If you keep up health blogs, there's a good chance you've seen the word "candida" thrown around quite a bit; you can also have your pick of myriad "candida cleanses" in health food stores and online.
In popular alternative health care, "candida" can almost seem like a catchall diagnosis for a wide variety of health problems. Many people go so far to assume that when there's doubt about a condition's origins, it's candida.
For this reason, many are unsure of what candida is, or are skeptical of its existence and what it can do to your health. Let's cut through the candida confusion and get the facts.
Generally speaking, it's worth keeping in mind that candida overgrowth is one part of a larger gut imbalance (dysbiosis) problem, not the entire cause for all health problems.
It does us no good in the health community to over-generalize gut issues by attributing all chronic issues to candida overgrowth. It also does us no good to delegitimize well-documented gut dysbiosis and its real impact on your total health.
What Is Candida?
"Candida" is typically a shortened reference for the Candida albicans fungus, which is actually the most common yeast that can be found in small amounts of a healthy gastrointestinal system, a part of the collective microbiome, the cornerstone to every system of your body.
A problem arises when the microbiome is weakened, causing a decrease in good bacteria and an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, parasites or yeast. This dysbiosis can be due to stress, chronic illness, medications, poor diet or a combination of any of these.
Who Is Susceptible To Candida Overgrowth?
Research has found that people with the following problems are more likely to get candida infections and/or be exacerbated by intestinal candidiasis or yeast overgrowth:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic antibiotic use
- Diabetes or metabolic syndrome
- Weakened immune systems
- High levels of estrogen (oral contraceptives or estrogen replacements)
Symptoms Of Candida Overgrowth
Acute infestations of candida, such as recurring yeast infections, are well documented. But chronic, low-grade candida overgrowths are not as easily detected, and have been shown to be related to an increased permeability of the gut lining, or leaky gut syndrome.
Because the microbiome plays a role in virtually every aspect of your health, there are many far-reaching, seemingly unrelated symptoms that could be due at least in part to a chronic overgrowth of candida. These can include:
- Acid reflux
- Autoimmune conditions
- Brain fog
- Fungal Infections of skin or nails
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Low immune system
- Panic attacks
- Thyroid symptoms
- Weight loss resistance
How Do You Test For Candida Overgrowths?
Low-grade overgrowths can be quite subtle, but can be detected with the proper diagnostic testing.
I run either a two- or three-day stool collection that analyzes the DNA of the specific pathogens that are in your microbiome and often go undetected on standard labs.
Interestingly, instead of finding Candida albicans, I often find abnormal amounts of other types of Candida or different fungus species on lab results.
What To Do
1. Get a comprehensive stool test.
A multiple-day collection gives us a better look at your microbiome and uncovers any fungal, bacterial or parasitic overgrowth, as well as your beneficial bacteria levels. Retesting a few months into care allows for any modification that may be needed.
2. Test for leaky gut syndrome.
A blood test to assess if anything from the gut is passing into the blood stream can done to find out if you have leaky gut syndrome.
3. Rule out SIBO.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is common with candida overgrowth, further complicating treatment. It can be helpful to look for SIBO.
4. Avoid sugar.
Candida eats what you eat, and it especially loves sugar! Avoiding junk foods, excess fruits, juices and starchy foods like potatoes is essential.
5. Hold off on fermented foods.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchee are wonderful sources of probiotics, but can also feed candida. Certain probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics can also feed overgrowths.
I generally suggest waiting until after the die-off phase of candida removal before adding these back in to recolonize the microbiome. This can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the severity of the case.
6. Targeted natural medicines.
The beneficial yeast S. boulardii was also show to be effective against candida overgrowth, decreasing both the inflammation from the overgrowth and the spreading of the candida in the gut.
7. Personalized functional medicine care.
Even with natural options, what works for one person may not for you! Today, lab testing can better inform us which natural medicine would be better for your individual overgrowth or gut infection. This ensures targeted effective care.
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