You might be wondering: What on earth is candida?
Candida is a fungus, which is a form of yeast, and a very small amount of it lives in your mouth and intestines. Its main job? Helping out with digestion and nutrient absorption.
But when overproduced, candida can break down the wall of the intestine and penetrate the bloodstream — releasing toxic byproducts into your body and causing leaky gut. This can lead to many different health problems, from digestive issues to depression.
How do you get candida overgrowth?
The good news is that the healthy bacteria in your gut typically keep your candida levels in check. However, a few factors can cause the candida population to grow out of control:
- Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Consuming a lot of alcohol
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Eating a diet high in beneficial fermented foods (like Kombucha, sauerkraut and pickles)
- Living a high-stress lifestyle
- Taking a round of antibiotics that killed too many of those friendly bacteria
What are common symptoms of candida?
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
- Feeling tired and worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives and rashes
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety or depression
- Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
How do you test for candida overgrowth?
You’ll want to start by checking your levels for candida antibodies called IgG, IgA, and IgM. This can be easily done through most labs, and high levels can clue you in to an overgrowth of candida.
Still, I’ve found in my clinic that these tests can often be negative even when a stool or urine test is positive. Which brings me to the next two tests:
I find this to be the most accurate test out there. The lab will check for candida in your colon or lower intestines, and can usually determine the species of yeast — as well as which treatment will be most effective.
Just make sure that your doctor orders a comprehensive stool test, rather than the standard.
Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test
This urine test looks for a waste product of candida yeast overgrowth that’s called D-Arabinitol. Elevated results indicate an overgrowth of candida, and the test can help you determine if there is candida in your upper gut or small intestines.
How do you treat candida overgrowth?
To successfully treat candida, you need to do three things: stop the yeast overgrowth, build up the friendly bacteria and heal your gut, so that candida can no longer enter your bloodstream.
First step: getting rid of the candida overgrowth, which mainly requires switching to a low-carbohydrate diet.
Sugar is what feeds yeast. So start by eliminating sugar in all of its simple forms — such as candy, desserts, alcohol and flours. At the same time, cut back to just one cup a day of the more complex carbohydrates, like grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta and potatoes. This will help prevent the candida from growing and eventually cause it to die.
I also recommend eliminating all fermented foods. That’s because, while it’s common knowledge that fermented foods help to feed the good bacteria, most people don’t realize that bad bacteria feed off of these foods as well.
Still, using diet alone could take three to six months before the candida is back under control. So, I often recommend that my patients use an anti-fungal medication, such as Diflucan or Nyastatin, for at least a month.
If you are self-treating, you can also take a supplement of caprylic acid. Caprylic acid, which comes from coconut oil, basically "pokes holes" in the yeast cell wall, causing it to die.
And while some people advise using herbs like oil of oregano, I don't recommend it since it can also kill the good bacteria.
Next, you should rebuild the good bacteria that typically keep your candida population under control. Taking anywhere from 25 to 100 billion units of probiotics on a regular basis should help to reduce the candida levels and restore your levels of good bacteria.
Finally, heal your gut. Eliminating inflammatory foods that can harm your GI tract — and introducing foods that help — will prevent candida from working its way through your body, and dramatically improve your overall health.
Want to find out if you have candida overgrowth? Consider seeing a functional medicine doctor who is trained in detecting and treating candida.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com