Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Yeast
by Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D.
This page is based on the clinical experience and research of Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D., a board certified doctor who also has a Ph.D. in Nutrition.
This page contains information about medical conditions that effect the gut, including Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, and how to solve those conditions by changing diet. This is not intended to be specific medical advice for specific individuals. Dr. Semon is available for consultations and new patients. Call toll-free 1-877-332-7899. For more detailed information, we suggest that you make an appointment to see Dr. Semon or read our new book, An Extraordinary Power to Heal, which has a chapter devoted to these types of medical conditions, with more cases and explanations. Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition’s new cookbook, Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen, is completely free of yeast, gluten and casein as well as common allergens of soy, rye, corn, peanuts, and other foods. It also is completely sugar free and kosher.
Successful Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis–New July 2013
I had a patient who suffered from ulcerative colitis that was so bad she could not do the type of things that young women her age like to do, which for her was to go abroad on internships.
She was only 19 year old. She had suffered from ulcerative colitis since age 9, for ten years. She came to me originally several years ago. I saw her again fairly recently. When she first came to see me, she told me that she had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 9. She had diarrhea and bloody stools. She took prednisone and then developed other problems. She had tiny cuts that would not heal and skin problems. She also developed acne and skin scarring. These are not fun to have at any age, particularly in early adolescence. These problems persisted and at the age of 12, she decided prednisone was not helping and was causing skin and acne problems.
She then stopped seeing doctors. She presented to this writer while in college at the age of 19. She had not seen a doctor from ages 12 to 19. She still had watery diarrhea, occasionally red. She had used prayer and willpower but the process had not been pleasant. She had never had a remission, no sustained normal time. She was having 5 to 6 episodes of watery diarrhea per day. She had acne on her face and skin scarring (keloids).
When she came to see me, I started her on the Feast Without Yeast diet and nystatin oral powder.
She came back a few months later. She no longer had blood in her stool but was still having watery diarrhea frequently. She was very upset and crying to have to deal with something other people did not have to deal with. Overall she had improved but symptoms would get better, then worse again. At first, she was still eating bread. She was taking 1/8 tsp twice a day of nystatin oral powder. She was advised that this dose was too low and that she should increase the dose.
She came back about nine months later. Amazingly, she had taken a backpacking trip through Europe and done alright. She was doing better but still had some moments. She reported that she had slowly improved. She was about to go abroad to teach English.
She came back a year later and reported that her skin was healing more normally. She was still taking nystatin. She stated she was feeling more normal over time. She felt alright and had no major problems. She was having some days in which she had to use the bathroom more. Overall, she reported major improvement.
I saw her most recently a few months ago. She was talking about going abroad again. She stated her bowels were working well. She stated she had a bad day about once a month but mostly she was normal. Her skin was mostly normal. She was healing more easily. Her facial skin was clear. Her ulcerative colitis was overall much improved. Her emotional state was fine. She was even considering going to graduate school.
For anyone who suffers from debilitating Ulcerative Colitis, this is good news. The improvement took time, but it worked. She is able to have a much different life now than she had when she first came to see me.
Another Happy Patient, Successfully Treated
The following is a description of a woman with ulcerative colitis whose symptoms were treated by safe effective therapy of a change of food choices and the non-absorbed anti- yeast medicine nystatin. This case is taken from Dr. Semon’s book, An Extraordinary Power to Heal (2003). After the case, a brief explanation of why this treatment works is presented. I present more cases and a much more in-depth explanation in An Extraordinary Power to Heal.
Betty, 65, complained that she had had colitis since the age of 5. She had started rectal bleeding at the age of 40. Before that she had frequent stooling. She lost weight and the bleeding stopped the following year. The bleeding eventually came back. Eleven years prior to the appointment she went to another doctor who put her on prednisone (cortisone in a pill) and made her into a “fat pig” (her words). She was on prednisone for three and a half years. She went to another doctor who got her off prednisone but then she developed asthma. At the time of the appointment she had diarrhea seven minutes that occurred regularly after eating. Food went right through her. She had rectal bleeding. She had Cushing¹s disease, a disorder of having had too much prednisone. She still had steroid bumps, a side effect of too much prednisone, and she could not lose weight. She stated that she was not eating excessively. She craved meat because she was anemic. Pasta did not disturb her much. Vegetables and fruit caused diarrhea. She was short of breath and could barely walk across a room. Walking even a short distance caused asthma. She still required prednisone twice a year for asthma. She had abdominal pain as if someone was hitting her gut. The pain was sometimes sharp. Rocking helped the pain. She also had vaginal bleeding and uterine bleeding. She was having stools on average 5 times per day, 10 times a day on a bad day and 2 to 3 times on a good day.
