Inside: Candida defined, symptoms of Candida overgrowth in the gut, and what are ways to prevent it.
Candida is a genus of yeast that lives in small parts in the moist parts of the body such as the skin, mouth, throat, stomach, and vagina. In the normal course, small amounts of candida are not harmful to us and cause no symptoms. The good bacteria in our gut and our immune system keep them under check.
But certain events and factors cause Candida to multiply out of control, resulting in an overgrowth of Candida referred to as “ Candidiasis”.
Candidiasis can manifest itself in multiple ways - Topical Candida (overgrowth on the skin, causing a red rash, scaly patches, swelling, or itching), Nail infections, Vaginal Yeast infections, Oral Thrush (a candida infection of the mouth or throat), Urinary Tract Infection (although uncommon, candida also causes UTIs), Male Genital Yeast Infection, Invasive Candidiasis (of the bloodstream) and Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth (SIFO) to name a few. SIFO is one of the most commonly overlooked gut problems. If not treated timely, interactions between inflammation in the gut and candida may create a vicious cycle, leading to recurring intestinal issues.
Causes of Candida Overgrowth
Several factors can contribute to Candida overgrowth, including certain medications, underlying health conditions, and lifestyle factors.
People with a weakened immune system, liver damage, prolonged antibiotic usage, high-stress levels, or an imbalance of bacteria in the gut are highly prone to Candidiasis.
We have trillions of bacteria that live in our gut, and candida lives with them. These bacteria have several health benefits and one of those health benefits is that they don't let candida overgrow in our gut. Excessive use of antibiotics wipes off the bacteria that keep Candida in control. Hence, Candida grows independently and multiplies itself in the absence of it.
Excessive Intake of Processed Food and Sugar
Foods that are higher in sugar and starch increase the risk of Candida overgrowth as yeast feed on sugar and hence, high sugar intake accelerates the growth of Candida. People with Diabetes are highly prone to contracting yeast infections.
Besides being high in carbs and processed foods, most diets are deficient in the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required to maintain that delicate balance between the good and the bad bacteria.
Leaky gut is both a cause and effect of Candida Overgrowth. When Candida mushrooms are in the gut, its long branches, called hypae, can invade the lining of the cell and wreak havoc in the gut. A leaky gut weakens the immune system, which in turn promotes candida overgrowth.
Weak Immune System
A weak Immune System loses its ability to fight bad bacteria and infections making way for bad fungi such as Candida to flourish and overgrow more easily.
Moreover, an intake of antibiotics to recover from the weak immune system provides a breeding ground for Candida to overgrow. Some of the factors contributing to a weak immune system include sleep disorders, poor nutrition, stress, toxins, and lack of movement.
High-Stress Levels upset the whole body system and when the body is in a state of imbalance, the gut flora is impacted and the immune system is adversely affected and we’ve already established that a weak immune system cannot keep candida growth under check.
Hormonal Imbalances can cause Candida to multiply and Candida overgrowth can cause further hormonal dysfunctions.
Candida can produce a waste product that can mimic our hormones tricking the body into thinking it has produced adequate levels and causing your body to reduce the production of fewer hormones than actually needed.
Our body gets exposed to toxins day in and day out, and these toxins accelerate the growth of candida in our gut.
In fact, mold toxins which are one of the most common toxins found in people cause fast-track candida growth in the gut.
What are the symptoms of Candidiasis?
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of candidiasis that the person is suffering from.
Burning or soreness, difficulty swallowing, creamy white bumps on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums or tonsils, Dry cracked skin at the corners of the mouth, a cottony feeling in the mouth, loss of taste
Recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and genital infections
Recurrent infections are often a sign of candidiasis, especially in women. Symptoms of a vaginal infection include Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva, vaginal rash, burning sensation, difficulty breathing, white discharge, and painful intercourse.
