Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Candida, and abuse of the Herxheimer

with 11 comments

Bloody candida: why is everyone so obsessed with it? Looking around a famous candida self-help yahoo group (which I won’t name here), it is full of people who are very obviously suffering from food chemical intolerance symptoms. For example, people with rosacea, eczema, people with hypoglycaemia, or who can’t keep their emotions under control, who can’t concentrate, or people who “can’t tolerate any carbohydrates, not even green vegetables” (hah!).

The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is a controversy in itself: it was first observed in syphilis patients who were given mercury as a treatment and was thought to be a symptom of bacterial die-off producing toxins at a rate faster than the body could deal with them, hence, when treatment began, the patient felt worse. Now, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but giving anyone mercury is going to make them feel pretty bad, regardless of what the bacteria are doing. This is not to suggest that the Herxheimer reaction doesn’t exist, but that it must be questioned a little more closely!

The Herxheimer reaction (AKA “Herx” or “healing crisis”) as an explanation for idiosyncratic symptoms is very popular in some branches of alternative medicine. For example amongst those who favour collodial silver (see above for my feelings on what could cause this). It’s also very popular in candida circles, to explain why the diet doesn’t actually work. The problem with the candida diet is that you go on the diet, and you feel worse. Then you feel better. Then you feel worse again. That’s because the diet ought to be a Failsafe elimination diet, but it’s only a partial elimination diet. So you are on a constant rollercoaster of detox/retox. But no, it has to be ‘candida’, so any bad reaction has to be “because you are getting better”. It must be a Herx. It’s the candida “dying off and flooding your body with toxins”.

What are these mysterious toxins? Candida doesn’t produce amines. It doesn’t produce beta-glucuronidase or release phenols. Please somebody name the chemical structure of these ‘toxins’ and publish details on the web. Because when I search for candida ‘toxins’, I never get any scientific details back, just a load of woolly, fluffy nonsense.

The host of the aforementioned candida group blames all symptoms – even obvious infections or allergies – on ‘yeast die off’. It’s a Herx. It’s always a Herx, it’s never because you don’t have candida, or because the diet is wrong, or because you’ve been re-exposed to something bad. It’s nothing to worry about. Just another Herx. You’ll get over it. (Then you’ll have another ‘die off’ next week which you’ll also get over, then another one, for the next five or ten years of your life). This is a fantasy world! Some people (especially those who become gurus) are so obsessed with the idea that they are right, that they can’t see the obvious staring them in the face.

Candida is thrush, and it usually occurs after a course of antibiotics or during a time of high physical or emotional stress. It has obvious, easily diagnosable symptoms, and can be treated with antifungal medication. Invasive candidiasis – that is candida that has spread to the whole body – is a hospitalisable condition. It only occurs in people who are very, very immunodepressed like those with HIV.

Here’s what I think: if you suspect you may have candida, go to the doctor, and get a swab done. Then get a prescription for a product like Canesten Once, see if it works, and get on with your life.

If these proven treatments do not work, there is little point going on a crazy soul-destroying diet, because you’ve PROBABLY NOT GOT CANDIDA.


