Candida, a naturally occurring yeast in our bodies, plays a crucial role in our microbiome’s balance. However, in some cases, candida can overgrow and lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms that extend far beyond the digestive tract. In this blog post, we are exploring all things candida yeast infections including, the symptoms of candida overgrowth, common contributing factors, how to test for candida overgrowth and effective treatment protocols.
What is Candida?
Candida is a type of fungus that is typically found in small amounts in your mouth, skin and in your intestines. Most of the time Candida is completely harmless – It exists in small colonies and is kept under control by the other healthy microbes in your gut. However, when the balance of the gut flora is lost, the colonies of Candida albicans are able to expand rapidly until they control a large portion of your gut causing infection.
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
Candida albicans can zap your energy in three ways.
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Toxic Chemicals Production: Candida produces a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde which can overwhelm the liver causing a traffic jam of toxins. This slows down liver functions, which affect energy storage, among other things.
- Adrenal Fatigue: Candida can impact cortisol and DHEA production, and when these hormones drop, so does your energy.
2. Brain Fog
A Candida overgrowth may produce too much acetaldehyde for your liver to process efficiently which allows it to circulate to your nervous system and brain. As a result, your red blood cells carry less oxygen to the brain and travel more slowly through blood vessels.
3. Digestive issues
Due to the imbalance of gut flora, the immune system is weakened causing digestive issues such as:
4. Recurring Yeast infections
Common signs of candida overgrowth induced yeast infections include:
- Unbearable vaginal itchiness
- Unpleasant pain during intimacy
- Swelling that seems like it’s sticking around forever
- Not-so-pleasant white discharge
5. Oral thrush
The changes that cause an intestinal overgrowth can also lead to an oral Candida infection. Common signs include:
- White bumps or patches on tongue or throat
- Redness around the mouth and/or gums
- Painful and inflamed areas inside the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
6. Food sensitivities
Candida overgrowth can increase intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome, which can increase the development of food sensitivities.
7. Fungal infections on skin and nails
Common signs of fungal infections include:
- Infections around the fingernails
- Toenail infection
- Skin rashes
- Athlete’s foot
8. Low mood
Candida can have a direct connection with feeling down for two reasons:
- Less Happy Chemicals: Serotonin, a mood-boosting brain chemical, is mostly produced in the gut. So when Candida begins to disrupt the digestive system, it can mess with serotonin production, and that can drag your mood down. In addition, the overproduction of acetaldehyde as a result of candida overgrowth can also negatively impact dopamine production.
- Low Vitamin B12 Production: Vitamin B12 is important for a happy brain and nervous system, but when the liver is overloaded due to candida overgrowth, it impacts the production and storage of vitamin B12 causing low mood.
Contributing Factors to Candida Overgrowth
A High-Sugar Diet
Candida uses sugar to grow, build its cell walls, and shield itself from the immune system. In other words, a sugar-packed diet weakens the immune system, giving Candida the upper hand.
Antibiotics wipe out harmful bacteria, but the friendly guys too, which weakens the immune system and opens the door for Candida to take over.
When we are stressed, the body releases cortisol, which weakens the immune system and spikes blood sugar. Candida thrives on sugar, and lowered defenses let it take charge. Stress can also shake up your gut balance, letting Candida overpower other good bacteria.
How to Test for Candida Overgrowth
Comprehensive Stool Analysis
A comprehensive stool analysis involves collecting a stool sample and sending it off to the lab for analysis. At the lab, they will take a deep dive look into candida levels, friendly and not-so-friendly bacteria, while also looking at pH levels and inflammation markers. With this insight, you can tweak your diet and supplements to get things back in balance.
Candida Antibodies Test
The immune system has three types of antibodies: IgG, IgA, and IgM. The levels of these antibodies can tell you if candida overgrowth is causing a disturbance. Your doctor may order both an antibodies test and a comprehensive stool analysis which will help to give you the full scoop on the status of your immune system and gut health.
Organic Acid Test
Another area where a Candida overgrowth leaves evidence is your urine. There are certain organic waste products created by Candida albicans that are not naturally found in your body. By looking for these waste products in your urine, it is possible to evaluate whether there is an imbalance in the gut and which pathogenic organisms might be causing it.
These questionnaires are like little quizzes that help check out your symptoms and see if a Candida takeover might be in the works. They cover what you’re feeling right now and dig into any factors that could be behind your health bumps.
Candida Treatment Protocol
Now that we have discussed how to test for candida overgrowth, let’s break down the common treatment protocols to help combat candida overgrowth.
Step 1: Eliminate Risk Factors and Identify the Root Cause
What set off your Candida? Was it antibiotics, lots of sugary stuff, or chemicals? Sometimes Candida trouble comes from one thing, sometimes it’s a mix. This is why the first step to feeling better is by spotting what might have caused your Candida overload in the first place and ditching those triggers.
Step 2: Switch to an Anti-Candida Diet
The staples of an anti-candida diet include
- Eliminating added sugars
- Avoiding processed foods and foods containing gluten
- Eating a variety of non-starchy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, brussel sprouts etc.
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
- Incorporating anti-candida foods (i.e. coconut oil, olive oil, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, lemon juice and cruciferous veggies)
- Avoiding fermented foods – while fermented foods do feed your gut’s population of beneficial probiotics, they also feed Candida. Some fermented foods are already yeast-containing, and can directly contribute to your gut’s overgrown population of Candida albicans.
Step 3: Take a Good Quality Probiotic
Flooding your gut bacteria is a crucial part of recovering your gut health, fighting Candida, and restoring your gut flora to a healthy balance. Take a high potency probiotic that keeps Candida under control. I recommend a probiotic supplement containing 100 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) to restore your gut’s healthy microbial balance.
Step 4: Use Natural Anti-fungals
Think of antifungals as the soldiers in your Candida treatment army. They attack by breaking down the walls of Candida albicans yeast cells. There are lots of natural antifungals that can stop and reverse Candida. Good natural options are caprylic acid and oregano oil, which you can take as supplements. You can even add antifungals to your diet, like coconut oil, garlic, and rutabaga – they’re strong antifungal foods.
It is tempting to jump in and do all of these steps at the same time. However, when large numbers of yeast and fungal cells are rapidly killed, metabolic by-products are released into the body, including ethanol, uric acid, and acetaldehyde. This can actually lead to a dramatic worsening of your Candida symptoms.
A Die-off reaction not only overwhelms the liver but the lymphatic system, kidneys, and digestive system are inflamed from these toxic byproducts and are unable to clear them fast enough. For this reason, one of the most important parts of your Candida treatment plan is avoiding a die-off reaction. You can do this in two ways.
- Take your time! Introduce one step of the treatment protocol at a time, then wait. If you feel good after a week or two, it’s probably okay to move on to the next step. Listen to your body and don’t be tempted to move too fast.
- Help your body to detox itself. Drinking lots of water will help, as will other therapies like saunas, dry brushing, contrast showers and regular exercise.
Now that we discussed what candida is, the common symptoms, how to test for candida overgrowth and treatment protocols, you will be well equipped to not only treat but prevent candida overgrowth from reoccurring. If you are looking for more one-on-one support for candida or have questions, you can book a consultation with me to get your gut health back on track so you can feel your healthiest best self.
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