Candida Basics: Important Info
I confess I’ve started this post multiple times and then rejected it because the topic of Candida is too large to tackle in a single post. I therefore chose to share multiple posts about Candida and its effects. Those posts include:
- Candida Self Assessment: Read to figure out if Candida is an issue affecting you
- Candida Battle Plan: Provides information on the three-stage approach I use to bring Candida levels back into balance
- Dietary Options for Candida: Shares the dietary changes necessary to stop providing “fuel” for Candida to thrive on
- Why Kombucha and Candida Don’t Mix: Shares info on how kombucha feeds candida in some people
Candida is, quite simply, yeast. We all need a tiny bit of it in our systems to maintain balance in our digestive tract. In a perfect world, our immune system keeps Candida in balance. Sometimes, however, Candida growth can reach a level where it overwhelms the immune system. Please note that systemic fungal overgrowth may or may not include strains of Candida. The natural health world has come to use the term “Candida overgrowth” to refer to any fungal overgrowth. It’s not accurate, but it’s a term people recognize and are becoming familiar with.
As with any yeast, Candida feeds on sugars. Because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with carbohydrates that our bodies metabolize into simple sugars, Candida overgrowth is a very common problem in today’s world. Other factors that can trigger Candida overgrowth include antibiotics, birth control pills, diabetes, pregnancy, hormonal imbalances (including imbalances in reproductive, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and hypothalamic hormones), drinking tap water (chlorine kills beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can lead to Candida overgrowth), immune challenges, genetically modified foods, and alcohol consumption.
Candida overgrowth can affect the body in a wide variety of ways. The overgrowth tends to start in the digestive tract. In the early stages of Candida overgrowth, symptoms may include indigestion, GERD, diarrhea or constipation, cramping and more. As the Candida continues to grow, it gains strength and will begin to bore holes in the colon. This results in what is commonly known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Although Leaky Gut can have a variety of causes, Candida is one of the most common.
Things tend to go downhill after Leaky Gut Syndrome develops. The holes in the gut allow undigested food particles to enter the blood stream. Since the body doesn’t recognize undigested food molecules, it may launch an attack against those molecules, causing an immune response. Food allergies are a common result of Candida overgrowth. There is also a hypothesis that Fibromyalgia is the result of undigested food molecules in the bloodstream which become lodged against muscles and in joints, causing pain.
Candida can also cause other immune issues. One of the most common immune issue I see resulting from Candida overgrowth is an allergy to mushrooms and to environmental molds. This makes sense logically, since each are other forms of fungus. If the body is already reacting to and trying to control an internal fungal overgrowth, it will logically negatively react to fungi in the environment or fungi that are consumed.
Effects of Candida Overgrowth
Candida overgrowth can have a multitude of symptoms. It would take multiple posts to cover them all, but many of them are not issues most people would associate with yeast. The belief that the only indicators of fungal overgrowth are vaginal yeast infections, jock itch and/or athlete’s foot are false. Many mainstream doctors don’t believe there is any such thing as Candida overgrowth, in spite of multiple studies proving they do indeed exist and do indeed cause serious health challenges. Following are just a few of the most common side effects of Candida overgrowth. Please note that each of these may also be an indicator of other health issues and may not solely be related to a fungal overgrowth:
- Digestive problems
- Tan-colored stools
- Fatigue (sometimes extreme due to the energy the body exerts to fight the Candida overgrowth)
- Food allergies
- Brain fog and problems concentrating
- Sugar cravings
- Alcohol cravings (a treatment facility in California starts treatment with a yeast cleanse to help diminish alcohol cravings)
- Skin rashes including eczema, psoriasis, ring worm, etc.
- Weight gain or an inability to lose weight
- Mood swings, depression, irritability
- Anal itching
- Itchy skin
- Dandruff and itchy scalp
- Chronic sinusitis, sore throat, post nasal drip, cough
- Fungal infections of finger and toe nails
- Heavy white coating on the tongue
- Itchy ears and nose
- Athlete’s foot, jock itch, vaginal yeast infections
- Thrush (oral yeast infection)
- Joint and muscular pain
- Impaired immunity resulting in frequent colds and flus
Unfortunately, that long list is just the tip of the iceberg related to the symptoms Candida overgrowth can cause. The toxicity of Candida is the primary cause of these symptoms. Unfortunately, Candida overgrowth puts quite a strain on the body’s immune system and immune system. The most common test used to identify fungal overgrowth are tests of the stools. Many practitioners don’t do the stool tests, since the symptoms of Candida overgrowth are often easily recognized. Medical history and lifestyle habits are also often a sufficient means of identifying a Candida issue.
Correcting the Problem
The biggest problem with treating Candida overgrowth is that yeast are incredibly adaptive. One of the first organisms to return after fires or nuclear attacks, yeast quickly adapt to changes in their environment. This means they quickly become resistant to the more commonly used herbal treatments. Oil of Oregano used to be very effective, but in the past few years yeast organisms have become very resistant to Oregano Oil. Yeast also have a tendency to protect themselves with what are called biofilms.
A biofilm is a wall of minerals and organisms yeast use to create a protective barrier to surround themselves with. The biofilm effectively prevents antimicrobials and antifungals from reaching the yeast cells and prevent them from being killed. Unfortunately, biofilms can even prevent prescription antifungals (such as Nystatin, Diflucan, Nizoral, etc.) from killing Candida cells.
So how can Candida be brought into control? It takes commitment and a multi-faceted effort including dietary changes and a variety of different supplements. It also requires the use of specific enzyme supplements to “eat through” the biofilm so that the antifungal and antimicrobial supplements (and pharmaceuticals in extreme cases) can reach the yeast cells. It is also necessary to take large doses of probiotics to help re-establish a positive balance of good bacteria in the digestive system.
The process of bringing Candida overgrowth into control can take several months. It can also cause uncomfortable symptoms as the yeast cells die and the body begins eliminating them, but there are many ways to reduce those symptoms.
This is my first post in a series of posts covering Candida. Please read the entire series to get a greater understanding of how yeast overgrowth can affect health and how the overgrowth can be brought back into balance.
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