Candida – I didn't really know much about it, other than that it could cause yeast infections in your tucks and folds and private areas. I had no idea that it would change my life forever – and may be affecting a lot of other people who knew as little as I used to know. I'm jumping ahead of the original timeline I set out for myself in the Psoriasis series, but this is important. I tried many other things before I figured out this piece of the puzzle, but without this knowledge, I couldn't heal completely.
In this post I'm going to explain what candida is, what health problems may be linked to candida overgrowth and how I discovered candida was a problem for me. Next week we'll tackle how to get it under control.
What is Candida?
Candida albicans (which I'll refer to as “candida” throughout most of this post) is a harmless yeast that lives naturally in your body. It lives in the gastrointestinal tract, on the mucous membranes and on the skin. It's part of a balanced microbiome – all the microorganisms that work symbiotically with your body's own cells to keep you healthy. It is also sometimes referred to as a fungus – such as when a person gets a case of “jock itch”. This is typically referred to as a “fungal infection”, but it's due to yeast overgrowth.
Candida is harmless and normal – except when it isn't. When candida grows out of control, it becomes pathogenic (disease causing). It sheds high amounts of mycotoxins (fungus related toxins) and the fungus can burrow roots into the gut lining, leading to leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut then contributes to toxins escaping into the bloodstream (instead of exiting via the waste cycle). This systemic fungal infection (candida overgrowth) is referred to as candidiasis.
What Causes Candida Overgrowth?
There are often a variety of factors that contribute to candida overgrowth. They include, but are not limited to:
- Antibiotic Use
- Birth Control Pills
- ERT (Estrogen Replacement Therapy)
- Poor Diet
- Heavy Metals
- Alcohol Overuse
- Recreational Drugs
- Acute and Chronic Stress
- Amalgam Fillings
- Refined Carbohydrate and Sugar Consumption
- Excessive Dairy Consumption
As you can see, many of these factors are part of the daily lives of most people. I have a mouth full of metal fillings (which I plan to get replaced by quadrant as they need replacing and budget allows). I have also had pretty high stress levels in recent years, and was given antibiotics for a staph infection last year. I'm also on thyroid medication for my underactive thyroid – a hormone therapy.
Something not mentioned on this list is kombucha consumption. Kombucha is brewed from a SCOBY – a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. One of the yeasts that may occur in kombucha is Candida albicans. Not normally a problem, since as mentioned earlier, it is part of a balanced microbiome. When it might become a problem is if you drink large amounts of kombucha (which I did) and you have other risk factors in play (which I do). Nowhere in the literature on kombucha that I read back when I started brewing was this risk mentioned, so I had no idea there was any risk at all. I still believe live culture foods are critical to good health – but there can be situations when you get too much of an otherwise good thing.
What Toxins Does Candida Overgrowth Produce?
Candida overgrowth produces toxic byproducts – over 79+ different mycotoxins. These mycotoxins attack the body and weaken the immune system. These toxins include:
- Acetaldehyde – in excess, can cause brain fog and vertigo, create a thiamine and niacin deficiency leading to depression, fatigue, memory loss and more
- Gliotoxin – deactivates critical enzymes that remove toxins and creates DNA changes in white blood cells that weaken the immune system
What Conditions are Caused Directly or Indirectly by Candida Overgrowth?
This list is adapted from “The Candida Cure: Yeast, Fungus and Your Health“. It is a partial list only.
- Chronic Fatigue Sydrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscular Dystrophy * – I wonder if this may have been part of what triggered my mom's MMD?
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Chronic Infection
- Iron Deficiency
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Carbohydrate/Sugar Cravings
- Crohn's Disease
- Food Allergies
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Leaky Gut
- Diaper Rash
- Dry Skin and Itching
- Hair Loss
- Liver Spots
- Environmental Allergies/Chemical Sensitivities
- Hay Fever
- Oral Thrush
- Adrenal/Thyroid Failure
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Brain Fog
- Learning Difficulties
- Manic-Depressive Disorder
- Loss of Libido
- Menstrual Irregularities
- Yeast Vaginal Infections
Note: To be clear, this list is not meant to indicate that these conditions are caused solely by candida overgrowth. Many of them have a genetic component. That said, there is often an epigenetic component as well.
Most of us know that not everyone who has a gene that has been linked to a disease gets that disease. Something has to trigger that gene to become active. This is epigenetics – the science that examines how environmental triggers interact with our genome. Many people have found that diet and lifestyle changes have sent diseases into remission, but this is not always successful for everyone. The author of The Candida Cure was able to put her multiple sclerosis into remission through diet and lifestyle changes.
How I Realized Candida Overgrowth was a Factor in My Psoriasis
Unfortunately, while I'd love to be able to say that the dermatologist who diagnosed my psoriasis mentioned a possible link between psoriasis and candida, she did no such thing. She never even mentioned that candida was a possibility. Instead, she said it was likely some product I was using (I use very limited products on my skin and in our home, and they are as non-toxic as I can get). She sent me on my way with a shopping list that looked like a Proctor and Gamble advertisement. (Proctor and Gamble received an “F” for Chemical Transparency in their products. Not a company I care to support.) She blew off my request to test for allergies, and when I directly asked her about changing my diet to help my skin, she said, “You can try, but what you eat doesn't affect your skin.”
For a person with multiple medical degrees, she sure was awfully wrong.
It turned out I had a staph infection in the open skin on my elbow, so I was given antibiotics. I filled the prescription for steroid cream, and did use a little on my face leading up to the presentation I had to give at the Naval College last October. Meanwhile, I also tried out The Psoriasis Diet, with little change.
When I got back from the trip to Rhode Island, I stopped using the steroid cream – and my skin went crazy. The steroids had only been suppressing the symptoms, not curing the cause. I went in for allergy testing, hoping that something could be found that was a trigger. Results were good and bad – the few foods that registered as potentially problematic were, for the most part, not ones that I eat regularly. There was no obvious “smoking gun” – except that candida levels were moderately high – which I didn't pay much attention to at first.
Time passed. Then I was discussing my skin with my friend, Casey. She looked at a photo of my face via Messenger and said, “That doesn't look like psoriasis.” All of the sudden, it clicked. I searched “candida overgrowth face”, and saw an image that looked almost exactly like mine associated with the article, “The Curse of Candida“. BAM! Now that I had a name, I could develop a strategy to heal (including using the book that was recommended). It's a work in progress, but I'm doing so much better than I was several months ago.
Easy Home Candida Test – The Spit Test for Candida
Wondering if you may have candida overgrowth? One of the simplest candida tests is called the spit test.
The testing is done when you first wake up in the morning, before you brush your teeth or get a drink.
- Fill a glass with clean, filtered water at room temperature.
- Spit gently into the water in the glass. (Just drop a nice gobber in – no flem.)
- Check the glass at 20 minute intervals for signs of candida, such as:
- Filmy “strings” hanging down from the split glob.
- A cloudy saliva film at the bottom of the glass
- Cloudy specs of spit suspended in the water
This test may produce false positives if you are congested or dehydrated, so it's best backed up with lab testing for confirmation. Lab tests can be run testing blood, stool or urine. If you have a number of the risk factors listed above, your odds of candida overgrowth are much higher.
Next week I'll talk about the steps I've taken to get my candida overgrowth under control. If some of these symptoms and causes sound familiar to you, I'd love to hear your story. The more information we all have, the better chance we have of finding a way to heal.
Other posts in the series: