Naturopathic Medicine for Candida Overgrowth
What is candida overgrowth and why is it problematic?
Our bodies are home to all sorts of commensal microbes, and candida lives among them, especially in warm, moist places like the skin and mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.
Candida is a yeast and C. albicans is the most common type of yeast in the body. Candida in low amounts is normal and does not cause health problems. However, a candida infection (yeast infection) is an invasion of this yeast that can cause mild health problems.
Candida is an opportunistic microbe, meaning if there is an opportunity, such as a weakened immune system or decrease in competition of other microbes, it will rapidly increase in number leading to candida overgrowth.
The signs and symptoms of candida overgrowth are vast and can vary depending on the location of the overgrowth. Here is a list of the main body parts affected by candida overgrowth:
- Mouth – candida overgrowth in the mouth (oropharyngeal candidiasis or oral thrush) causes white/yellow patches and redness on the tongue/mouth, cracked corners of the mouth, and painful swallowing.
- Intestines – candida overgrowth in the intestines (small/large intestinal fungal overgrowth or SIFO/LIFO) commonly causes stomach pain, belching, bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, and white clumps in the stool.
- Skin – candida overgrowth on the skin (cutaneous candidiasis) causes a red, itchy rash in the folds of the skin that can spread to other areas; such as tinea cruris or “jock itch,” athlete’s foot, ringworm, anal itching, and diaper rash.
- Nails – candida overgrowth of the nails (onychomycosis) causes the finger- or toenails to become brittle, thickened, discolored (white, brown, or yellow), disfigured, and/or painful.
- Women – candida overgrowth can cause yeast infections of the vagina (causing redness, itch, pain, and thick/white discharge) and urinary tract infections (causing frequency, urgency, and burning with urination).
- Men – candida overgrowth can cause prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland causing pain and difficulty with urination) and redness, swelling, and pain at the tip of the penis.
Note: Invasive candidiasis is a serious condition that occurs when candida enters the bloodstream, though it is rare and will not be covered in this blog.
Candida overgrowth may also have negative effects on energy (low), memory (poor), mood (depression), mental clarity (brain fog), libido (decreased), cravings (sugar), and pain (joints) – however, these symptoms are anecdotal and thought to be due to various metabolic processes of candida.
Candida overgrowth can exacerbate heavy metal toxicity and food sensitivities; is associated with allergies, chemical sensitivities, leaky gut, SIBO, histamine intolerance, mast cell activation syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease; and often involves the formation of biofilms in the gut, which are sticky matrices that shield candida and can make it resistant to treatment.
Wondering if you have or have had candida overgrowth? A couple clues to help your investigation are that signs and symptoms of candida overgrowth are often recurrent and they usually worsen after eating sugar or simple carbohydrates.
Risk factors for candida overgrowth:
Certain medications: antibiotics, birth control, hormone replacement therapy, steroids, proton pump inhibitors, immunosuppressants
Lifestyle factors: obesity, high stress, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol use
Nutritional factors: high sugar/refined carbohydrate intake, nutrient deficiencies
Medical history: decreased immunity, pregnancy, chemotherapy
Digestive issues: dysmotility, low stomach acid
Certain populations: infants and elderly individuals
Certain conditions: diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS
Damage to the intestinal lining, either from candida overgrowth itself or other factors, may allow absorption of unwanted materials such as candida particles and associated toxins. Candida overgrowth weakens the immune system overtime, increases inflammation, and makes the body more susceptible to other yeast infections (like the ones listed above).
In addition to signs, symptoms, physical exam, and candida-questionnaires – candida overgrowth is often diagnosed by testing for yeast in the stool and/or analyzing tissue samples under a microscope. Functional testing may be done including an organic acid test (can identify yeast and yeast toxins) and food allergy panel (can identify food allergies to yeast).
How is candida overgrowth treated naturopathically?
Conventional medicine offers a variety of oral and topical antifungal medications (a common one used is called Nystatin) – these may be great for killing off the infection, however, they do not address the root cause. Naturopathic medicine takes an expanded approach to treat the current infection and prevent future infections with these main treatment goals:
- Kill the candida infection naturally
- Common anti-fungal herbs include oregano oil, coconut oil, caprylic acid, berberine, garlic extract, neem, thyme, tea tree oil, thuja, and olive leaf
- Starve the candida of its fuel source
- Anti-candida diets are low in added sugar, refined carbohydrates, grains, fruit, alcohol, yeast/fungi, mold, and food allergies and sensitivities
- Restore healthy balance of gut flora
- Prebiotics, probiotics-Lactobacillus spp., biofilm busters, digestive support (acid, enzymes, prokinetics) and repair (glutamine, vitamins, minerals) as needed
- Strengthen the immune system
- A nourishing diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, low stress, avoidance of toxins, management of health conditions, and targeted nutraceuticals (if indicated)
- Liver detoxification & spleen support
- Supporting the liver is important in detoxifying overburdened systems and supporting the spleen is important in fighting candida infection
- Amazing guide for anti-candida dietary recommendations:
- Anti-candida elixir recipe
- 16 oz filtered water
- 1 shot turmeric (anti-inflammatory, liver support)
- 1 shot ginger (fights candida, boosts immunity)
- 1 shot lemon (fights candida, liver support)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (fights candida, detoxifying)
Call LIVV today to schedule an appointment if you have or suspect candida overgrowth – one of our naturopathic doctors can provide a more comprehensive explanation of candida and design an individualized treatment protocol just for you!
Written by Jordan Valdez, RDN
The Textbook of Natural Medicine by Dr. Pizzorno, ND
YouTube Channel of Mark Hyman, MD
Website of Amy Myers, MD
PowerPoint Lecture of Dr. Nazanin Vissighi, ND
PowerPoint Lecture Dr. Lela Altman, ND
Mayer FL, Wilson D, Hube B. Candida albicans pathogenicity mechanisms. Virulence. 2013;4(2):119-128. doi:10.4161/viru.22913