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Acetaldehyde is a common chemical that you can find in both the natural world and as a part of industrial production. It’s everywhere. In the human body, acetaldehyde is a byproduct of alcohol metabolism.
It turns out that massive quantities of acetaldehyde are also produced by the yeast Candida albicans.
Candida is a fungus that is naturally found throughout the human body, especially the digestive tract. Because Candida is an opportunistic bug, it can and usually does take over as much tissue as possible. This means that Candida frequently grows outsides of its natural habitat.
One consequence of Candida overgrowth is the additional and unregulated production of acetaldehyde in the body.
Candida overgrowth can lead to the unregulated production of the toxic chemical acetaldehyde in the body. This chemical can damage DNA and has been linked to birth defects in pregnant women.
Acetaldehyde can be toxic. In fact, it is 10 to 30 times more toxic than the alcohol it comes from. (1) And we feel its effects most often in the brain. This leads to:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Depression or anxiety
A Buildup of Acetaldehyde Is Toxic!
Acetaldehyde directly affects the DNA in our cells. Acetaldehyde is also a powerful carcinogen. (2)
In fact, one study found that it binds to DNA in brain tissue. When a chemical binds to our DNA, it creates a DNA adduct. This is one of the first steps toward the development of cancer. (3)
A special enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH) helps to detoxify acetaldehyde from the body. Some women are genetically programmed to have only a little of this enzyme active in the body. Because these women produce minimal amounts of ALDH, they are not able to fully process acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde then builds up within the tissues while generating oxidative stress.
This buildup of acetaldehyde is toxic.
An accumulation of acetaldehyde has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. (4) And besides increasing a woman’s risk for developing alcohol-related cancers, acetaldehyde buildup also puts her baby at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) if she is pregnant. (5)
If the body cannot effectively clear acetaldehyde, researchers have found that it can generate oxidative stress, damage DNA, and impair the development of the central nervous system (CNS). (6) (7) (8)
Unmetabolized acetaldehyde has been found to lead to birth defects, developmental delays, and physical abnormalities. (9) (10)
Are Women at High Risk for Candida Overgrowth?
The yeast Candida albicans has been found to generate acetaldehyde in the human body. (11) (12) (13) This is especially true when Candida grows unchecked and unregulated.
Candida contains estrogen receptors, making women of childbearing age more susceptible to Candida overgrowth and acetaldehyde toxicity. (14) In fact, just as estrogen levels can fluctuate within a woman’s body over time, colonization of Candida can as well. (15)
In addition to estrogen receptors, the physiological changes that take place in the birth canal during pregnancy favor Candida overgrowth. (16)
Like many other pathogenic organisms in the body, high dietary sugar encourages the growth and spread of Candida. This then leads to the production of more acetaldehyde. (17) (18)
Unfortunately for women, glucose levels in the vagina are often highest after ovulation. This is why symptoms of Candida overgrowth can also develop just before menstruation. (19) (20) (21)
Candida overgrowth during pregnancy puts a fetus at risk for damage associated with acetaldehyde.
Fermented Vegetables Can Help to Detoxify Acetaldehyde and Control Candida Overgrowth
The human body thrives when in the company of these beneficial bugs. We now know that the trillions of bacteria found in and on the human body influence our behavior, appetite, and even our waist size.
Good bacteria also check the unregulated growth of opportunistic organisms like Candida albicans.
When we make our ferments with cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, the health benefits are twofold.
In addition to nurturing a healthy inner ecology with friendly microorganisms, we also support the production of glutathione. This is because cruciferous vegetables help the body to make glutathione. (22) (23)
Glutathione is one of the most important and most valuable antioxidants in the human body. Besides that, studies have also found that it helps to detoxify acetaldehyde from the tissues! (24)
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Acetaldehyde is a common chemical created in the human body as a byproduct of alcohol metabolism. Large quantities of acetaldehyde can also be produced by the opportunistic yeast Candida, a fungus naturally found in the body - especially the digestive tract.
Once Candida overgrowth occurs, it can lead to the unregulated production of acetaldehyde, causing severe toxicity that triggers headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, and much more. A buildup of the chemical over time can be toxic to cause serious conditions like Alzheimer's disease and increase the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in pregnant women.
Unfortunately, women are often at a higher risk for Candida overgrowth since Candida contains estrogen receptors. High dietary sugar can encourage Candida to spread; elevated glucose levels in the vagina are normally highest after ovulation, once again stimulating Candida overgrowth.
