Candida - the insidious yeast fungus

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Candida - the insidious yeast fungus

Chronic fatigue, digestive issues, irritated skin, yeast infections in the genitals, and intense sugar cravings. These are some of the problems that candida fungus and other fungi can cause if they are allowed to grow in the body.

Candida is a genus of yeast fungi that naturally exist in our gut flora. The most common is Candida albicans, which is found in the majority of healthy individuals. When present in normal quantities, it aids digestion. [1,2] However, if the gut flora is imbalanced, this opportunistic fungus can seize the chance to spread and become troublesome throughout the body.

Fungal infections affect over a billion people worldwide every year, and research suggests that this problem is only increasing. [3,4] These infections usually occur in the intestines and urinary or genital tract [5,6], but they can also manifest in the nose, ears, mouth, throat, nails, and skin—preferably where moisture is present.

In individuals with a normally functioning or moderately compromised immune system, candida infection is usually superficial and not dangerous, but it can be challenging to eradicate.

However, individuals with severely compromised immune systems may experience deeper candida infections that can become so widespread that they enter the bloodstream (sepsis) or affect vital organs such as the heart, lungs, or brain. This can cause severe symptoms, and in rare cases, such systemic infection can even lead to death. [7]

Why do people get candida?

There are many factors that can disrupt the balance of our microbiota. Overuse of antibiotics is a common cause, but the problem is also linked to stress and high consumption of sugar and junk food. Smoking and immunosuppressive drugs (such as cortisone) are other common causes of candida overgrowth. [8,9]

Yeast infections in the genitals are very common among women of childbearing age. Studies suggest that as many as 75 percent of all women may experience a yeast infection in their genitals at some point in their lives. [10] One reason for this may be fluctuating hormone levels, partly due to contraceptive pills and other forms of contraception, making women more susceptible. [11] Candida is also associated with digestive disorders such as IBS and certain allergic reactions. [12,13]

Asthma patients who inhale cortisone spray have a higher risk of candida infection in the throat and mouth. Therefore, it is important to rinse the mouth after each cortisone spray. If you have mild problems, you can try regularly gargling and/or rinsing the mouth with a little organic coconut oil or organic olive oil mixed with one or a couple of drops of essential oil of cloves. [14] You can also add a drop of Iosol iodine to the coconut oil before gargling. Remember that essential oil should not be swallowed but must be spit out.

Since yeast fungi like sugar, diabetics have a higher risk of developing candida overgrowth. As diabetics, they have higher sugar levels in the blood, but also in the mucous membranes and saliva [15]

Candida Syndrome - Candida Overgrowth

There is no doubt that candida infection (candidiasis) is a medical condition. However, there are also theories that one can suffer from a condition called candida syndrome - a chronic, low-grade overgrowth of Candida albicans that presents with nonspecific symptoms. These symptoms can include everything from chronic fatigue, irritated bowel, recurrent yeast infections, depression, brain fog, intense stress, strong cravings for sweets, food sensitivities, skin problems, and joint pain. In conventional medicine, this is not a recognized medical condition.

The originator of the idea of candida syndrome is the physician William Crook, who published the book "The Yeast Connection" in 1986. The book is partly based on the research of physician Orian Truss from 1978. According to Crook's theory, candida overgrowth in the intestines can lead to a deterioration of the intestinal mucosa's structure, allowing foreign particles that should pass through the intestine to enter the bloodstream and cause immune reactions in the body [16,17].

There is not much research on the connection between low-grade candida overgrowth and chronic health problems, but a few studies support a possible link to diseases such as IBS and chronic fatigue syndrome [18]. In particular, one study has shown that patients who met the criteria for candida syndrome significantly improved compared to a control group receiving placebo when treated with the antifungal medication nystatin [19].

Several doctors, including William Crook, have also published detailed reports on how the quality of life improves in patients treated for suspected candida syndrome [20,21].

Recently, there has been a research review on fungal overgrowth in the small intestine, a condition called SIFO (small intestinal fungal overgrowth). In the review, the authors go through two studies, both of which showed that just over a quarter of the participants, all of whom had unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, suffered from SIFO [22]. This suggests that many people could have problems with low-grade fungal overgrowth, but it may be mistaken for something else or missed altogether.

According to another study, even the normal presence of yeast fungi in the intestine can worsen alcohol-related liver disease, which may mean that some conditions are more sensitive to yeast fungi than others [23].

How do you test for candida overgrowth?

Because the symptoms of candida overgrowth are so nonspecific, there is also a risk that candida overgrowth is used as a "catch-all diagnosis" for all sorts of problems, and that the real cause, which could be an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (SIBO), parasitic infection, or inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, is missed.

Therefore, it is important to get to the bottom of the problem by testing. It is not enough to spit in a glass of water and see if the saliva "threads" when it sinks to the bottom, as some suggest.

There are stool tests that can track candida overgrowth. They can be ordered from specialized labs like Genova Diagnostics and BioHealth. The best thing to do is to contact a functional medicine doctor who can help you with the test and tailor a treatment plan. Email us at [email protected], and we will help you further with a candida protocol that you can try first.

