Candida albicans is a type of yeast that normally exists in a healthy balance with the friendly bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. It digests residual waste matter in the gastrointestinal system and, along with healthy gut bacteria, helps create smooth digestion. While the population of healthy bacteria is quite large in the gut, the candida population should stay small.
Candida loves to eat sugar. When it eats lots of sugar, its population can grow beyond its usual boundaries and even crowd out the beneficial bacteria. Here's a very simple mnemonic:
Each person is unique, so candida doesn't become crazy in every person who eats sugar. But for many people a high sugar diet, especially when combined with a stagnant lifestyle, can contribute to an overgrowth of candida yeast. Let's explore the gut during a healthy balance of flora, the factors that can throw candida out of whack, and the symptoms that can result from candida overgrowth.
The Crazy Candida Situation
Looking outside you see an ecosystem of plants, birds, and other animals doing their thing. It is a system where life interacts, eating, working, and eliminating waste.
In the digestion, an ecosystem exists full of organisms that are often called "gut flora." The organisms interact with each other and with the food and other substances you consume. Most of the gut flora consists of beneficial bacteria and a tiny part consists of yeast. There are hundreds of strains of bacteria in the gut, performing different functions. Here is what they do:
- Help break down food into energy
- Aid the immune system
- Prevent growth of harmful bacteria
- Keeping yeast populations in check
The yeast that lives in the gut, a large part of which is Candida, also aids in food digestion and elimination of waste. Together, the bacteria and yeast maintain the cleanliness and immune strength of the digestive system. They're the clean-up crew. Different foods you eat even promote growth of different bacterial strains. For example, fatty food promotes growth of the strain Bacteroides while carbohydrates and simple sugars promote growth of Prevotella as found through previous research.
When candida is living inside its boundaries within a healthy gut ecosystem, it causes no problems. But there are lifestyle habits and other factors that can harm beneficial bacteria, leading to Candida's overgrowth. They include:
- Careless diets full of processed foods and refined carbs and sugars
- Medications, including antibiotics
- Birth control
Sugar has an extra degree of harm by serving as Candida's favorite food. Read on to find out more about how the yeast tricks the body into giving it more sugar.
Normal populations of Candida feast on food matter in your gut, especially toward eliminating waste. But when the yeast is invited to grow beyond its boundaries, it will crave more of what it likes the best--which are simple sugars and carbohydrates. Outside of immunocompromised conditions, dietary factors are the leading culprit in yeast overgrowth.
Candida is, in a word, about sugar. This might not be a huge surprise when you turn on the T.V. and see that a lot of commercials geared toward the TV viewing audience are about sugar too. Iced and creamy flavored coffees, fun kids’ cereals, a variety of sodas, ice cream bars, and people having the most fun you’ve ever seen drinking beer. All of these foods and drinks have a high content of sugar. But is sugar evil? In a word, no. Should we add a part to the constitution to ban sugar from the diet? No.
But if you have an enormous sugar cravings every day, you might want to ask whether a Candida overgrowth is playing a part in it. The yeast may be tricking your body into craving more sugars by using a chemical it releases. The chemical tells the brain that your body wants more sugar. Outside of sugar, here are some more of Candida's favorite foods:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Fungi, such as mushrooms
- Fermented products, such as vinegar and aged cheese
- Alcohol (which is high in sugar content)
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes
- High-sugar fruits
Of course, a lot of the above foods are not necessarily unhealthy. The problem becomes more when there is an existing Candida overgrowth that your body needs to heal from. How can you tell when candida is becoming more of an issue? Read on to find out more.
What candida does when it’s overgrown is what we call the Attic Effect. Think about a moist attic full of a lot of stuff crowded into a small space over a long period of time. It starts getting a particular feel to it. It gets musty, has a rainy day soggy smell to it, and items such as boxes and books will get more worn and frail than usual. It feels like there is less air circulating, and the area could use a window to get a fresh breeze to flow inside.
Candida promotes the body’s version of the Attic Effect wherever it overgrows, which is usually in moist places. You may be familiar with the following indications of Candida's Attic Effect.