She was taking hormonal treatments, an antidepressant, and medications for high blood pressure, diarrhea and colitis as well as using asthma inhalers.
She started a small amount of nystatin and the anti-yeast diet as described in Feast Without Yeast. Even a small amount of nystatin caused diarrhea so she stopped it but she stayed with Stage 1 of the diet. Within one week there was no more rectal bleeding, and no more diarrhea. She now had two formed stools per day. Her abdominal pain was gone and her asthma was better. She was using her inhalers every other day instead of twice a day. She was no longer waking with choking at night and her breathing was easier during the day. She had not had an asthma attack even though she had had bronchitis once. Her mood was good and she had lost ten pounds. She was not snacking anymore and she had no desire for chocolate. This woman said that she was a happy camper and that she now had her life back again. She had no need to see me again because she was feeling good. The followup was over the phone.
Sixty years of colitis was gone in one week.
How does this work? Explanation of how treatment of Candida treats ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
Candida albicans is a yeast,which is found in the intestinal tract of human beings. Yeast cells are about the same size as our own cells. Unlike our cells, yeast cells have a capsule. Yeast display receptors, branch-like structures extending from the surface of the cells, much as our own cells do. In the intestinal tract, yeast share space with much smaller microorganisms called bacteria. Bacteria can adhere, or attach themselves to, the inside wall of the intestinal tract. The good bacteria which adhere protect us from the adherence of “bad bugs,” such as Salmonella and Shigella, which cause diarrhea. Yeast unfortunately also can adhere to the inner intestinal wall.
The usual bacteria present attached to the inner intestinal wall are benign and do not harm us. These bacteria don’t make harmful chemicals or provoke immune responses and inflammation. The use of antibiotics can clear out these more benign bacteria which makes room for yeast and other disease causing bacteria.
Although a significant amount of Candida is commonly regarded as normal, the intestinal yeast is capable of and frequently does cause major health problems by a number of mechanisms.
The body has a system of cells called the immune system for fighting foreign invaders. There are many foreign invaders which the body’s immune system can handle easily. There are others, such as malaria, with which the body’s immune system has much more difficulty. The more difficult foreign invaders have tricks to evade the body’s immune system. Candida also has many tricks to evade the body’s immune system.
When Candida infections are induced experimentally in animals, the animals’ immune system never clears Candida completely. Some always remains. There are a number of interesting studies on how Candida manages to stay. Here are two examples. Candida can change its outside, in effect making it a moving target. By the time the immune cells find it, Candida looks different. Candida can turn molecules designed to attach to foreign invaders around so that such molecules point in the wrong direction. Then these molecules do not help the immune cells attack Candida. The overall problem is that Candida evades the body’s immune system.
The result is that the immune system is constantly fighting Candida. These interactions can lead to major problems from multiple sclerosis to ulcerative colitis. The treatment of Candida ends these fights and these health problems.
Immune system attacks self: why and is yeast involved
Why might yeast cause chronic diseases ranging from psoriasis to ulcerative colitis to rheumatoid arthritis? These diseases are all marked by the body’s immune system attacking the body’s organs in what seems to be a prolonged war with no resolution. I have always considered the idea of the body’s immune system attacking the body’s own organs as a strange idea. The body’s immune system is designed to fight foreign invaders. Why should the body’s immune system instead attack the body’s own organs? In 40 years of research, the biomedical research community has been unable to come up with any answer.
What is the immune system attacking?
Maybe the concept is wrong. Maybe the primary target of the body’s immune system is not the body’s own organs. Maybe the primary target is really a foreign invader, the yeast Candida albicans. Maybe the body is a secondary target that gets caught in the crossfire as the body’s immune system attacks the yeast and ends up in a long war with much destruction.
Candida is a formidable foe
The key point here is that the yeast Candida is a long lasting formidable foe for the body’s immune system.
From the perspective of diseases in which the immune system appears to be attacking the body’s own organs, Candida is such a formidable foe that it can throw the body’s immune system off. Candida can make the immune system attack the body’s organs even when the immune system has controls to prevent this from happening. As noted above, Candida is evasive and cannot be easily cleared.
