Candida albicans, or yeast, is an silent epidemic in modern countries. It is the most common strain of yeast and is found in the vagina, the throat/tongue, the GI tract, and the skin. The infection most often affects those who have a weakened immune system. It can spread to unsafe levels throughout the body. As a doc, I’ve tested many people who have vague symptoms like digestive issues or brain fog for candida. This yeast often overwhelms the body by hiding from the body’s defenses in a sticky biofilm. It also pairs up with other opportunistic pathogens like Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or Epstein Barr virus.
Over time, if left unchecked, candida breaks down the intestinal walls and barrier, where it can enter the bloodstream. Candida can then release toxic byproducts like acetylaldehyde into the system, causing its victims to feel almost drunk. These toxins can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, as the stomach barrier is then compromised.
What makes things worse is if the pH of the gut is altered at all. When our guts (not the bloodstream) are too alkaline, this makes it more hospitable to these negative pathogens. Our guts are supposed to be acidic! Healthy stomach acid kills any opportunistic bacteria that may try to enter our bodies through food and water. Processed carbs and sugar raise the pH to alkaline levels in the gut where this allows candida to grow out of control, leading to a fully systemic infection. This can all be prevented with a healthy immune system, healthy food and self care.
So What Causes Candida?
We aren’t sure what all directly affects candida overgrowth. Most likely anything that negatively impacts our immune systems can help candida production. Here are some known causes:
- Standard American Diets of sugar, alcohol, and refined carbs. As I mentioned above, these “foods” change the pH of the gut and can lead to a more hospitable environment for malicious pathogens. Diets full of organic food that our ancestors would recognize are imperative. Think of anything that grows naturally from earth! Fruits, veggies, clean proteins and some pseudo grains like quinoa are the best choices!
- Antibiotics. Although antibiotics are often life saving in dire situations like sepsis, infections and injuries, they are absolutely overprescribed today. When this happens, it not only creates antibiotic resistance, but kills off all bacteria-the bad AND the good! This is detrimental as these good bacteria help protect our immune systems. In fact, they are our immune system!
- Steroids. Its a fact that people who use steroid inhalers for disorders like cardiopulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma have a higher risk of developing thrush, or candidiasis of the mouth. They are told to wash out their mouths after each inhaler use. Those who have to use systemic steroids like prednisone, for their autoimmune disorders also risk getting compromised with systemic candidiasis. Steroids significantly lower immunity.
- Birth Control Pills. This is a less common cause, but nonetheless, should be named because so many women today are on birth control pills! They are labeled a stage 2 carcinogen by the World Health Organization as they are made from synthetic hormones from pregnant mares. When combined with a poor diet, steroids or antibiotics, birth control pills can compound yeast infections. They do this by skewing natural hormone levels. Hormones are integral to a functioning system as they intimately communicate with our immune systems and neurotransmitters.
- Anything that Lowers Immunity such as Chemotherapy or HIV. Candida is opportunistic and therefore preys on weaker immune systems for survival. Children, the elderly, HIV patients, or cancer patients are particularly at risk. Inflammation or an autoimmune condition are favorable for candida as well.
- Diabetes or Obesity. Candida LOVES sugar. In fact, this is its primary food source, so it makes logical sense that a high level of sugar in the blood would attract this pesky fungus. Obesity also plays a role in lowering immunity and predisposing one to candidiasis. In the hospital, we would often treat obese patients with antifungals as they would get yeast infections of the skin anywhere that was cool and moist.
What are the Symptoms of Candida?
- Brain Fog and Chronic Fatigue-Most people would never expect such infections to cause such vague symptoms. Candida overgrowth can be responsible for inability to focus, migraines, joint pains, lack of initiative and chronic fatigue syndrome. Remember that candida produces the toxic acetylaldehyde, which can lead to impaired thinking.
- Bruxism-Bruxism, or grinding the teeth at night, is a sure sign of a candida infection. These critters are often more active at night, which puts a stress on the body. The people infected can often be seen grinding or gnashing their teeth at night due to the stress of the nocturnal movements of the candida.
- IT Band Soreness-the IT band runs alongside the outside of the knee and thigh. There are lots of reasons for the soreness such as trigger points, but a less well known cause is candida albicans. If systemic, it can get lodged in the joint spaces like the knees and lead to inflammation, or pain.
- Digestive Issues and Bloating-this one should be no surprise. One of the main causes of gut dysbiosis is an out of control candida infection! Candida can cause the lining of the stomach to become permeable, or leaky if they become overpopulated. This can lead to improper digestion and absorption of nutrients which can further impede the immune system.
- Vaginal Yeast Infection and Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections-Candida overgrowth is super annoying as many women know! I think most people today know that recurrent yeast infections point to a parasitic infection that needs eradication. But did you know that recurrent urinary tract infections, or UTIs, also indicate the same issue? The fungus can hang onto the cells within the bladder, leading to eventual overgrowth
- Persistent toenail fungus-Similar to yeast infections, toenail fungus that is persistent (longer than 8 months), indicates there may be a bigger problem at play. A month long parasite cleanse might really help to clear up the problem.
- Oral Thrush-This is common in babies, but can also occur in adults if there is a systemic candida infection or if they are using steroids or inhalers. Thrush is a thick white coating on the tongue that can cause a sore throat or tongue as well as painful swallowing. Remember the mouth is the opening to the digestive tract so it reflects what may be going on in our guts too!
- Recurrent or Persistent Sinusitis-A candida infection can be a cause of sinusitis, although there are many causative factors. Its presence can lead to inflammation of the sinus cavities, post nasal drips, sneezing, allergies and pain.
- Adrenal Fatigue-When systemic candidiasis is present and left untreated, this can stress the body. Eventually our hormones become askew as cortisol “steals” from progesterone production. This can also plummet DHEA and testosterone levels. A byproduct of candida breakdown is also an “estrogen mimicker” which further compounds the problem.
How Do I Get Rid of Candida?
The candida diet, my Microbiome Master (find it in my store!), avoiding sugar, alcohol, and processed carbs as well finding an educated practitioner are the first steps.
If you’d like a consult with me, be sure to schedule under my consults tab.