What is Candida?
Candida is a fungus in the form of yeast that lives in the mouth or intestine. The main role of Candida is to aid in digestion and in proper nutrient absorption. However, when there is an overproduction of Candida in the body, it breaks down the wall of the intestine and penetrates into the bloodstream, where toxic by-products are released into the body, causing leaky gut. This ultimately leads to different health problems. This is why it is vital that you head in for regular checkups, and the moment you find that you are experiencing a case of candida overgrowth, consult your doctor right away.
There are various forms of Candida, but the main species present in the body is called Candida albicans. Candida is normally present in the gastrointestinal tract and a few other areas in the body. When there is a disruption in the balance of good and bad bacteria, Candida albicans starts taking over, leading to oral thrush, diaper rashes in small babies, and vaginal infections. Taking antibiotics can also increase one's risk of developing an overgrowth of Candida.
Candida can grow out of control when the body’s natural pH balance is not working properly. When Candida has grown out of control in your body, it is called "Candida overgrowth syndrome." Individuals may start having intolerance toward certain foods when there is an overgrowth of Candida. You may end up showing allergic reactions to certain types of food, including items that you had no problems with in the recent past. If that’s the case, then chances are high that you are experiencing Candida overgrowth, so seek a medical consult right away.
How does one get Candida overgrowth?
Healthy bacteria typically keep an individual's Candida levels in check. However, due to a number of causes, the Candida population significantly multiplies. Abundant consumption of alcohol, refined sugars, and carbohydrates in one's diet, certain lifestyle changes, and taking oral contraceptives all contribute to the overgrowth of Candida population.
Therefore, make it a point to do things in moderation, and while that may sound trite, the fact remains that over-consumption will lead to health issues cropping up, and candida happens to be just one of the many that can affect you as a result of over-indulging yourself. Try opting for a healthy diet, especially one that contains some of the super foods and is high in antioxidants; this can help your body fight off infections better and even keep candida down at healthy levels.
- Drinking too much alcohol – The sugar contained in alcoholic drinks provides a good feed for the yeast, leading to Candida overgrowth. While avoiding alcohol may sound good and, frankly, healthy to an extent, the reality is that a healthy moderation in the amount of alcohol you imbibe should go a long way to keep candida down to healthy levels.
- Diet high in fermented foods – Fermented foods often contain yeast, which again contributes to Candida overgrowth. Therefore, if you are binging on fermented food items, such as cheese, it may be a good idea to cut back on the same. Remember, most of the food items you consume are often loaded with sugars or contain yeast. Make sure that you limit the amount you consume daily, and it should prevent an outbreak of candida overgrowth.
- Diet high in refined sugars and carbs – These foods act like food for yeast that ultimately result in the overgrowth of Candida. If you are not sure which food items are high on sugars and carbs, a visit to your doctor should clue you in. The next time you are purchasing something at the department store, take a moment to review the labels listed on the back, which should clearly display the ingredients used to make it.
- Cancer treatment – Candida becomes a serious cause for concern in most cancer patients. Radiation and chemotherapy are both used to kill cancer cells and tumors. However, these cancer treatments can also kill healthy bacteria that naturally fight off Candida. This is why most cancer patients or those who have undergone radiation therapy are kept under active observation to see if they develop any health issues, such as candida overgrowth, as a result of the treatment.
- Antibiotic treatment – Although antibiotics help in curing bacterial infections, they also come with their own side effects. Along with harmful bacteria, antibiotics can also kill the good bacteria present in the body, allowing the multiplication of Candida. Before opting to take OTC antibiotics, you may want to review the associated side effects and find out if you are sensitive to the said medication, since this can cause you to experience mild to severe allergic reactions. A better option would be to seek out a medical consult, and ask your doctor to recommend antibiotics to help you with your current condition. Remember, antibiotics can also lead to a case of candida overgrowth by eliminating those bacteria that help to keep candida at healthy levels.
- Oral contraceptives – The balance of good and bad bacteria in a woman's body gets disrupted by the intake of contraceptive pills. However, the pills alone cannot cause the disruption. Yeast overgrowth is observed in women taking contraceptive pills when they also consume a diet that is high in refined sugars and carbohydrates, especially when they have recently completed a course of antibiotics. Therefore, make sure that you are eating healthy and not consuming food items loaded with sugar and carbs, as this can end up facilitating candida overgrowth, especially if you are also taking oral contraceptives.
- Diabetes – The number of Candida yeast present in the mouth and other mucous membranes are usually higher in individuals who have diabetes. Sugar is food for Candida. Thus, patients who have diabetes are at a higher risk of having Candida overgrowth. Try eating some of the super foods, like Chia seeds, which go a long way to limiting and even reducing your insulin resistance. Moreover, it is always a good idea to eat healthy and keep your sugar at healthy levels to prevent an outbreak of candida overgrowth.
