Is a candida overgrowth destroying your health?

Updated: May 30

Living in and on our bodies are numerous bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and yeasts. Most are harmless and many are beneficial. Some play an important role in vitamin manufacture, immune function, nutrient absorption and more.


However an overgrowth of certain bugs can occur when our immune system or gut health is compromised. A poor diet, stress, excess alcohol consumption and medications such as antibiotic or oral contraceptive use are just some of the ways the body can get out of balance.


One common imbalance is with a fungus or yeast known as Candida albicans.  Most of us have heard of thrush. However thrush is just one symptom of a candida overgrowth and does not need to be present for you to be suffering from Candidiasis. An over population of this fungus can have a detrimental impact on your health and well-being in many ways.


What are some possible symptoms of a candida overgrowth?

  • Poor memory and/or concentration

  • Brain fog

  • Mood swings / Irritability / Quick to anger

  • Low mood / depression / anxiety

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Frequent infections

  • Recurring fungal infections eg. thrush, athlete's foot

  • Sinus issues

  • Sensitivity to smells

  • Chronic joint pain

  • Irritable bowel symptoms

  • Bloating and gas

  • Weight gain, obesity

  • High carb, sugar and alcohol cravings

  • Headaches / Migraines

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Food intolerance's, sensitivities and allergies

  • Vaginal or oral thrush

  • Eczema / Acne / Dandruff

  • Skin reactions - Small to large patches of red, damp, raw skin that form in body folds, such as under the breasts, tummy, or crotch. Itching or soreness in the skin is possible.

  • Low sex drive / impotence / painful intercourse

3D illustration of fungi Candida albicans which cause candidiasis

How can candida cause symptoms, particularly systemic ones?

When an overgrowth of Candida albicans occurs in the gut it can weaken the intestinal wall, allowing it to penetrate through and enter the bloodstream. Its toxic byproducts are then released throughout the body.

As they spread, these toxic byproducts cause damage to your body tissues and organs, wreaking havoc on your immune system. The major waste product of yeast cell activity is acetaldehyde, a poisonous toxin that promotes free radical activity in the body. Acetaldehyde is also converted by the liver into ethanol (drinking alcohol). Some people even report feeling drunk or hungover along with debilitating fatigue from the high amounts of ethanol in their system.

An overgrowth of candida can essentially wipe out the good bacteria in the gut and tissues, further increasing the risk of infection and interfering with immune modulation. This increases the risk of allergies, food sensitivities and even autoimmune disease.

Malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies can also occur from sustained gut damage.


Where and how can candida thrive?

Candida albicans prefers warm, moist environments like the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, skin folds and genitalia. It also thrives on carbohydrates and processed foods, which convert to sugar.  


It pays to note that candida albicans is normally present in the gut as a commensal microbe. It is when an overgrowth occurs that symptoms and disease can present.


There are also numerous other fungi - moulds and yeasts that can have a detrimental impact on the body.


For example, Jock itch (tinea cruris) is a fungal infection of the skin at the groin.

Ringworm fungal infection of the skin is not caused by a worm, but by a fungus called dermatophyte. So too is Athlete's foot (tinea pedis).


There are also some less common but more serious fungal infections that can cause fungal pneumonia, fungal meningitis, or even systemic infections.

Over 20 species of Candida exist with Candida albicans being one of the most common, and least serious.

Examples of fungal species that can cause more serious infections include:

  • Aspergillus

  • Blastomyces

  • Candida auris and other species (there are more than 20 species of candida)

  • Coccidioides

  • Cryptococcus

  • Histoplasma

How do you know if you have a candida overgrowth?

Many medical doctors struggle to recognize the systemic effects a fungal overgrowth can have on the body, only wanting to address obvious symptoms such as vaginal or oral thrush, or athlete’s foot with medications and creams. 


Swabs can easily be taken to assess the possibility of a fungal infection of the skin, feet, mouth, nipples, vagina or genitals. However, diagnosis of intestinal candidiasis can be challenging if the overgrowth is only within the gut and if there are no outward signs. Also, there are a myriad of symptoms, many of which can be caused by a number of other conditions. 

Although typically, there will be a history of antibiotic or oral contraceptive use, high stress lifestyle, a diet high in sugar, alcohol, carbohydrates, or processed foods (even if many years ago). 


A spit test is a crude way to check if candidiasis is a possibility.  It is a very simple at-home test, but the reliability is debated.