- Sluggishness, with fatigue and weakness, as if the body feels harder to use and more worn out
- The brain feels less clear, or foggy, perhaps fighting with the yeast for the blood sugar supply
- With a lowered gut bacteria population, more food is left improperly digested and sitting in the intestines, a fine feast for the candida that likes munching on waste. Candida will decompose the waste as it sits there, leading to gas and bloating
A yeast overgrowth can spread and be seen visibly in some places. Oral candidiasis is a white coating in the mouth and back of throat containing candida populations which can cause discomfort and in some people, pain. Vaginal candidiasis, commonly called a yeast infection, causes a cottage-cheesy discharge, itching, and discomfort ranging toward pain. The person may be more prone to fungal infections of the groin, or of the feet including itching, cracked skin, and discolored nails. Candida and other fungal infections compromise the linings upon which they sit, whether skin or mucosal, causing symptoms of itching, inflammation, discomfort, and pain.
Clearly, Candida is not only uncomfortable to experience but is also somewhat uncomfortable to talk about. People may avoid mentioning the symptoms to their doctors, or worse yet may mention a yeast infection to a doctor only to get antibiotics as treatment. The antibiotics will kill more beneficial gut bacteria, making the symptoms even more severe.
It can be a touchy matter to get to the root of the problem and to heal from this yeast overgrowth. On top of that, daily stress accumulates and the sugar binges continue, compromising digestion, immunity to illness and infections, energy, and vitality.
Let's look at how candida affects something else that's important--your taste.
One more often overlooked effect of Candida’s triumph in establishing colonies is that ironically while you are eating yummy foods containing high sugar and refined carbohydrates, your palate becomes somewhat less interested in taste overall.
It feels like nothing can be sweet enough, no carbohydrate satisfying enough. For those nine to fivers who make daily stops to a coffee shop, the feeling might be familiar of grabbing a reward of a coveted baked good, only to find out that beyond the first few bites, you just don’t really care much about it. But the yeast want sugar and comforting textured foods, so you keep feeding them.
The taste buds are, as a result, less sensitive to and less interested in food that's not sugary. Cooking can become a chore and food just a comforting habit. The diet turns less diverse, less creative, and less nutritive. Candida yeast does more than just make you feel bad. It pigeon holes you into specific food and lifestyle preferences. Most of these don't include nutrient dense foods but rather calorie dense foods. And they don't promote physical activity, but rather stagnant activities like watching T.V.
Candida yeast is not the only reason a sugar addiction and disinterest in diverse foods develops. But today, it is a major contributor of this effect. Read on to learn more about typical Candida symptoms.
Some of the effects of a Candida overgrowth have already been mentioned. How they play out for each person is based on that individual's overall wellness, digestive health, and immune strength. The body's common reactions to yeast include:
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Athlete’s foot
- Jock itch
- Mind fog
Of course, the quickest way to get better from some of these symptoms is cutting way back on sugar consumption. Along with that, it also helps to follow a 2 to 3 week regimen that creates an unfavorable environment for continued yeast growth in the body. The typical regimen includes:
- Boosting the immune system
- Establishing healthy digestion
- Adrenal support
- Liver detox
- Good rest and relaxation
Health Constellations can help tailor a plan specifically for your health needs to help the body heal from candida overgrowth. Visit the Health-overs page for more info. Read onward down the page to learn more about Candida Stars.
Click through the symptoms below to find out more about the stars that make up the Candida cluster. You'll notice how one star can easily affect other stars. For example, impaired digestion can lead to bloating and mind fog. See how many connections you can spot among the Candida stars. For more information and help on how to resolve candida-related symptoms that may be affecting your health, click on the button below to take the Candida Survey and visit our Services page.
Fatigue caused by Candida overgrowth can be easy to confuse with fatigue caused by Adrenal imbalance, especially since the two often coexist. People whose adrenal systems are stressed usually tend to crave "pick me up" substances that offer a quick burst of energy. Sugar is among them, which can of course then lead to more adrenal imbalance coupled with Candida overgrowth.
Excessive candida in the body leads to fatigue in a few ways. First off, the yeast will mess with your digestive function by crowding out beneficial bacteria. Without enough gut bacteria to break down meals, food is left undigested and not efficiently used for its energy and nutrients. Without the proper nutrition being absorbed from meals, your body is left with a low energy supply. Fatigue.
