Candida Albicans: What is Yeast Overgrowth and How to Control it?
by Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, DC, CFMP, FRC-ms
Candida is an often mis-diagnosed syndrome, due to its ability to affect many organ systems throughout the body. Often, the individual will go through life suffering from myriad symptoms, and many a well-meaning clinician will chase these symptoms all over the body. Yes, these symptoms are diverse and widespread, but often they point to one or two big triggers. Candida is one of these.
What is Candida?
Candida, otherwise known as “Candida Albicans”, is a fungus. It is classified as an ‘opportunist’ because it “takes advantage” of imbalances in the gut. Almost all of us have some level of Candida in our gut as well as gastrointestinal tract. Some studies even surmise that up to 70% of us have colonies of this fungus in our bodies. Most times, this opportunist functions as a ‘commensal’, meaning that it is in our GI tract, or on our skin, or in our mouths, but the level of the fungus is “kept in check” by the other bugs in and on us.
Even though the fungus depends on its host for nutritive support, the rest of the gut ecology can balance it all out. Essentially, the body is an ecosystem of trillions of bugs. Interactions within this human system as a whole are what is important for health and ill-health. These interactions can have dramatic effects on survival of us, humans. It might not seem like a big deal to have a few extra candida in a soup of trillions of bugs, but the byproducts OF the Candida are the most troubling aspect.
Interactions within this human system as a whole are what is important for health and ill-health.
Again, Candida itself shouldn’t be looked at as the problem. It is when Candida proliferates at the expense of other ‘critters’ in and on the body. When overproduction occurs, it can begin to break down the wall of the intestines, making it easier for the fungus and its byproducts to “leak” into the bloodstream.
What might candida lead to?
Candida albicans releases up to 80 or so different byproducts. Keep in mind, when members of the medical community state that Candida only affects those with weakened immune systems, they are referring to Candida which has become ‘systemic’. Systemic infections of Candida are indeed life-threatening. However; this is not what we are talking about here. Systemic candida affects people suffering from severe illnesses.
When discussing a Candida overgrowth, it makes no difference what the state of the immune system is. If the gut bacterial/fungal/viral balance is disturbed, this fungus which populates nearly three quarters of us, can ‘set up shop’ and repopulate at an astounding rate.
Two of the most discussed metabolic byproducts associated with Candida overgrowth are uric acid and acetaldehyde. Uric acid is generally regarded as the chemical that causes gout. Uric acid also has been established as having connections to kidney disease, heart disease, and hypertension.
With this being said, the goal of treatment is never to wipe out the species completely. The goal is to create an environment in the gut which allows the micro-flora to become more balanced.
What symptoms might you expect?
Fatigue, digestive discomfort, muscle aches, brain fog, low libido, hormone imbalance, skin rashes, etc.
Keep in mind, many of these could be attributed to a parasite, SIBO, or even gut dysbiosis. Might even attribute them to a tick-borne illness or from a biotoxin whilst habiting a water-damaged building. Symptoms can be far-reaching. This is precisely why gut issues frequently go mis-diagnosed or even undiagnosed.
How do we test for yeast?
Genova is our preferred testing company for “gut issues”. One test, the NutrEval, is a complete urine organic acids test which provides a ton of useful information. With organic acids testing, we can measure fungal metabolic products which spill into the urine with said conditions. If we find elevated fungal metabolic byproducts in the urine, this is a good sign that there is a fungal overgrowth.
Another useful test from Genova is a comprehensive stool analysis (GI Effects). This is a thorough exam for a myriad of digestive and autoimmune conditions.
It is also possible to test for antibodies to Candida in the blood.
Symptoms can be far-reaching. This is precisely why gut issues frequently go mis-diagnosed or even undiagnosed.
What is the treatment for Candida?
DIET. This is number one in eradicating Candida. We must find a way to starve out some of the yeast while supporting the microbiome.
Generally, a candida diet means avoiding simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, fruit, alcohol, and some fermented foods. This could be a therapeutic period of 30-60 days. In the case of candida, strict adherence is necessary during the elimination period. Reintroductions are done slowly over time while monitoring for a relapse of symptoms.
Simple sugars (glucose) are just that: simple. These are very rapidly absorbed in the first parts of the small intestine, and they don’t require a lot of energy.
What about more complex sugars? As the name implies, DISACCHARIDES are essentially double molecules of sugar. Prior to absorption, it is required to split these into the single molecules. If you have a digestive issue (pancreatic insufficiency, intestinal hyper-permeability, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, etc.) the more complex sugars can “hang out” in the gut. This is where the problems really begin. The sugars that “hang out” in the gut become substrate to feed pathogenic bugs. This is how this normally commensal type of bug (yeast) can proliferate at a higher level, thus leading to an “overgrowth”.
We need to focus not on eliminating the candida entirely, but on knocking back the population to a better balance.
Are there supplements for Yeast Overgrowth?
Supplementation is based on the indivdual. It generally involves multiple phases; and revolves around crowding out the fungal overgrowth while supporting the GI terrains and any other micronutrient or vitamin insufficiencies.
Certain herbal antimicrobials are useful: oil of oregano, berberine, Uva ursi, plant tannins, cat’s claw, biocidin, lauricidin, wormwood, garlic extract, and olive extract. Again, these are warranted in certain cases and dosing is specific to each person's case.
If you're curious about supplementation for a potential yeast overgrowth, contact us to book a consultation! (This can be remote).
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Seegmiller, J.E., Laster, L., & Howell, R.R. (1963, April 4). Biochemistry of Uric Acid and its Relation to Gout. The New England Journal of Medicine, 764-773.
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Wargo, M.J. & Hogan, D.A. (2006, August). Fungal-bacterial interactions: a mixed bag of mingling microbes. (Elsevier, Ed.) Current Opinion in Microbiology, 9(4), 359-364. Retrieved 2018.