Could it be Candida?

Several years ago, the Candida wave occurred in complementary and integrative circles ? candida overgrowth was being diagnosed for virtually all complaints. Undoubtedly it was over diagnosed or misdiagnosed, leading the pendulum to swing the other way. For a while, candida was vociferously dismissed and those talking about candida were scoffed and scolded. It is just as silly to say that no one suffers from candida overgrowth as it is to say that everyone suffers from it. So let?s talk about what we know.

Candida is virtually ubiquitous, meaning it is found everywhere, and most of us have some candida on our skin or inside of us. In small amounts, candida is harmless and can actually assist our beneficial gut flora with the multitude of functions that they perform. Those same friendly bacteria, along with the immune system, keep candida populations small and in check.

Imagine the gastrointestinal tract and genitourinary tract as huge parking lots. You want all of the parking spaces to be filled with the good guys ? beneficial bacteria. If by some reason, your beneficial bacteria population dips or is compromised, open spaces are left for candida to move in and multiply. Candida by its nature is opportunistic, and will not miss the chance to exploit an opening or weakness in the body to begin to grow and multiply rapidly.

Antibiotic use, overconsumption of alcohol and sugar, chronic stress, steroid use and birth control pills can be harmful to beneficial bacteria, decreasing their population and creating a chance for candida to take hold.

Our friendly bacteria also use estrogen and progesterone as food, and as women approach the week before menses, they can be prone to yeast and bladder infections. This is because as hormones decline as menses approaches, the friendly bacterial population dips, and candida rapidly multiplies to fill in the empty spaces.

When we have candida overgrowth in the GI tract, it can wreak havoc throughout the body. As a natural byproduct of their metabolism, they produce compounds that are inherently harmful to our bodies ? similar compounds are found in nail polish remover!

Symptoms of candida overgrowth mimic many other conditions and symptoms, which is why it is important to confirm or deny the presence of overgrowth with testing. In fact, up to one fifth of people diagnosed with IBS actually have candida overgrowth, and when treated, IBS disappears.

Symptoms of candida overgrowth include gas and bloating, belly pain, intestinal pain, constipation, diarrhea, exhaustion, muscle aches, foggy thinking, anxiety and depression, sensitivity to smells, sounds and light; insomnia, tinnitus, allergies, blood sugar issues, toenail infection/athlete?s foot, bladder infection, vaginal infection, itchiness, food intolerance, etc. Symptoms tend to be worse on muggy and wet days or in spaces that have mold.

A major consequence of candida overgrowth is that the compounds that they produce damage the lining of the small intestine and whip up the immune system into a dysfunctional inflammatory state. This is the perfect storm for leaky gut to develop. Leaky gut then leads to even more inflammation by the immune system and an ever-expanding list of food sensitivities as the immune system begins to make antibodies against everything you are eating.

Before treating candida overgrowth, it is important to confirm or deny its presence. This can be done via a blood test, comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA) or organic acid testing.

The key in treating candida overgrowth is starving the candida of their most beloved food, sugar. There are a variety of candida diets out there, and they all emphasize very low carbohydrate intake. Vegetables, proteins and healthy fats should be the base of the diet. Sugars, grains, baked products and fruits should be eliminated for the course of treatment.

There are several natural substances that help kill candida, but herbs, medications and other compounds will not work if the diet is not in place. Garlic and oil of oregano are powerful anti-candida agents and my first choice in therapy. Coconut oil and coconut products are highly beneficial. High dose (greater than 50 billion CFU/day) probiotics are also indicated to help the body kill candida and fill up the parking lot spaces with good guys. The yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, is also potent against candida infection. Although it sounds counter-intuitive to fight one type of yeast with another, the two are so genetically different that it is exactly like getting a cat to fix your mouse problem. Cats and mice are both mammals, but do vastly different things.

It is quite important to start with dietary changes first and slowly increase anti-candida agents because as candida die, they release endotoxins and proteins that can actually make you feel worse than you did before! Go slowly and listen to your body. If you are not feeling markedly better in 2-3 weeks, it likely is not a candida problem, or the candida issue is not the predominant one.

While not everyone with GI issues or fatigue has candida overgrowth, it is certainly worth considering testing for if symptoms are present. Luckily, candida is readily diagnosable and treatable. I wish you the best in health & would love to hear about your journey! Let’s hang out on Instagram & Twitter!

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