The information presented on this sitecomes from Seven Weeks To Sobriety©. It is based on 30 years of research and clinical observations at Health Recovery Center®. Their inspired methods of biochemical repair follow an orthomolecular approach to restore health and balance to the brain. We invite you to learn more about Health Recovery Center, and the superior “caused-based” treatment it has pioneered for addictions and mental health.
Candida Albicans & Other Biochemical Traps That Block Recovery
If you have been faithfully following the biochemical repair program outlined in the book Seven Weeks to Sobriety and still do not feel as well as you suspect you should, you may be wondering whether a biochemical restoration program is right for you. Relax. This program will work for all alcoholics but you may be suffering from food allergies or chemical sensitivities that must be identified and treated before your recovery can be complete. Or you may be battling an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a yeast that can sap your energy and undermine your health. Alcoholics are particularly vulnerable to candida overgrowth. This section will discuss each of these complex conditions. You'll learn how to determine whether you are affected and, if so, what you can do to overcome these debilitating disorders. Dramatic recoveries have been made among HRC clients who discover that they are afflicted with one or more of these problems.
When I suspect that a client is chemically sensitive, I always tell the story of Roger, a counselor at an alcoholism detox center who had not had a drink since he had completed traditional treatment three years before I met him. Underneath the veneer of success, Roger was tormented by explosive anger, anxiety, and exhaustion. When he called me, he said his dry-drunk behavior was threatening his job. He didn't know how to control his emotions and was afraid that he would wind up drinking again. Worse, he recognized that he was having suicidal thoughts. He was very frightened.
At our initial interview, I discovered that Roger was consuming twenty-five cups of coffee and a six-pack of cola every day. Correcting his hypoglycemia soon calmed the mood swings, but his behavior was still unpredictable. Not until he told me about his hobby, taxidermy, did I begin to suspect the culprit. In his off-hours, Roger was inhaling solvents, glues, and thinners that just might explain the symptoms that continued to trouble him. To find out, I sent him to a clinical ecologist for tests. His reaction to ethanol's and formaldehydes was dramatic. Upon exposure in the lab, he became quite anxious and paranoid. Tests also revealed sensitivities to wheat and dairy products that brought on delayed reactions of severe irritability and fatigue.
When Roger was drinking, withdrawal from alcohol typically brought on violent scenes and bleak moods. Although he had managed to quit, for permanent relief he had to avoid the other substances that altered his brain chemistry and undermined his emotional stability. Roger recovered by giving up caffeine, nicotine, refined sugars, wheat, and dairy products, and minimizing his exposure to ethanols and formaldehyde.
Over the years I have learned that house painters, garage mechanics, hair stylists, printers, and others who continually breathe chemical fumes on the job are often alcoholic. At the end of the workday they are literally intoxicated by the fumes from their jobs, and they head straight to the bar to forestall withdrawal symptoms. Those who try to stop drinking develop unrelenting cravings for alcohol.
A distinguished Chicago allergist, Theron Randolph, M.D., was the first to propose that many physical and emotional disorders may be related to exposure to environmental chemicals. He discovered that susceptible people first experience a pleasing, addictive high followed eventually by withdrawal symptoms. Figure 10, adapted from Randolph's book An Alternative Approach to Allergies, will give you an idea of the range of these symptoms from the initial "up" to the subsequent withdrawal or "down." The more you are stimulated (intoxicated) by the chemical, the more severe the withdrawal will be.
A Health Recovery Center study showed that 56 percent of our clients were sensitive to chemicals in the environment. The most common offender was ethanol, contained in a wide range of products, including
- Natural gas
- Gasoline (regular and diesel)
- Some paints
- Automobile exhaust
- Soft plastics (new car odors)
- Certain hand lotions and perfumes
- Disinfectant cleaners
- Tobacco smoke
Maladapted Cerebral & Behavior Responses
Maladapted Localized Responses
Maladapted Systemic Responses
Maladapted Advanced Stimulatory Responses
The most common reactions are fatigue, exhaustion, spaciness, mental confusion, depression, cravings, irritability. The magnitude and severity of these responses is startling-sudden intense anger, tears and sobbing, falling asleep, the inability to think or speak coherently.
