Dr. Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D.

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Skin Problems

Eczema, psoriasis, Chronic Rashes, and their relationship to Candida albicans

This page is based on Dr. Bruce Semon’s clinical experience and research. This page discusses how yeast can affect skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, and rashes. For detailed explanations, including an more case studies, and how you can treat these skin conditions–we recommend that you read An Extraordinary Power to Heal.Dr. Semon is available to see patients and for consultation. For more information about his medical practice, call 1-877-332-7899, or click here.

The following is a description of a woman with severe generalized itching whose symptoms were treated by safe effective therapy of a change of food choices described in our books An Extraordinary Power to Heal and Feast Without Yeast:4 Stages to Better Health and the non-absorbed anti-yeast medicine nystatin. I explain how to take nystatin in An Extraordinary Power to Heal. After the case, a brief explanation of why this treatment works is presented. I explain how yeast causes skin problems and how you can treat it thoroughly in An Extraordinary Power to Heal.

A case of severe generalized itching treated with anti-yeast therapy

Joan, 54, came to me and told me she had generalized itchiness on her neck, arms and chest. This itchiness went back to her childhood and had worsened four years previously. She had had eczema as a child. At the time of the visit she also had itchy eyes and eyelids. She had scaling of her scalp at the back, and inflammation of the skin of her elbows, upper chest and at the waistline of her back. She had seborrhea (fatty secretions on the skin). She was using a tar shampoo to control scaling. She had low energy, but this had improved some. She had been tried on homeopathy for one year but nothing had helped the itchy skin. Four years previously she had received a small amount of nystatin and some itching on her back had cleared. In addition she had hay fever and fibrous breasts. She was having hot flashes. She had used oral contraceptive pills in her late thirties and she had used antibiotics throughout her life. She was not taking any medications.

Joan started nystatin and the anti-yeast diet.

She came back three weeks later and said that she was taking 1/2 tsp. of nystatin three times a day. She complained of itching at the hairline of her neck and face. Her eyes were better. Her hot flashes had disappeared. She stated that her energy level was much improved. However, her scalp was still flaking. I observed that the inflammation of the skin of her elbows was nearly resolved and her eyes were not swollen.

She came back three weeks later and noted that her energy was still good. The itching on her body was better, but her neck and face were still bothersome. The scalp was less itchy. She could have sex more easily. Energy was still good. Her face appeared clear to me.

She came back three weeks later and reported that she was feeling much better. She still had a little itchiness in the morning, but it was mild. She stated that she felt 95% better overall. She noted that her itchiness would recur if she ate the wrong foods. Her hot flashes had come back, but they were not as often or as intense. In a later appointment she stated that the hot flashes would reoccur when the itchiness recurred.

I followed this patient for another five years. Joan found that her symptoms of itchiness would come back if she ate the wrong foods, such as vinegar or malt. The problem would disappear if she went back on the diet and continued to take nystatin. Otherwise she was free of her itching.

Eczema, psoriasis and chronic rashes plague many people. They can be treated successfully with anti-yeast treatment including dietary change and using the anti-yeast medication nystatin.
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.

To understand how the yeast Candida albicans causes skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, first a brief overview of the body’s immune system and its interaction with Candida will be presented.

The best way to look at the immune system is to understand that the immune system has both defensive and offensive weapons. The main defensive weapon is inflammation. Inflammation is like putting up a wall, a hot wall, which makes it difficult for invading foreign microorganisms to get through. Inflammation will occur anytime the immune system contacts a foreign invader. But as you know the inflammation is painful. Along with the inflammation, should come the offensive weapons which kill the foreign invader. The problem is that Candida has many tricks to evade the offensive weapons of the body’s immune system.

Candida is a very difficult organism for the body’s immune system to clear.

Why?

Candida has a number of tricks to evade the body’s immune system. One of these tricks is to change its outside. The immune system recognizes the outside receptors of the invading organism and then sends out signals to start an immune response. Some of the immune responders then look for cells with those receptors. Candida albicans can change the receptors which it is displaying, making it difficult for the body’s immune cells to react appropriately. In essence, Candida albicans is a moving target, which changes its form.

The most important thing to know about Candida is that Candida albicans can make factors which suppress the immune response to itself. These factors can be found in the circulation of people with significant Candida infections. When these factors are purified and placed in cultures of immune cells, these immune cells do not develop the responses to Candida which they are supposed to develop. In other words,Candida can make factors, which prevent the body from reacting to and killing the Candida. These factors prevent the total eradication ofCandida from the body.

The Candida can suppress the offensive weapons of the body’s immune system. But the inflammation will still be generated because when the immune system detects a foreign invader, there will always be inflammation. The problem is that the foreign invader, the Candida, is not going away, because the immune system’s offensive weapons are suppressed. The inflammation will remain and inflammation is painful and on the skin is not attractive.