A second way in which yeast causes fatigue or worsens existing cases is by competing with the blood for sugar. Blood sugar is normally diverted to the organs that need it according to what your body is going through at the time. More blood flows to the digestive system during meals and times of relaxation. More blood travels to your limbs, heart, and brain during times of stress and alert. But Candida yeast can actually compete for this blood sugar, leaving your organs with a shorter supply than you would normally have. Again, fatigue.
The high sugar diet causes fatigue in its own way that is not completely related to the yeast. It releases a flood of insulin into the blood stream, a hormone that helps cells take up glucose from the blood. With a huge surge of insulin, people who are prone to extreme blood sugar fluctuations will feel tired after a high-sugar, high-carb meal.
If you have fatigue, it might be good to explore how much sugar exists in the diet and whether Candida is leading to some of your symptoms.
The brain uses exclusively glucose for its fuel supply. All the thinking, concentrating, memorizing, and problem-solving you do on a daily basis is made possible by glucose. But what is glucose? Sugar. Sugar is something that Candida yeast like a lot too.
Candida makes the body crave more carbohydrates and sugar beyond what the body needs. But once the carbs and sugar are absorbed into the blood stream, the yeast want to have first dibs on the meal. Yeast can multiply, and eat, at a rapid pace as they really like growing their population. So the blood glucose that would normally head toward the brain is reduced somewhat by candida's competitive nature.
Often, when people eliminate or reduce simple sugars and refined carbohydrates from the diet, they find a lot of energy is cleared up to feed their minds. As a result, concentration and memory become sharper.
As we've mentioned, Candida yeast can overcrowd the healthy gut bacteria that normally help digest the food you eat. As more food is left undigested, the yeast has a new feeding ground to explore. Yeast is a bit of a digestive scavenger, enjoying the waste products left behind after the useful elements of food have been absorbed into the body.
As the yeast eat waste matter that is left sitting in the intestines, toxins and gases are released. Normally, if digestion is moving smoothly, any gases and toxins can be quickly eliminated with a bowel movement. When constipation sets in, however, this is not the case and gas and bloating result. Candida overgrowth and constipation actually occur very frequently together.
That is why when digestion needs to be rebalanced, people often look toward probiotic supplementation in some form. The beneficial bacteria, along with healthy fiber in the diet, can help re-establish gut movement and thereby lessen constipation and gas.
Headaches can result from low blood sugar. We've explained how Candida yeast compete with the brain for the blood's sugar supply. When there are excessive and growing populations of yeast in the body, they regularly rob sugar from the blood and cause both brain fog and headaches.
Candida overgrowth also releases toxins into the digestive system. The toxins can accumulate and cause symptoms in areas of the body other than the digestive system. The brain is especially sensitive to these toxins, and many people experience brain fog and headaches as a result of Candida.
Candida also releases chemicals that travel to the brain, for the purpose of making the body crave more carbohydrates and sugars. The yeast wants to be fed fairly regularly, and the chemicals it releases to signal this can add more stress to the brain and contribute to headaches.
Mucus and Congestion
Candida easily travels to the mouth and throat as seen in oral candidiasis (or thrush). In fact, the nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs can all be affected by this yeast. When Candida settles in these areas, the mucous membranes lining the organs must protect themselves from the new foreign invader. Even though yeast normally exists in small amounts in the digestive tract, the nasopharayngeal (nose-throat) and oropharyngeal (mouth-throat) areas are not a typical home for the yeast.
Candida overgrowth is seen as an unwanted visitor in these membranes, which respond to it by producing mucus...sometimes lots of it. You'll see a runny nose, post nasal drip, phlegm, and congestion. It will look like allergic-type symptoms or something like a common cold. But these symptoms don't just happen outside near pollen or ragweed and don't go away in a week like a cold. They linger and constantly nag the person experiencing them.
Other factors can lead to similar symptoms, such as food sensitivities and other hypersensitivities in the body. But candida is one common factor to consider when year-round mucus and congestion problems get out of hand.