These symptoms can be readily produced and extinguished in an allergy lab. Testing involves placing a sample of the suspect chemical under the tongue (sublingual testing). If a reaction occurs, it can be turned off by placing a much smaller neutralizing dose of the same substance under the tongue. These test results provide convincing evidence for skeptical clients and those who suspect that their symptoms are all in their minds.
Test Yourself for Chemical Sensitivities
The chemical screening test (Chart 8 from the book Seven Weeks to Sobriety) was developed at HRC and is based on a questionnaire originally developed by Theron Randolph, M.D., the "father of clinical ecology."
If on the basis of this test you believe you are chemically allergic, you should consult a clinical ecologist/allergist for further testing and treatment. I was tested at Dr. Kroker's office in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The result was a real eye-opener. Before exposure, I had completed a short exercise that required me to match symbols. After the mysterious dose, I was asked to match another page of symbols. I was so sleepy and muddled that I simply could not perform the exercise at a normal pace. I felt as though my IQ had dropped fifty points. Then, with a neutralizing dose under my tongue, I slowly brightened up. The substance responsible for my sleepiness and confusion was ethanol, the base of most perfumes and after-shave lotions. The test results explained why I had been having trouble concentrating when new clients wore a lot of cologne or after-shave.
How to Turn Off Chemical Reactions
Once substances that trigger negative reactions are identified, clinical ecologists can desensitize you with a three-step procedure.
First, they'll prepare a neutralizing dose containing minute amounts of the chemical(s) to which you are sensitive. When this is placed under your tongue, the allergic reaction diminishes within minutes. At the same time, the ability of your Immune system to handle the chemical begins to strengthen. You may get a prescription to take home and use according to the doctor's instructions. You may have to use it dally until your immune system can handle exposure normally.
Second, he or she will recommend that you take a sodium and potassium bicarbonate in the form of Alka-Seltzer Gold or alkali salts available with a prescription. The salts effectively neutralize the excess acidity that develops in the body during allergic reactions. Two tablets of Alka-Seltzer Gold quickly reduce symptoms that occur after chemical exposure. The adult dose is two tablets every four hours; do not exceed eight tablets in a twenty-four hour period.
Third, to prevent reactions in the future, it is essential that you avoid, as much as possible, the chemicals to which you are sensitive. Also avoid or eliminate chemicals in your home that could potentially cause you problems, including
- Cigarette smoke
- Gas appliances
- Perfumed cosmetics and hair sprays
- Soft vinyl and acrylic items
- Spray cleaners for ovens, baths, and kitchens
- Air fresheners
You can further reduce your exposure by drinking deep well water or bottled spring water instead of chlorinated tap water and avoiding foods that have been heavily sprayed with chemicals (switch to organically grown products). Room and car air filters can also help minimize exposure to chemical fumes. If you must inhale strong chemical odors at work, a portable charcoal mask can help protect you.
The amazing changes that alcohol can trigger in the allergic/addicted alcoholic demonstrate how profoundly the brain is affected by substances it cannot tolerate. Reactions can include anger, loss of control, physical fights, crying, and suicide attempts. If you are allergic/addicted, you may have inherited a biological predisposition to food and chemical intolerance's. If so, problems usually begin to develop after you start using the allergenic substance frequently. Your first encounter with it probably made you sick, but with prolonged use your body adapts in a way that suggests you are tolerating the substance. In fact, an addiction is gradually building. When the substance is present, you feel a lift or high. Withdrawal triggers a number of unpleasant or painful symptoms ranging from depression to exhaustion. Unfortunately, giving up alcohol won't necessarily eliminate these problems. Your addictive needs may soon lead you elsewhere for a fix. You may drink pots of coffee laced with sugar or get your high from binging on foods containing the same grains as the alcohol you used to drink. Or you may chain-smoke and drink colas continually. If so, your behavior will be almost as erratic as it was when you were drinking.
