It's said to affect one in three Westerners, but most of us fail to recognise the symptoms.
Bloating and indigestion, loss of sex drive, eczema, poor circulation and easy bruising are some of the many symptoms of an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a natural yeast that occurs in the body.
Our guts are home to four pounds of weight in live micro-organisms, comprised of both friendly and unfriendly bacteria. Candida albicans is one of the unfriendly ones and, left to grow uncontrolled, it can wreak havoc on the body.
"Everything we're eating, drinking and doing today can cause an overgrowth of Candida albicans," says clinical nutritionist Erica White, author of the Beat Candida Cookbook and a sufferer of candidiasis (or yeast infection).
"You know what happens from baking when you put sugar with yeast in a warm place: it ferments and increases. And that's exactly what's happening in your gut."
CANDIDIASIS: THE FACTS
Sugar is deemed the number-one culprit for candidiasis. Antibiotics are another culprit, as they kill off bacteria in the body, leaving more room for yeast to grow. IVF, HRT and the contraceptive pill have been linked to candidiasis, as the yeast increases with changes in hormones.
Stress is a stimulant to trigger the release of sugar in the blood, which encourages candidiasis too, says White.
"Candida starts out as a spore but grows into a fungal form, which burrows through the intestinal wall and enters the bloodstream," she says. "It then gets into tissues, muscles, joints and skin and releases its 79 toxins that affect the brain and nervous system."
That's why candidiasis is so far-reaching. It's been associated with symptoms from rashes, acne, fungal nails, heartburn, bad breath, indigestion, to infertility, nasal congestion, muscle aches, fatigue, depression and insomnia.
Doctors tend to rely on laboratory and stool tests, but "these can be misleading", says White. "Candida doesn't swim around in the intestinal tract, but lives burrowed in the gut walls.
"This means not only can it go undetected by endoscopy examination, but it will not necessarily even show up in a stool specimen."
The only way to get rid of the beast is to kill it off through your diet, says White.
Follow a yeast-free diet for at least a month, during which time sugar, fruit, cheese, vinegar, refined foods and cakes are all off limits.
The diet is supplemented with vitamins and minerals, as well as specific anti-fungals to detoxify the liver, kill off the yeast and repopulate the body with beneficial bacteria.
For more information, www.beatcandidapack.com