getting sugar out of his life eliminated the cravings that had kept him on the edge of relapse for years.

Be Prepared for Resistance

Don't be surprised if your doctor is not impressed with Bob's story, the results of your CRC questionnaire, and your determination to have yourself tested for CRC. Many physicians still adhere to the old (and incorrect) view that Candida Albicans accounts only for disorders in the intestinal tract, not for disorders that occur elsewhere in the body. If your doctor dismisses the notion that CRC may be to blame for otherwise unexplained symptoms, you can encourage him/her to seek medical proof through a lab test. If you have yeast-related illness, your immune system is busy making high amounts of candida antibodies in an effort to control the overgrowth, and these antibody levels can be measured by a blood test. Also refer him/her to the suggested readings on candida in Appendix B of Seven Weeks to Sobriety.

Eventually, I'm sure that skeptical physicians will begin to recognize and treat the physical and mental havoc CRC can create. But you can't wait for medical thinking to evolve. You need help now. To find a sympathetic physician, telephone the "International Health Foundation" at (800) 372-7665 or the "American Academy of Environmental Medicine" at (215) 8624544.

Other places to check to find holistic care include:

The information presented in the article comes from Seven Weeks To Sobriety©. It is based on 40 years of research and clinical observations at Health Recovery Center®. and their effective methods of biochemical repair following an orthomolecular approach to restore health and balance to the brain. We invite you to learn more about Health Recovery Center®, and the superior “cause-based” treatment it has pioneered for addictions and mental health.