Many are familiar with yeast infections and frequently associate them with easily recognizable conditions such as athlete’s foot, vaginal infections, ringworm, and nail fungus. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 75 percent of adult women have experienced some form of yeast infection at least once during their life. Although less common, men may also develop yeast infections.
One form of yeast infection that many overlook is candida albicans overgrowth, commonly referred to as simply candida. It is a relatively common condition with multiple causes that can induce a wide array of symptoms. Having a greater understanding of candida, its symptoms and causal factors can improve diagnosis and treatment.
What is Candida?
Many are not familiar with the leading cause of yeast infections. Candida albicans (CHS) is a single-celled yeast that is found in the digestive tract of healthy individuals. It’s most frequently observed in the esophagus and colon. At appropriate levels this yeast is non-threatening and actually supports better digestion and nutrient absorption. However, if prevalence of candida reaches an inappropriate level, difficulties begin to arise.
Candida overgrowth generally occurs in the esophagus, colon, vagina, small intestine and stomach. As candida develops and settles in, it can produce endotoxins that further promote the spread of yeast overgrowth while inhibiting immunity.
If the fungal infection enters the bloodstream and is carried throughout the body, every organ may be impacted resulting in blood poisoning known as candida septicemia. This is also known as catastrophic candidiasis, which is normally seen in patients suffering from cancer or AIDS. It is more common to see severe cases of candidiasis in such patients because their immune system is already severely weakened or entirely non-functional.
Regardless of spread, endotoxins produced by candida can cause discomfort and itchiness. Candida that has spread to the mouth through the esophagus is known as thrush. Generally, this is seen in infants who do not yet have a fully developed immune system. If thrush is diagnosed in an adult it is likely that they are suffering from a severe immune deficiency.
Seeing the Symptoms
Excess amounts of CHS growing in the intestine or elsewhere can result in multiple health issues and a variety of symptoms. Testing can be done to identify candida overgrowth but recognizing symptoms may expedite diagnosis.
Common symptoms that accompany candida overgrowth include:
- Athlete’s foot
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chemical and environmental sensitivities
- Craving sugar and carbohydrates
- Decreased libido
- Digestive issues such as constipation, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and flatulence after eating
- Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Fluctuations in mood
- Food sensitivities
- Fungal infections of the skin and nails
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Leaky gut syndrome or dysbiosis
- Malaise or depression
- Muscle or joint pain
- Poor concentration, brain fog, ADD
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- Rectal itching
- Recurrent vaginal yeast infections or urinary tract infections
- Seasonal allergies
- Skin conditions
- Thyroid dysfunction
Yeast infection due to candida overgrowth may cause you to develop symptoms in the genital region. Excess candida growth can be identified through the following symptoms on or around the genitals:
- Thick vaginal discharge
Individuals may suffer from some or all of the above symptoms at varying degrees of intensity. If you’re experiencing even a small selection of these symptoms, it is prudent to be tested for candida.
Causal Factors of Candida
Gastrointestinal imbalances can result in numerous dysfunctions. Unfortunately, there are a variety of factors that can negatively impact the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria and the potentially harmful candida albicans.
Depletion of beneficial bacteria or excess yeast in the gut can result in candida overgrowth. The following factors can cause yeast overgrowth:
- Diet containing a high amount of refined sugars and simple carbohydrates
- Excessive use of antibiotics
- Hormonal shifts or imbalances
- Immune suppression resulting from another condition or medication
- Increased consumption of fermented foods
- Mercury toxicity
- Use of certain medications including oral contraceptives and corticosteroids
Regaining Intestinal Balance to Combat Candida
There are many medications available that can help treat candida and yeast overgrowth including Nystatin, Diflucan, Sporanox, and Lamisil. However, if using these medications, it is important to monitor your body’s response closely as there is a risk of liver toxicity. Not all patients will require such intense medication and it is best to get a doctor’s recommendation regarding how to proceed with treatment.
Many practitioners believe that the best method of resolving candida issues is through dietary and lifestyle changes. In a similar manner to treating autoimmune dysfunction, nutritional support through an optimized diet is an effective way to restore functionality. Improving your diet supports gastrointestinal balance and immune function by removing toxins, providing appropriate nutrients, and improving restoration.
Various foods and eating habits are noted for their ability to alleviate candida. Consuming a high amount of vegetables and fiber, cooking with herbs like garlic and oregano, drinking plenty of water (aim for about a gallon a day) and incorporating coconut oil into meals can significantly improve autoimmunity and gastrointestinal balance.
Furthermore, avoiding or reducing intake of certain substances can also provide a reprieve from candida. Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, gluten grains, yeast, dairy, and vinegar-based products from a diet can improve gut health and help resolve yeast overgrowth. These foods are frequently a source of sensitivity in many individuals and may cause undue inflammation and stress.
Identifying individual food sensitivities and subsequently removing them from your diet is hugely beneficial for immune function and gastrointestinal balance.
Sugar is particularly dangerous regarding yeast growth as it is a major source of inflammation and is a major food source for yeast. Consuming refined sugars and carbohydrates promotes the growth and spread of candida. Yeasts rely on an ample supply of simple carbohydrates and grows rapidly in the presence of refined sugar.
Furthermore, increased intake of refined sugars has been associated with impaired immune function. As immunity worsens, so does the body’s ability to regulate yeast growth and limit its spread.
Finally, the support of high-quality, anti-fungal supplements may help improve your condition. This is why Dr. Holtorf formulated Candinex which fights yeast overgrowth, improves digestive function and protects the liver during prescription anti-yeast therapy.
Optimizing Gut Health to Keep Away Candida
Having a greater understanding of your intestinal function and how the delicate balance of helpful bacteria, yeasts and other elements influence health is an important factor in maintaining wellness. Like many of the substances found in the gut, when candida albicans is overly prevalent it can cause serious and widespread dysfunction. Being aware of the many symptoms associated with candida helps you better identify it and move forward with treatment.
Supporting immunity and gastrointestinal health through diet may be the best method for resolving candida. Taking the appropriate steps to optimize diet such as consuming more fibrous foods and eliminating harmful substances like refined sugars and simple carbohydrates can help keep the gut balanced and limit the risk of yeast overgrowth.
For even more information on supporting gut health, watch our Facebook LIVE event here.
1. Yeast and Candida. Murray Susser MD. http://www.murraysussermd.com/yeast-and-candida-los-angeles/
2. Candida Treatment. Murray Susser MD. http://www.murraysussermd.com/candida-treatment-los-angeles/
3. Candida: The Cause of Your Chronic Symptoms. HoltraCeuticals. https://www.holtraceuticals.com/candida-causing-chronic-symptoms/