Symptoms of UTI include a burning feeling when urinating, urge to urinate often, discoloration of urine, pain in the lower abdomen
Nail and skin infection
Fungus affecting the toenails and athlete’s foot is an indication of candida overgrowth.
Candida causes fatigue in multiple ways. Candida disrupts the delicate balance of the gut flora and impacts its ability to absorb nutrition.
When the body is deprived of essential fatty acids and key vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin A, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, etc, fatigue sets in. As the population of candida grows, it releases many toxic products that cause fatigue.
This is at the heart of Candida Overgrowth because ultimately it is a gut-related issue. The changes in the digestive tract are what ultimately lead to all of the other symptoms on this list.
Some of the gut-related symptoms include Gas, Bloating, Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and cramps
Candida overgrowth can cause brain fog, memory loss, poor concentration, and confusion. A Candida overgrowth may produce too many toxins for the liver to process efficiently and the unprocessed toxins circulate to the nervous system and the brain.
Other symptoms include irritability, depression, mood swings, and difficulty losing weight.
If you’re experiencing one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms for a prolonged period of time, over six months, then you might be suffering from Candida Overgrowth.
Besides that, there are different kinds of testing available to check for the overgrowth of candida in the gut.
Blood test for Candida
This is the easiest test that can be done to check for candida in the system. There are antibodies ( IgG, IgM and candida complex) that the body produces against candida and a simple blood test will reveal the presence and severity of these antibodies.
However, this test is not a foolproof way of knowing the details about candida because sometimes it can show past infections and not current ones.
Yet, at other times, it’s opposite happens. Sometimes the antibodies test might show a false negative because the body is so immunocompromised that it is not able to produce antibodies against Candida.
If you remember, being immunocompromised was the initial reason your body got candida overgrowth.
There are different kinds of stool tests available under the functional medicine umbrella, with which we can check for candida overgrowth.
The best part is – these are very specific tests and as they are culturing candida fungus itself and not identifying the antibodies, so they don’t rely on your body’s immune status.
Organic acid testing
There are certain Functional Medicine tests that check for organic acids in the urine, which are metabolites produced by candida. If these organic acid levels are high then that also indirectly signifies fungal overgrowth in your system.
The Functional Medicine intervention
Candida is difficult to treat but comprehensive functional medicine can help. There are pharmaceutical agents which can get rid of candida but repeated antifungal drugs mute the effect the drug has on the fungus.
Moreover, natural remedies for Candida have shown better results than conventional treatment.
The Functional Medicine way of treating Candidiasis is to treat the underlying symptoms and so great focus is placed on gut healing. Some of the strategies for treating includes:
There are certain foods candida feeds on, so it is very important to stop these foods to control candida overgrowth.
In this diet, It's important to eliminate any kind of sugar whether plain sugar, honey, or agave.
The second most important food is processed carbs and high-carb food because these are very easy for the body to convert into carbohydrates, just like sugar. By adopting a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet, you can reduce inflammation in your gut and deprive the Candida of what it needs to survive.
Eating a well-balanced plant-based diet that’s high in good fats, proteins, fiber, minerals, and vitamins is a great start toward reversing candida overgrowth.
Supplements play a very important role in natural remedies for candida. In fact, supplements are the key to get good results with candida overgrowth diets.
Some of the recommended supplements include Oregano Oil, Thyme (an important herb that has been used to balance and remove pathogens from the gut), Caprylic acid (helps break the biofilm which is a protective layer around Candida), Probiotics (Saccharomyces Boulardii), Garlic in the form of Allicin:
These are the two main strategies in the Functional Medicine arsenal to treat Candida Overgrowth. A number of factors contribute to Candidiasis and the way to heal is by addressing the root causes.
And therefore great emphasis is also placed on Movement/Exercise, Stress Management, Detoxification, and better sleep hygiene.
A multi-pronged approach will help balance the gut flora which in turn will strengthen the immune system and keep the growth of candida under check!
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