The immune system is fighting Candida continually
The body cannot eradicate the yeast totally. Some Candida remains. The yeast suppresses the immune response to itself. The yeast also stimulates the body¹s immune system every time it tries to grow or is given room to grow, such as after administration of antibiotics. The immune response is complex. Recall that inflammation is part of the body¹s immune response. Inflammation is a defense. Inflammation is like a wall, a barrier to yeast. To use the analogy of the two neighbors, inflammation is like heating and thickening the fence between the houses. The problem is that the fence is hot on both sides, even for the good family. What if inflammation continues and the fence stays hot and thick? What if the body’s immune system continues to sense Candida as an enemy requiring the defense of inflammation?
Prolonged inflammation is part of a number of disorders
There are a number of significant illnesses consisting of prolonged inflammation. In ulcerative colitis there is prolonged extensive inflammation of the colon or large intestine. In Crohn¹s disease there is prolonged extensive inflammation of the small intestine.
A common belief in the research community is that all this inflammation must result from a defect in the immune system. So the answer is to suppress the immune system. However, no one has ever identified any spontaneous defect in the immune system which leads to such illnesses. Another view is that the inflammation is a necessary body process and there must be a cause. Candida can cause the immune system to respond with inflammation.
The inflammation is the sign of an immune system mounting an appropriate response to a foreign invader. There is nothing abnormal about the inflammation in the gut in either Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. However, inflammation is painful. It is like standing next to the red hot thick fence. What is wrong is that the inflammation does not resolve. Why is there no resolution? Whatever is triggering the inflammation is still there. Thus the inflammation persists and continues to be painful. I suggest that the persistence of Candida in the intestine continuously triggers the body’s immune system into producing inflammation in the intestine.
Candida is there attached to the inside of the intestinal wall providing a stimulus for an immune response. If antibiotics are given, Candida will have room to grow, and will provide an even stronger immune stimulus. The inflammation could easily be prolonged if the body is unable to clear the Candida.
Candida can suppress the immune system, leaving inflammation as a defense.
The fact that the Candida persists can be understood by knowing that the Candida has many tricks to suppress the body’s immune system, especially the offensive part of the immune system. Even with the inflammation the Candida is not cleared, because more than inflammation is required to clear Candida. To clear the Candida takes both the immune system’s offensive weapons and the defenses such as inflammation. Candida can suppress the offensive weapons; the inflammation is a defense which is even more important if the offensive weapons have been limited. Earlier in this chapter we noted that Candida has receptors which bind important immune molecules, pointing them in the wrong direction and how Candida can change form and be a moving target and how pieces of the Candida capsule suppress communication between immune cells. These are all ways in which Candida suppresses the body’s immune system’s offensive weapons. What is left then is inflammation. The inflammation persists because of Candida suppression of the other parts of the immune system, not because of some inherent defect in the immune system. As long as the research community focuses on the inflammation they will never find an answer to what causes Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.
There are no experimental models of Candida which show that humans or animals clear the Candida completely. Candida is known to suppress the immune cells. Inflammation may be one of the last defenses if other immune cells are suppressed.
This understanding leads to a safe effective treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. This treatment is simply to clear out the intestinal Candida. Then the cells which are fighting Candida, will stop fighting Candida. Then the immune cells will no longer be generating the signals for inflammation and the inflammation will resolve.
The treatment consists of taking a non-absorbed medicine called nystatin. Nystatin kills intestinal yeast. The problem is that nystatin does not work well without changes of food choices. The reason is that in many foods there are chemicals which kill bacteria and feed the yeast. If these foods are left in the diet, even though nystatin kills the yeast, the yeast will keep growing back. Chemicals in the diet which kill bacteria will make room for the yeast, even if nystatin is taken. When foods containing these chemicals are excluded from the diet, then nystatin can go through and kill the yeast and the yeast does not grow back. Then problems such as fibromyalgia improve significantly. The diet for Candida problems consists of removing fermented foods from the diet. The worst offenders are alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beer, vinegar, barley malt, chocolate, pickles, and aged cheese. I explain the diet very thoroughly, including how to implement the diet for children, in An Extraordinary Power to Heal and Feast Without Yeast:4 Stages to Better Health. Feast Without Yeast has more than 225 recipes that are easy to make and taste great! Our new cookbook, Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen contains more than 125 additional new, original recipes and more than 60 menus to help you plan meals. An Extraordinary Power to Heal (2003) gives you detailed instructions, day by day and week by week, about how to eliminate toxic foods from your diet.
To order Feast Without Yeast, click on the image to the left to go to Amazon.com.