- Changes in one's lifestyle – Lifestyle changes can cause inevitable stress and mood swings. Stress in a person can slow down the process of digestion and trigger inflammation. Therefore, try a few stress relieving exercises and even practice meditation. Stress can throw your digestion out of gear, which can cause candida in your body to grow exponentially.
- Impaired immune system – Having an impaired immune system puts you at more risk of developing an imbalance in the gut, which gives rise to Candida overgrowth. Infants, young children, the elderly, and those who have serious ailments, such as AIDS and cancer, are more vulnerable to yeast overgrowth. Therefore, if you have a weakened immune system, then you definitely need to visit your doctor on a regular basis and take care to make sure that the candida overgrowth is limited.
Symptoms of Candida
Candida overgrowth varies from person-to-person, making it difficult to diagnose. Due to this variation, each individual tends to complain of different symptoms. Some of these symptoms are listed below.
Tiredness or chronic fatigue
If an individual complains of exhaustion or fatigue that never goes away even after resting or sleeping for a number of hours, then that person may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). If Candida has invaded other parts of the body and disrupts the normal balance, then the nutrient absorption of the individual is impaired. When this happens, food passes through the gut without being properly broken down, leading to the loss of opportunity to absorb the healthy nutrients the food contains.
As time passes, malabsorption leads to fatigue, as the body cannot get its much-needed fuel to work properly. The condition is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as joint pain, memory loss, concentration problems, headaches, sore throat, and muscle pain. In most healthy individuals, small amounts of acetaldehyde produced by Candida get easily processed by the liver. However, this is not the case in people who have Candida overgrowth.
Hence, the liver starts to struggle in processing larger amounts of acetaldehyde, leading to a buildup of acetaldehyde and other toxins, which ultimately slows down various processes in the body. Therefore, if you find yourself experiencing fatigue despite rest, then chances are high that there is a candida overgrowth in your body. You need to visit your doctor at the earliest and get a full body checkup done.
If the condition is not treated in time, candida overgrowth can affect your liver and can also cause you to experience other symptoms, ranging from memory loss to impaired concentration. Consult a doctor at the earliest.
Acetaldehyde is one of the many chemicals that is produced by Candida. This chemical has a great effect on our well-being. If you are struggling to remain focused or having difficulties in concentrating on a particular thing, then you can blame it on this chemical. This leads to a heavy feeling in one's mind with a difficulty in forming ideas or thoughts.
Therefore, if you feel that you are not able to think clearly, not able to process simple thoughts, and not able to plan something simple, chances are high that you are experiencing candida overgrowth. Visit your doctor for a checkup and get an accurate diagnosis related to your condition, and get it treated right away.
Oral thrush is caused by the strains of Candida that affect the mucous membranes, including the vagina. It is often caused by the use of prednisone or other oral corticosteroids. If it is left untreated, it can affect other parts of the body, such as the digestive tract, liver, heart valves, and lungs. Newborns can also get thrush during birth. Adults can also pass it back and forth through their saliva.
The moment you start experiencing some of the symptoms, consult your physician and get an accurate diagnosis to help identify the root cause. Additionally, you need to take care to get it treated right away, as candida can spread to other parts of your body and will soon impact your overall health.
Individuals suffering from Candida overgrowth often show sudden changes in their behavior. They may experience dramatic mood swings and get irritated very easily. They also experience anxiety or panic attacks, as well as depression. Intestinal Candida overgrowth leads to an impaired production of serotonin, which is one of the neurotransmitters that can boost the mood of an individual. Most serotonin in the body is produced in the gut.
Hence, any problem in the gut can suddenly cause an imbalance in its production. Also, an overworked liver reduces the body's ability to store and use vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin that helps the brain and nervous system to function properly. A deficiency of this vitamin is often linked to mental problems and depression.
If you find yourself experiencing mood swings or depression for no reason whatsoever, then you need to consult your physician and see if your current condition is on account of candida overgrowth. Your doctor may recommend a series of tests, which should help to provide you with an accurate diagnosis, after which he would recommend a certain course of treatment along with a healthy meal plan, one that’s nutrient-dense.
Vaginal yeast infection
This is also called "vaginal thrush" or "vaginal candidiasis." If a woman experiences recurring cases of vaginal yeast infection, then the root cause could be Candida. Women can reduce the risk of developing vaginal thrush by not wearing tight-fitting underwear and pants. Moreover, if you have a yeast infection, it would best to avoid hot baths. Vaginal candidiasis is not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
It is a good idea to get it treated right away, since candida can spread to other parts of your body and can even cause you to become infertile if left untreated.
One of the signs of Candida overgrowth is a hormonal imbalance. Most women report vaginal thrush before their periods and around menopause. Estrogen levels are usually high before periods or when approaching menopause. Visit your doctor or gynecologist regularly to get yourself checked out, and if your estrogen levels are high, then all indications are that you could be suffering from candida overgrowth. Once diagnosis is confirmed, get the same treated right away.
