As women, when we think of the word “candida,” we almost always think about thrush (ewwwww, right?). Often thrush can pop up when we’re run down, after a round of antibiotics, or during a stint of eating poorly. But did you know that you can still have a candida overgrowth and not even have any thrush symptoms? Yep – there are a fair few other health issues that can also be attributed to this insidious little bug.
But before we delve into these, let’s have a look at what candida actually is
The term “candida” refers to an overgrowth of the candida strain of bacteria or yeast within our digestive systems. At appropriate levels candida is useful and can actually aid the body with digestion and absorption of nutrients. Problems arise however when the bacteria are overproduced in the body, which in many cases leads to a breakdown of the walls within the digestive system resulting in leaky gut. When leaky gut occurs, it means that candida from the digestive system can now leak out into the blood steam causing all kinds of symptoms within the body.
Usually the healthy bacteria in our gut stop this overgrowth from happening, but if you happen to be low in good bacteria for some reason or if your digestive lining is already weak or damaged, then you may be at risk of what’s commonly referred to as “candida overgrowth.”
Why might I have candida overgrowth?
- Recent/ long term antibiotic use
- Stress or anxiety
- Poor diet – particularly high sugar or processed carb intake
- High alcohol consumption
- Poor digestion – eating meals too fast
One reason that candida overgrowth can often be missed is because so many of the signs and symptoms are also common symptoms of other health conditions. But knowing what to look for can help you better identify whether candida is to blame.
Here are the ten most common signs and symptoms of candida overgrowth that I see in clinical practice
A constant lack of focus, feeling like you can’t concentrate on the tasks in front of you, forgetting things or poor physical coordination.
Regardless of how much sleep you get you still feel exhausted all the time (for months or even years). You find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open. This type of fatigue often also affects concentration and memory.
Gas, bloating, constipation – chronic or ongoing digestive upsets can be a sign of candida overgrowth and of a lack of good bacteria in your digestive system.
Uncontrollable sugar cravings
Can’t stop thinking about sugar or carbs? Candida feeds off sugar and helps it to grow so technically it’s not you are craving the sugar – it’s the candida taking over.
If you have candida overgrowth you may also experience regular mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression and even panic attacks. This comes back to the gut-brain connection – a large percentage of our neurotransmitters are made in the gut.
Fungal Skin or Nail Infections
Tinea, ringworm and fungal nail infections are caused by candida. If you’ve got a skin irritation or rash that just won’t go away, it may be wise to get it checked to find out whether it’s fungal in nature.
Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections
Have you ever noticed how those dreaded UTIs seem to rear their ugly heads when you’re run down or eating lots of sugar? If you frequently struggle with urinary tract infections and you’re not sure why it keeps happening – candida overgrowth could be worth looking into.
Have you ever noticed a persistent white coating on your tongue? Oral thrush can happen when the candida bacteria overpopulate the lining of the mouth. This white coating is a classic sign of candida overgrowth.
Chronic Sinus Infections
Yep – it can even get up our noses! The lining of our sinuses can also be affected by candida. Persistent nasal congestion, sinusitis or post nasal drip can be strong indicators of candida overgrowth.
Candida overgrowth can knock our hormones around a lot and has been linked to early menopause, PMS and low libido.
So what can be done about candida?
If you think you might have a problem, then the process of eliminating this can take several weeks and involves 3 main steps – often referred to by naturopaths as Weed, Seed & Feed.
The first step is to kill off or “weed” out the pathogens (the candida). Naturopaths use antimicrobial and anti-fungal herbs to do this, which specifically target the type of pathogen you wish to eradicate. By eliminating the candida, we are boosting the immune system making way for lots of good healthy bacteria. Clean eating is really important here – especially no sugar! And improving water intake to flush out the dead stuff through the bowl and kidneys is also key here.
The second step involves rebuilding the damaged intestinal lining and sending in all the nutrients your digestive system needs to maintain a healthy well-balanced population of gut bacteria. This includes prebiotics like slippery elm (which feed the good bacteria) and healing leaky gut with nutrients like glutamine and zinc.
The final stage involves re-inoculating the digestive system with beneficial bacteria. This is when we bring in the probiotics! Make sure you have a chat to your naturopath about this one too because there are SO many strains of probiotics out there and you need to make sure you are providing your gut with the right ones for your individual situation.
For best results, this process should be done over the space of several weeks (each stage lasting for at least two weeks, maybe longer, depending on the severity of the bacterial overgrowth and/or leaky gut). During this time, your naturopath may recommend an elimination diet (usually a wholefood diet that’s gluten, dairy, sugar and alcohol free).
Remember, candida feeds off sugar so it is so important to limit or even avoid the sweet stuff – including natural sugars like fruits, honey, dates and coconut nectar. Often this can be the hardest part for a lot of people because they are battling with such strong sugar cravings but these should subside after a few days into your cleanse and the results afterwards make the whole thing totally worth it!
If you are planning on doing a candida cleanse make sure you get into touch with your naturopath so that the cleanse can be best tailored to suit you and so that you have the proper support that you need to get you through.
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