Compulsive Eating and Food Allergy
Do you crave certain foods the way drug addicts crave a fix? If so, you may be allergic/addicted to those foods. When this is the case, the foods in question are improperly metabolized in your body and trigger psychoactive chemicals that produce an initial high soon followed by a loss of control (binging) and other negative symptoms like fogginess, fatigue, and depression. Life becomes one binge after another, and weight begins to accumulate. Eventually, some affected individuals turn bulimic to control their weight. The alternative is anorexia nervosa and starvation. If an allergic/addicted person cuts food intake and subsists on salads and vegetables, their cravings will probably subside. This regime eliminates the volatile foods that trigger binges, but it will also deplete stores of the natural chemicals needed for normal brain functioning.
A number of studies have shown that eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa are linked to zinc deficiencies probably be-cause zinc affects our taste, sense of smell, and appetite. In a study at Stanford University, a group of zinc-deficient anorexic adolescents were given supplements, while a control group got none. The youngsters taking zinc began to gain weight. Their senses of taste and smell improved, and their depression and anxious moods lifted. They also began to mature sexually (sexual development can be arrested among anorexic adolescents).
Obesity can also be associated with zinc deficiency. A study at the University of Tennessee Medical Center showed that people who repeatedly regain weight after dieting (victims of the so-called yo-yo syndrome) can lose again without dieting by taking liquid zinc supplements. The Tennessee-study participants lost three to five pounds per month with no other lifestyle changes.
Be Your Own Detective: The Elimination Diet
One effective way to confirm that a specific food is causing you problems is to stop eating it for at least one week. This isn't as easy as it sounds, because if you are allergic/addicted, you may develop withdrawal symptoms as your body pleads for its usual fix of these foods. Symptoms vary from person to person and can include headache or fatigue during the first days. Back and joint aches may develop on the third day and persist for a day or two. Among the "psychological" symptoms of withdrawal are anxiety, confusion, depression, and mood swings. If you are chemically sensitive, try to avoid exposure during this week to fresh paint, new synthetic carpets, cleaning solutions, gas stoves, tobacco smoke, auto exhaust, perfumes, and shopping malls (which are filled with fumes from the formaldehyde in new clothing, furniture, and fabrics).
(A note to smokers: Do not smoke during an elimination diet. Cigarettes are loaded with chemicals that keep allergic users in a chronically reactive state. You won't be able to see the effects of the diet while you continue to smoke.)
By the end of the week, withdrawal agonies, if any, will have ceased. After that, reintroducing the suspected food(s) should produce noticeable symptoms. This is your body's way of telling you whether or not it can tolerate the food.
To test yourself, follow these directions:
1. Test only one food per meal.
2. Make a whole meal of the test food. For example, if you suspect that dairy products are the source of your problems, eat only cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese; if wheat is the suspected culprit, limit yourself to hot wheat cereal, wheat toast, pan-cakes, or bread. Do not resume using a suspected food until after you have tested it this way. For example, don't butter your bread unless you are certain that dairy products (which include butter) are not a problem for you.
3. Take your pulse just before eating the food you are testing. Take it again five minutes after you finish and again twenty-five minutes later. A pulse twelve or more beats per minute faster or slower than what is normal for you suggests an allergic reaction to the food you are testing.
4. Make a note of any changes in the way you feel physically and emotionally. Reactions usually occur within the first hour, although some may be delayed. Be aware that if your brain chemistry is altered because of a reaction to the food, you may not be able to think clearly enough to accurately assess and record your reaction. I learned how difficult this can be when, after a five-day total fast (except for spring water), I tested eggs at lunch. I soon felt very sleepy and decided to take a short nap. A half hour later, I realized I was lying on the couch instead of driving back to my office. At first, I was in such a fog that I had no idea why I had dozed off at noon. As the grip of the allergic response subsided I realized that the eggs were responsible for my reaction.