Written by alienrobotgirl

24 May, 2006 at 9:29 am

Posted in Quacktitioners

Tagged with ,

11 Responses

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  1. Yes you’re right about one thing- there doesn’t seem to be any hard scientific facts about what Candida die-off actually is. I’ve always supposed it to be dead yeast cell particles but why these should give rise to the ‘die-off’ effect is a mystery.You are however wrong about lots of things here. Candida is on the rise- why? Soil-poor food, intensive farming, increased refined food consumption, antiobiotics, hormone treatment. Some doctors believe that many auto-immune diseases such as MS IBS and ME (which I myself have had) start in the gut, and if you have an imbalance of flora that is going to make it very much worse. The reason why anti-fungals like Canestan don’t work is because they don’t work on all yeasts (only Albicans- but we have other kinds, including Candida Tropicalis), and if you have a predisposition to yeast overgrowth you need to work on repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria. Taking a DiFlucan One capsule just aint gonna work. How do I know? I’ve been a severe suffererer of yeast overgrowth for 20 years- so is my mother and her mother. It can be a debilitating condition- we’ve seen tens of specialists over the years, and taken both conventional antifungals and herbal medicine. Just because these don’t work it doesn’t mean you don’t have Candida- more the opposite. Candida is an invasive opportunistic organism that can be eliminated (unless you’re like me, who has a weak gene response to it). I’ve recenly had a lot of success with bovine colostrum and lactoferrin, which prevents yeast cells from absorping oxygen and thus helping them to die. As someone who has experienced a Herx (2 days of flu-like symptoms, night sweats and horrendous nightmares) I am ready to admit that I have no idea whether that’s the ‘end of the story’ or whether the symptoms will keep re-emerging. I suspect I will be fighting it in some form or another for a while yet.By the way I am very pleased to find your site, as a fellow amateur sleuth of food science and media nonsense

    Elizabeth Wells

    10 November, 2006 at 10:17 am

  2. Hi Elizabeth,I think you’ve probably taken this out of the context of my blog. I am someone who has food chemical intolerances to a number of common additives (including tartrazine, MSG, azo-dyes), salicylates (aspirin compounds found in most fruit and vegetables) and amines (neurotransmitters found in aged proteins). As a result I have had M.E/fibromyalgia for some sixteen or seventeen years.Food chemical intolerance is a very common condition that is an underlying cause for a number of diseases. Candida is extremely common amongst food chemical intolerant people. Healthy people just do not get candida. Candida is not a cause of ill health but a side-effect of it. Candida is not caused by weak genes. Candida is caused by the immune system being actively depressed, in the case of AIDs patients, or due to abuse of antibiotics. Sometimes it is due to food chemical intolerances.Food chemical intolerances can be inherited. I would suggest that if you have had M.E. and your maternal line has candida problems, the underlying cause could well be food chemicals. Candida is on the rise because food chemicals – both artificial and natural – are on the rise, for a variety of reasons I address elsewhere in my blog.In this post I do not suggest that Herxheimers do not exist, rather that it is easy to misinterpret reactions to food chemicals as Herxheimer reactions. The candida diet fails to treat people with candida when the candida is caused by the presence of immune weakening food chemicals. Many of these chemicals are accientally removed from the diet on the candida diet, but not all of them. Thus when one eats the wrong thing and has a reaction to the chemicals present, it is presumed to be yeast “die-off”. It is not.The candida diet does not work because it cuts out sugar and yeast, it works because it cuts out the worst sources of additives, salicylates and amines, but the candida diet does not work properly because it does not cut out all sources. Thus, the cure is half-hearted, half-arsed, and deeply misleading. On this I am not wrong.The reason your antifungals are not working is because you are looking in the wrong place for the answers. You will be vulnerable to candida until you find out the underlying cause of it. I hope you will take this message seriously and trial the food chemical elimination diet.

    Alien Robot Girl

    11 November, 2006 at 10:56 pm

  3. One of the latest developments on the candida forums is that “cancer is really candida”. See: IS Cancer – New discovery by Dr. Simoncini:”This a new breakthrough discovery by Dr. Simoncini in Italy. His treatments include using baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) to totally dissolve cancerous tumours, which he first discovered also killed candida.”That “famous candida self-help yahoo group” referred to in your original blog post, I take it is the one hosted by a person whose first name reminds of a buzzing insect, or alternatively whose first name followed by “-yatch” forms into a term for “a woman regarded as malicious, bad-tempered, or aggressive”?


