DrSugar is in the house, and she's answering your health-related questions.Dear DrSugar,
I have been experiencing severe stomach pains for about four months, as well as other lesser symptoms like fatigue and skin breakouts. So far, my doctor is leaning toward the all-encompassing diagnosis of IBS, which obviously can only be "managed" (so far unsuccessfully) with lifestyle changes. I have tried eliminating gluten and dairy, which helped at first, but the pain has flared up again. Somebody at work suggested my problem might be candida. Is candida a "real" medical problem? And if so, are there diagnostic tests or medicinal treatments available? Any information about the causes, symptoms, and remedies for candida would be much appreciated. Thank you!
— Tender Tummy
To see DrSugar's response continue reading.
This question is easy to relate to because at some point in all of our lives, we will or have already experienced bouts of gastrointestinal problems, whether it is abdominal pains, diarrhea, or constipation. When these symptoms are chronic or do not subside quickly, it is important that you seek evaluation and treatment with a medical professional. I’m going to report that because I cannot do an in-person history and examination on you, I cannot suggest diagnoses or medical treatment specifically for you. I will discuss information on candida (or candidiasis in medical terms) so that FitSugar’s readers can be well informed on the topic.
Candidiasis is a "real" medical problem and refers to a fungal infection of any of the Candida species, of which Candida albicans is the most common. Candidiasis encompasses infections that range from superficial, such as oral thrush and vaginal yeast infections, to widespread and potentially life-threatening diseases. Infections in the last category are usually confined to severely immune system compromised persons (such as cancer, transplant recipients or HIV/AIDS patients). Candida is commonly present in our oral and intestinal tracts, and its growth is normally limited by the human immune system and by other organisms (such as bacteria) in the body. Candida overgrowth (which can happen in the gastrointestinal tract) can be associated with immune-compromised states (cancer, HIV/AIDS), diabetes, taking chronic steroid medications, prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics, and oral contraceptives.
Diagnosis of gastrointestinal candida infection should be performed by a physician and would likely require microscopic examination or culturing. Should a physician diagnose you with candidiasis, treatment would be with prescription strength anti-fungal medications. The take home message is that candidiasis is a very rare condition that occurs in individuals with immune-compromised conditions. Still, if you are concerned that you may have this condition or if your symptoms continue despite your physician’s recommendations, I urge you to seek re-evaluation with your physician.
Check back next week, when I discuss irritable bowel syndrome, since I have received a few questions on that subject.
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