Candida overgrowth is a common condition, yet one that often goes undiagnosed. Says Amy Myers, MD, a functional medicine practitioner who specializes in auto-immune diseases, “yeast overgrowth, often referred to as candida, is one of the most common conditions I see in my clinic, especially among my autoimmune patients.” From brain fog to skin problems, and more, there are a host of conditions that be caused by candida overgrowth.
What is Candida?
Candida is a fungus that lives in your mouth and intestines. Your body is designed to have a small amount of candida to help with digestion and nutrient absorption. But when candida grows out of control it can release toxins into the body and can cause things like leaky gut, fungal infections, and fatigue. Candida Overgrowth Syndrome or COS is the term used when candida has grown out of control in your body.
How Does Candida Grow Out Of Control?
Generally, your gut does a pretty good job of keeping a good bacteria balance. However, some things can push your gut in the opposite direction. For instance, if you take a round of antibiotics, you might have killed off too many “good” bacteria. Alternatively, if you eat a diet high in sugars, refined carbohydrates, or alcohol, you might be over-feeding the yeast in your body. Oral contraceptives and stress can also contribute to excess candida growth. Dr. Josh Axe also points out that individuals who use corticosteroid inhalants are at increased risk for developing candida in the mouth. (He advises that individuals who use corticosteroid inhalers follow the directions for swishing the mouth out after use, and treating candidiasis with a gargle of coconut oil and a drop of clove oil.)
There are a multitude of conditions that can be aggravated and triggered by excess candida. Says Kathie Smith, R.D. who specializes in gut health, there are many signs and symptoms that may be part of a constellation of fungal overgrowth. She points to a few to watch out for:
- Skin rashes, including eczema, psoriasis and rashes
- Fungal issues including athlete’s foot, ringworm
- Changes in your nails, including fungus
- Itchy ears
- Irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety
- White coat on tongue, oral thrush
- Chronic sinus or allergy issues
- Difficulty concentrating, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD, poor memory, brain fog
- Digestive problems: gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
- Urinary and vaginal infections
- Sugar cravings
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic immune system problems and autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma
Concerned? Try this Quiz courtesy of Amy Myers, M.D.
How Do You Test For Candida Overgrowth?
There are a variety of tests you can ask your doctor to check to see if you might have candida overgrowth. Here are a few that may be requested:
- Urine: A simple urine test can look for D-arabinitol, which is a marker for candida overgrowth
- Blood: IgG IgA and IgM candida antibody levels can be checked. Also, having a CBC panel done can show low white blood cell count, which can be associated with fungal overgrowth (as well as other conditions)
- Stool: Test for candida. Dr. Myers finds a stool test to be the most accurate test available
How Do You Treat Candida Overgrowth?
To treat candida you need to heal your gut. Dr. Myers has a 4R Program to heal your gut naturally:
REMOVE: Start by removing the bad stuff out of your diet. This includes inflammatory foods, alcohol, caffeine, and drugs. Some foods that can be inflammatory include gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and sugar. The best way to know what foods cause you issues is to have a comprehensive blood test done.
RESTORE: Add ingredients to help your gut flourish. Digestive enzymes can be beneficial here.
REINOCULATE: Take a probiotic supplement that contains 25-100 billion units of good bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.
REPAIR: Myers strongly recommends collagen to help seal the leaks in your gut. She also advises such nutrients as L-glutamine, zinc, omega 3 fish oils, and aloe vera.
Dr. Axe also has a candida diet program that is easy to follow and helps you restore your gut in as little as a month. Read more about this program here.
Ultimately, if you have any combination of the symptoms above, you’ll want to bring it up with your doctor. Trying a few natural approaches at home certainly can help as well, especially if you’ve found that your symptoms have been increasing over time.
With her love of health and writing, Melissa has written for such publications as Shape, Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal, Self and Pilates Style, and has created recipes and food-oriented stories for such publications as Delicious Living and Cooking Light.