What is Candida?
Candida is a part of a larger family of organisms called Fungi. Fungi have been around for thousands of years and are some of the most resilient organisms to exist on this planet. Fungi have adapted to many types of harsh and barren landscapes. They have even developed the ability to live without oxygen or very little oxygen for an extended time in order to survive. Because of this resilience, they have become hard to eradicate in the environment or when found in the body.
The most common disease causing member of the Fungi family is a living organism called mold. Mold acquires energy from digesting other substances(i.e. drywall) and produces airborne spores that are inhaled. Human exposure can lead to antibody production and allergy symptoms, fungal infections frequently found in the upper respiratory tract or lungs, and in the most susceptible individuals, toxic reactions resulting in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS. The other leading member of the Fungi family that causes human disease is the yeast form known as Candida.
Where does Candida reside and how do we get it?
Yeast reside in many places, but mostly they enjoy the dark, moist, and carbohydrate rich environments found in the human gastrointestinal(GI) tract. Candida is a yeast form that appears to be the predominant active form present in the GI tract. The entire digestive tract houses the microbiome, a combination of many types of friendly and less friendly bacteria that produce enzymes that digest food, that act as a protective barrier to the intestinal walls, and enliven or strengthen the immune system. Although it is not completely clear, it seems the issue of Candida has intensified with the advent and use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can be miraculous due to their ability to destroy disease causing bacteria in the body, but when taken orally, they disrupt the microbiome of the entire GI tract, favoring candida overgrowth. Antibiotics, processed foods, sugar consumption, food additives, and pesticides change this fragile balance and create a situation where common yeast forms begin to flourish and grow in abundance without any friendly bacteria to control the yeast growth. In essence, antibiotics along with many environmental toxins change the microflora environment from a protective role to a potential war zone with a new dominant host in the form of candida. Those individuals who tend to have toxic reactions to mold can also have toxic reactions to candida.
What are the leading symptoms of Candida overgrowth?
If you wonder if you might have Candida overgrowth and immune reactivity as a root cause of your symptoms, know that the leading symptoms of Candida reactivity are fatigue, brain fog, abdominal bloating(particularly after eating or as the day progresses), sugar cravings, migraines or headaches, IBS or constipation, nasal congestion, environmental allergies, eczema and psoriasis, and itchy ears. This list comprises only the most common reported symptoms, and Candida has been associated with many other irregular symptoms and diseases.
The digestive tract is the leading location where Candida causes a heightened immune response. Candida causes allergic, infectious, and toxic reactions leading to significant inflammation in the digestive system. This inflammation in the digestive tract leads to an increase in histamine, eosinophils, and mucus resulting in a significant distraction or irritation to the immune system. In addition these yeast can begin to break down the gut barrier, leading to and causing “leaky gut syndrome.” Leaky gut syndrome caused by yeast candida, increases reactivity to gluten increasing the risk of celiac disease as well as gluten intolerance which further damages the gut barrier. This leaky gut barrier contributes to the concept of a “leaky brain barrier” which results in neurological symptoms such as “brain fog”, reduced attention, headaches and migraines, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, insomnia, and peripheral nerve pain of the face, trunk, or limbs.
Candida overgrowth also suppresses the immune system. Imagine that your immune system is an army of 1 million white blood cells. They have the job to protect the borders and restore every cell back to normal functioning from the normal “wear and tear” of daily living and eating. Consider now that up to 70% of the body’s immune defense represented as the white blood cells are housed in the lymphatic tissue which surrounds the GI tract. The chronic overabundance or overgrowth of Candida in the GI tract will in essence distract up to 70% of your normal immune defense from its normal task of protecting the whole body. That means that 700,000 of the 1,000,000 white blood cells tasked to protect and repair your body are distracted by the constant war going on in your intestines. This leads to chronic allergy symptoms, headaches, and frequent upper respiratory infections. In children it has been linked to autism, PANDAS/PANS, and attention disorders.
It does not take long before the immune system becomes completely distracted and even exhausted, while it wages a war against yeast which have an endless potential to replicate. How does Candida continue to replicate? Well, all yeast needs to survive and thrive is sugar and refined carbohydrates. This is of course supplied in abundance in the average American diet.
How do I test for the presence of Candida overgrowth or immune reactivity?
Exposing Candida and its interactions with the immune system can be accomplished with one or two simple blood tests. One of our favorite ways to test for yeast is through an IgG food intolerance panel. Many IgG food intolerance panels test for antibody response to candida along with 190 additional foods. When digestive complaints are present, IgG food allergy testing can expose other reactions causing symptoms and immune activation or distraction from common foods. We also utilize the Vibrant America Fungal Antibodies Panel to determine the types and intensity of Fungus and Candida reacting with the immune system. If you are curious about the presence and immune response to Candida, testing can validate this concern and provide confidence as we help you choose the right therapies.
How do I eradicate or reduce symptoms from Candida?
The first and most important step in recovering from yeast and Candida overgrowth is to reduce yeast expression in the GI tract. We do this by first altering the diet to reduce yeast exposure and eliminating sugar to reduce its food supply. It can be useful to study and follow our ANTI-CANDIDA DIET as a guide to minimize dietary contribution to Candida growth. There are many diets that inherently reduce or eliminate sugar 100% such as the Keto diet, Paleo diet, Whole 30, and even the Carnivore diet. One of the reasons these diets work well for so many individuals is due to the fact that as they avoid sugar, the candida levels and the symptoms it produces, reduce overtime in the low sugar/carbohydrate environment. In other words the Candida are starved to death and are unable to proliferate in the absence of regular consumption of processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. In addition, we find great benefit in natural yeast killing herbs, supplements, and targeted anti-fungal medications to reduce the presence and symptoms associated with Candida overgrowth. We have created protocols for achieving this goal in the most effective and safest possible way resulting in improvement in symptoms often in just a few weeks. Candida and Fungal overgrowth also appear to aggravate patients who have been found to have mold sensitivity or have Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome(CIRS). CIRS patient’s most definitely require anti-fungal interventions to recover in the short term and maintain optimal health long term.