Docs don’t talk about Candida very much, but in our experience it’s one of the major underlying reasons for digestive misery, low energy and brain fog.
Here’s a simple article to help you understand Candida a bit better, and to try to figure out if it might be contributing to your ill health.
Candida is a type of yeast that has the ability to transform into a fungus. It loves to grow in warm, wet and dark places in your body, such as your:
There are different types of Candida, including Candida albicans, glabrata and tropicalis.
Candida albicans is the most common type, with the word “albicans” meaning “white”, which is Candida’s main colour.
The top image is a case of oral Candida, the next one down is a lab dish with Candida albicans overgrowing in it. The lower diagram depicts vaginal thrush.
The microbiome is the sum total and diversity of microbes living in and on you.
You have a microbiome in your GI tract, on your skin, and in your genitourinary tract.
Although it is often labeled as a “bad guy”, Candida appears to be present in the normal gut microbiome of many people, where it probably plays a beneficial role.
It is only when Candida grows out of control – like weeds in a flower garden – that it seems to cause problems.
And when it does happen to overgrow, boy can it create a miserable existence for you.
Candida overgrowth can cause any and every digestive symptom, as well as making you feel tired and depressed.
It can cause brain fog, and problems with concentration and memory and it can trigger chronic joint pain, and headaches.
Candida can cause hormone imbalances, which then create problems with sex drive and menstrual function (leading to things like PMS, for example).
Candida is normally kept in check by other friendly microbes and the immune system. However it can overgrow very quickly when conditions allow it to.
For example, if the microbiome is disturbed, and some of the good bacteria are depleted, Candida can take advantage and blossom.
Possible reasons for a disturbed microbiome are:
Similarly, if your immune system is challenged or depleted by stress (which depletes immune function) or an infection, Candida might begin to overgrow.
In people with very low immune function – AIDS, for example – Candida can cause a body-wide infection and even lead to death.
Here, the Candida only overgrows because of extreme weakness of the immune system, which is NOT happening with you, otherwise you would know about it
The images in this article show Candida overgrowing in different parts of the body.
Doctors are very aware of problems in the following areas:
Fungal overgrowth, although not specifically Candida, is also recognized as a cause of toe and fingernail fungus.
However, for some bizarre reason, Candida overgrowth in the intestinal tract is not recognized by the medical system.
I have no idea why the medical system does not view stomach or intestinal Candida overgrowth as a problem, as we find it to be one of the most prominent causes of digestive symptoms!
When Candida overgrows, it can cause symptoms through a number of mechanisms. I’ll outline them here, and in future blogs, I’ll go into more detail.
First, Candida can grow little tentacles, or roots, called hyphae. The hyphae grow into your intestinal lining where they cause an immune response, which in turn leads to inflammation.
The inflammation can lead to burning, general intestinal aching, cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
The diagram below, from Wikipedia, shows Candida cells with hyphae, which look like little root structures.
Second, Candida produces a number of chemicals, which can also trigger inflammation and an immune response. These include gliotoxin, which suppresses the immune system.
Third, Candida, like all yeasts, is very good at fermenting sugar and carbohydrates. Fermentation produces a lot of gas. Thus, when you eat fruit, bread, pasta, sweets, etc. you can blow up like a balloon and be chronically bloated.
Fourth, Candida produces toxins that can break down the intestinal barrier, causing “leaky gut.” In turn, toxins can enter general circulation and interfere with the body’s metabolism. At the same time, nutrient absorption is compromised, leading to deficiencies that cause symptoms in their own right.
We will look at these mechanisms in more detail in other videos, blogs and articles in the “Candida” section.
Many people with intestinal Candida overgrowth experience symptoms outside the digestive system. Some common ones are listed below.
Often times, the symptoms are experienced in the digestive system as well, but occasionally, symptoms outside the digestive system are present even in the absence of any symptoms in the GI tract.
Some common Candida symptoms include:
Sinus problems (post nasal drip, recurring sinus infections, etc.)
Testing for intestinal Candida overgrowth is not as easy as you might think, largely because the medical system does not even recognise it as being a problem.
If you ask for a Candida test at your doctor’s office, he/she will probably look at you as if you are a lunatic.
It’s not that doctors don’t want to test for things that make you feel unwell, it’s just that they are not trained that Candida causes problems.
Working with hundreds and hundreds of cases, we know this is not the case, and that Candida can be a hidden reason why you are feeling unwell.
Thankfully, there are few ways you can test for Candida at home.
A home stool test can detect not only Candida, but also other fungal species such as Geotrichum.
The added benefit of a stool test is that it also tests for parasites, H. pylori, and troublesome bacteria.
Stool testing also helps to identify whether your good bugs are in balance, and identifies inflammation, whether you’re digesting food properly, and whether your immune system is healthy.
These additional factors are important when we recall that Candida only overgrows when immune function, friendly bacteria, etc. are initially knocked down.
Candida and other fungi can leave a footprint in your urine. We know that Candida makes certain chemicals, which can increase in urine when there is an intestinal overgrowth.
Some of these chemicals have fancy names, the easiest one to pronounce is arabinose, which I often see elevated in my clients’ organic acids test.
The organic acids test is really easy to do at home and involves a single urine sample taken first thing in the morning.
Using a finger-prick blood sample, again done at home, you can test for antibodies to Candida.
Of all the tests, I think this is the weakest but it does have the advantage of being reported alongside 94 IgG food allergies.
In other words, from the finger prick blood sample, you don’t just get an assessment of Candida, but also a comprehensive food sensitivity analysis.
I’ll talk more about the testing in other Candida articles, but for now I’ll share my opinion that the stool test is best when it comes to assessing Candida, with the organic acids test coming a close second.
Why is this?
Well, it’s simply because a stool test has more than 50 different pieces of information, as opposed to around 20 in the organic acids test.
The organic acids test does not look for H. pylori or parasites, for example, and nor does it provide information on gluten sensitivity and immune function.
Obvious Candida symptoms are:
If you have one or more of these symptoms, it’s highly likely that you have Candida or other fungal overgrowth.
However, the biggest problem when it comes to Candida is this:
Candida is not the only thing that causes heartburn, bloating, pain, constipation, diarrhea, brain fog, fatigue, etc.
Parasites, H. pylori, bacterial overgrowth and food sensitivities can also cause these symptoms.
Low stomach acid, below-par liver, pancreas and gallbladder function can cause these symptoms.
You really have no idea what the underling causes in your individual case might be unless you run the right tests.
A fundamental tenet in function medicine is that if you don’t test, you’re just guessing.
Back in 2007 I had heartburn, bloating, loose and smelly stools, anxiety, low energy, no sex drive, and dandruff.
These symptoms were being caused by a combination of H. pylori, Aspergillus (a mold overgrowth that we haven’t discussed yet) and a parasite called Blastocystis hominis.
I would have never known how to get rid of my symptoms had I not used some stool tests to uncover the root cause.
But once I’d taken the plunge and done a stool test, I was able to easily overcome my symptoms and get my life back by using laser-targeted protocols to erase the bad bugs and get my gut working properly again.
We see people get similar results time and again: just find the cause or causes, and deal with them.
I know providing a stool ample isn’t the most pleasant thing to do, but it’s more pleasant than walking round feeling like half a person, and all the stress that goes along with it.
Getting well doesn’t have to be complicated, it just means doing the right things in the right sequence.
Finally, look out for more articles on the blog about Candida, as there is much more to say than I’ve said here.
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