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 has certain skin and nail manifestations 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, don’t stop there. If you have a fungal overgrowth on the outside, it’s possible it is also happening on the inside as well.
2. Fatigue and Brain Fog
People with yeast overgrowth will 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.
4. Food Sensitivities and Intolerances
With leaky gut comes potential development of 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 control both the Candida infection and correct 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!
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 but in my practice, I most frequently see patients who experience lots of gas and especially bloating, and frequently stools that are slightly loose or frank diarrhea. We can see alternating constipation and diarrhea, maybe hemorrhoids (from having to strain), stools that are explosive — you get it. There is a variety! 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.
8. Hormonal imbalance
A Candida overgrowth is taxing to the liver! The liver is our headquarters for hormone production. When the liver is busy handling Candida and its metabolites, we can have hormonal imbalance as a consequence. Candida also produces estrogen-like substance, which can lead to too much estrogen in the body compared to 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 handles these, 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 of bread or beer!
Although most urinary tract infections are due to bacteria, it is also possible to have a fungal UTI, especially if yeast from a vaginal yeast infection travels up the ureters and takes residence 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!
If you suspect you may have a yeast overgrowth, please schedule an appointment. A yeast overgrowth is an infection that requires treatment. Don’t live in the Okanagan? No problem. I offer virtual remote consultations as well.
You are invited to join me (Dr. Erica Volk) for a monthly book club featuring excellent and inspiring books about health and wellness! We will meet at Momentum Health on Richter Street. Admission is free but registration is required.
We read a variety of books (one every month or so) on many subjects from mindfulness to mental health to chronic disease and more. If you want to read books that inspire and broaden your mind, and then discuss them with a group of similarly interested folks, join me!
What you have to do: Read the monthly book, register to attend, and show up!
Our next meeting will be February 6, 2018 and we will discuss Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
"From the founder of the Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center comes this definitive guide to using mindfulness--moment-to-moment awareness--in coping with both illness and the day-to-day tensions encountered in life."
To register, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the front desk at Momentum Health at (778) 484-6070.
To see all Book Club events, join the Facebook group.
If you haven’t heard about the idea of supplementing with probiotics--bacterial strains--the concept can be a little off-putting, especially in mainstream North American society which is generally fearful of germs. But probiotic supplements have been gaining popularity, earning the rank of third most popular natural product for both adults and kids in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.
It might sound weird, but in today’s world, we often forget to breathe. Not just the type of breathing that we do automatically (which keeps us alive), but the deep, belly breaths that fill our lungs completely.
Many common habits lead to shallow breathing, which can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Using smartphones, computers, chronic “busy-ness,” having a sedentary lifestyle--all of that results in us not using our lungs to their full potential. Most of the time, we don’t even notice we’re breathing shallowly. The next time you spend more than a couple minutes looking at a smartphone, try to tune in to your breathing. Do you get really still, taking shallow, quiet breaths? If so, it's due to a mixture of concentration and subconscious efforts to stabilize the tiny screen. The amount of time per day that we all use these devices adds up to hours of breathing shallowly, which can make us feel more anxious and less grounded.
Breathing deeply has measurable positive impacts on our physiology. When we fully inhale and fully exhale, it increases something called heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is essentially a measure of how responsive your heart is to physiological changes, and the more responsive the heart is to those changes, the healthier it is. A person’s heart rate naturally increases with inhalation, and naturally decreases with exhalation. The more often we take big, deep breaths, the better our hearts get at changing rates and reacting appropriately to our environment. If our hearts are responsive to these small changes, that means the heart can adapt to the larger physiologic changes that happen during exercise and stressful situations, which is very important for long-term cardiovascular health.
Another way that deep breathing can positively impact our physiology is to activate something called the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of our nervous system is responsible for the functions of “resting and digesting,” and helps us feel relaxed, helps us properly extract nutrients from the food we eat, and generally helps us feel calm.
Next time you feel stressed or anxious, take a minute to tune into your breathing. Are you breathing shallowly? If so, try taking a few deep breaths and see if it helps you feel a little better.
Give it a try:
If you struggle with anxiety or stress, schedule an appointment today to learn about more natural therapies that can help you feel better.
“Depression is not due to a deficiency in
These are wise words from a naturopathic doctor and former professor of mine in medical school. I couldn’t agree more! While antidepressant pharmaceuticals have their place in the treatment of depression, there are so many possible treatable causes that should be thoroughly evaluated, including (but not limited to):
If any of these factors are present, treatment addressing the cause could result in improved mood and quality of life. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, please schedule an appointment to find out how I can help you identify and treat the cause so you can experience the peace and joy that you were born to experience.