Is Candida Making You Sick?
Millions of Americans are suffering from symptoms like chronic fatigue, autoimmunity, recurring yeast infections, joint pain, weight loss resistance, blood sugar imbalance, intense sugar cravings, mood swings, brain fog, digestive disorders, itching and headaches.
As diverse as these symptoms, they often share the same root cause – an opportunistic fungus called Candida Albicans.
What is Candida?
Candida is a fungus (or form of yeast) that lives in very small amounts in your mouth and intestines. Normally, it lives in balance in the human body with the variety of other healthy bacteria and plays an important role in digestion, nutrient assimilation and immunity. However, when there is a disruption in the balance of microorganisms in your gut (i.e. your gut flora), the Candida population will get out of control and invade into deeper tissues and organs where it doesn’t belong. This balance of gut flora is a critical part of your immune system and digestive health, but it can be easily compromised during long periods of stress, chronic antibiotic use or a long-term unhealthy high sugar diet. When this balance is upset, Candida infestation occurs and can begin to populate a large part of your gut.
At that point, Candida produces certain chemicals that break down the wall of the small intestine allowing pathogens, toxins and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream affecting numerous organs resulting in a condition known as Leaky Gut. The metabolic and microbial pathogens that enter the bloodstream during Leaky Gut result in inflammation and toxicity throughout the entire body.
Thus, Candida overgrowth can be linked to concurrent challenges in the urinary, endocrine, nervous and immune systems, in addition to the digestive system.
Common Candida Symptoms
Gastrointestinal: Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings, hypoglycemia, Crohn’s, Colitis, IBS, excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, “Metabolic Syndrome” which includes obesity, Type II Diabetes and elevated triglycerides
Somatic and Allergic: Painful, swollen, stiff joints; muscle aches, chronic nasal congestion, headaches, blurred vision, multiple food allergies, autoimmunity, chronic fatigue, severe seasonal allergies, itchy ears, low thyroid function, weight gain, weight loss resistance
Mental/Emotional: Irritability, anxiety, depression, brain fog, ADD, ADHD, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, sleep problems, insomnia
Skin: White fungal skin patches like dandruff, acne, athlete’s foot, psoriasis, dermatitis, impetigo, finger and toenail infections
Gyn: Recurring vaginal yeast infections, recurring UTI’s (urinary tract infections), Cystitis rectal or vaginal itching, PMS & menstrual irregularities
Urinary: Frequent urination, burning and desire to urinate, fluid retention, edema
In a healthy gut, the Candida population is kept in balance by other microorganisms. It only becomes a problem when we do something that disrupts our gut flora balance.
Common Causes of Candida Overgrowth:
Food: Long term diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates that feeds the Candida as well as sets up the body for micronutrient deficiencies; antibiotics and hormones used in the production of meat and dairy also contribute
Drugs: Broad-spectrum antibiotics, use of birth control pills, use of corticosteroids that compromise intestinal flora
Chemicals: Consistent exposure to mold, toxic metals, exposure to significant levels of pesticides, artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, neotame, saccharin), Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), mercury and mercury fillings, long term exposure to chlorinated water
Stress: High stress lifestyle, mental, emotional imbalance
Testing for Candida
In most conventional practices, Candida overgrowth is a controversial illness and many medical practitioners have not yet recognized it. This is largely because many of the symptoms of Candida overgrowth are non-specific and can be linked to various illnesses. Unfortunately, this means many people are dismissed and not able to get the help that they need. Try finding a local naturopathic or functional medicine doctor who can perform Candida overgrowth testing which includes comprehensive blood tests for yeast antibodies, stool tests or organic acid urine tests for yeast metabolites. There are also tests you can do at home to start the investigative process:
- Candida Questionnaire – Developed by William Crook, M.D. this comprehensive questionnaire is a useful tool for self-diagnosis. Click here and print out to complete: http://www.iahe.net/wp-content/uploads/Dr.Crooks-questionaire-YOU-Diet.pdf
- The Spit Test: While not 100% accurate, this test can be helpful. Take a clear glass of water and spit into it within 30 minutes of waking up. Make sure you build up a bunch of saliva, but just saliva from your mouth – don’t cough up anything. Do this before you rinse, spit or put anything into your mouth. Then wait for 15 minutes. Your saliva will float on the surface of the water, which is normal. However, if you see cloudy saliva that sinks to the bottom of the glass like sediment, you may be seeing colonies of yeast. You may also see the saliva on the top with tiny strings that start to hang down that may look like jellyfish, hair, or spider legs, or suspended specks of yeast floating in the middle of the glass.
How Do You Manage Candida Overgrowth?
Treating Candida involves halting the overgrowth by depriving of the yeast of its food supply (i.e. sugar), restoring the beneficial bacteria in your gut that normally keep it in check and healing your Leaky Gut so that toxins can no longer enter your bloodstream.
Top Ten Strategies for Healing Candida Overgrowth
- Eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates, flour, candy, alcohol and most fruits for three months to one year
- Eliminate food sensitivities / inflammatory foods (gluten, wheat, corn, soy)
- Use food combining to ease burden on digestion: Eat protein with non-starchy vegetables, Eat grains (quinoa, millet) with starchy and non-starchy vegetables, Eat fruit alone (or if condition is serious, not at all)
- Chew food well to support healthy digestive function
- Eat high quality saturated fats (coconut oil, grass fed butter) to absorb fat soluble nutrients and heal the gut
- Eat a nutrient dense diet that includes bone stocks, organ meats and animal protein
- Consume lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and other cultured foods such as pickled vegetables and kefir that contain beneficial bacteria
- Do Not Overeat – overeating worsens this condition
- Supplement with high quality Probiotics and natural anti-fungals like Caprylic Acid
- Incorporate anti-inflammatory spices like ginger, garlic and turmeric, thyme, oregano