Candida albicans is probably one of the most prevalent fungi that live on and in the human body. It’s a normal part of the body’s microbial community, and it usually doesn’t cause any harm. However, under certain conditions, Candida can overgrow and lead to infections or health problems. In fact, studies show that Candida is one of the most common fungal infections in humans. What’s the cause of Candida overgrowth, and how to successfully treat it? Let’s find out.
What is Candida?
Candida albicans is a fungus that is commonly found in small amounts in various parts of the human body, including the mouth, throat, gut, and genital area. It’s the cause of candidiasis, a fungal infection that can wreak havoc on your entire system.
Candida infections can occur in different forms, including:
- Oral Thrush: This is a fungal infection that affects the mouth and throat. It often appears as white patches on the tongue and the inside of the cheeks, and it’s common after the use of certain antibiotics.
- Vaginal Yeast Infections and Urinary Tract Infections: These infections are common in women and can cause itching, burning, and abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Yeast Diaper Rash: Babies can develop diaper rash due to a Candida overgrowth in the diaper area.
- Systemic Candidiasis: In rare cases, Candida can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, causing systemic infections. This is more likely to occur in people with weakened immune systems.
- Candida Overgrowth in the Gut: Candida does indeed exist in the gut, and once its levels get elevated, it can lead to a variety of health issues, including digestive problems, fatigue, and mood disturbances.
The Causes of Candida Overgrowth
When you’re healthy, the levels of Candida are in their normal range, but when there’s any sort of inflammation or imbalance in the body, the fungus begins to overproduce, causing overgrowth. Candida overgrowth is often referred to as “Candida overgrowth syndrome” and it’s actually a controversial concept in the medical field, and its causes and prevalence are not well-established. Still, there’s plenty of evidence that supports the fact that this infection is a common underlying cause of various health problems.
Some of the main causes of Candida overgrowth include:
- Weakened Immune System: People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, may be more susceptible to Candida infections and overgrowth.
- Antibiotic Use: The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics can disrupt the balance of microbes in the gut, potentially allowing Candida to proliferate.
- Diabetes: Individuals with poorly controlled diabetes may have elevated blood sugar levels, which can promote Candida growth.
- Alcohol Use: Studies show how Candida can invade the esophagus and cause a severe disruption of its function.
- Elevated Stress levels: Inflammation and stress go hand in hand, and it might be the reason for Candida overgrowth.
- Elevated estrogen levels: Many pregnant women, or those taking contraceptive pills develop Candidiasis.
- Covid-19: Some studies show the negative effect of Covid-19 on Candida levels.
- High Sugar and Carbohydrate Diet: Some people believe that a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can feed Candida and promote overgrowth.
Treatment of Candida Overgrowth
Now that we’ve touched on the causes of Candidiasis, it’s important to find the best way to treat it and bring its levels back within a normal range. The treatment of Candida overgrowth can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the specific symptoms you’re experiencing. Here are some of the most common treatment options:
- Antifungal Medications: When Candida overgrowth is confirmed or if you have a Candida-related infection such as oral thrush or a vaginal yeast infection, antifungal medications are typically prescribed. These medications can be topical (for local infections) or oral (for more widespread or systemic infections). Common antifungal medications include fluconazole, clotrimazole, and nystatin.
- Dietary Changes: Some proponents of alternative medicine suggest that dietary changes can help manage Candida overgrowth. Also known as the Candida diet, it involves eliminating or significantly reducing sugar, refined carbohydrates, and yeast-containing foods from the diet as they’re known to “feed Candida” and only worsen your Candida symptoms.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help support a healthy balance of microbes in the gut. Some individuals use probiotics as part of their Candida management strategy, as a way to counterbalance the elevated levels of Candida.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Lifestyle factors like managing stress, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol, and maintaining a healthy immune system can play a role in preventing and managing Candida-related issues.
- Treating Underlying Conditions: If there are underlying health conditions contributing to Candida overgrowth, such as diabetes or immune system disorders, those conditions should be properly managed with the guidance of a healthcare professional as Candidiasis can just be one of the consequences.
- Hygiene Practices: For localized infections like oral thrush or yeast diaper rash, maintaining good hygiene practices can help prevent and manage Candida-related issues.
The biggest problem with Candida infections is self-diagnosis and self-treatment as many of the symptoms attributed to Candida overgrowth can have various other causes. That’s why it’s necessary to confirm your diagnosis before following any type of diet or taking drastic measures.
The Candida Diet
Diet plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being, especially when dealing with a disease or infection. It comes as no surprise that it affects Candida overgrowth too. That’s why Candida diet was developed, as a sort of blueprint to follow and avoid/indulge in certain foods.
The Candida diet is a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet that mainly revolves around non-starchy vegetables, certain low-sugar fruits, non-glutenous grains, certain dairy products, and fermented foods. Its role is to lower inflammation, reduce or even eliminate your symptoms, and help restore the balance in your gut microbiome.
Certain foods have a strong impact on treating and managing Candida overgrowth, and these include:
Candida overgrowth is a tricky condition that can easily cause very uncomfortable symptoms. Even though it’s not that hard to treat, it’s often ignored or missed, which leads to severe overgrowth and potentially serious health issues. It’s essential to address your symptoms at the very beginning so you can treat Candida overgrowth and prevent it from wreaking havoc.