Candida infections are quite common and are typically caused by the yeast Candida Albicans. Infections can occur on the skin, in the mouth, in the vaginal tract and in the gut (your small and large intestine).
Even when Candida infections occur on the skin, in the mouth and the vaginal tract, they can be linked to an overgrowth of Candida in the gut. Candida has the opportunity to grow when our beneficial gut bacteria “probiotics” are out of balance.
Stress, certain medications, the chemicals and food additives we take in with our food, and an unbalanced diet are all factors that can throw off the healthy balance of our beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotic supplements can play an important role in restoring the healthy balance of your gut bacteria. In addition, specific probiotic strains have the ability to fight Candida Albicans.
In this blog post, we will focus on Candida overgrowth in the gut and how a Candida overgrowth can be addressed via changes in diet, probiotic supplements, and antifungal herbs and medications.
What is Candida Albicans?
Candida Albicans is a yeast that naturally occurs in the human body in small amounts. It can be found in the mouth, digestive tract, vaginal tract and rectum. In those small amounts, it is harmless and coexists with our beneficial gut bacteria.
Candida Albicans – often referred to simply as “Candida” – is also known as one of the most common species of yeast causing yeast and fungal infections in humans. This happens when the small amount of naturally occurring Candida Albicans gets out of control and overgrows. Candida yeast infections can occur in the gut, on the skin as well as in the vaginal tract.
Factors that Promote Yeast Overgrowth
There are several lifestyle factors that contribute to Candida overgrowth.
Sugar and Processed Foods
Candida is a yeast, and yeast feeds on sugar to grow. Keep in mind that sugar hides in many places, including processed foods and simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and pastries. Sugar also hides in many dairy products, as dairy is broken down into lactose during digestion, which is also a sugar.
If you eat a diet rich in sugar, then the yeast basically has a feast in your intestines and can grow at much faster rates. Your beneficial gut bacteria will find it difficult to keep this rapidly growing invader at bay. Eventually, the Candida will crowd out your beneficial gut bacteria, which creates additional digestive problems such as bloating, gas, limited nutrient absorption and changes to bowel movements.
Alcohol contains high amounts of sugar when it’s broken down in your intestines. In addition, alcohol in itself damages the natural balance of your beneficial gut bacteria probiotics. Once this natural balance is disrupted, there is more room for potentially harmful pathogens like Candida and other bacteria to grow. This, in turn, can trigger digestive issues, inflammation in your intestines, leaky gut and even impact your immune system and cognitive processes.
Antibiotics and Other Medications
Antibiotics are made to kill the bad bacteria that are making you sick. This is a very important medical tool to help keep us healthy. Unfortunately antibiotics don’t differentiate between the good bacteria living in our gut and the bad bacteria making us sick when they are used as a medical treatment.
Therefore, taking antibiotics even for just 48 hours can dramatically diminish the good bacteria in our gut. Similarly, other medications such as some forms of oral contraceptives and painkillers can disrupt our gut microbiome. Once again, when the good bacteria are diminished, there’s room for Candida to overgrow in our gut.
Weakened Immune System
Our immune system plays an important role in keeping potentially harmful microorganisms such as Candida in check. A weakened immune system – perhaps due to stress, an unhealthy diet, medications or chronic illness – means that the body is less able to control these potential invaders, and Candida may win the fight.
How Does Candida Grow and Spread?
Candida is present in small amounts in the human gut of most people. Usually, our good gut bacteria keep Candida in check.
But Candida is an opportunistic fungus. This means that it will take any opportunity to grow and push away other microorganisms that also live in the gut. When our gut flora is out of balance, Candida gets the opportunity to reproduce much faster than normal. In fact, Candida can send signals to the brain that encourage the body to crave sugar. And the more sugar you eat, the faster Candida grows!
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth differ depending on where the overgrowth is happening. Oftentimes, symptoms for Candida overgrowth could also indicate other health issues. This is why it is critical not to self-diagnose and to consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional if you think you may have a Candida Infection.
Candida Overgrowth on the Skin: Cutaneous Candidiasis
Candida can cause skin rashes especially in areas that are moist and receive little air circulations. A common example is diaper rash. Oftentimes, the rash is moist, red and itchy.
Candida Overgrowth in the Mouth: Thrush
Symptoms of oral thrush include creamy, white lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums or the roof of your mouth. This is often accompanied by redness, burning, soreness and bad breath.
Candida Overgrowth in the Gut
The most common signs for Candida overgrowth in the gut is severe bloating and flatulence, an intense craving for sugar and sweets, strong fatigue especially after meals, and a thick, white coating on your tongue. Candida overgrowth in the gut may also be accompanied by changes in mood, particularly increased irritability, anxiety and restlessness (https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14177/anxious-moody-depressed-why-you-might-have-candida.html).
