Candida is another topic people are hearing about more and more, but often don't know what it is. What is Candida? Do I have Candida? How do I pronounce Candida? These are common questions. Well let's try to answer the first one. Candida is a yeast, found in everyone's gut flora and any mucous membrane, including the skin, respiratory tract and genital tracts. It's a common fungus, part of a genus of yeasts. Most species are harmless, but some species have the potential to cause infections. Candida albicans exists in the intestinal tract of every person, but when your bacteria-yeast balance is off, yeast microorganisms are given the opportunity to grow exponentially, causing a multitude of symptoms. Candida overgrowth is known as Candidiasis and can refer to a number of conditions involving the overgrowth of candida. Candida overgrowth is often abbreviated as CO, and Candida Related Syndrome as CRS. It is just one type of a larger problem known as dysbiosis.
The symptom most often associated with candida is vaginal yeast infections, but the truth is once you have a yeast infection (of any kind, including the fungal growth on the skin), the yeast has already taken dominance internally. Both males and females are absolutely susceptible to Candida. Once these little guys have taken up residence in your gut, they produce toxins that chronically affect your health, contaminating tissues that affect your immune system and organs. The symptoms you can experience can be so all encompassing and unrelated that it may be difficult to pinpoint that you even have a Candida overgrowth issue.
When Candida yeast dominate your gut they will act like nutrition bandits and steal nutrition from the food you are ingesting. That, combined with the 75 known toxins they can unleash on your body, will eventually cause physical symptoms, including:
- Yeast infections
- Digestive issues common in IBS, bloating, belching, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bad breath, abdominal pain, indigestion
- Intense sugar cravings (including alcohol)
- Lowered libido
- Mental fog
- Allergy symptoms
- Weight gain
- Skin problems such as acne or hives
- Nail fungus
These are just a sample of possible symptoms either directly or indirectly associated with Candida, but the symptoms associated with Candida are too plentiful to list here. The National Candida Center has a self test you can take that can help you determine if Candida is a problem you should look into.
As stated previously, Candida is merely part of a larger problem known as dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut bacteria. Regardless of why you have unbalanced gut flora (common causes listed below) the resulting situation is the same: species of yeast, such as Candidas albicans, find their moment to shine. It's like there is a green light flashing that now is their time to take over, and a rapid overgrowth occurs, along with penetration of the gastrointestinal mucosa. This imbalance just gives way to further imbalance, the sparking of a hazardous health cycle.
One of the most common causes of dysbiosis is from taking antibiotics There are certainly times when antibiotics are absolutely necessary for your health, but the Center for Disease Control reports that antibiotics are grossly over-prescribed. The antibiotics kill off the bad guys, but they kill off all of the good guys too - the gut flora that are keeping us armed with a healthy immune system. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Over prescribing patients has caused antibiotic resistance, which is now one of the world's most pressing health problems. You must use your best judgement, spend time with you doctor and ask questions about potential alternative options when accepting an antibiotic regimen. Sometimes it is without a doubt imperative, other times you may have options. If you do take antibiotics, make sure you take a powerful probiotic during and after your medication round. Keep in mind you can also get antibiotics from the food you eat: just remember whatever that cow or chicken was given is being passed along to you. Be proactive with the food you eat and start thinking about where it came from.
In order to keep yeast Candida yeast alive you must feed them, and what do they feed on? Sugar. If your diet is high in refined carbohydrates (bread, starches, alcohol, sugar, etc.), you are more susceptible to Candida. You may notice when you try to remove sugar from your diet you have extreme cravings. This is normal, as you are taking away the food that the yeast in your gut is living off of, and consequently your body has become addicted to.
Increased Use of NSAIDS
Abusing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, advil, indomethacin, etc) inhibits growth of healthy bacteria and can cause leaky gut.
Incomplete or Delayed Digestion
Chronic constipation from a digestive disorder, such as IBS or leaky gut, will contribute to the imbalance of flora.
Elevated Hormone Levels
Pregnancy, use of hormone elevating drugs, including birth control and steroid hormones, can all provide nourishment to the hungry Candida yeast cells. Chronic stress elevates stress hormones which will also wreak havoc on your immunity, making you more susceptible to Candida.
Living in a damp, foggy climate, presence of mold or fungus in the home and exposure to toxic metals can increase susceptibility.
The myriad of Candida symptoms can be overwhelming. A very successful way to determine if you have Candida is to work with a nutritionist who can help you pinpoint what is indicative of Candida, and what is not.
You can also do the basic Candida saliva test which may provide some insight, but is not 100% reliable. A certified nutritionist can order tests that can determine the presence of Candida, including the Urine Organic Acids - D Arabinitol (a Candida metabolite and neurotoxin) and the Comprehensive Stool and Digestive Analysis test (CDSA) will give you a more comprehensive look at all your gut bacteria - including the presence of Klebsiella, Candida, bacterial balance/imbalance, pathogenic bacteria, and parasites. If your infection has spread, your doctor can provide vaginal tests or extensive stool tests to determine the degree of infection.