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What is Candida Albicans? How do You Get It & What to Do About It If You Do

Candida albicans is a yeast, a type of fungi with a predominately unicellular mode of development. It is responsible for a little over half of the fungal infections in the US and two thirds worldwide. The genus candida as a whole comprises more than 150 species, whose main common feature is the absense of any sexual form.

Candida reproduces by budding from a chain of connected spores called blastospores. Blastospores can by elongated, ovoid or spherical although candida albicans tends to be elongated, called pseudohypha, with lateral out growths of blastospores forming off the pseudohypha. It can be either white or an opaque light grey in color.

The cell itself is made up of 20-40% proteins, 30-50% polysaccharides, and varying proportions of lipids. These phospholipids are composed of phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl ethanolamine, phosphatidyl serine and phosphatidyl inositol. Ergosterol is the predominant sterol although the amount of egosterol can vary from one subtype to another. The predominant fatty acids are oleic, linolic, palitic, and palmitolic.

The cell wall runs three to five layers thick depending upon strain. The outer layer is mostly fibrillar with mannoproteins and can be compared to a capsule or coating. Mannan polysaccharides are found through out the cell wall structure and layers two and three. Layer four is mostly glucan and the innermost layer is rich in chitin, which is a type of cellulose, and glucans. Chitin and glucans give the cell rigidity much like a plant cell wall. Lipids are located throughout the layers. It has a plasma membrane at the center and mitochondria for energy production.

Like all pathogenic yeasts, it builds a biofilm over the top of itself as a means of protection from the host immune system. These biofilms will contain pseudohypha with budding blastospores that are released from the biofilm as a way to spread the colony further infecting the host. The more mature the biofilm, the more resistant to both prescription anti-fungals and natural anti-fungals.

Its intracellular ph runs from 6.7 to 6.8 although mature hyphae are 6.4. It can survive in a ph range of 2.5 to 8.0 and likes a temperature range of 68 to 103F. When exposed to a ph under 6, it grows in a yeast form. When exposed to a ph over 7, it shifts to a hyphael pathogenic form. Studies have suggested that 98.6F is the optimal temperature for its growth.1

The vagina's ph is normally 4 so candida albicans will mostly exist in this environment in a spore form. However, it is has been medically proven that a vaginal ph around 4.5 or higher, is a risk factor for yeast and bad bacteria over growth known as bacterial vaginosis or BV.

The stomach is typically about 2 so it can not survive there. The small intestine runs 5.7 to 7.4 at the ileum. The begining of the colon is about 5.7 and it drops to 6.7 at the rectum. So for the most part, except in the lower small intestine, candida albicans exists in the intestines as a spore form which typically causes no harm. However, if you alter the good bacteria in your gut, which maintain the proper ph ranges, and that ph rises, it will shift to the pathogenic hyphael form. But, typically when it comes in contact with a surface, it switches to hyphael growth.

However, and this is very important; candida albicans has the ability to actively alkalize its surrounding environment under nutrient starvation which induces hyphael formation! So following a candida diet that cuts All carbs is going to lead to a more severe infection! 

It is aerobic and can double its population in 2 hours when oxygen is plentiful. 2,3 Under anaerobic conditions, it takes 20 hours to double its population.3,4

It secretes protease, phospholipase and lipase enzymes into the substrate it is attached to as a feeding mechanism. The broken down substrate will release glucose which is then sucked up like roots on a tree sucking water.

Candida albicans prefers carbohydrates and does require biotin for growth. In addition to biotin, thiamine, pantothenate, nicotinic acid, p-aminobenzoic acid and vitamin B12 also have a stimulatory growth effect. Carbohydrates can include other forms of sugar alcohols and fructose. However, a study done in 1975 and published in the Journal of Dental Research, found that xylitol suppressed the growth of three different strains of candida albicans.5

It also needs iron, zinc, copper and manganese, in that order of importance, for growth.8

In 1969, it was found that candida albicans polysaccharides actually had antitumor activity against mouse sarcomas. Further investigation by Bistoni and associates have shown it is the glucan fraction that posses this tumour suppressive activity. The glucan stimulates neutrophil and macrophage activity. The same effect was observed with the glucans found in saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of bakers yeast. Most Beta Glucan products on the market today are made from these glucans.

How Do You Get Candida Albicans?

It is suggested that everyone has candida yeast as part of their microbiome in their gut. This microbiome is passed on to you when you were born as you go through your mothers vaginal canal. There you are bathed in all the bacteria and yeasts that she has, basically, you swallow these fluids and aquire her microbiome. Through out life you will be exposed to more bacteria from your environment and that can include yeasts.