Vaginal Yeast Infections (Vaginal Candidiasis)
Vaginal yeast infections are very common. About 75% of American women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their life. Common symptoms include vaginal itching and a thick, white discharge from the vagina that almost looks like cottage cheese.
Dietary Changes in Reducing Candida
Changing your diet is a big step in reducing your risk of Candida infection, and even in reducing Candida in your intestines if you suspect overgrowth. In fact, there’s a whole book written about this topic called The Candida Diet.
Following a few simple steps can go a long way:
- Ditch the sugar and junk food. Sugar feeds Candida and loves the acidic environment that the sugar created in your gut. So start by starving the Candida yeast by limiting sugar, including sugar from candy, processed foods, simple carbohydrates, alcohol and fruit.
- Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and leafy greens, including spinach and kale provide the body with many critical micronutrients. They’re also high in fiber, which acts as food for your probiotic bacteria
- Include lean protein and healthy fats. When you cut out sugar, refined carbohydrates and junk food, you need to replace these foods with nutrient rich ones to help maintain your energy. Healthy fats and lean protein (plant based or animal protein) are essential in this process.
- Minimize caffeine, especially from coffee. Coffee creates a very acidic environment in the gut. Candida loves an acidic environment, but your beneficial bacteria hate it. So don’t chase away the good guys!
- Avoid products containing yeast, as yeast further feeds Candida. Yeast is a common ingredient in bread, baked goods, soups and gravies.
- Incorporate a high quality probiotic into your daily routine. A high quality probiotic supplement plays a very important role in overall gut health. Certain probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus acidophilus have the ability to fight Candida. A high quality probiotic also helps restore the healthy diversity of good bacteria in your intestine. This is very important to support healthy digestion, a strong immune system, as well as cognitive function.
If you have severe Candida overgrowth, diet alone may not solve the issue. In this case, antifungal medications such as Diflucan or Nystatin are necessary to help relieve your symptoms. Make sure to work with a healthcare professional!
Balancing the Gut Microbiome: Risk Factors for Candida
Candida Albicans naturally occurs in the human body in small amounts. Usually,Candida is kept in check by the other microorganisms (such as probiotic bacteria) as well as by a strong immune system.
Unfortunately, many factors can weaken our immune system or throw off the healthy balance of probiotic bacteria in the gut.
These factors include:
- a diet full of sugar and processed food
- medications such as antibiotics
Candida grows very quickly when it gets the chance to thrive. This is why it’s often difficult to fight an acute Candida infection in the gut just with changes in diet and herbal medicine. Consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional if you suspect you have Candida so you can find the treatment approach that works for you.
Candida and Probiotics: Inhibiting Candida Overgrowth
A main way in which Candida is kept in check is by our beneficial gut bacteria. As long as we have enough diversity and number of good bacteria in our gut, Candida Albicans doesn’t have much room to grow.
The trouble starts if our good bacteria are diminished and their natural balance is interrupted. This can be due to external factors such as an overly processed diet, chemicals and food additives, medications such as antibiotics, as well as stress. A high-quality probiotic supplement can help restore the healthy balance of gut bacteria.
In addition, specific probiotic strains have the ability to fight Candida Albicans by producing lactic acid and other antifungal compounds. The lactobacilli strain, for example, produces lactic acid, which lowers the pH in the large intestine, and makes the environment less enjoyable for Candida.
Candida often originates in the gut, even if the Candida infection occurs on the skin, in the mouth or in the vagina. At OMNi-BiOTiCⓇ, we’ve researched the role of probiotics in Candida for many years. Based on this knowledge, OMNi-BiOTiCⓇ BALANCE was developed. OMNi-BiOTiCⓇ BALANCE contains specific strains of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that restore a healthy balance of the most important probiotic bacteria in your gut, while also making the environment less inviting for Candida to settle and replicate.
Taking a high quality probiotic can also be effective for vaginal candidiasis. In one clinical study, women with vaginal candidiasis were treated with an oral antifungal prescription medication (fluconazole) and then randomly assigned to either probiotic treatment or a placebo. Over the following six months, 7.2% of women who took the probiotic had recurring Candida overgrowth, compared to 35.5% in the placebo group.
Several clinical studies point to success in treating oral candidiasis with probiotic supplements. In a systematic review of clinical studies, the authors conclude that probiotics seem to have “beneficial effect on reducing oral Candida spp. Counts”.
