Yeast overgrowth / Candida. What is it?

Every day we see new research on the effects of unhealthy gut organisms on the brain, the thyroid gland, the nervous system, the immune system, and the heart and vascular system.  In functional medicine, this is one reason we focus so intently on helping our patients heal their gut and thrive.  Without a healthy bacterial population in the colon, it’s nearly impossible to experience the optimal health we all desire.

Many people are unknowingly fighting a battle against a single-cell fungus in the gut. Its name is Candida Albicans, although in recent years there has been an increase in non-albicans species of yeast. Candida is a normal organism that is part of our skin flora, intestinal microbes, and for women, vaginal flora. Men, this doesn’t mean you can’t harbour yeast as well! This seemingly benign player can become hostile if the environment is right. High intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, frequent antibiotic or prednisone use, hormones and birth control pills and other medications give the yeast an advantage over the normal protective bugs, like lactobacillus, so that it flourishes. It has the ability to take over and becomes invasive leading to a host of unwanted symptoms.

One of the most important things that I notice with patients who have fungal dysbiosis is the feeling of being tired and “run down” all the time with intense cravings for sugar or carbohydrates. Many patients don’t believe me when I tell them that if their gut is healthy, they will get to the point of having no food cravings at all!

If yeast becomes dominant in the gut, it may take over and overwhelm the good bacteria.  This is called Fungal Dysbiosis.  

Many people with chronic yeast overgrowth will experience sensitivities to common foods, like gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, and soy and may even experience improvement in symptoms when they go on an elimination diet.  Yeast also produces more than one-hundred other toxins that may leak into the blood stream and affect thyroid and hormone function, brain function and even neurotransmitter production.

This invasion and consequent problem of a leaky gut may also trigger the immune system to become confused in a process called “molecular mimicry” when the bacteria or yeast in the gut or cross over where they don’t belong into the blood stream and trigger creation of antibodies by the immune system.  These antibodies may cross-react to joint tissue, skin, thyroid, or even brain and create autoimmune diseases.  It is very common to see some of the following autoimmune conditions occur in someone with fungal dysbiosis:

  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Celiac Disease
  • Meniere’s disease, Raynaud’s disease, Lupus

Here are some of the most common factors that upset the balance of gut microbes and contribute to yeast overgrowth or fungal dysbiosis:

  • Chronic stress, which impacts your immune system, also contributes to yeast overgrowth
  • Diabetes (due to abnormal blood sugar)
  • Eating too much sugar and too many grains. Sugar is the main fuel for yeast.
  • Taking antibiotics which kill both your good and bad bacteria.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins, which can lower your immune system’s ability to keep yeast in check.  Mercury is especially problematic with yeast overgrowth

The most important starting point is diet.  In fact, I frequently tell patients that no amount of anti-fungal drugs or herbal medications can overcome a high sugar, high carbohydrate diet.  In order to eradicate the yeast, one must do the following:

  1. Eat a diversified, whole foods (in as natural and fresh a state as possible) diet, emphasising non-starchy vegetables, proteins, like fish, organic chicken, turkey, lamb, wild game and organic grass-fed beef.  Healthy oils, like coconut, grape seed and olive are also essential.
  2. Chose organic, free-range meat and be sure they do not contain added growth hormones or antibiotics.  I advise all patients to avoid cow’s dairy due to lactose content, which is a sugar that yeast likes.
  3. Avoid all foods that feed the yeast!  That would include all forms of sugar (honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, xylitol, and artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, splenda)
  4. Avoid all dried fruits and fruit juices.  Stevia may be used to sweeten teas and beverages and cakes if you really can’t do without.
  5. You may need to eliminate fruit in the beginning or at least stick to no more than one serving of low-glycemic fruit per day – best bets are organic berries, green apples and lemons.
  6. Eliminate any allergenic foods – these commonly include: gluten, dairy, soy, corn and cane sugar

You should also eliminate the following:

  • alcohol;
  • vinegar  except apple cyder (and anything containing vinegar, like salad dressing and sauces);
  • all bread (which contains yeast);
  • high starchy vegetables, like carrots unless raw, potatoes and beets;
  • peanuts and corn (due to high mould content);
  • mushrooms (fungus).
  • Spinach as it is high in oxalic acid which was elevated due to the Yeats overgrowth

Here are some great recipe ideas and more recipe information:
https://www.thecandidadiet.com/anti-candida-diet/

This is a great bread recipe:
https://www.thecandidadiet.com/recipe/coconut-bread/

Drink plenty of purified water daily.  
If you are feeling dizzy, add some electrolytes (ElectroMix or Elyte Sport) to your morning water.

Get some form of daily exercise (walking, hiking, yoga, bicycling).
Pick an activity you enjoy and try to get in 30-40min every day.

Make time for rest and relaxation.
Epson salt baths can be especially helpful for the yeast die-off symptoms.  Use 2-3 cups of salt in warm bath and soak 20min.

Psoriasis and Candida

There is a clear link between psoriasis and candidiasis, but more research needs to be done to explain this link fully. A 2018 meta-analysis Trusted Source found that people with psoriasis had more Candida in their bodies than those without psoriasis. The researchers point out that a person's autoimmune response to skin issues uses similar mechanisms to when it responds to candidiasis.

It may be that when the body fights a Candida infection, this also triggers the autoimmune response that causes a person's psoriasis. However, it is also likely that some medications for psoriasis are taking make people more susceptible to fungal infections, including candidiasis, since they inhibit the immune system. Researchers note that Candida can make psoriasis worse, and certain medications for psoriasis may make a person more likely to develop candidiasis.

Though following an anti candida regime is not easy at first, it can make a remarkable difference to ones feels of wellbeing and vitality as well as freeing one from irritating and debilitating symptoms.

We all have the potential to lead an active, healthy, happy life free from chronic disease, we just need the health insight to learn how!