Candida — Shedding Light on an Oft-Ignored Yeast Infection
Are you one of the women with candida yeast overgrowth symptoms in Tampa, FL? In 1986, a book entitled The Yeast Syndrome by John Parks Trowbridge, MD, and Morton Walker, DPM, detailed the negative impacts of an opportunistic, pathogenic yeast named Candida albicans on human health.
Candida yeast is nothing new. The medical community has been aware of it for more than 50 years, and doctors routinely diagnose and treat candida yeast infections — oral and esophageal (thrush); vaginal; and invasive, which is a serious infections that can affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones, and other parts of the body.
These are the obvious cases. They’re easy to diagnose and are usually treated with pharmaceutical-grade antifungal medications.
The medical community has been much slower to recognize Candida infections that fly just below the radar. These infections typically trigger a chain reaction that makes it challenging to trace the symptoms back to the cause — yeast overgrowth.
Physicians who practice less conventional forms of medicine, including functional, integrative, and holistic healthcare, have been diagnosing and treating these more elusive yeast infections for decades.
In fact, they’ve been on the leading edge — researching, writing and lecturing extensively on the topic. Yet, antifungal treatment for less obvious (though no less harmful) yeast infections remains controversial.
What’s the Controversy?
Why does such a large part of the medical community ignore Candida or, worse yet, minimize its importance by considering it to be a relatively harmless “yeast hypersensitivity?” Why don’t most doctors test for yeast overgrowth and treat it? These are questions that our patients often ask our doctors. And frankly, they have confounded us, as well.
We think Candida overgrowth has been mostly ignored in conventional medicine for two main reasons:
In medical school, doctors are taught that Candida is a normal part of the human microbiome — the large community of microorganisms that naturally live on and in the human body. This is true. But according to their medical training, Candida is localized (mouth, throat, vagina) or is harmless unless a person is completely immune compromised.
At that time, the yeast overwhelms the body’s ability to control it. (Note: We are not claiming that Candida has been completely ignored, only that it has been relegated to localized infections with obvious symptoms and to the most immunocompromised patients — typically those with HIV or advanced stages of cancer.)
Yeast overgrowth can trigger a chain reaction of health issues in the body that cause a range of disparate symptoms.
While this is no rationale for stopping short of an accurate and complete diagnosis, doctors admittedly are frustrated by their lack of understanding of Candida and their mistaken belief that tests for it are unavailable. As a result, Candida is often overlooked, and patient concerns are frequently dismissed.
The Facts About Candida Yeast Overgrowth
Candida overgrowth is likely due to a loss of resilience in the immune system, specifically in the gastrointestinal tract. This leads to persistent low-grade inflammation that compromises the integrity of the intestinal lining — a thin, semi-permeable barrier that enables nutrients to pass into the bloodstream but prevents the passage of viruses, proteins, and other large molecules.
When these molecules enter the bloodstream, they can trigger an immune response, which can serve as another source of persistent, low-grade inflammation. Most patients will experience fatigue, brain fog, and mood swings as their condition worsens. They may also develop a variety of inflammatory conditions.
Here are a few important facts about Candida:
- Candida organisms commonly colonize the human gastrointestinal tract as a component of the resident microbiota. Their presence is generally benign. Recent studies, however, show that high-level Candida colonization is associated with several diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. See “Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization.”
- Candida can cross-translocate from the GI tract to other parts of the body. See “Candida colonization as a source for candidaemia.”
- Candida is overly expressed in those with family histories of irritable bowel disease (IBD). See “Candida albicans colonization and ASCA in familial Crohn’s disease.”
- Candida albicans is associated with the use of antibiotics, steroids, and immunosuppressive drugs. Here at the BioDesign Wellness Center, we often treat patients with one or more autoimmune conditions and may have used medications that contributed to yeast overgrowth.
- The presence of Candida delays healing and exacerbates disease, resulting in a vicious cycle in which inflammation promotes Candida colonization, and Candida colonization worsens the inflammation.
- Diets high in sugar can promote yeast overgrowth.
- Indoor environments with mold promote Candida overgrowth.
- Stress promotes loss of immune resilience, contributing to Candida overgrowth.
Examination and Testing for Candida Yeast Overgrowth
At BioDesign Wellness Center, we routinely screen patients for Candida yeast overgrowth and sensitivity to yeast. We begin by asking patients to complete a questionnaire designed to reveal any symptoms that may indicate yeast overgrowth or sensitivity, such as the following symptoms:
- Skin eruptions or irritations, including acne
- Chronic fatigue
- Loose stools or constipation
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- History of vaginitis or yeast infections
- History of oral thrush
- History of ulcers
- Histories of bowel diseases, such as irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or Crohn’s disease
- History of taking an antibiotic, steroid, or immunosuppressive medications
- Overconsumption of sugar and other simple carbohydrates
- History of mold exposure
If a patient reports any of these symptoms, we follow up with diagnostic testing, which may include one or more of the following tests:
- Microbial Organic Acids Test (MOAT): A urine test from Great Plains Lab that checks for levels of metabolites produced by yeast and bacteria
- GI Map stool test for the presence of Candida overgrowth
- Candida antibody test: A blood test from Quest Diagnostics
- Nasal swab for yeast colonization from Microbiology DX
Candida Yeast Treatment
If testing reveals Candida yeast overgrowth, treatment may include one or more (usually two or more) of the following:
- Dietary interventions to reduce exposure to foods that feed the Candida yeast, such as sweets.
- Antifungal supplements and/or medications to kill the yeast: Natural antifungals include allicillin, caprylic acid, and berberine. Prescription antifungals include nystatin.
- Prebiotics and probiotics to restore healthy balance to the body’s microbiome — beneficial microorganisms help to keep populations of harmful microbes in check.
Just as important as killing off the yeast and restoring the body’s microbiome, we examine the cause of the overgrowth. Causes may include a weakened immune response, inflammation contributing to yeast overgrowth, and exposure to environmental toxins (such as mold).
We also examine the underlying reasons that a patient is being regularly prescribed antibiotics, steroids, immunosuppressants, and other medications that could be contributing to the overgrowth. Such exams enable us to come up with other methods to treat the conditions without exacerbating yeast overgrowth.
For more about our approach to diagnosing and treating Candida yeast infections, see our previous post, “Candida Yeast Infections — A Growing Problem.”
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about Candida albicans is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.