If you were able to gather up and weigh the bacteria in your digestive system, researchers estimate the total would weigh about four pounds! Under ideal circumstances, these beneficial microflora inhabit our intestines and perform many functions that aid our digestion and overall body health. But when the colonies of bacteria fall out of balance, populations of potentially harmful microbes can flourish and present a host of problems. Candida albicans is one such microbe. Candida is a yeast that normally occurs in the intestine and is kept in balance by beneficial bacterial colonies of acidophilus. When levels of the "good" bacteria drop, however, Candida populations can grow rapidly, with the potential for increasing inflammation in the body and causing an overall feeling of ill health.

Research has shown an association between subjects with inflammatory skin disorders, yeast overgrowth and fungal infection. In a recent study, 21 out of 34 people with psoriasis were found to have Candida albicans in the spaces between their toes or fingers. And most were also affected by fungi from the Tinea genus. Another study that looked at stool samples of people with psoriasis found disease-producing microbes - predominantly yeasts - in the colon. A 1997 German study, "Mycoses in patients with psoriasis or atopic dermatitis" found that Candida infections of the skin were seen more often in psoriasis patients compared to controls. Late onset (type II) psoriasis demonstrated a higher rate of candidosis cutis (skin) and candidosis oris (mouth) as compared to the controls. Yet this research found that the influence of fungal infections on psoriasis and atopic dermatitis is not as strong as often portrayed. A 1994 study by the Department of Medicine (Dermatology) at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine found that psoriasis of the palms and soles is frequently associated with oropharyngeal Candida albicans.

Clearly, more research on these associations is needed. Notwithstanding, fungal infection in the onset or recurrence of inflammatory skin diseases is certainly a factor. Candida may not be the cause of psoriasis, but it could be an indication of poor gut ecology, and treatment for yeast has been shown to correspond with a decrease in skin inflammation.

Symptoms and problems

It appears that the most common cause of Candida overgrowth is the use of prescription antibiotics and birth control pills, and some researchers believe that it may also be the result of a diet over-rich in simple carbohydrates and sugars. Because the symptoms of Candida are numerous and wide-ranging, from fatigue and depression to intestinal cramps and eczema, the condition is often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Unfortunately, if left unchecked, Candida can compound the discomfort of conditions like psoriasis and irritable bowel syndrome. Bouts of constipation and diarrhea are an extremely common occurrence as a result of this condition. As the population of yeast grows and IBS symptoms worsen, the intestinal walls can become thinned, which may lead to "leaky gut" or intestinal permeability. When the intestinal wall is compromised, it is unable to correctly perform its job, and toxins, including Candida, can leach into the circulatory system. This may lead to increased inflammation throughout the body. The rise of toxins within the system may also put an increased strain on the liver, whose job it is to filter these toxins from the system.

Candidiasis, or moniliasis, is called thrush when it grows in the mouth, a condition especially common in infants. On the skin it can show up as a red, inflamed, and sometimes scaly rash. It often leads to eczema, acne, and hives. Candidiasis moniliasis in the vagina is commonly referred to as yeast vaginitis or vaginal yeast infection. Candida can also cause candidal onychomycosis, or infection of the nail plate, and paronychia, a tender infection with inflammation around the base of the nail fold. Candidiasis can also affect the esophagus and the digestive tract. It can cause fatigue, lethargy, weakness, migraine headaches, muscle pain, chemical sensitivities and even respiratory problems. From a gastrointestinal perspective, candidiasis is often accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, rectal itching, IBD, flatulence and food sensitivities.

Candida and psoriasis

Many researchers now believe that there may be a link between Candida and psoriatic flare-ups. Psoriasis is categorically an inflammatory condition, and individuals suffering from Candida frequently experience increased incidence of conditions arising from increased inflammation in the body. Some psoriasis researchers believe that intestinal permeability or leaky gut may be the root cause of some psoriasis flare-ups.

The release of toxins into the circulatory system from poorly functioning intestines may put undue stress upon the liver. The liver, which is the main filter of toxins in the body, can become overwhelmed and unable to properly perform the fundamental functions the body requires of it for maximum health. Organs like the skin and lungs often "take over" the job of filtering excess toxins the liver is unable to process. Some believe that toxins deposited on the surface of the skin during this process may contribute to psoriatic discomfort.

Treatment for Candida

Once you have determined that you have Candida, treatment may come in a variety of forms. Since Candida is a yeast, one way to combat the problem is to deprive the yeast of food, or literally "starve it out." During this course of treatment, individuals are often encouraged to partake in a detoxification program followed by a strict dietary regimen for a few days. The diet typically suggested consists mainly of vegetables, meat and poultry, yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds. Some practitioners also suggest eating a lot of garlic during this time. Foods high in sugars, which include alcohol and fruit, as well as all foods containing yeast, such as bread, should be avoided during this time. Many individuals report significant improvement within a week of starting this regimen. Once the Candida levels are in check, inflammation may subside, paving the way for marked improvement in other areas of health, including psoriasis. We always encourage consulting a physician before starting any treatment or diet regime.

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