5. If possible, test the suspect foods when someone else is around. This way, if you are too muddled by an allergic reaction, your companion will be able to observe your behavior and relate it to the food you tested. I had a meeting with colleagues scheduled the day I tested wheat. After downing a stack of pancakes, I hurried off to the meeting. Driving a familiar route, I took a wrong turn, not once but twice! I was annoyed at my stupidity but never connected my mistakes to the possibility that my brain was losing its smarts in response to the wheat. When I finally arrived, I delivered my report in a halting voice, some-times slurring my words. I was mortified by my performance. Suddenly, a close friend began to laugh. "You must be in reaction. What did you test this morning?" That embarrassing experience told me in no uncertain terms that wheat is not good for me.
6. Any uncomfortable symptoms can be partially relieved by taking two tablets of Alka-Seltzer Gold. Milk of magnesia can also help eliminate food-related problems. (Follow the directions on the label.)
7. Be sure to avoid any chemical exposure while testing a food and get plenty of fresh air. Drink only spring water, deep well water, or water that has been filtered-not tap water, which is full of chemicals. (One of our HRC clients discovered that the constant groin pain that had plagued him for years disappeared when he stopped using chlorinated water. He later found that he could turn the pain on and off by switching from spring to tap water. I have noticed that allergic people don't feel well when they drink city water treated with chorine and other chemicals.)
Breaking Food Allergy/Addiction
Identifying the foods that undermine your equilibrium is only half the battle. You will still find these foods appealing (in exactly the same way alcohol is appealing) because they promise a high. I doubt that your heartbeat quickens at the thought of eating green beans. But the very word "pizza" (or insert the name of your favorite food) can set something humming. That something is the anticipation of the promised high. If this seems like the effect you get from alcohol, you are beginning to understand allergy/addiction. Food addiction and alcohol or drug addiction are the same kinds of biochemical processes. This similarity explains why so many abstinent alcoholics continue to suffer physical and mental torment they expected to vanish when they stopped drinking. By kicking all of these addictions you can put an end to the physical and emotional turmoil that lures you back to one more quick fix.
Now that you understand some of the biochemical factors that underlie your need for alcohol-that overpowering buildup to drink- you can take steps to keep your brain and body in balance so you don't continually crave a chemical high to pull you out of a chronically low state.
The Total Load Concept
Imagine that you are at sea in a boat loaded with so many heavy boxes that it is sinking. You can keep afloat by tossing some boxes overboard. Your body is like that sinking boat. It has a certain threshold capacity for stress and allergen "boxes," and if you overload its capacity your physical and emotional health will suffer. Each box represents a segment of your total overload:
- One box represents food-allergy responses or high refined-sugar intake.
- Another represents inhalants such as dust, mold, and pollens and chemical sensitivities to tobacco, auto exhaust, or chemicals on your job.
- Another is over proliferation of Candida albicans yeast.
- Then there is a box for all the stress in your life.
- And last, but not least, is your genetic susceptibility to alcoholism.
Stacked together, these boxes constitute a total environmental overload that is to blame for your physical and emotional problems. You must find a way to jettison some of them in order to get below the threshold where your physical and emotional symptoms develop.
Take the case of Bill, a recovering alcoholic who worked in a print shop. His violent temper had led to the breakup of his marriage. Now that he lived alone, Bill's diet consisted of cigarettes, colas, fast food, and coffee. Every night, while watching TV, he treated himself to a large bowl of ice cream. As the weeks and months went by, he became more depressed, more muddled in his thinking, and more and more tired. Although he was only thirty-four, Bill felt as if he were going down for the count. When he called the Health Recovery Center, he was desperate to improve the quality of his life.
We put him on a hypoglycemic diet and convinced him to give up caffeine and cut his cigarette intake in half. With biochemical repair for the damage his alcoholism had inflicted and counseling for the stress engendered by his divorce, Bill was able to reduce the environmental load on his system. To bring the load down below his personal threshold, he changed jobs so he could avoid daily exposure to the powerful chemicals in the print shop. As a result of these changes, Bill stopped craving alcohol and his violent temper disappeared. The before/after graph below presents the changes Bill made to reduce the environmental load on his immune system.
