Also known as Candidiasis, this is a condition that occurs as a result of an overgrowth of candida albicans, a type of single-cell yeast that is found in the digestive tract. While candida can actually be non-life threatening (and even beneficial) when at an appropriate level (promoting things like improved digestion as well as absorption of nutrients), it can start to become problematic when we have too much of it, ultimately turning into a fungal infection.
Overgrowth of candida can affect different parts of the body, but it’s particularly known to impact the esophagus, colon, small intestine, stomach, and the vagina. It’s also possible for candida to spread from the esophagus to the mouth, which is known as oral thrush. Oral thrush is commonly seen in infants whose immune systems are not fully developed, though it can also occur in adults with weaker immune systems or severe immune deficiencies. In some cases, it can also enter the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning. When this occurs, it is known as candida septicemia. It can also impact other organs in your body, such as the heart, liver, spleen, abdomen, kidneys, lungs, spinal cord, brain, bones, and even your eyes.
As for why someone develops candida overgrowth, there are a number of reasons, with the most common being use of antibiotics – especially if you are someone who develops reoccurring bacterial infections and takes antibiotics on a frequent basis as a result. You can also develop an overgrowth of yeast from your diet (for example, if your diet contains high amounts of refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, or fermented foods), hormonal imbalances, certain medications (such as corticosteroids or oral contraceptives), pregnancy, and even stress. As for how you can tell whether or not you have candida overgrowth, it can be difficult, as symptoms may or may not be present – or, you may mistake the symptoms of candida overgrowth for something else. Symptoms known to accompany candida overgrowth include increased cravings of sugar and carbohydrates, food sensitivities, chemical and environmental sensitivities, seasonal allergies, fatigue, fibromyalgia (a type of chronic pain disorder), muscle or joint pain, constipation or diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, flatulence, dysfunction of the thyroid, skin conditions, mood swings, poor concentration, rectal itching, premenstrual syndrome, interstitial cystitis, recurrent vaginal yeast infections or urinary tract infections (which can also include burning, itching, redness, swelling, as well as vaginal discharge), and even decreased libido. If it is suspected you have oral thrush, you will often notice that the tongue has a white appearance. You can also develop white bumps on the tongue, gums, inner cheeks or tonsils (which may or may not be painful), have difficulty swallowing, and may also notice a bad taste in the mouth.
When it comes to combating candida overgrowth, the most important thing you need to do is work on regaining your intestinal balance, which is usually done through making both dietary and lifestyle changes. Making diet changes will help support the balance of your gastrointestinal system, as well as improve immune function, because the healthier you eat the easier it will be for your body to not only remove toxins but get the essential nutrients you need for overall better health. To keep candida growth at bay, I recommend having a diet that is high in vegetables (leafy green vegetables, asparagus, and onions are all great options for reducing candida) as well as fibre. Things like garlic, oregano and lemon are also known to kill candida, so if you do happen to have candida overgrowth then these can also be incorporated into your diet. It’s also important that you reduce your intake of foods known to promote candida growth, such as caffeine, alcohol, gluten, refined carbs, and products that are vinegar-based. Along with promoting candida growth, these particular foods are also known to cause inflammation, which isn’t good for the body, as inflammation can also lead to pain. Removing these and other foods that are known to be problematic will not only push pause on candida growth, but your immune function will also greatly benefit from it – and the worse your immune system is, the harder it will be for your body to regulate the growth of yeast.
In the event that changing your diet isn’t enough, you may need to be prescribed a medication to help. Common medications that doctors prescribe to treat candida overgrowth include Nystatin and Diflucan, though as all medications do, these too can come with side effects and your risk of developing liver toxicity can increase as a result of taking them. Always speak to your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns you might have about these and other medications.