Let us look at some research on Candida and skin.

Candida and disorders of the skin

Out of all the Candida related disorders, research on psoriasis has come the closest to showing that Candida causes psoriasis. Researchers have actually shown that Candida causes all the changes in the skin characteristic of psoriasis (1). When Candida is injected into the skin of an experimental animal, the skin lesions of psoriasis, including scaling and thickening, develop. The authors of this study suggest that the scaling is a defense against the Candida (1). For some complicated reasons of experimental design, the authors stop short of saying Candidais the cause of psoriasis.

Is Candida found on normal skin? Candida may be found on normal skin, especially in skin folds (1A). Candida is much more likely to be found on skin after antibiotic use, after steroid use or in people with skin disorders (1B).

You might legitimately ask why researchers could have this major finding that Candida can cause psoriasis and yet ignore this result and subject psoriasis sufferers to coal tar, steroids and methotrexate. I actually do not know for sure why researchers would not wish to follow up their finding. One reason I would imagine is that the relationship between the Candida on the skin and the Candida in the gut is not generally appreciated. Cells which are fighting Candida in the gut can circulate and start fighting yeast whereever these cells find yeast. One place these cells might find yeast is on the skin. If one takes a narrow view and only looks at skin, one will miss this relationship. The other main problem is that researchers do not know how to clear the Candida from the gut for any length of time, so even if they did appreciate the relationship between the Candida in the gut and the Candida on the skin, they would not know how to clear the gut of yeast. Unfortunately as long as there are immune cells fighting yeast in the gut, there will be immune cells looking for yeast on the skin.

When the immune cells come into contact with Candida on the skin, the same observations of the immune system being unable to clearCandida completely all apply. The Candida suppresses the immune system’s offensive weapons on the skin as it does elsewhere in the body, so inflammation can be prolonged on the skin as it is elsewhere. If the inflammation occurs in the hair follicles, acne can result. If the inflammation is spread more generally, we can see eczema. When the inflammation becomes even worse, we see psoriasis. Psoriasis is the body’s immune system fighting Candida on the skin and the immune system is unable to win so the inflammation, a defensive weapon persists.

Itching is a painful sensation that something must be removed from the skin and if there is no other way, one scratches. Your body would love to remove the Candida. Candida is one of the main causes of persistent itching.

Treatment

The way to reverse these skin problems is to clear the yeast from the intestinal tract. Then the yeast is no longer a target for the body’s immune system. Once the immune system’s cells are no longer fighting yeast in the intestinal tract, they no longer circulate to find yeast on the skin. Once the yeast is gone from the intestinal tract, the yeast induced inflammations on the skin clear up.

The way to clear intestinal yeast is to change food choices to exclude foods which help intestinal yeast grow. The diet contains many foods which help yeast. To treat yeast these foods must be removed from the diet. For example, malt contains growth factors for yeast. Vinegar contains chemicals which kill bacteria and at the same time, leave the yeast alone. These dietary choices are described in our cookbook Feast Without Yeast. Changing food choices in this way helps skin conditions.

The second step is to take the anti-yeast drug nystatin. This drug is not absorbed and kills the yeast living in the intestinal tract. Nystatin does not work well without changing the diet to exclude foods which help yeast. Yeast chemicals can kill bacteria and will clear space for the yeast to grow again. If these yeast chemicals are left in the diet, nystatin will not do much good because the yeast keeps growing back. Once the proper food choices are in place, nystatin can kill the yeast and people feel better.

Fortunately, because nystatin is not absorbed, nystatin causes no side effects except for a little nausea. No harmful side effects have ever been caused by the use of nystatin. Therefore there is no risk to this therapy.

I have found in clinical practice that symptoms of major skin problems are reduced within one to two weeks of starting diet and nystatin and by six weeks of diet and nystatin therapy there are significant reductions in inflammation from chronic eczema and psoriasis.

Footnotes:

(1) Sohnle, P. G. and C. H. Kirkpatrick. Epidermal Proliferation in the defense against experimental cutaneous candidiasis. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 70:13033, 1978.

(1A) Candida may be found on normal skin, especially in skin folds.

Schaller, M., Schackert, C., Korting, H. C., Januschke, E., and B. Hube. Invasion of Candida albicans correlates with expression of secreted aspartic proteinases during experimental infection of human epidermis. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 114(4):712-7, 2000.

(1B) Candida albicans may be found on the skin in cases of dermatomycoses and this finding is more likely if antibiotics or steroids have been used or diabetes is present.

Abu-Elteen, K. H. Incidence and distribution of Candida species isolated from human skin in Jordan. Mycoses, 42(4):311-7, 1999. 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).