Candida can cause a wide variety of symptoms that can also be as a result of other conditions and so the condition is often overlooked or misdiagnosed leading to a long time lapse prior to embarking on a successful treatment plan.
What is Candida?
Candida Albicans is one of a group of yeasts (a variety of fungus) which lives happily for the most part in our guts causing no problems, in fact it usually assists in the digestive process. Research from the RICE University in Texas says that approximately 70% of us have this yeast in our guts. It is when the gut flora is compromised for some reason and an imbalance occurs then individuals sensitive to candida can experience an overgrowth of the candida fungus and start to experience problems. This infection is known as Candidiasis. It usually affects women but men can be affected too.
What are the symptoms of Candida?
The skin is commonly affected, followed by the gastro-intestinal tract. These can then lead to more generalised problems. In more established cases the candida overgrowth can cause systemic infection where the candida cells transform under the right circumstances to extend mycelium (long, branch like fungal structures) which attach themselves to the intestinal walls, penetrating the gut membrane causing damage and inflammation to surrounding tissues. The ‘holes’ created here may allow food particles to pass through the gut wall and enter the bloodstream. This is known as ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’ and can cause an immune response resulting in further inflammation of the intestinal walls and the onset of symptoms often associated with food intolerances. Rarely, serious systemic infection occurs where the immune system has been severely compromised such as following chemotherapy or being HIV positive.
The following list is not exhaustive and the infection may have many different symptoms depending on the individual. It is worth noting that there are many other causes for these symptoms and they have to be looked at in conjunction with your own health background.
Fungal infections of skin and nails, for example, athlete’s foot or onychomycosis (fungal nail infection)
Skin rashes/eczema/psoriasis or a worsening of any of these, generalised itching
Vaginal or rectal itching, UTI’s
Thrush – vaginal or oral
Digestive problems including constipation, bloating and diarrhoea, food intolerances
General tiredness right through to chronic fatigue
Inability to focus, headaches, migraines
Irritability and depression
What causes an overgrowth of Candida?
So what causes a change in the gut flora causing an imbalance?
Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates! -Sugar is in so many products. Not just the obvious ones such as cakes and chocolates but in so many drinks, sauces, processed foods (even the very savoury). It is becoming well known and is widely written about in the media that we are eating too much sugar. Eating a small, normal or occasional sugary treat will not bring on an overgrowth of candida but where there have been sustained high levels of sugar intake over a long period (say teens through twenties and beyond) then we are providing the perfect diet for the ‘yeast candida’ to thrive.
Broad Spectrum Antibiotics – these work by destroying bacteria that may be causing infections elsewhere in the body. Unfortunately they also kill ‘good bacteria’ and in this temporary void, candida is allowed to multiply at will until it is out of control
Weakened Immune System – due to stress and illness. When our natural defences are compromised our gut is not supported and can be vulnerable to candida overgrowth.
Oral Contraceptives – an imbalance is created and may cause oestrogen dominance which may trigger candida overgrowth
When this condition manifests as vaginal or oral thrush then your Doctor can prescribe medications to treat the infection after taking swabs to ensure the correct solution. There are also over the counter medications available where people recognise the symptoms from a previous occurrence. However there is some division about whether candida causes other symptoms and if you have recurring episodes and do not have a satisfactory diagnosis it is wise to consult a Nutritionist who is likely to have a much wider experience with this and may offer tests that can search for this overgrowth such as blood, urine and stool tests.
Candida can be eliminated and health and balance restored.
Diet and good nutrition are the most important factors in stopping the candida overgrowth and that means taking away the sugar that the yeast is feeding on. Sugar and starches need to be eliminated to allow the good bacteria to return. This means cutting out all sweets, cakes, desserts, alcohol and high carbohydrate foods and sadly fruit too as natural sugars will add to the sugar levels.
A Nutritionist can work with you to develop a nutritional plan for you to follow and can then monitor your progress. This can be around three months; however the health benefits will be significant.
Colonic irrigation may also be indicated by your Practitioner as a natural way to help cleanse your colon and this will have a benefit for any leaky gut issues that may have been highlighted. It will also help restore normal peristaltic action.
Good probiotics will help the good bacteria to flourish and allow them to restore the balance in the gut.
In some cases antifungal medication may need to be prescribed on the advice of your Doctor or Health Practitioner.