If you’ve clicked around any wellness websites (including this one!), you’ve likely come across some stuff about Candida and Candida overgrowth. So what is that, exactly, and what can you do about it? As a registered dietitian and integrative nutrition health coach, I help people figure out which foods and eating patterns support their goals and how to modify the behaviors that don’t. When it comes to preventing and treating a Candida overgrowth, diet plays an important part.
To put it very basically, Candida is a type of yeast. There are many varieties—about 20 shown to cause problems in humans. While some Candida is naturally present on the skin and in mucus membranes (like the mouth, intestines, and vagina), it can become a problem when you experience an overgrowth. When that happens, it can convert into a fungus and cause an infection—candidiasis. This can be in one particular region of the body (as in thrush in the mouth or throat or a yeast infection) or systemic.
Because Candida plays a role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, an overgrowth in the intestinal tract can lead to a variety of digestive disturbances as it breaks down the intestinal wall to release toxic by-products into your system—often called "leaky gut syndrome." In short, it seriously messes with your gut microbiome. Because symptoms like fatigue, digestive problems, brain fog, and depression can be related to a variety of conditions, systemic Candida infections can be hard to diagnose.