In 1491, it “made sense” that the world was flat. When sailors strayed too far, they might not return. The science of the day, controlled by the Church, said that the world was flat. Two years later, it was irrefutable that the world was round.
My career spans 4 decades of learning and my credentials include one of the earliest papers on intravenous infant nutrition and my recent interview by WebMD regarding nutritional advice. Thus, the information that I provide is based on scientific evidence, not the “it makes sense” logic that is not science.
The Top Ten Things That Don’t Make Sense (to me) About “Yeasty Foods & Diets”
1. “Sugar is the problem”. Simple sugars are immediately absorbed into our bloodstream. Our pancreas senses this and secretes insulin so that the proper cells can efficiently utilize that quick energy source. Think “glucose tolerance test”. The more sugar, the more insulin, the more energy which, if not used, will be stored as fat. Keep ingesting the stuff and a vicious cycle could ensue leading to increased needs for the insulin and viola – obesity, artery disease or possibly diabetes! Anyway, this story has to do with yeast and I do not believe that simple sugars create the yeast problems that I see in our patients.
2. “High fructose corn syrup is the problem.” Glucose. Fructose. Sucrose. There is little evidence that one form of the sugar is worse than another. As I have written in other posts, I am more concerned about the artificial colors and flavors than the actual sugar (as far as hyperactive behaviors go); though weight gain, dental carries, inadequate nutrition, and increased triglyceride levels, which can add to a person’s risk of coronary artery disease (= heart attack) should certainly cause concern. Now, if there is mercury in the stuff, as has been reported, that could be a big problem – but that’s not yeast’s fault.
3. “Specific Carbohydrate Diets will fix the yeast problem.” SCDs have been offered as a means to help bad bacterial overgrowth that may be caused or improved by the use of simple sugars and avoiding refined sugar, grains and starch (complex sugars). SCDs are helpful in a few ASD patients who appear to have a persistent yeast issue, don’t get me wrong. I have heard/read about enough families who have seen remarkable successes with this diet. One parent has told me how relatively ‘simple’ it was to maintain. That would be one. Most moms lament the extra resources and work. Frequently, the diet has 6-9-12 months maximum usage. I’m just reporting my overall observations. Please don’t take offense if your child has improved with this dietary intervention. I just think that such a positive dietary response probably represents more of a diagnostic clue to this patient’s type of autism than a viable intervention to “try out” for the majority of my families.
4. “Yeast in the diet makes the problem worse.” Inactive yeast has no fermenting power as do the live yeasts used in bread making and brewing. The drying process totally inactivates the yeast’s leavening ability. The food preparation and digestion make the yeast just another protein/sugar/amino acid substrate for the body to use as fuel. On the other hand, now that we are actually able to test for Candida Albicans food allergy, plus baker’s and brewer’s yeast, we can identify patients who are actually allergic to such fungi and so eliminate them from the diet. There is a big difference.
5. “Yeast in the diet is like yeast in a person’s intestines.” What the DAN community is concerned about is the yeast that could be growing in a patient’s small or large intestine, anus or skin. I believe that it is this yeast “infection” that is making some of the patients sick and exhibit symptoms such as “fog”, inattention, skin rashes, and sometimes bizarre behaviors. So, when we eat a mushroom, which is a fungus – we don’t grow mushrooms in our intestines.
6. “Natural remedies can be as effective as medicine for a significant yeast problem.” Anti-yeast herbal or ‘natural’ products do not seem to help as much in my practice as in some others. Curcumin, for example, can be quite effective but there is a smell and/or taste that prevents ingestion. Also, and probably more important, is the clinical impression that Diflucan (an anti-yeast medicine) seems to do more than just stave off yeast growing in our gut. It simply works too quickly for the slow growing yeast’s demise to be the only factor. Dr. William Shaw (Director of Great Plains Laboratory) has told me that many DAN practitioners report similar results, and he asks whether the medicine is changing the neurotransmitters in some manner?
7. “Yeast is OK in our intestines. At least a little.” Who says it’s OK for ASD patients? In my practice, at least, it appears just the opposite. When a patient experiences “die-off” then shows significant improvement in behaviors, fog, and speech and language, it is impressive.
8. “Yeasty foods include vinegar, gluten, all sugars, fruits and yeast.” To me, “yeasty foods” are foods that go undigested. That means there is a substrate – food – for microorganisms to feed upon. Fungi LOVE warm, dark, wet environments. In an unhealthy G-I system which does not properly break down all foods to their component elements to be absorbed in the body, the un-broken down foodstuff is a great medium to grow cooties.
9. “Sacchromyces is a good way to remove yeast from the gut.” This is a fungus. It appears to successfully overtake the Candida (“bad fungus”) from the gut. However, there is little scientific evidence that it’s OK to have Sacchromyces boulardi (“good fungus”) in the human gut either. So, I only resort to this when I feel that other treatments have not been successful. On the other hand, one of the most accomplished DAN practitioners, Dr. Sid Baker successfully uses a lot of this probiotic – it’s worth a try.
10. “Nystatin is a like Diflucan for removing fungus from the GI system.” First, nystatin, which is a poorly absorbed anti-fungal medicine, is yucky. It is difficult to get a “correct” dose that works but doesn’t cause diarrhea or abdominal upset. Second, as I noted in #6, Diflucan appears to do some other magic more than just yeast-killing.
What DOES make sense about the yeast issue is interference with autistic patients’ learning and behaviors. In its absence patients do better, and in the presence of yeast (or at least its presumed presence) stims and hyperactive behaviors appear exacerbated. What DOES make sense is that undigested foods, whatever the source, sitting in a warm, wet, dark environment are likely to allow yeast to sporonate and multiply. What DOES make sense is that, in the absence of environmental enemies such as viruses or bacteria, fungi will have a better chance to survive. So, finally, what DOES make sense is that if we stop the insanity of giving antibiotics for everything, if we stop putting antibiotics in our food and water, if we allow non-life threatening viruses to occassionally run their course – we may see less havoc which yeast can wreak on our fragile bodies. If you’ve got a sensible diet – Try it!