The root of the problem, says Trowbridge, is an immune system that isn't functioning at full throttle. Prolonged severe stress tends to have a depressant effect on the immune system, according to Dr Stephen Davies, chairman of the British Society for Nutritional Medicine and a specialist in what he terms "environmentally induced" disease. Another major culprit, he says, is the overprescribing of antibiotics, which wipes out all the good guy bacteria in the gut keeping the yeast in check. Drugs, environmental chemicals, our damp climate, nutritional deficiencies, refined carbohydrates and sugar, which yeasts thrive on, all play their part. Allergy and candida specialist Dr. John Mansfield says that one of the main culprits is the contraceptive pill, known to depress the immune system. Trowbridge postulates that one third of the population of all Western industrial countries have candida in some form. "We are," Davies sums up, "the first antibiotic generation."
Despite the existence of what Davies claims is a wealth of "clearcut clinical trials", Truss's theories have been met by scepticism among more conservative practitioners. Harley Street gastroenterologist Dr. David Silk, for instance, considers it "a myth being perpetrated by charlatans".
The problem, as the New England Journal of Medicine rightly pointed out last December, is that the syndrome "has lacked an unambiguous definition. The symptoms attributed to the chronic candidiasis syndrome overlap those of other syndromes, including depression and the chronic fatigue syndrome."
Many readers of WDDTY have had to endure the ridicule or patronizing dismissal of the medical profession. "I discussed with my GP the possibility that my ill health might be caused by thrush," wrote one woman with symptoms similar to mine. "He actually laughed at my theories and informed me that I was merely clinically depressed as a result of emotional stress. I have had a course of anti depressants and am not much better, plus I now feel I have been labelled a neurotic hypochondriac."
If that's the case, thank God for placebos. My treatment consisted of taking large doses of a well tolerated drug called nystatin, plus a batch of supplements and a very restrictive healing diet of fresh unrefined food designed to 'starve" future yeast colonies and build back up my impaired immune system, a process that in my case took a year and in many others can take up to two. There are many alternative ways to treat candida with or without drugs (see box). About a month after I'd started, my dry cleaner asked me if I'd had a face lift.
Another reader wrote in with an even more dramatic story: "In November last I had been off work for two months and I could not walk up a flight of stairs unassisted. This morning I went for a four mile run before breakfasting and setting off for work."
The reason doctors don't believe us is that they claim there aren't enough scientific studies published in the medical literature to prove that candida overgrows in the bowel and spreads throughout the body. Furthermore, there have been no long established tests to definitively diagnose a patient; candida is usually isolated by the patient's clinical history long term use of antibiotics or the Pill and symptoms like persistent vaginitis or digestive problems.
This universal scepticism was fuelled by a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine of 42 women who supposedly met the criteria for candidiasis and who had a history of vaginal candida infection.