You can also do an organic acids test (Great Plains Laboratory or Genova Organix Profile). This test is not used in conventional medicine and is considered controversial. However, a knowledgeable doctor or therapist can find it helpful, including the marker d-arabinitol, which can be a sign of fungal overgrowth. D-arabinitol is used as a marker in some hospitals to diagnose systemic candida infection [24].

How do you treat low-grade candida overgrowth?

Assuming you do not have severe problems with candida overgrowth that require medical care, you can try the following three steps to start with.

Step 1 – Change your diet to get rid of candida

High sugar and fast carbohydrates in the diet are linked to candida overgrowth in the vagina [25] and gastrointestinal tract [26]. There are also laboratory studies indicating that high sugar consumption weakens the immune response to candida [27]. Therefore, it is important to exclude sweets and eat a nutrient-dense diet, as poor nutrition is also a risk factor for both bacterial and fungal infections [28].

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fungal overgrowth is due to an excess of dampness and coldness in the body. Therefore, TCM recommends predominantly cooked, warm food and also foods classified as "warming." Other diets commonly recommended for fungal overgrowth include FODMAP, autoimmune protocol (AIP), and paleolithic (paleo) diets. A ketogenic diet is not recommended because too few carbohydrates unfortunately increase the risk of more aggressive candida.

If you suspect fungal overgrowth, there are many important dietary recommendations. Email us at [email protected] to receive a free candida protocol.

Step 2 – Kill the fungus

In this step, plant-based remedies, herbs, and nutrients with antimicrobial properties are used. There are many alternatives – here are some of the most common.

Berberine, an active compound found in goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Studies of candida cultured in petri dishes (in vitro) show that berberine has a strong fungicidal effect.[30] Because berberine is so potent, herbal experts usually recommend short-term use, around 3–5 weeks, followed by a break of a couple of weeks. The same applies to extracts of other candida-inhibiting herbs like thyme [31] and oregano [32].

Lauric acid (or monolaurin) and caprylic acid, two fatty acids found in coconut and palm nuts. Coconut oil is also recommended, both internally and externally. In vitro studies of candida show that these fatty acids have a good fungicidal effect,[33] but research on humans is limited[34].

Undecylenic acid (undecylenic acid) found in Undecylenic Acid (SF722) is a monounsaturated fatty acid extracted from castor oil. It can help balance the intestinal flora and protect against fungal overgrowth.[35] An older study found it to be six times more effective against fungal overgrowth than caprylic acid.[36]

Clove in the form of oil extract has shown good effect against Candida albicans, including drug-resistant candida, both individually and in combination with antifungal drugs.[37]

Lactoferrin, a protein found in breast milk and saliva. It is usually taken from cows and has broad antibacterial and candida-inhibiting effects.[38]

Resveratrol found in Dr. Mercola's Purple Defense is a compound found in grape skin and pine bark. Several studies suggest that the compound has strong fungicidal properties, and one even suggests that resveratrol could be a safe and effective alternative to antifungal cream (clotrimazole) for external use.[39]

Tea tree oil. Animal studies suggest that oil from the Australian plant Melaleuca alternifolia has a good effect against vaginal candida infection,[40] and in the mouth (by gargling with a few drops of oil in water)[41]. Tea tree oil should not be swallowed as it can cause severe side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and hallucinations, but should only be used externally.[42] We also advise against the use of Tea Tree oil in the genitals.

Garlic extract can inhibit the formation of candida's so-called biofilm, which makes it easier for it to survive. This reduces the fungus's ability to develop resistance to drugs.[43] Garlic has also shown effectiveness against candida infection in the mouth and genitals.[44] According to a clinical study, a vaginal cream containing garlic and thyme was as effective as a vaginal cream containing the drug clotrimazole.[45]

Step 3 – Restore your gut flora to get rid of candida

The final step involves restoring a normal gut flora by slowly introducing fibres and probiotics.

Probiotic bacteria effective against candida infection include Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus reuteri, among others. The latter two have shown particularly good efficacy in preventing unwelcome bacteria and fungi from establishing themselves.[46] Both strains are available in Flora Plus+. A Canadian study from 2001 showed that these strains restored and maintained a normal flora in the genitals of women after just one month of daily intake.[47]

In another study from 2020, 20 women with severe and chronic candida infection in the genitals were treated with a gel containing three different lactobacilli, including L. rhamnosus. The infection completely disappeared in 45 percent of the participants.[48] The strain is available in Flora Plus+.

Since an imbalanced gut flora promotes the growth of both candida and unwanted bacteria, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Continue to eat a balanced diet and avoid unnecessary stress to reduce the risk of candida overgrowth. Email our customer service for a free candida protocol.

Sources & scientific references

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Contact our customer service at [email protected] to receive free dietary advice as well as other complimentary self-care tips and health protocols if you are suffering from candida or other fungal issues. Our self-care protocols should not be used to diagnose, treat, or cure diseases. They are advice and tips for self-care that do not replace conventional medical care. Our protocols are intended for adults only. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet. It is important to maintain a diverse and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.