Building-Block Theory of Immune System Breakdown from Stress Overload
Assessing Your Personal Load
How overloaded is your immune system? You can get a pretty good idea by listing the various "boxes" you are carrying. Like Bill, you'll have to unload some in order to recover your emotional and physical equilibrium. In Appendix B of Seven Weeks to Sobriety you'll find a list of excellent books on food and chemical sensitivities that will give you additional information about controlling symptoms stemming from these problems.
Candida Albicans: Alcohol's Silent Partner
Bob is a typical AA member. It's Friday night, and he is attending the regular meeting at a local church. As the speaker rambles on, Bob stirs two heaping teaspoons of sugar into a large cup of coffee. He has already helped demolish a huge chocolate cake. During the two-hour meeting, Bob also drinks two cans of Coke.
As the meeting winds down, Bob finishes his second pack of cigarettes for the day. He coughs several times as he gets up to leave and resolves once again to quit smoking that weekend.
Of course, Bob doesn't quit, and by Monday his little cough has escalated into full-fledged sinusitis and bronchitis. His head aches, and he is running temperature of 101 degrees. On Wednesday, Bob stays home from work and goes to see his family doctor, who prescribes amoxicillin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. In a few days Bob's fever has subsided, but he still has a headache. For the next two weeks, he feels "just plain rotten." To make matters worse, the antibiotic gave him diarrhea.
Later, as he slowly recovers, Bob realizes that the infection was his third of the year; each time, it has taken longer to recover. He is worn out, worried about his health, and depressed by his physical discomfort. Bob has been depressed like this before. The only thing that seems to help is alcohol. Within days he'll fall off the wagon again.
Bob's nagging suspicion that something more than simply lowered resistance is responsible for his ill health is right on target. He has an infection with a yeast called Candida albicans. If you have ever been to an AA meeting, you can appreciate why candida infections are so common among both drinking and recovering alcoholics. Described by a university researcher as a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde trouble-maker" because of its elusive but destructive nature, this yeast thrives on sugar. Most alcoholics serve as tasty breeding grounds for candida because their systems are loaded with sugar.
The Nature of the Yeast
Candida albicans is a microscopic plant about the size of a red blood cell. It is a cousin to the molds that live in damp basements and is also related to the fungus that causes jock itch and athlete's foot. The textbook Medical Mycology describes Candida albicans as "mild mannered creatures incapable of producing infections in normal, healthy individuals. [A yeast] can only cause trouble in the person with weakened defenses ... because of its rapid ability to make itself at home on mucous membranes, it can take advantage of many types of host alterations. The clinical manifestations of candida infections are exceedingly variable [and] account for the vast majority of diseases caused by yeast."
In recent years, the collection of problems related to this yeast has come to be known as candida-related complex (CRC), a term coined by allergist George Kroker, M.D. CRC embraces a variety of conditions ranging from mild to fatal. Candida can cause infections of the vagina (candida vaginitis) and mouth (thrush), as well as infections of the ears, nose, sinuses, fingers, toes, tongue, throat, esophagus, and the entire digestive tract.
Investigators at the University of Iowa report that 80 percent of the population harbors Candida albicans. Another researcher, David Soil, M.D., calls it a "microscopic monster capable of inflicting infections ranging from annoying (vaginitis, jock itch) in otherwise healthy people to fatal in patients weakened by leukemia or bone-marrow transplants. Dr. Soll was the first to observe that candida is "capable of changing its looks and then changing back to its original form." This quick-change capability may allow the fungus to elude some of the body's immune-system mechanisms.
Back to Bob
Unfortunately, Bob's doctor was unaware of the problems candida can cause (this is not unusual, as I'll explain later), and the treatment he recommended actually encouraged the overgrowth. He prescribed an antibiotic that killed not only the streptococcus bacteria infecting Bob's throat and lungs, but also the normal, helpful bacteria inhabiting his digestive tract.
Once this normal balance was altered, the candida in Bob's body grew unimpeded. Candida is opportunistic; it leaps in and takes over when the body's immune defenses are down. The renegade soon covers the mucous membrane lining the small and large intestines in patches large enough to interfere with normal digestion and absorption of nutrients. The most obvious result is diarrhea, a signal that the body is trying to eliminate the candida and restore normal bacterial balance.