The Leaky Gut Connection
Your small and large intestines are separated from the bloodstream via a thin layer of cells, called your epithelial cells. These cells are held together by “tight junctions” to form a strong barrier between the content of your intestines and your bloodstream.
Your epithelial cells make sure that only “safe” substances from the gut can enter the body, such as nutrients from food. They keep out potentially harmful substances like harmful bacteria, viruses and chemical food additives.
When Candida overgrows in your gut, the immune system detects these high levels of Candida and triggers an immune response in the form of inflammation in the gut. When the gut is inflamed, your tight junctions become weak and break open.
As a result, your thin layer of cells in the gut is now like a bucket with holes. Potentially harmful substances can now enter the bloodstream through the broken tight junctions. This is also called “leaky gut.”
How Can Someone Tell They Have Candida?
Candida can be tested via a blood test, a swab of the potentially infected area, and via a stool test. The swab test works especially well for Candida infections in the mouth, on the skin and in the vagina. A stool test or a blood test are best used if Candida overgrowth is suspected in the gut.
If you suspect that you have Candida overgrowth in the gut, there is a simple “at-home” test that you can do. This test is by no means an accurate diagnosis, but it can give you a better sense for whether Candida is affecting your health. This test is called the “Candida Saliva Test”.
Candida migrates from the gut to the mouth overnight when you’re sleeping and not swallowing as frequently. This means that in the morning, Candida has collected in your mouth. You may see this in the form of a very thick, white coating on your tongue and thick, white saliva.
How the Candida Saliva Test Works:
When you wake up, before you do anything else, collect enough saliva in your mouth to spit into a glass filled with water.
Wait one to three minutes. If there are cloudy strings coming down from your saliva, suspended cloudy speckles and cloudy saliva, then you may very well have Candida.
In this case, consult a healthcare professional to find the best treatment approach!
How Can Candida Be Controlled?
Candida overgrowth is often complex and persistent. This means that you may need to combine multiple treatment options. Three of the most important components to get rid of persistent Candida infections are: Changes in diet, antifungals and using a high quality probiotic supplement.
Diet and Fiber
Eliminate sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and acidic foods like coffee from your diet. These foods feed Candida. Instead, include lean protein and fresh vegetables, especially leafy vegetables as well as good fats in your diet.
Fiber from vegetables plays an important role. It’s the prebiotic food for your probiotic bacteria. Eating enough fiber helps keep your good gut bacteria strong so they can help fight Candida and restore a healthy gut flora.
Candida Albicans overgrowth can be quite persistent, and diet alone may not be enough to solve the problem. Anti-fungals are medications and natural substances that kill fungus such as Candida.
As we noted above, a healthy and balanced gut microbiome can help inhibit and prevent candida overgrowth. By taking a high quality probiotic supplement, the good bacteria can begin to colonize your gut, making it an unpleasant environment for Candida to live in.
Probiotics can keep Candida in check even if it occurs on the skin or in the mouth or vagina. The lactic acid and other antifungal compounds produced by certain strains of probiotics are steps towards keeping candida under control.
Be Careful of Candida Cleanses
Be careful with Candida Cleanses! The challenge with most Candida cleanses is that eliminating the Candida is just the first step toward sustained success. Remember, Candida can be found in small amounts in the human body.
Usually, our probiotic gut bacteria and a strong immune system keep Candida under control. Candida has the opportunity to overgrow and create issues when the healthy balance of gut bacteria is interrupted and the immune system is weakened.
To avoid recurring Candida infections, we must address the root causes of Candida overgrowth. These include:
- A diet full of sugar and preservatives
- Prolonged periods of high stress
- Medications that disrupt the gut microbiome
- Other lifestyle factors that disrupt our gut microbiome and weaken our immune system
Even prescription medications that kill Candida are often successful in the short-term, but don’t prevent recurring overgrowth. For long-term success, focus on a healthy diet, maintaining a strong immune system and strengthening your gut microbiome via a high quality probiotic supplement.
Candida infections can occur in the mouth, on the skin, in the vaginal tract and in the gut. Candida often originates in the gut, even if the infection can show up on the skin, in the mouth or in the vagina. This infection can be quite persistent and is often recurring.
Combining different treatment methods is the most effective way in addressing Candida overgrowth. These treatment methods include: Change in diet, antifungal medications or antifungal natural substances, and a high quality probiotic.
At OMNi-BiOTiCⓇ, we’ve researched the role of probiotics in Candida for many years. Based on this knowledge, OMNi-BiOTiCⓇ Balance was developed. This high quality probiotic contains specific strains of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that restore a healthy balance of the most important bacteria in your gut, while also making the environment less inviting for Candida to stay and replicate.