What is yeast overgrowth, and how can you put a stop to this uncomfortable infection?
Many women come to me for their period and digestive related issues and recently I’ve been seeing such a huge uptick in Candida or Yeast Overgrowth. It’s not uncommon for me to take someone’s health history and discover chronic yeast infections, athlete’s foot or years of Dandruff in their story — all common symptoms of Yeast Overgrowth. Most of these women have been offered oral or topical prescription-strength anti-fungal medication and then been frustrated when 2 months later the infection returns. By the time they get to me, taking anti-fungals and having recurrent yeast infections is so common place they sometimes forget to mention it. Well, ladies, these infections are a HUGE BIG SIGN from the body telling you to pay attention and dig deeper.
So why should you care and what else can you do about it? Let’s dig in….
WHAT IS CANDIDA?
Candida is a normal organism that is found in the body – it is found on the mucosal surfaces in the vagina, GI Tract, Mouth and Skin. Candida is the most commonly known form of yeast.
IS CANDIDA A BAD THING?
No – not necessarily. We all have Candida in the body – the problem becomes when the Candida overgrows and multiples. The immune system and your gut microbiome is supposed to keep your candida in check but if something is putting strain on the immune system or your digestive system is all out of whack you could have a downstream issue with candida overgrowth. This is critical to understand – your candida did not just decide to start overgrowing – something triggered this opportunistic organism to overgrow. This is important because you MUST deal with the upstream issue if you want to resolve the downstream effect (Candida)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Fatigue | Nausea | Gas, Bloating, Abdominal Pain | Diarrhea or Constipation | Thrush (mouth/throat) | Ear & Throat Infections | Fungal Infections of the Nails/Skin (Athlete’s Foot) | White Coating on the Tongue | Nasal Congestion or Postnasal Drip | Vaginal Itching or Burning | Mood Disorders (depression, anxiety, irritability) | Brain Fog or Inability To Concentrate | Headaches or Migraines | Skin Conditions (itching, rashes, eczema, psoriasis) | Food/Chemical Sensitivities | Food Cravings (sugar/ carbohydrates) | Joint Pain or Muscle Aches | Asthma or Hay Fever | Sinusitis or Chronic Sinus Infections | Weight Gain/Loss
WHAT CAUSES YEAST OVERGROWTH?
So what is the upstream issue? Well there are many:
- Antibiotic Use: Don’t get me wrong – everyone needs antibiotics sometimes but they do come with some potential side effects including wiping your gut microbiota of beneficial strains of bacteria. These beneficial strains can help keep the yeast in check. They also help to keep out larger infections like opportunistic bacteria and parasites.
- Infection: Like I mentioned above, if you see Candida, think – what else is going on up in my gut. Candida is opportunistic meaning that it will grow when GIVEN an opportunity such as a parasite or H.Pylori that has taken up a home in your digestive tract. If all you do is remove the Candida without dealing with the bigger infection, you could continue to see recurrent infections.
- High Sugar Diet: I know, I know, I LOVE me some sugar but unfortunately so does the yeast. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally enjoy a sugary treat but try to keep a cap on it and when you are in a Candida Cleanse it is typically recommended that you kick it completely.
- Heavy Metal Toxicity: SAY WHAT?! Yep – this is one that I have learnt the hard way. I’ve had Candida show up on my GI testing results in the past and when I went through my causal factors I realized I have a ton of metal in my mouth from cavities when I was growing up. The body can use Candida as a protective mechanism against the harmful effects of mercury toxicity. I’m just now in the beginning phases of removing these heavy metals using biological and holistic dentistry to minimize the impact of the removal of these heavy metals. (More on this in another post)
- Birth Control Pills: Firstly – being on birth control is YOUR CHOICE and something I did for many years – interestingly this is also when I had the most yeast infections. Why? Because Hormonal Birth Control can cause imbalances in the gut flora, and this can give rise to Candida
- Stress & Lifestyle Factors: There are toooo many to list here but understand this, if you are under physical or emotional stress it will weaken your immune system. Things like not sleeping, drinking too much alcohol, or eating a nutrient deficient and inflammatory diet are causing so much stress internally in the body which will give Candida an opportunity to overgrow.
HOW IS THE GUT INVOLVED?
Your gut is the first line of defense against opportunistic bacteria and pathogens and as I’ve written above, when we have a big baddy like a parasite involved it can give rise to Candida. Taking care of your gut health is so vital for preventing and reversing Candida. If you skip this vital step and don’t heal the gut, I can almost guarantee you will continue to see symptoms of Candida continue to show up.
HOW IS THE BRAIN INVOLVED?
Candida can cause similar symptoms to feeling like you have a hangover – i.e brain fog, headaches, nausea and fatigue – ouch! This is because it produces a toxin called acetaldehyde which is the same toxin created with alcohol metabolism.
UGH, WHY AM I CRAVING SUGAR LIKE CRAZY!?
Such a catch 22 – Candida LOVES sugar and sugar feeds candida. Most practitioners will tell you to remove sugar when trying to remove Candida and most women will tell you just how hard that is because they literally have an organism in their body telling them to feed it sugar!
CAN I SELF TREAT YEAST?SHORT ANSWER: Yes, you can definitely self treat candida!!! LONG ANSWER: It isn’t a cookie cutter approach, everyone’s gut responds differently and you may find it crucially necessary to work with a practitioner you trust to get you lasting results. Also, just because you prefer to go all natural doesn’t mean your doc’s opinion is wrong – both can play in the sandbox. Some things I’ve personally found helpful when dealing with yeast is supplementing with herbal anti-fungals, deeply healing my gut health, focusing on stress reduction, getting good sleep, incorporating parts of the Anti-Candida Diet. I also ran a GI Maps and an OAT Microbial test to determine what was true for me and then worked with my own knowledge + my mentor on a specific holistic self treatment plan for MY body. However if you aren’t going to go that way there are some things that may be be helpful when dealing with Candida:
- The Anti-Yeast Diet for a minimum of 6-8 weeks. Please remember that this is a therapeutic diet and not intended for long term use. Also note – that just limiting starch and sugar without actually doing the other pieces can make you feel hangry and frustrated without any of the results! Some of the tenants of this diet include high quality animal protein, Non Starchy Veggies and Healthy Fats. I definitely recommend you work with your practitioner before jumping ship and starting an extreme diet.
- Anti-Fungal Supplements + supportive gut supplements like Probiotics with Saccharomyces Boulardii and Milk Thistle to support liver detox. Remember – you can try to “kill” or “remove” Yeast but if you still have a GI system that is hospitable to Yeast you aren’t going to get very far (see previous posts)
- Yeast Busters – things like Cinnamon, Garlic, Oil or Oregano and tea tree oil have been shown to bust up candida.