    4 October, 2007 at 2:10 am

  4. Hi BrechtThis news is the funniest thing I’ve read all month! Cancer is candida! Ha ha ha!!! Why am I not surprised that bicarb soda is helping people with “candida”, i.e. food chemical sensitivities?A couple of weeks ago I was reading all about how the lyme disease crazies have now declared that autism is a form of lyme!!Have you read about morgellon’s syndrome yet?P.S. I wouldn’t dream of calling any large stripey buzzy insects by their name…! ;D

    Alien Robot Girl

    4 October, 2007 at 1:50 pm

  5. —- A couple of weeks ago I was reading all about how the lyme disease crazies have now declared that autism is a form of lyme!! —-Yep, I have read that too a couple of months ago. (”Morgellons has been labeled as an unreal, delusional disease. What is unreal is the lies, games and garbage the doctors and media have played in reporting Morgellons. They say it’s a mystery disease when there is nothing mysterious about it. Morgellons is a spin off of Lyme disease, as the symptoms for both overlap each other. The difference is that Lyme disease comes from ticks. Morgellons is an extract of Lyme, tweaked up as a deadly plague in a pharmaceutical laboratory and inserted in vaccines in hopes of killing millions of people before a “cure” is discovered. The cures have already been discovered. You do not need to go to a doctor for the cures. You don’t even need to go to a doctor to know that you have Morgellons, as they will lie to you and say “it’s all in your head” when it’s not.”But of course!!And just when everything seems to be “really lyme” or caused by lyme disease: Existence of “Chronic Lyme Disease” Questioned By Yale Oct 4, 2007 – 4:28:59 PMNo Basis For Chronic Lyme Disease. By WILLIAM HATHAWAY | The Hartford Courant. 5:12 PM EDT, October 3, 2007


    8 October, 2007 at 2:24 am

  6. “A couple of weeks ago I was reading all about how the lyme disease crazies have now declared that autism is a form of lyme!!”no they declared that ” autism CAN BE a form of lyme .. they r not yet crasy enough to have certain judgments about those highly scientific issues .. for example if someone who is nobody in the scientific comunity comes saying ” i m sure that autism is not caused by lyme ” than he may be crasy to feel himself capable to make that judgement , i said “may ” because he can also be stupid .. remember the ulcer was happening because of stress 25 years ago ? now it happens because of helicobacter pylori .. amazing isnt it .. more amazing is , if u had said that ulcer was bcause of H.P 30 years ago , some stupid or crasy or whatever illeterate would come saying that u r crasy ..


    6 November, 2007 at 3:46 am

  7. Lebowski, you need a primer in the scientific method. The difference is that stomach ulcers caused by h. pylori have substantiated science behind them rather than being an insane internet rumour spread by people who know absolutely nothing about the biology and genetics of autism and have zero evidence for what they are peddling. Calling someone stupid for dismissing theories that have absolutely no evidence is akin to calling someone stupid for dismissing the theory of the flying spaghetti monster.

    Alien Robot Girl

    7 November, 2007 at 1:10 pm

  8. cancer is a fungus isn’t a new concept.


    12 January, 2008 at 5:56 am

  9. Good grief. Bonkers internet rumours strike again! Burn the fungus! Burn the witch! Talk about scapegoating an innocent pathogen! If cancer is a fungus, then heart disease is a mushroom! Several types of cancer have been linked to human papillomavirus. A VIRUS that produces warts by hijacking cellular machinery and inflicting DNA damage.’Fungus’ doesn’t do this.

    Alien Robot Girl

    30 January, 2008 at 12:23 pm

  10. I’m glad to have come across this post. My 9 year old daughter has a rare form of epilepsy that was mitigated by 2 years of a high dose Prednisone and antibiotic cocktail. She has obvious yeast issues (chronic itching, burning etc.) so I was considering :the diet: I was investigating die-off and nystatin in particular causing seizures….maybe we will take it a bit easier on this path. Anyway, food for thought…thanks.


    5 February, 2008 at 4:53 am

  11. […] Crook indeed! I’ve posted once or twice (or more) times about that snake-oil cure, the Candida diet. I happened across an intelligent […]

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