From Lauren: Today’s post is by Candida expert Dr. Eric Bakker, who has studied Candida for more than 20 years. He introduced himself to me through my recent post, Busted: Candida Myths where I share the dietary principles that I am using to address my Candida overgrowth.
20 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Candida Yeast Infections
I’ve been studying Candida albicans for the past 20+ years of my career. While the fungal yeast organism seems like an old friend to me, this nuisance is not very well understood by the majority of the population, including those within the medical community. When I start to talk about Candida overgrowth and Candida yeast infections with my patients, I’m often met with a litany of questions. The following are some of the most common, along with their answers.
1. What exactly is Candida?
Candida, or Candida albicans, is a yeast/fungal organism that lives naturally within the human body. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, man, or child. The Candida organism’s levels of existence are kept in check by the good bacteria in your body.
2. Aren’t Candida yeast infections only a female problem?
That’s a common misconception. While the vaginal Candida yeast infection is very common in women, that’s not the only form of yeast infection out there. Other very common forms of Candida yeast infections include athlete’s foot, ringworm, oral thrush, jock itch, and other fungal skin irritations.
3. Why do antibiotics cause Candida infections?
Antibiotics attack bacteria in the body, but they don’t know the difference between the good flora and the bad. They end up destroying all of the bacteria in your intestines, and then there is not enough good bacteria to keep the Candida organism under control. When this happens, Candida yeast infections develop.
4. How long will it take for the Candida yeast infection to go away?
It depends on the type you end up with. If you rarely take antibiotics, you’ll likely be able to use OTC medications to treat whatever variety of yeast infection you end up with. That could take up to a week, depending on what you’re dealing with. If you take antibiotics regularly, you are constantly beating down your immune system while allowing the levels of Candida in your body to rise. This may lead to a chronic Candida yeast infection and the treatments are much different.
5. What are the symptoms of a chronic Candida overgrowth?
Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of a chronic Candida yeast condition are often hard to detect. Some people simply have recurring and worsening symptoms of the more identifiable infections – like oral or vaginal thrush. Problems occur when the Candida overgrowth has had a great deal of time to impact the body. People begin to experience symptoms that mimic other conditions. These include but aren’t limited to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, urinary tract infections (UTI), trouble concentrating, heart palpitations, diarrhea, constipation, and so much more. Children may even appear to have ADD or ADHD. You can see a more extensive list here.
6. Why are Candida yeast infections so often misdiagnosed?
There are two reasons, really. The first, like I noted above, is that the symptoms mimic other conditions. Ultimately, your doctor will continue to diagnose you incorrectly and prescribe medications, like antibiotics or steroids, that will make the condition worse. The second reason is that the mainstream medical community still balks at the idea that Candida can impact the body the way I’ve described. It’s ultimately up to you to find an open-minded doctor or naturopath who is willing to look at your whole body and medical history and not just your acute symptoms.
7. How can I tell if I have a Candida problem?
There are several great tests you can use to diagnose yourself initially. The itch test forces you to track how often you touch yourself to itch or scratch daily, making you aware of a potential problem. The craving tests deals with your ability to stay away from sugars and carbs. The spit test, which I love, asks you to spit into a clean glass of water in the morning. If your spit is cloudy and forms tendrils, suspends in the water in specks, or sinks, you may have a problem. There are also blood, urine, and stool sample tests that can be done as well, but you’ll need to see a doctor for those labs.
8. Is Candida overgrowth deadly?
Yes and no. The short answer is no. Candida, for most people, can cause a lot of medical complications until it is treated, but acute and chronic forms of Candidiasis aren’t deadly. There is a Candida infection, known as Candidemia, which occurs when the Candida organism enters the bloodstream. This type can be deadly if not caught and treated. It usually occurs in those with severely compromised immune systems – like cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy or those who have HIV/AIDS.
9. Can I completely eliminate Candida from my body?
No, and you actually don’t want to. Remember, Candida lives naturally within your body. Your goal is to bring the level of Candida in your body back down to normal and then work to avoid doing things that will cause it to rise and take over again.
10. Did my mercury fillings cause my Candida infection?
Mercury is a toxin and the CDC clearly mandates that no level of mercury consumption is acceptable. Those “silver” fillings you have are made with mercury. The ADA claims that the mercury from the fillings can’t enter your body, but other research indicates that it does leach into your bloodstream. Mercury doesn’t directly cause Candida overgrowth, but it can cause damage to your thyroid and your adrenal glands, thus causing immune dysfunction and, ultimately, Candida.
11. What type of diet do I need to follow to cure my Candida overgrowth?
There are tons of variations on the Candida diet out there, and my own is the Candida Crusher. I’m not saying that any are right or wrong; but some are more complex than others. It’s important to realize that anyone promising a quick fix is likely offering you a hope and not a real cure. Curing a Candida yeast infection takes time and patience. You’ll have to follow a strict and healthy diet, modify your lifestyle, and take antifungals and probiotics. You may also need to take some additional herbal supplements to detoxify your body or strengthen your immune system. (Note from Lauren: I shared the dietary principles I’m using to treat my candida overgrowth here.)
12. Can I use OTC antifungals to cure my Candida yeast infection?
Yes, you can. If you have an acute yeast infection, like a vaginal infection or athlete’s foot, you can find over the counter creams and powders that are often helpful (Note from Lauren: I recommend using anti-fungal essential oils diluted in a carrier oil for toenail fungus or athlete’s foot). They may be the only treatment you need. If you have a Candida overgrowth that is affecting you chronically, you’ll probably need to combine your medications with a total Candida diet plan.
