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What is Candida?
Candida refers to several species of yeast. One species, Candida albicans naturally takes up residence in our digestive tract, mouth, and vagina as part of our normal flora. In normal levels, Candida is unnoticeable by most and is relatively innocuous, but if it grows out of control, it can lead to a variety of annoying symptoms! This is when fungi becomes well, not so fun. The good news is Candida is relatively straightforward to treat!
Here are 10 signs you may have a Candida overgrowth:
1. Skin Rashes and Nail Infections
Yeast can affect the skin and nail in ways that cannot be missed! Athlete’s foot, jock itch, diaper rashes, skin rashes, and acne can all be evidence of a fungal infection. Yeast on skin tends to be pink-red patches that are relatively flat, and do not produce discharges. They can be a bit scaly and may be itchy. Often these rashes will improve with the application of an anti-fungal ointment. However, if you have a fungal overgrowth on the outside, it’s possible (and probable) it is also on the inside.
2. Fatigue and Brain Fog
People with yeast overgrowth often frequently experience brain fog and fatigue, most likely due to inflammation caused by the yeast in the GI tract. The inflammation caused by yeast in the GI tract causes the adrenal glands to produce cortisol (our stress hormone). Over time, this can deplete the adrenal glands, leading to a state of chronic fatigue.
Additionally, candida produces toxins like acetaldehyde and gliotoxin, which can affect the nervous system, joints and muscles! It’s no wonder we frequently see brain fog and even pain syndromes like chronic fatigue syndrome being linked with Candida.
3. Frequently Sick and Poor Immune Function
The chronic inflammation that can result from a yeast overgrowth in the GI tract frequently leads to a condition called leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability). This is where the cells lining the GI tract become slightly spaced apart or “gapped," creating little micro-holes that allow pathogens, toxic metabolites and food particles to pass from the GI tract into our circulation! When this happens, our immune system cells do what they do best—attack! This constant task depletes our immune system and can make us more susceptible to other illness.
It is also noteworthy that people who are susceptible to yeast overgrowth may have an underlying immune deficiency called “selective IgA deficiency.” Selective IgA deficiency is essentially a state of low immunoglobulin A that tends to result from our genes. Having low IgA simply means that we are not as capable of fighting off infections in the first place. People with low IgA often tend to get more respiratory illness and intestinal illness than the average person who has normal levels of secretory IgA.
4. Food Sensitivities and Intolerances
Having leaky gut puts us at greater risk of developing food sensitivities! Food particles that move from the enclosed space of our GI tract into our blood can be identified and attacked by the cells of our immune system. This frequently results in the development of food sensitivities. Often when we treat the Candida infection and address the intestinal permeability, people will find they regain tolerance of foods.
5. Cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates
Sugar cravings are pretty common but people who have Candida overgrowth often have intense cravings. You know who you are! These are people who can easily pack away pancakes for breakfast, donuts for lunch, pasta for dinner, and pie for desert and just want MORE. One difficulty is that as people make healthy changes to re-balance their GI flora, yeast will start to die-off and this can make sugar cravings even more intense for a while until the body has eliminated some of the harmful metabolites. Once you’re over the worst of these cravings and the yeast has died off, cravings usually reduce significantly but getting there can be challenging and can take immense willpower!
6. Weight gain or inability to lose weight
It’s no surprise that eating more sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to weight gain! Excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates in the diet are converted to fat in the body. If leaky gut is an issue, the subsequent inflammation and production of cortisol can lead to even more fat storage, often right around the abdomen!
7. Digestive symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain and loose stools
Really, we can see any variety of digestive issues with a Candida overgrowth. In my practice, I most frequently see patients who experience lots of gas and bloating, and frequently loose stools. We can see alternating constipation and diarrhea, maybe hemorrhoids (from having to strain), stools that are explosive — you get it. A wide variety of digestive symptoms can show up! Mucus and undigested food in the stool are also frequently seen. If overgrowth is severe, anal itching may also be an issue. As we work to rebalance the GI flora, we frequently see a normalization of these symptoms. After treating yeast, I often hear from patients on follow-up that these chronic and annoying symptoms are now gone.
8. Hormonal imbalance
A Candida overgrowth is hard on the liver! The liver is our headquarters for hormone production. When the liver is busy processing Candida and its metabolites, we can have hormonal imbalance as a consequence. Candida also produces estrogen-like substance, which can lead to a surplus of estrogen in the body and a relative lack of progesterone and testosterone. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include PMS, mood swings, irregular periods, breast pain, and heavy periods.
It isn’t a stretch to imagine how having an overgrowth of a pathogen along with all its toxic metabolites can affect our mood! The metabolites from Candida can actually cross the blood brain barrier, which can have massive effects on our mood! People may experience irritability, impatience, and mood swings. These symptoms can become worse when yeast is dying off an releasing even more toxic metabolites, but as our body eliminates these metabolites, mood will often start to improve as well.
10. Frequent UTIs and vaginal yeast infections
Frequent vaginal yeast infections are a clear indication that you likely have an intestinal Candida overgrowth. Until this is addressed, chronic vaginal yeast infections remain a recurrent problem for many women. Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include thick white cottage-cheese-like discharge, itching, burning, and possibly a vaginal odour that might smell like bread or beer!
Although most urinary tract infections are due to bacteria, it is also possible to have a fungal urinary tract infection, especially if yeast from a vaginal yeast infection migrates up the ureters and settles in in the urinary tract! A person who experiences frequent urinary tract infections not relieved by antibiotics may actually have a fungal UTI! Generally, antibiotics will not help a fungal infection and can actually make them worse! In these cases, antifungal treatment is necessary.
If you suspect you may have a yeast overgrowth, don't delay -- please prioritize your health and schedule an appointment. A yeast overgrowth is an infection that requires treatment. All residents in BC are invited to schedule an appointment either in person or online. Learn more about working with me.