The Yeast Connection & Mental Issues
The problem with depression is that in modern society it is viewed as an emotional disorder. Time and time again patients are approached as if their persistent depression is as a direct result of an inability to cope with the problems they face on an everyday basis. Yet depression is a condition which affects millions of people not only in the US but on a global basis.
So is the presumption, that millions of people simply cannot cope with their everyday existence, a reasonable one to make?
In truth depression usually has two sources: one arises from practical issues which affect us as individuals, and the other lies deep in our physiology and chemical imbalances. Yet the practical issues which are known to affect our emotional state are those which are easily recognized. Problems such as overwork, divorce, bereavement, financial concerns and other, often traumatic situations are thing we all face at some point in our lives. However many of the people who are depressed and who are prescribed anti-depressants in an attempt to help them to cope, actually have no practical issues which would underpin negative emotional disturbances.
Many of these people are confused by the cause of their depression as it apparently has no foundation. They may be busy, but not overworked. The kids may be being a pain, but nothing out of the ordinary. Their spouses can be loving and supportive and their parents alive and well, yet still they are suffering from an all-consuming black mood.
We are now coming to realize that depression has a strong association with Candida and, although this association has been recognized in some quarters since the 1950s, it is only now resurfacing in light of advances in scientific techniques.
Observations relating not only to Candida and depression but also Candida and what was once known as ‘drunken yeast syndrome’ go back a long way. It was established some time around the 1980s that these effects were due, at least in part, to ethanol being released by the Candida yeasts and possibly other organisms. Because ethanol depresses the central nervous system, then clearly an overgrowth of Candida has a direct link to both physical and emotional disturbances1
Gut Brain Axis
We are now though aware that in addition to the autonomic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the digestive tract is both influenced and influences the enteric nervous system. This is what has become known as the ‘second brain’ and the gut brain axis (GBA) and emphasis on its importance and functions have really only recently come to light.
However today what we are tending to see are much broader relationships and often these have indirect links. For example, scientists will talk of dysbiosis in general, meaning a disharmony of the microbiota in the gut. These organisms are essential in maintaining optimum digestive function and ultimately affect every action the human body makes. They will also speak of illnesses, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) being commonly linked to both dysbiosis and emotional disturbances, and, although the studies being performed are analyzing the relationships and causes they also appear to be taking a pitifully long time to reach not only substantial conclusions, but effective ways to both diagnose and treat.
The situation is further complicated because the composition of the gut microflora are not exactly the same in each person. Everyone has similar levels which allow them to function effectively, but still what is good for one person is not optimum for another. This can make it more difficult to establish who is actually suffering from an imbalance and to assess whether emotional symptoms are arising as a result.
The relationship between gut microflora, Candida and the intricate working of the digestive tract is both highly complex and apparently somewhat delicate. Because the GBA involves many factors including the function of the enteric nervous system itself and gut motility, how the gut integrates and influences not only digestive functions such as immune activation, and intestinal permeability but also how it links to the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain. If we introduce into this highly complex mix bacterial overgrowth which produce their own toxins and elements which interfere with these functions then we can start to see more clearly the multitude of problems which can arise.
Candida and Mental Health
There can be little doubt that emerging research is now beginning to cement a link between an imbalance of gut microbes and emotional disturbances3. In some, more severe cases, it would seem that the emotional issues evolve into those which are classed as mental illnesses and in particular this has been brought to light by scientists studying the causes of autism. In these tests it has now been shown that most people on the autism spectrum are suffering from an imbalance of gut microflora and the relationship between the two is stimulating more research to establish exactly why this is so2.
Candida and Emotional Health
When it comes to Candida in particular it was noted by William Crooks decades ago that there was a direct correlation between an overgrowth of this particular organism and depression. However correlation does not equal causation and at the time there was no way of establishing if one was as a direct result of the other. Today scientists are once again looking into the problems arising from Candida and the suggestions that depression can be but one manifesting symptom. We know of one toxin produced by Candida, acetaldehyde, which negatively affects the integrity of the intestinal wall and by doing so can lead to intestinal permeability. This in itself can lead to many adverse reactions and not just disease which can become systemic. It also sets up immune responses which are noted to interfere with the GBA and disrupt effective functioning of this highly complicated system4. More work from Eric Bakker is recommended and his book candidacrusher.
When it comes to depression in general there is one final word to be said about contemporary living. The long term stressors which can be biological, emotional or chemical may not have their foundation arising from serious emotional disturbances to the normal running of our everyday lives, but can present after continual exposure to other stressors which we have come to view as the norm but which our bodies are simply not designed to cope with.
Long-term associations with low-level stressful situations, chemicals and even mass produced foods may initially appear to make lives easier but it is becoming necessary to ask how much can our bodies really cope with. The dramatic rise in depression, particularly in those who have no practical reason to be depressed, may ultimately clue us in as to how our bodies are being affected internally by contemporary living and, hopefully, what we need to do to resolve the problem. Candida, well recognized as being an opportunistic pathogen, could well be taking advantage of an environment which is conducive to its survival.