Simply spit into a clean glass of water first thing in the morning on waking. Observe the spit in the glass over a period of 15 minutes. Candida may be present if you see:

  • The blob of saliva floating on the surface with thin string-like projections extending downward.

  • The blob of saliva floats to the bottom of the glass and looks cloudy.

  • The saliva suspends in the water as cloudy specs.

The saliva blob floating on the surface (without any spider leg projections) is a normal result.


Blood tests can check for IgG, IgA, and IgM Candida antibodies in your blood. High levels of these antibodies indicate that your immune system is reacting to the presence of Candida in the body. At home blood spot tests such as CanDia5 that assess IgG candida antibodies are available in some countries.


Functional lab tests that include checking for fungal overgrowth in the intestines (among other things) include a Comprehensive Stool Analysis (such as GI MAP or GI360) or an Organic Acids Urine Test (aka OAT test). A holistic health or functional medicine practitioner is required to order these specialized lab tests.


What are the risk factors for a candida overgrowth?

  • A high sugar, highly processed diet.

  • Frequent alcohol consumption (even a nightly glass of wine!).

  • Repeated or prolonged use of antibiotics.

  • Oral contraceptive use for longer than 3 years.

  • Prolonged courses of prednisone or other steroids.

  • A compromised immune system (e.g. cancer sufferers, HIV positive).

  • Pregnancy

  • Uncontrolled diabetes


How do we address a Candida overgrowth?

Anti-fungal creams and medications are commonly used in conventional medicine, with varying success. Diflucan (fluconazole) and Nystatin are common anti-fungal drugs. Unfortunately, they can have some unpleasant side effects and the fungi can become resistant to these drugs over time.


Natural anti-fungals can also be used and these include:

  • Caprylic acid

  • Lauricidin and other forms such monolaurin and lauric acid

  • Undecylenic acid

  • Neem

  • Grapefruit seed extract

  • Oregano oil

  • Garlic (Allium sativum)

Products that contain a number of these natural anti-fungals can offer a broader, more effective approach to addressing a fungal infection.


Including anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory foods in the diet are also recommended, such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, coconut oil and olive oil.

garlic

Removing high carbohydrate, heavily processed foods and added sugars from your diet that feed the yeast is a necessary step when addressing a candida overgrowth. This includes many breads, pastries, pasta, biscuits, cakes, sweets, desserts, pizza, and the like. Plus, alcohol and sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup and more. Fruits do not typically need to be avoided as long as they are not dried, juiced or candied.


Many also find they are sensitive to other foods such as dairy and gluten, usually due to the damage to the gut lining. Going gluten and/or dairy free can often help with the gut healing process.


Biotin (vitamin B7) is also recommended as it can prevent the candida transforming from the round cell yeast form into a puncturing mycelial form, which is more invasive and challenging to get rid of.


Probiotics are also often used, in conjunction with anti-fungals, but taken at a different time of day. Beneficial bacteria from probiotics help keep the gut slightly acidic, which is a more hospitable environment for Candida. Candida thrives in an alkaline environment.


Although candida can be a cause of a leaky gut, other nutritional supplements such as zinc, vitamin D and L-glutamine that can improve gut integrity can be beneficial during the healing process.


Unfortunately, sometimes the Candida has developed a protective barrier called a biofilm making it more challenging to kill.

A range of natural supplements can be used as biofilm disruptors to increase success. These include:

  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)

  • Digestive enzymes (taken away from food)

  • Proteolytic enzymes such as serrapeptase, nattokinase, and lumbrokinase.

  • Stevia

  • Xylitol

  • Lactoferrin

Binders that include microchitosan, humic acid, fulvic acid, and/or activated charcoal are sometimes used to mop up toxins released by killing the fungus and yeast.


Working out what to take, when and for how long can be clarified by a trained functional health practitioner. This helps to ensure success, particularly if chronic candidiasis with a biofilm is suspected.


Addressing an intestinal candida overgrowth is extremely important for overall health and well-being and even prevention of further disease. Gut and immune function can be impacted with a wide range of systemic effects. Many notice a boost in energy levels, less mucus production, fewer gut symptoms, less brain fog, a reduction in allergy symptoms & that they lose weight after effective treatment. If candida is suspected, don't hesitate finding a solution.


After a solution to a candida overgrowth and irritable bowel symptoms? Check out my IBS Solution or other ways to work with me.




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