What You Need to Know About Candida Overgrowth
Healthy eating promotes your health from the inside out; and, this is especially evident when it comes to Candida overgrowth.
It is essential to understand that yeast usually resides in the GI tract. In fact, like good bacteria (or probiotics), a balanced concentration of yeast is a sign of good gut health. On the contrary, “Candida overgrowth” describes the excessive growth of a yeast called Candida albicans which can ultimately compromise your digestion, energy levels, cognition, and mood. So, learning more about Candida is key to supporting your gut health – as well as your overall health.
How does Candida Overgrowth look and feel?
A common symptom of Candida overgrowth is a white-looking residue or layer on the tongue. Additionally, individuals may experience:
- Allergies to food or the environment
- Anxiety, depression, or other mental illness
- Chronic sinus infections
- Excess mucous buildup
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Gas, bloating, constipation, or other intestinal irritability
- Groin infection or itching
- Mental fogginess or blockages
- Nail fungus
- Uncontrollable cravings for sugar
Many of these symptoms do not point exclusively to a Candida overgrowth diagnosis. In fact, such symptoms may indicate a hormonal or autoimmune condition. This ambiguity makes testing for Candida overgrowth all the more critical.
What causes Candida Overgrowth and how can I prevent it?
The leading causes of Candida Overgrowth can be summarised into two words—antibiotics and diet.
Antibiotics can cause Candida Overgrowth
Antibiotics are beneficial in killing bacteria throughout your body, including your intestines, and unfortunately, they do not discriminate between good and bad bacteria. This leaves your guts defenseless against the overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast such as Candida albicans, and even pathogens that are usually transported out of the body.
Dietary Impact on Candida
As for diet, eating a lot of sugar or drinking a lot of coffee or alcohol can damage intestinal health further supporting an internal environment for Candida overgrowth. Then when you consider that non-organic meats typically contain antibiotics, it is possible to introduce antibiotics to your body indirectly through your diet!
Candida Overgrowth Prevention
Preventing Candida overgrowth can be as simple as minimising your intake of refined sugars and alcohol. You can also consider taking a multi-strain probiotic and eating foods that promote immunity like fresh garlic, oregano, bone broth, or gelatin powder. Candida cleansing is a more involved option for prevention, consisting of stricter diet changes, a particular combination of supplements, and a multiple body-system approach. Of course, before you start any preventive efforts you should first confirm that you have Candida overgrowth.
How to test for Candida Overgrowth
Your doctor or health practitioner can diagnose Candida overgrowth by taking a sample of your blood, urine, stool, or saliva and examining it in a laboratory for the presence of Candida albicans. However, you can conduct your own Candida test at home with a test called “The Spit Test.” Just follow these three steps for six consecutive days when you first rise in the morning:
- Before brushing your teeth, eating, or drinking, fill a glass halfway with room-temperature water
- Spit a coin-sized amount of saliva into the water and check the water three times over the next 45 minutes
- If your saliva floats at the top, then you do not have Candida overgrowth; if your saliva sinks or grows leg-like structures that reach down into the glass, then you likely have Candida overgrowth.
As weird as The Spit Test may sound, it has proven to be effective!
How to treat Candida Overgrowth
When it comes to relieving the body of Candida overgrowth, people can choose from dietary, herbal, supplemental, and pharmaceutical options. For example:
Diets to reverse Candida Overgrowth
Natural nutritional changes can limit the energy sources that fungi use as fuel for their overgrowth. Thus, individuals who temporarily commit to the low-carb Paleo diet or other ketogenic diets have experienced marked improvements in Candida overgrowth along with reduced severity in their symptoms.
People have also slowed and reversed Candida overgrowth by limiting their carbohydrate intake exclusively to monosaccharides as seen with the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet and Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or SCD. It is important to emphasize that such diets should be undertaken only temporarily because without adequate carbohydrates the body will compensate for energy by producing ketones, which yeast (a type of fungi) thrive on.
Herbs and Supplements
Additionally, certain herbs and nutrients supplemented into the diet can serve as antifungals thereby killing off excess fungi. These herbs and nutrients include grapefruit seed extract, olive oil extract, caprylic acid, uva ursi, cat’s claw, oregano or thyme oil, and lauric acid (found in many coconut products). Just be aware that some of these nutrients also possess antibacterial qualities that can disturb bacterial balance further compromising gut health.
Biofilm Disruptors and Probiotics
Under the guidance of a practitioner, certain supplements, like biofilm disruptors and probiotics, treat Candida overgrowth indirectly by making it extremely difficult for fungi to survive. Fungi often produce a biofilm to protect themselves from the immune system and antimicrobial agents. So, by taking a supplement that disrupts the fungi’s ability to make biofilm ultimately makes fungi more susceptible to treatment. On the other hand, prebiotics and probiotics essentially outcompete fungi for resources within the gut by increasing the number of bacteria in the gut making it less likely for fungi to multiply in number.
Finally, pharmaceutical antifungals offer stronger resistance to Candida overgrowth, but not without side effects. Keep in mind that like antibiotics, antifungals are also typically indiscriminate in the fungi they kill. Therefore, although the gut relies on fungi to be present in moderate amounts, antifungal drugs will practically deplete an individual’s fungi level. This means that while Candida overgrowth may be resolved, gut health will still be very imbalanced and compromised.
Be sure to discuss any concerns about Candida overgrowth with an Integrative Health Practitioner, as he or she will ultimately offer the best advice in choosing treatment option(s).
Jockers, D. (n.d.). Using the GAPS diet to improve digestion. Retrieved from https://drjockers.com/gaps-diet/
Kresser, C. (2015, January). RHR: Top 4 mistakes people make when treating candida overgrowth. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/top-4-mistakes-people-make-when-treating-candida-overgrowth/
Kresser, C. (2017, September). RHR: Candida – Hidden epidemic or fad diagnosis? Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/candida-hidden-epidemic-or-fad-diagnosis/
Orecchio, C. (n.d.) Kick Candida for good and lose weight permanently. Retrieved from http://www.healthcentral.com/encyclopedia/hc/candida-albicans-3168573