A normal microbiome will be composed of 85% beneficial bacteria and 15% will be pathogenic microbes. That 15% will be composed of different species of bad bacteria and yeasts. The yeast level will be very very low and if the person maintains a healthy lifetsyle, a proper diet, never takes antibiotics, and their immune system is strong, yeast and these pathogenic bacteria will never cause problems. In the real world, this is pretty much impossible.

People with HIV, compromised immune systems, diabetes, cancer patients, and who use antibiotics or steroids often are usually most effected by candida albicans over growth. Patients in intensive care units can also aquire infections from catheters as yeasts can grow on plastics.

The mortality rate from blood stream infections runs about 34%,6 and can be as high as 78% if not treated within 48 hours.7 It has the ability to affect any organ in the body, shutting it down which results in death.

Compromised immune systems, central venous catheters, broad spectrum antibiotic use, trauma, intestinal surgery, and damage to the intestinal tract are risk factors for systemic candida yeast infections.

I go into great detail on all the typical causes of candida yeast over growth on this webpage.

You can also check the symptoms and tests pages if you suspect that you have a candida albicans infection and want to verify.

How to Get Candida Albicans Under Control

The drug of choice is Fluconazole which is labeled under the name Diflucan in the United States. In the cases of vaginal yeast caused by candida albicans, most doctors prescribe one or two pills as treatment. Deep rooted cases however can take up to six months to get under control.

It is possible, and I do see it all the time, for the yeast to become resistant to the point Fluconazole does nothing. In these cases, Itraconazole, Voriconazole, Posaconazole, one of the Enchinocandins, and Amphotericin B are the suggested alternatives.

From a natural perspective there are quite a few things you can do. It is usually best to do all of them, which also tends to correct the underlying cause to start with.

Because we know candida albicans of all types uses glucose for its sole source of carbon for growth, it is best to follow the right diet and DON'T cut off all carbs. Please see this webpage for further information.

We know it builds a biofilm over the top of itself as a means of protection and as a method to expand within its host. Therefore, we have to have something that removes the biofilm. A properly designed enzyme formula will do this, and it will also eat the candida itself.

Many herbs have candida killing abilities and should be taken as the biofilm is stripped away by the enzymes. I have a list of recommended herbs on this webpage.

More than likely, the main cause of the infection is a reduction in the 85% good bacteria population in the gut, restoring those populations is imperative for long term recovery. A properly designed probiotic can do this while also removing additional candida yeast.

Then it takes time... The body can heal itself and come back into balance but if it took years to get to where you are now, it is going to take a while to recover. For instance, if you have a history of antibiotic or steroid use and one of those antibiotics was Cipro, studies have shown it can take a year for your good bacteria to come back. Other non broad spectrum antibiotics take three to six months to recover from.

Back to Yeast Species

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Any questions about candida albicans or yeast in general, please feel free to contact me using the contact form on this website.

References

1. A Watson in 1976, J. Bacteriol; M Lopez and C Silva in 1984, Z. Allg. Mikrobiol 24; V. Uden and H. Buckley in 1970, The Yeasts; Lemos-Carolino and Madeira-Lopes in 1984, Sabouraudia 22.

2. Iralu, Appl. Microbial 22, 1971 and CE Webster, FC Odds J. Med. Vet. Mycol. 25, 1987.

3. Growth and Respiration Characteristics of Candida albicans. S. Anand, R. Prasad

4. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. Jul 2004; 48(7): 2350–2354.doi:  10.1128/AAC.48.7.2350-2354.2004

5. Makinen KK, Ojanotko A, Vidgren H. 1975 Effect of xylitol on the growth of three oral strains of candida albicans. 54,1239

6. 20. Nguyen MH, Peacock JE Jr, Tanner DC, Morris AJ, Nguyen ML, Snydman DR, Wagener MM, Yu VL. 1995. Therapeutic approaches in patients with candidemia. Evaluation in a multicenter, prospective, observational study. Archives of Internal Medicine. 155(22):2429-35.

7. 21. Blot SI, Vandewoude KH, Hoste EA, Colardyn FA. 2002. Effects of nosocomial candidemia on outcomes of critically ill patients. American Journal of Medicine. 113(6):480-5.8. FEMS Yeast Res. 2009 Oct;9(7):1000-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1567-1364.2009.00570.x. Epub 2009 Aug 21. Candida albicans iron acquisition within the host. Almeida RS1, Wilson D, Hube B

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