Candida albicans is a yeast that is normally found colonizing the digestive tract and other mucous membranes of the body. After antibiotic use or periods of immune suppression, this yeast can proliferate, causing a yeast infection in the digestive tract, on the tongue (“thrush”), in the nasal sinuses, vagina, urinary tract and in the folds of the skin. In addition to causing symptoms ranging from nagging to severe, chronic Candida infection can derange your immune system leading to allergies, frequent infections, and autoimmune conditions.
Symptoms of Candida Infection:
- Bloating, gas, difficulty digesting many foods, heartburn, chronic indigestion, irregular bowel movements
- Sugar cravings, alcohol cravings
- Difficulty losing weight or easy weight gain
- Fatigue, brain fog
- In the nasal sinuses – Chronic sinusitis, post-nasal drip, nasal congestion or throat clearing
- On the tongue (“thrush”) -Tthick, white tongue coat that can be scraped off
- In the vagina – “Cottage cheese” discharge, itchiness, irritation, painful intercourse
- In the urinary tract – Frequent urination, interstitial cystitis, urgency, cloudy urine
- On the skin – “Beefy”, itchy, red rash in the folds of the skin
Conditions Associated With Candida Infection:
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Digestive discomfort, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- ADHD, Autism
- Interstitial cystitis
- Autoimmune diseases
Testing and Treatment
Vaginal yeast infection and thrush are easy to identify due to their clear presenting symptoms. For Candida infection within the digestive tract, several tests are available to determine whether the infection is present as symptoms can be vague and may be attributable to other causes. Two common tests for yeast are a food sensitivity panel that also tests the immune system’s reaction to yeast, and a digestive stool analysis test that checks for the physical presence of yeast overgrowth. Testing may not be necessary if there are clear presenting symptoms of a yeast overgrowth combined with a medical history that indicates probable Candidiasis.
Common triggers for yeast overgrowth include: Use of antibiotics, immunosuppressive disease, high sugar diet, use of oral contraceptives, and use of corticosteroid or other immunosuppressive medications.
Treatment for Candida includes 3 parts:
- Anti-Candida Diet: This diet is intended to starve the yeast and cause them to die off. This diet is usually implemented for a term of 1-3 months, although some patients with very high levels of yeast, or persistent infection may require longer therapy. An anti-Candida diet eliminates common yeast-promoting foods such as sugars and other high glycemic index foods, fermented foods and funguses, vinegar, and foods that contain yeast.
- Yeast killing supplement: There are several yeast killing supplements but not all are created equal. Because Candida can be a very persistent creature, it is best to consult with your ND on which is the most effective and appropriate supplement for you. Many people become discouraged with ineffective Candida cleansing because they are using a low potency yeast killer.
- Probiotic supplement: As the yeast die off, they make space for the “good” bacteria to re-colonize the digestive tract, vaginal mucosa and sinuses. Probiotics are the symbiotic bacteria that your body needs to support digestion and the health of the immune system. If you kill yeast and you don’t replace with good bacteria, you are leaving your body open to infection with other pathogenic organisms or recurrence of a yeast infection.
Treatment for yeast should always be done under the care of a qualified ND, and patients should expect their body to go through some changes as the yeast is removed. A common hurdle known as a “die-off reaction” can occur, giving a worsening of symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, headaches, digestive discomfort and irritabiltity as the dying yeast release toxins that are absorbed into the blood stream. This reaction usually lasts several days to 1 week and can be lessened with increased water and fibre intake to flush out the system. Although a die-off reaction can be uncomfortable, it is a sign that the treatments are working and yeast is being removed from the body.