Yeast and Fibromyalgia

by Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D.

The following is a description of a woman with fibromyalgia 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. We explain the reasons why yeast causes or makes Fibromyalgia worse, and how to treat it, in An Extraordinary Power to Heal.

Case of Fibromyalgia

Sherry, 54, told me she had fibromyalgia for six years with a diagnosis four years previously. She had done some better with guaifenesin (an ingredient in cold medicines) and with massage therapy. She actually had come to see me to continue the guaifenesin which some people in California were recommending for fibromyalgia. She had started with pain in her left eye. She sweated much. Her body had swelled all over, but swelling was now going down. Now she had pain in her arms, legs, feet and shoulders. She had occasional abdominal pain. She had stomach bloating. Her face was less swollen than it used to be. She would become discouraged and depressed. She had gained weight in the last three years and could not lose it.

The problems had started after treatment with antibiotics for an infected tooth six years previously. She was fatigued, but previously she was very active. She had had bilateral carpal tunnel surgery two years previously. She had rib pain and was moderately obese. She had three children This woman was both a supervisor and she had to do manual work herself. She was finding the manual work difficult due to the pain.

Sherry started the anti-yeast diet and nystatin. She came back a month later. She told me that she had more energy and that the extreme pain in her muscles was gone. Her muscles were still tender to the touch, but she could use her muscles without pain. She could walk on her heel with limited pain but she could walk normally. She was not depressed and she felt hopeful. She was no longer taking guaifenesin. She was taking nystatin 3/8 tsp. four times a day. On exam her mood was much brighter and there was only minimal swelling of her face. I suggested that she continue the nystatin and the diet.

She came back at three months after the first visit and stated that overall she was continuing to feel better. She could use her legs much more easily. She had less pain. She could still feel some tenderness in her muscles but overall, this pain was less. She was able to do the manual work again that she needed to do. She also reported that the painful swellings in her muscles were much diminished in size. She was continuing to see a chiropractor and massage therapist. She had an episode of breathing difficulties after eating chocolate. She reported less body swelling and she had lost five pounds. She was taking 3/4 tsp. nystatin four times a day. I suggested that she continue the treatment.

Brief Explanation of how treatment of Candida treats fibromyalgia

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 such as fibromyalgia and other diseases such as psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, and 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.

Inflammation and autoimmune disorders (immune system attacks self) Both yeast and human cells put out markers

Both yeast cells and human cells put out receptors, branch like structures which extend from the surface of the cell. Human cells communicate with each other this way. These receptors can receive hormones, such as thyroid hormone, which then tells the cell to do certain things. In the case of thyroid hormone, this might be burn more energy and generate more heat. Some receptors are used to anchor cells to connective tissue. This particular receptor is called the laminin receptor. Some receptors are for the immune system. Some receptors tell what kind of cell the cell is. Some of the receptors are like fingerprints and are unique and tell the body that this cell is one of the body¹s own cells.

Cells which are foreign do not have these cell-identity receptors and then the body knows that they are foreign. For example, when foreign tissue is transplanted into another body, the body recognizes the tissue as foreign; the right receptors are not there The immune system then attacks the foreign tissues. The immune system is supposed to recognize self and not attack self.

Yeast display human cellular receptors (markers)

Yeast cells for unknown reasons are able to display a number of human receptors, ranging from receptors for hormones and immune molecules to connective tissue. To understand how Candida can cause diseases such as fibromyalgia, we need to know that Candida can display on its surface the human connective tissue receptor, called the laminin receptor (as well as other receptors). The normal function of the laminin receptor is to allow human cells to anchor themselves to the body’s membranes and to other cells. Candida uses this receptor in the same way, to anchor itself into the membranes of the human body, such as the inner intestinal lining. In the research world, the displaying of such receptors is known as molecular mimicry. Candida does this well and displays a number of human receptors.

In other words, by displaying such receptors, they are able to make themselves look like our own cells. Candida is able to make itself look like cells which are found in the connective tissue of the joints and muscles.

What does the immune system do with yeast cells which resemble our own cells?

During the development of the immune system cells are produced which are capable of attacking the body’s own organs. Normally these cells are inhibited. Why do they become turned on? There is no certain answer. However, these cells are there for a reason and one reason may be to fight foreign invaders which look like human cells. If we did not have such immune cells we could not fight such invaders.

Candida cells look like our own and they invade and with antibiotics, Candida keeps coming back, again and again. Candida acts like a vaccination. Candida keeps on presenting itself to the immune system. Research studies have shown that when the body’s own tissues are presented like a vaccination, the body’s immune system will be stimulated to fight and destroy those tissues. Candida can act as a continuous vaccination. Under such conditions, the immune cells which fight Candida are turned on to fight Candida but they are also turned on to fight any cells which look like Candida, which are our body’s own organs.

The body’s immune system is really fighting Candida. But the immune cells which fight Candida can also attack our body’s own organs, resulting in diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.


This understanding leads to a safe effective treatment for fibromyalgia and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. This treatment is simply to clear out the intestinal Candida. Then the cells which are fighting Candida, will stop fighting Candida. Then these same cells will stop destroying human organs such as the brain and joints. Once the primary target of the intestinal yeast is gone, these immune cells stop attacking human organs.

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 foods which must be excluded are vinegar, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beer, malt, chocolate, pickles, worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. 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 diets. We give you the recipes and menus to do this in Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen (2003) and Feast Without Yeast(1999).