The latest ways to diagnose and treat an increasingly common disease, which the medical profession still refuses to recognize.
I used to suffer from what the medical profession regards as a phantom illness, but which may end up being this century's most pervasive disease.After a prolonged period of stress and a patch of extraordinarily bad luck I'd developed a host of female problems everything from ferocious premenstrual tension and irregular periods to cystitis and almost constant vaginal infections.
As time wore on, my symptoms multiplied: eczema, hives and allergies to a load of food and chemicals; diarrhoea and an irritable bowel; insomnia and night sweats; and severe depression. I had felt powerless for so long that my body seemed to be reacting in parallel, caving in under any sort of microbial onslaught.
For nearly all of those three years I made the rounds of medical circles first the standard ones, then the periphery, with nutritionists and homoeopaths, and finally the very outer rim, from breathing specialists to bioenergeticists. By the autumn of 1986, I was hacking my way through the dense thicket of New Age therapies. I tried breathing from the abdomen. I had the negative emotions pummelled out of me via 'rolfing'. Somebody tried to diagnose me by subjecting my hair sample to radio waves. I ploughed through autogenic training, colon cleansing and even psychotherapy a mixture of Wilhelm Reich and what felt like being tickled on the face. I learned something about my relationship with my mother. But I did not, at any point, get better.
By the summer of 1987, a sense of hopelessness descended over me. The worst part of being chronically unwell without a diagnosis is that a lot of people don't believe you, or view your symptoms as imaginary, a puerile sort of attention getter. And in this land of stoics, if your illness isn't hard core, like cancer or leprosy, you are supposed to learn to live with it, to dysfunction quietly, without complaint.
In the end, I stumbled upon the diagnosis myself. As a last ditch effort, I began reading up on allergies and female problems, and one day came upon a newly discovered illness whose symptoms matched almost every one of mine. When my old doctor sneered at the possibility, I searched out a renown GP specializing in allergies and nutritional medicine, whose battery of tests and diagnostic sensitivity confirmed my own suspicions and rooted out other contributory problems.
What I had inside me was, essentially, thrush of the body, or "polysystemic chronic candidiasis". Candida albicans is a yeast that lives in the upper bowel of most of us without doing good or harm, kept in line by our immune systems and the friendly bacteria that coexist with it. But according to Dr. Orion Truss, the American internist and allergy specialist who first discovered this syndrome nine years ago, when the immune system is weakened and the good guy bacteria falls down in numbers, these yeast can start multiplying out of control, sending out toxins that eventually interfere with a range of bodily functions.
It can make the lining of your stomach and intestines "leak" larger protein molecules from undigested food into your blood stream, causing a host of food or chemical allergies. Or even create biochemical disguises, "imitating" your hormones the cause of my PMT and bouts of depression.
Truss among others links chronic candidiasis, more common in women than men, with recurrent vaginal thrush, arthritis, autism, asthma, psoriasis and even infertility. Dr. William Crook, an American expert in allergy and environmental disease, blames candida for hyperactivity in children. "It so severely debilitates the body that victims could become easy prey for far more serious diseases such as. . .multiple sclerosis," writes Dr John Trowbridge, an American GP specializing in candidiasis, in The Yeast Syndrome.