The safest and most effective way to detoxify acetaldehyde is by regularly enjoying fermented vegetables and probiotic liquids to support the gut with beneficial bacteria. Even better, when you make ferments with cruciferous vegetables, you'll also provide your body with the vital antioxidant glutathione to aid in the detoxification process!
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- Sprince H, et al. .April 1974. Protection against acetaldehyde toxicity in the rat by L-cysteine, thiamin and L-2-methylthiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid. Agents Actions 4 (2): 125–30.
- International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group, Special Report: Policy A review of human carcinogens—Part E: tobacco, areca nut, alcohol, coal smoke, and salted fish. The Lancet 2009 10, 1033–1034.
- K Nakamura, et al. Acetaldehyde adducts in the brain of alcoholics. Archives of Toxicology. 2003; 77 (10): 591–3.
- S Ohta, et al. Mitochondrial ALDH2 deficiency as an oxidative stress. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Apr;1011:36-44.
- Yokoyama A, Omori T. Genetic polymorphisms of alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenases and risk for esophageal and head and neck cancers. Alcohol 2005; 35: 175–85.
- M Tong, et al. Acetaldehyde-Mediated Neurotoxicity: Relevance to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2011; 2011: 13.
- PS Brocardo, et al. The role of oxidative stress in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Brain Res Rev. 2011 Jun 24;67(1-2):209-25. Epub 2011 Apr 3.
- H Joenje. Metabolism: Alcohol, DNA and disease. Nature. 07 July 2011; 475, 45–46. Epub 2011 July 06.
- ML Hard, et al. The role of acetaldehyde in pregnancy outcome after prenatal alcohol exposure. Ther Drug Monit. 2001 Aug;23(4):427-34
- NL Day, et al. Prenatal alcohol exposure: a continuum of effects. Semin Perinatol. 1991 Aug;15(4):271-9.
- J Tillonen, et al J. Role of Yeasts in the Salivary Acetaldehyde Production From Ethanol Among Risk Groups for Ethanol-Associated Oral Cavity Cancer. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 1999; 23: 1409–1411.
- PK Mukherjee, et al. Alcohol dehydrogenase restricts the ability of the pathogen Candida albicans to form a biofilm on catheter surfaces through an ethanol-based mechanism. Infect Immun. 2006 Jul;74(7):3804-16.
- M Mohd Bakri. The expression of Candida albicans acetaldehyde producing enzymes in C. albicans infected mucosal lesions: a potential role in some oral cancers. Univ of Otago. 2011.
- Y Jin, et al. Biofilm formation of Candida albicans is variably affected by saliva and dietary sugars. Arch Oral Biol 2004; 49: 789–798.
- H Nikawa, et al. Effects of dietary sugars and, saliva and serum on Candida bioflim formation on acrylic surfaces. Mycopathologia 1997; 139: 87–91.
- W Mendling, et al. Vaginal Colonisation with Candida Species with Special Focus on Candida dubliniensis. A Prospective Study. Geburtsh Frauenheilk. 2007; 67: 1132–37.
- W Tarry, et al. Candida albicans: The estrogen target for vaginal colonization. J Surg Res 2005; 129: 278–82.
- RH Beigi, et al. Vaginal yeast colonization in nonpregnant women: A longitudinal study. Obstet Gynecol 2004; 104: 926–30.
- L. Donati. Vaginal microbial flora and outcome of pregnancy. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2010 Apr;281(4):589-600. Epub 2009 Dec 5.
- W Mendling.Vaginose, Vaginitis, Zervizitis und Salpingitis. 2. Auflage. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer 2006.
- LO Eckert, et al. Vulvovaginal Candidiasis: Clinical Manifestations, Risk Factors, Management Algorithm. Gynecol 1998; 92: 757–65.
- LI Wang, et al. Dietary intake of Cruciferous vegetables, Glutathione S-transferase (GST) polymorphisms and lung cancer risk in a Caucasian population. Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Dec;15(10):977-85.
- TK Lam, et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption and lung cancer risk: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Jan;18(1):184-95.
- H Anni, et al. Binding of acetaldehyde to a glutathione metabolite: mass spectrometric characterization of an acetaldehyde-cysteinylglycine conjugate. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2003 Oct;27(10):1613-21.
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