Candida is a fungus (a form of yeast) that is found in almost every individual. When in balance with other organisms in the microbiome, candida provides beneficial support to the gastrointestinal assimilation of nutrients, as well as aiding immune function. When the immune system is compromised, however, candida can overgrow and break down the mucosal barrier in the intestines. This then allows the candida to penetrate the bloodstream, releasing toxic by-products that can contribute to a myriad of health issues including depression, chronic fatigue, IBS, migraines and insomnia.
Signs that you may have candida overgrowth
- Digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhoea or constipation
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin and nail fungal infections
- Difficulty concentrating, ADD, ADHD
- Eczema and psoriasis
- Irritability, mood swings, or depression
- Rectal or vaginal itching, recurrent UTI
- Severe seasonal allergies
- Craving for sugar rich foods
Testing for candida overgrowth
Testing for candida overgrowth can be incredibly tricky. Candida is a sterling example of an organism that wants to survive at all costs, and can produce biofilm structures that protect it from your immune system (and many methods of standard pathology detection). Blood testing for candida antibodies will often come back as negative despite clear clinical signs that an infection is present, as the immune surveillance cells are effectively blind to the candida when it is housed in a biofilm.
Stool testing using a CDSA can be more accurate, however there may be no candida present if the yeast is in a dormant state or again is housed in a biofilm structure.
Urine testing for the waste products of candida can be useful, and when combined with the CDSA mentioned above I have found this to be the most reliable method of testing.
Treatment for candida overgrowth
Treating candida overgrowth is probably one of the most complicated (but also the most rewarding) conditions I see in clinic. My approach is multi-faceted, and of course in addition to the protocol discussed here is the need to take into consideration the unique presentation of the individual e.g. I often find that SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is present along with a candida overgrowth. Treating the SIBO first is extremely important to adequately clear the way for an effective candida treatment.
Below are some of the general steps I use to address candida overgrowth, however this protocol and the unique constituents used will vary with the presenting patient:
- Implement a paleo adapted candida diet (sugar, grain & starch free diet with plenty of animal protein and fat)
- Clean up environmental toxins
- Individualised probiotic supplementation
- General supplemental immune support
- Implementation of an agent for destroying the biofilm structure
- Implementation of an agent to break down the cell wall of the candida
- Implementation of an agent to restrict minerals from the candida
- General agents for killing the candida
- Implementation of an agent to absorb toxins
- Leaky gut healing protocol
- Bowel transit time stimulation
- Liver support
- General antioxidants and antiinflammatories
- Stress support
- Regular gentle exercise
In addition I identify and address any other factors that accompany, contribute to, or perpetuate candida (adrenal fatigue, heavy metal toxicity, food sensitivities, hypothyroidism, hypoglycaemia etc.) Maintenance is then required to ensure the candida is not given the opportunity to overgrow again.
If you know or suspect that you or someone close to you has candida overgrowth, I strongly encourage you to see an appropriately trained naturopath or functional medicine practitioner to properly clear the infection and restore health. Be wary of simplistic ‘one stop’ formulas or ‘one size fits all’ approaches to treating this complex presentation, as it is extremely rare for these offerings to properly clear candida overgrowth.