In Bob's case, the rapid growth of the yeast resulted in the production of toxins that altered his body's normal biochemistry and set the stage for the other disorders he developed.
Alcoholics and Candida
Results of a pilot study of the medical records of 213 patients treated at the Health Recovery Center were published in the International Journal of Biosocial and Medical Research in 1991. They showed that 55 percent of the women and 35 percent of the men had histories indicating probable candida overgrowth. At HRC, we use a candida questionnaire (Chart 10 in Seven Weeks to Sobriety) developed by William Crook, M.D., to determine whether our clients are suffering from CRC. Take it to find out whether any of your symptoms could be caused by candida overgrowth.
When you talk to your doctor, explain that the yeast problem identified in the Health Recovery Center client population is systemic, not the mucocutaneous type that usually affects the vagina (yeast vaginitis) or mouth (thrush) or the invasive type that can damage the kidneys of patients on immunosuppressant drugs after organ transplants. Candida-related complex stems from many factors that involve not just yeast overgrowth but such variables as chronic stress, excessive sugar intake, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, lowered immunity, environmental pollution, and, in some patients, prolonged use of oral contraceptives and corticosteroids.
At Health Recovery Center candida-related complex is treated with a combination of powerful non-drug yeast destroyers and, sometimes, the prescription drug Dyflucan (fluconazole). Dyflucan is an antifungal agent that effectively fights systemic Candida albicans infections. This drug can give a boost to your attack plan in the war to clear these yeast invaders from your body.
A candida screening test and excellent formula to correct the condition can be found in your book Seven Weeks to Sobriety.
Diet tips for Candida Control:
- Do not eat refined sugars or high-carbohydrate, simple-sugar foods.
- Avoid dairy products.
- Do not eat foods that are high in mold or yeast. These include cheese, peanuts, alcoholic drinks, and dried fruits.
Bob scored high on his candida questionnaire and a laboratory candida antibody assay. After six weeks of treatment for CRC, his depression had vanished his energy was on the upswing, and his cravings for alcohol and sugar had disappeared. "Even my postnasal drip is gone."
Bob did recover, but he had to change many of his ways. Today, when he attends AA meetings, he drinks herbal tea. He stopped smoking and brings his own snacks to meetings-whole grain bread with almond butter, a few pistachios and filberts, carrots and celery sticks. Putting sugar out of his life eliminated the cravings that had kept him on the edge of relapse for years.
Be Prepared for Resistance
Don't be surprised if your doctor is not impressed with Bob's story, the results of your CRC questionnaire, and your determination to have yourself tested for CRC. Many physicians still adhere to the old (and incorrect) view that Candida albicans accounts only for disorders in the intestinal tract, not for disorders that occur elsewhere in the body. If your doctor dismisses the notion that CRC may be to blame for otherwise unexplained symptoms, you can encourage him/her to seek medical proof through a lab test. If you have yeast-related illness, your immune system is busy making high amounts of candida antibodies in an effort to control the overgrowth, and these antibody levels can be measured by a blood test. We use ImmunoDiagnostic Laboratories for this test. Also refer him/her to the suggested readings on candida in Appendix B of Seven Weeks to Sobriety.
Eventually, I'm sure that skeptical physicians will begin to recognize and treat the physical and mental havoc CRC can create. But you can't wait for medical thinking to evolve. You need help now. To find a sympathetic physician, telephone the "International Health Foundation" at (800) 372-7665 or the "American Academy of Environmental Medicine" at (215) 8624544.
Other places to check to find holistic care include:
Additional information on formula schedules and optimal doses to achieve biochemical restoration/repair can be found in the book Seven Weeks to Sobriety
Information on this website is reprinted from the book, Seven Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D. (ISBN 0-449-00259-4) Copyright ©1991-2000. All rights reserved. This information may not be reproduced without permission from Villard Books, a division of Random House Inc. & Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D.
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