Dear Pharmacist, I've been suffering with abdominal cramps, bloating, a yellow toenail and a white-coated tongue. My doctor told me I have a candida infection and prescribed Diflucan. This requires liver testing. Even though my tongue and toenails are yucky, I'd rather deal with that than damage to my liver. What other options will help me get rid of candida? - E.H., Gainesville, Fla.
A: All of us have this yeast Candida albicans inside our bodies, but when your immune system is overworked, the yeast growth gets out of control and causes widespread, uncomfortable symptoms. Candida overgrowth (candidiasis) may cause irritable bowels, bad breath, constipation, eczema, psoriasis, vaginal yeast infections, jock itch, athlete's foot, ringworm, and cancer. The brain gets involved too, and some people experience headaches, brain fog, mood swings, anxiety, as well as intense cravings for sweets and starches. That's because candida needs sugar to grow. If you have a sweet tooth and a stressful life (and thus a compromised immune system), you will make candida spread like wildfire. Starve it to death by avoiding white sugar and carbs then boost your immune system with antioxidants, glutathione and vitamin D.
Doctors will usually attempt to kill candida with drugs. Using drugs long-term is not wise because candida replicates and comes back with a vengeance. This nasty trick is called "resistance." Besides, if you don't change your diet and boost immune function, you will need drugs forever, such as:
Nystatin: This prescription drug does not leave the gut so it is only helpful for thrush or candida overgrowth in the GI tract.
Monistat or Micatin: Over-the-counter creams used for vaginal yeast infections or jock itch.
Diflucan: This medication gets into the bloodstream to kill fungus everywhere but it may adversely affect your liver; it also interacts with blood thinners, diabetic meds and a popular diuretic, HCTZ. A drug with similar anti-fungal properties is Nizoral.
The good news is that there are natural anti-fungal herbs available that do battle with candida and other nasty germs that try to make us sick. The following dietary supplements are well-studied and sold at most health food stores:
Oil of oregano: A very powerful, natural and safe herb; choose a pure brand, one that is organic and not genetically modified (written as, "non GMO").
Pau d'arco: Fungus doesn't normally grow under Pau d'arco trees which are native to the Amazon rain forest. Pau d'arco can demolish candida, H. pylori, and some strains of aspergillus, pneumonia and staph.
Grapefruit Seed Extract (or GSE): I think this one is incredibly effective and it's very inexpensive.
Olive Leaf: It has broad spectrum abilities so it destroys many dangerous pathogens.
Saccharomyces boulardii: This supplement contains a friendly yeast originally extracted from lychee and mangosteen (fruits) and it drives out candida; some brands include Reflor, Florastor and DiarSafe.
Candidase: This brand contains two enzymes that control yeast overgrowth.
Did You Know? Zinc supplementation protects against damage to the digestive tract from alcohol.
This information is not intended treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of "The 24-Hour Pharmacist." For more information, visit http://www.DearPharmacist.com.