Short-term sinus infections are caused by bacteria. However, long-term or chronic sinus infections can be due to fungal infections. Antibiotics are often given for the treatment of most sinus infections, but they can also be the cause of Candida overgrowth. Since antibiotics can kill the good bacteria, they can also allow the spread of Candida. Hence, if an individual is suffering from a sinus infection, the best remedy would be to improve one's diet and re-balance the gut bacteria, rather than taking a full course of antibiotic medication.
If an individual has ongoing gastrointestinal distress, then it is usually a sign of a Candida infection. Some of the signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal distress include constant burping, bloating, flatulence, constipation, or diarrhea. These are all due to the lack of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. When the yeast infection takes over the intestines, it becomes difficult for the healthy bacteria to get rid of the infection alone.
Chronic gastrointestinal distress is usually relieved when the Candida infection is effectively treated. If you are experiencing chronic gastric distress, go in for a medical consult to see if you are suffering from candida overgrowth. Once confirmed and on treatment, these symptoms should subside.
Fungal infections in the skin and nails
Yeast infections can also affect the skin and nails. Toenail fungus and athlete's foot are common fungal infections caused by Candida species. If a person continues to experience fungal infections, then it may be a sign that the person is suffering from a systemic candida infection. Warm and moist areas of the body, such as the armpits and groin, are the usual areas of fungal growth and infection.
Candida overgrowth can spread to other parts of your body and impact your health. It can cause you to experience Jock Itch, where it affects your groin area and causes you pain and extreme discomfort. Therefore, make it a point to get yourself checked out by your doctor and get your condition treated.
Another toxic by-product of Candida is uric acid. It can lead to pain in various parts of the body. If the level of uric acid in the body increases, then it can lead to gout. Gout is a form of arthritis that is associated with stiffness, pain, and swelling in the joints. Unless the underlying problem is resolved, joint pain may be continuously experienced. If left untreated for a long period of time, the levels of uric acid in the body can increase, causing more harm and damage to the joints and tendons.
If you are experiencing body pain and joint pain for no reason whatsoever, then it could be due to candida overgrowth and uric acid. Seek out a medical consult at the earliest and get your condition treated before the infection spreads to other parts of your body.
Apart from the above-listed symptoms, an individual can also experience the following symptoms:
- Cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Rectal infection
- Skin rashes or eczema
- Crying spells
- Cracked tongue
- Itchy anus
- Mucus in stool
- Water retention
- Sensitivity to light
Diagnosis for Candida Overgrowth
The symptoms of Candida overgrowth usually vary from one person to another. That is why its diagnosis is somewhat difficult. At times, people who have Candida overgrowth are not even aware of their condition for years until some serious health issues start to arise. Also, to complicate things further, the doctor would not initially consider Candida as the cause of one's symptoms. Chronic Candida infection is often misdiagnosed as other diseases, such as the chronic fatigue syndrome or inflammatory bowel syndrome.
- Physical examination - The doctor will first conduct a physical examination of your body to check for the signs of Candida.
- Blood tests - Doctors could also request for blood tests to check for Candida antibodies in the blood. If there are high levels of Candida antibodies, then it definitely indicates an overgrowth of Candida in the body.
- Complete blood count (CBC) – A complete blood count can also provide details of any presence of yeast in the body. If there is yeast overgrowth, the white blood cell (WBC) count would be low. However, a CBC can also show high neutrophil and low lymphocyte counts, which are not related to yeast infection.
- Stool test – This is the most accurate test if one has to check for the presence of Candida infection in the colon or lower intestine. However, it is better to go for a more comprehensive test, rather than relying on the standard stool test alone.
Treatment for Candida overgrowth
The first step toward treating Candida overgrowth is to stop the growth of yeast. It can be done by limiting sugar in one's diet and switching to a low-carbohydrate diet. Avoid or limit your consumption of sugary products, such as candies, desserts, white bread or flour, and alcohol.
Cut back on complex carbohydrates, such as grains, bread, pasta, and potatoes. This will prevent Candida from growing and eventually cause it to die. Changes in the diet alone usually take around 3-6 months for Candida to be back in normal levels.
Doctors would also recommend antifungal medications, such as nystatin or fluconazole, for a month. These antifungals work by attaching to the yeast wall and forming holes in these walls, causing yeast to break and eventually die. Azole medications block the production of ergosterol, which is a crucial ingredient of the yeast cell wall. Without the presence of ergosterol, the yeast wall becomes leaky and dies.
Foods to eat when you have Candida overgrowth
Although it is important to eliminate certain foods from one's diet to stop the growth of Candida, it is equally important to add some foods that have antifungal properties. You can incorporate ginger, garlic, coconut oil, cinnamon oil, olive oil, lemon, cloves, and apple cider vinegar into your diet to fight fungal infections.
- Candida is a fungus in the form of yeast. It lives in the mouth and intestine, as well as other parts of the body.
- The symptoms of Candida overgrowth include memory loss, oral thrush, and vaginal infection, among others.
- Changes in one's diet and certain antifungal medications can help in relieving fungal infections.