13. Do I need to take oral antifungals to cure my Candida yeast overgrowth?
It depends on the severity of your symptoms, but some sort of oral antifungal should be incorporated in to your plan. The question will be whether or not you end up with a natural supplement that acts with antifungal properties or whether you have such a bad infection you need a chemical antifungal. We’d like to get you away from chemical medications during this process, but if you have a really bad infection, like leaky gut syndrome, you may need to take more drastic measures.
14. Why are probiotics so important to my Candida treatment plan?
I mentioned before that the good bacteria in your intestines helps to keep the bad bacteria and the Candida yeast organism under control. If you were on antibiotics, both the good and bad bacteria were destroyed. Probiotic supplements can help to speed up the repopulation of the good bacteria in your intestines, helping you to bring and keep your Candida problem under control.
15. Why can’t I have alcohol with Candida overgrowth?
Alcohol is a tough one for a lot of patients and I’m going to be upfront right now – you absolutely must give up alcohol in order to treat your Candida overgrowth. Alcohol contains fermented yeast and sugars – both ingredients that will fuel and feed the Candida already living in your body.
16. Can I treat my vaginal Candida yeast infection with yogurt?
Eating yogurt is a great way to get more probiotics into your diet naturally. Yogurt has a chemical called lactic acid that helps to convert lactose (which is sugary) into lactic acid, which Candida hates. A lot of women will not only eat yogurt, but use it as a douche as well. This is the only case in which I justify the use of any sort of “douche” to treat the female vaginal infection – yogurt only. The yogurt douche won’t work if you use anything other than high-quality, organic, plain yogurt – left out until it reaches room temperature.
17. What lifestyle changes do I need to make to cure my Candida yeast infection?
You need to get your stress levels under control. When you are stressed, your body creates a chemical called cortisol. Cortisol causes belly fat and it suppresses your immune system. When your immune system is depleted, it is easier for the Candida albicans organism to grow and thrive. Learn to mediate, try to exercise more, and create a healthier living environment overall.
18. What is Candida die-off?
When the Candida organisms begin to die, you may experience something known as “die-off.” When Candida yeast dies off at a fast rate, you can experience some side effects as the toxins from the dead organisms enter your body. Many people mistakenly believe their condition is getting worse when it is actually getting better. You’ll want to talk to a naturopath about some additional supplements you can take to deal with the die-off symptoms. These might include caprylic acid, colloidal silver, or Pau d’arco tea.
19. What foods are allowed while I’m on the Candida diet?
In the beginning, your diet will be very limited. As you progress, you’ll slowly add foods back to your diet so that you can determine which ones are causing your Candida overgrowth symptoms – foods you may need to consciously avoid forever. In general, though, you’ll be allowed to eat a wide variety of vegetables (avoiding starchy veggies), live yogurt cultures, fresh meats, select nuts and seeds, grains that do not contain gluten, and a wide variety of herbs and spices which are not only healthy but will help you adjust to your new diet. Certain oils, like coconut oil, are great as well.
20. What others factors are contributing to my illness?
We talk a lot about antibiotics, but they’re not the only culprit. Other immune suppressing drugs, like cortisone and prednisone, or birth control pills can have an impact on your flora as well. The truth is that it isn’t just medications you have to worry about, either. The animals we eat are pumped full of antibiotics and we’re getting additional dosages through their meat – another great reason to eat organic if you can. You’ll want to stay away from preservatives, chemicals, pollutants, insecticides, and even mold spores (especially if you live in an environment that is always damp).
BONUS: What are some of the herbs I can use to treat Candida overgrowth?
There are so many I couldn’t possibly list them all here right now. I’ll start you with 10:
Cantron is a blend of different plants and is a great antioxidant. It will act as a detoxifier.
Shilajit is used in Auyrvedic medicine and is known to detox mercury from the body.
Chorella and Cilantro are two separate herbs but in this instance should be used together to detoxify the body, especially of mercury.
Chaga is actually a mushroom but when taken as an herb can help to boost the immune system.
Ginseng will help you to increase your energy levels. It’s got some antifungal properties and is also great for boosting your adrenal glands.
Coconut oil isn’t an herb, but it is quite possibly the healthiest fat you can put into your body today. It helps with cholesterol and offers energy to those who can’t have sugars. It also contains caprylic acid, which Candida hates.
Pau D’Arco has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It’ll strengthen your immune system while helping to kill off some of the yeast.
White peony is great for supporting digestive health.
Aloe vera is great for your immune system and has been proven to slow the growth of Candida.
Reishi is also a great antifungal and will support your immune system.
There is a lot to learn about Candida yeast infections. If you suspect you have a Candida overgrowth, seek out the advice of a doctor or naturopath who can help you to make the right diagnosis. The sooner you are diagnosed, the faster you can begin Candida treatment.
About the Author
Dr. Eric Bakker, ND has been studying the Candida albicans organism for more than 25 years & writes on his personal blog at Yeastinfection.Org. Feel free to visit him at the Ask Dr. Eric Bakker CureZone forum to ask your own questions. He’s always happy to help.
Do you struggle with Candida overgrowth or Candida yeast infections? Have you found success through herbs or diet?