A fungus and a form of yeast, candida lives in the mouth and intestine in small amounts to assist your body in digestion and nutrient absorption. However, when overproduced, it can break down the wall of the intestine and penetrate the bloodstream, leading to many health issues, from depression to digestive problems, like leaky gut syndrome. (Leaky gut syndrome occurs when tight junctions in the intestinal lining are broken apart, releasing toxins, microbes and undigested food particles into the bloodstream that the body attacks as if they were pathogens.)
According to research from Rice University, 70 percent of all people are affected by Candida. It was recently brought to my attention that I am one of them. So what leads to the systemic overgrowth and how do we treat it? What do its symptoms look like?
A plethora of factors can lead to an overgrown candida population, including:
- Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Consuming large quantities of alcohol
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Eating a diet high in fermented foods (like kefir, miso, Kombucha, tempeh, sauerkraut and more - foods that are usually beneficial to the gut when yeast is not overgrown)
- Living a high-stress lifestyle
- Taking antibiotics (that can kill good gut bacteria)
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
- Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues, including: bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Bad breath
- Autoimmune diseases, including: rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, scleroderma, or multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, inability to focus, brain fog - even ADD and ADHD
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
- Skin issues, including: psoriasis, eczema, hives, and rashes
- Psychological issues, including: irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching, or vaginal itching
How do you test for candida overgrowth?
Testing for Candida overgrowth can be accomplished through the blood, stool or urine (via a Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test.) Stool tests are often the most accurate, garnering information on the species of yeast present to make the treatment plan more effective. It's important to note that a blood test - checking for levels of the candida antibodies, IgG, IgA and IgM - can show negative results even when the stool or urine shows positive results, making the former less reliable.
Treating candida overgrowth
There are several ways to treat candida overgrowth, beginning with diet. It is advised to eliminate simple carbohydrates and sugar, as well as fermented foods. Luckily, there are tons of recipes available today for yeast-free, gluten-free and even grain-free breads, crackers and snacks, so you don't have to give up on the carbs you love entirely. For bread, I love this one (pictured above) from Recipes Worth Repeat. This one is also great, and entirely grain-free.
An anti-fungal medicine can also help jumpstart your recovery. Find an integrative/functional medicine doctor that specializes in Candida overgrowth and will perform tests prior to diagnosing and prescribing a medication. They might initiate a treatment plan using Diflucan or Nystatin (the latter of which I am taking.)
Derived from coconut oil, a caprylic acid supplement, can also help to decrease the extra yeast. I like Solaray's Yeast-Cleanse, which I buy at Whole Foods, but is also available online.
Do you currently experience symptoms of Candida overgrowth or have you ever been diagnosed with such? If so, what treatment plan or supplement, in particular, worked for you? I'd love to hear your story and how you overcame it! Feel free to drop a comment below or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)