You might be wondering, “What on earth is Candida?” Candida is a fungus, which is a form of yeast, a very small amount of which lives in your mouth and intestines. Its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption but, when it is overproduced it breaks down the wall of the intestine and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body and causing leaky gut. This can lead to many different health problems ranging from digestive issues to depression.
How do you get Candida overgrowth?
The healthy or ‘good’ bacteria in your gut typically keeps your Candida levels in check. However, the Candida population can get out of hand if a round of antibiotics kill too many of those friendly bacteria, you have a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar (which feed the yeast), high alcohol intake, are taking oral contraceptives or any number of other factors including a high-stress lifestyle. Even a diet high in beneficial fermented foods like Kombucha, sauerkraut and pickles, can feed Candida causing an overgrowth.
10 Common Candida Symptoms
1. Skin and nail fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and toenail fungus
2. Feeling tired and worn down or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
3. Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
4. Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
5. Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
6. Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
7. Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
8. Vaginal infections , urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
9. Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
10. Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
How do you test for Candida overgrowth?
IgG, IgA, and IgM Candida Anti-bodies. These can be checked through most any lab. High levels of these antibodies indicate that an overgrowth of Candida is present. I find in my clinic that these can often be negative even when the stool or urine test is positive.
I personally find this to be the most accurate test available. This will check for Candida in your colon or lower intestines. However, you need to make sure that your doctor orders a comprehensive stool test rather than the standard stool test. With the stool test, your stool is directly analyzed for levels of yeast. The lab can usually determine the species of yeast as well as which treatment will be effective.
Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test
This test detects D-Arabinitol a waste product of Candida yeast overgrowth. An elevated test means an overgrowth of Candida. This test will determine if there is Candida in your upper gut or small intestines.
How do you treat Candida overgrowth?
Effectively treating Candida involves stopping the yeast overgrowth, restoring the friendly bacteria that usually keep them in check, and healing your gut so that Candida can no longer enter your bloodstream.
Getting rid of the Candida overgrowth primarily requires a change in diet to a low carbohydrate diet. Sugar is what feeds yeast, so eliminating sugar in all of its simple forms like candy, desserts, alcohol and flours. Reducing to only a few cups a day of the more complex carbohydrates such as grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta, and potatoes will prevent the Candida from growing and eventually cause it to die. I would recommend eliminating all fermented foods as well.
Using diet alone could take three to six months before the Candida is back under control. Because of this I use an anti fungal medication such as Diflucan or Nyastatin for a month or longer with my patients. If you are self-treating you can take a supplement of caprylic acid. Caprylic Acid comes from coconut oil and basically ‘pokes holes’ in the yeast cell wall causing it to die. You may read that some people recommend herbs such as oil of oregano. Oil of oregano can be very effective however it can kill good bacteria as well so I don’t recommend it. The anti-fungal medications and caprylic acid are very specific to yeast and will not harm your good bacteria.
It’s a must to restore the healthy bacteria that typically keep your Candida population under control, you should take probiotics on a regular basis. Taking anywhere from 25-100 billion units of probiotics should help to reduce the Candida levels and restore your levels of good bacteria. Finally, healing your gut, by eliminating inflammatory foods that can harm your GI tract and introducing foods that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, will prevent Candida from working its way through your body, and will dramatically improve your overall health.
If you would like to find out for sure if you have Candida overgrowth, consider seeing a Functional Medicine Doctor who is trained in detecting and treating Candida.