Candida overgrowth is a very common problem, leading to symptoms such as gas, bloating, irritable bowel, constipation and/ or diarrhea, lethargy and fatigue, brain fog, neurological issues and many more. Candida is a yeast that occurs in our large intestine – it is supposed to be there, and serves a good function as part of our natural microbiome. However, if Candida becomes overgrown, which can happen secondary to antibiotic use, a high-sugar diet, or other irritants in the gut such as food allergens or intestinal parasites, problems can arise.
Yeast overgrowth is similar to food allergies in that there are a plethora of associated symptoms. This can lead to skepticism in many doctors; the symptoms are tough to define. Candidiasis commonly infects the ears, nose, and urinary and intestinal tracts.
Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Overgrowth- Do Any of These Sound Familiar? It Might be Yeast?
- constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome
- abdominal pain
- bloating, gas, and indigestion
- bladder spasms and infections
- ear infections
- sinus infections
- rectal itching
- itchy ears or nose
- sugar or starch cravings
- white tongue (thrush)
- toe or finger nail infections
- jock itch
- chronic vaginal yeast infections
- intestinal permeability
- increased body odor
- chronic fatigue
Like most opportunistic infections, Candida and other yeasts may increase during times of stress!
Like most opportunistic infections, Candida and other yeasts may increase during times of stress. This overgrowth leaks toxins into the bloodstream or other tissues, allowing antigens (foreign invaders) to set up residence in various bodily tissues. Antigens then trigger complex allergic reactions. (This might explain why most individuals with chronic yeast overgrowth develop food, inhalant, and environmental allergies).
Allergic reactions can manifest in a variety of symptoms: fatigue, brain fog, depression, joint and muscle pain, digestive disorders, headache, rash, and breathing problems. Inflammation of the nose, throat, ears, bladder, and intestinal tract, can lead to infections of the sinus, respiratory, ear, bladder and intestinal membranes.
In an attempt to arrest these infections, doctors might prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic. Such antibiotics promote yeast overgrowth and often times, additional symptoms. Yeast can also invade the intestinal wall creating intestinal permeability aka “Leaky gut”. Once a leaky gut has developed, toxins from microorganisms and protein molecules from your food enter the blood stream and create an immune reaction.
Remember, yeast feeds on sugars and on carbohydrates that easily convert to sugars. In turn, yeasts produce a series of chemical products as waste, among which are acetaldehyde and ethanol. Ethanol is alcohol, and there are cases of people who have never drunk a drop of alcohol yet feel as though they are drunk.
What Causes Yeast Overgrowth?
Birth control pills, food allergies, antibiotics, and corticosteroid therapy are all initiators of yeast overgrowth. A minor increase in intestinal yeast is usually not a problem, leading possibly to infection of the mouth (thrush) or vaginal lining (vaginitis or “a yeast infection”). The body’s immune defenses are usually strong enough to keep the yeast from taking over the intestinal tract. However, if yeast overgrowth is left unchallenged, more sinister symptoms appear. Yeasts can change into an invasive mycellial fungus with rhizoids (tentacle-like projections) that penetrate the lining of the intestinal tract. These projections can cause intestinal permeability and leak toxins across the cellular membranes.
How do you test for Candida overgrowth?
Test #1 IgG, IgA and IgM Candida Antibodies
Blood tests check for Immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, and IgM) Candida antibodies in your blood, and can be performed at most any lab. Immunoglobulins are immune cells that will show elevated on a lab test in the presence of a certain pathogen. This is often how infectious diseases are diagnosed, through immunoglobulin levels. High levels of these antibodies indicate that an overgrowth of Candida is present somewhere in the body and that your immune system is reacting to it.
Remember, Candida has the ability to suppress the immune system so it is important to ask your doctor to test your total IgG, IgA and IgM levels along with the Candida antibodies.
Low levels of total IgG, IgA or IgM could cause a false negative response to the Candida antibodies, meaning you have Candida but since your immune system is lowered, you are unable to produce a response and your blood test comes back negative.
Since I see so many patients with suppressed immune systems, I find Candida antibodies to be less sensitive than the other tests in trying to establish whether there are yeast issues in the gut. I have seen cases with high arabinose and other yeast-sensitive markers on the urine test, but no elevations in the blood immunoglobulins. The Candida problem needs to be quite systemic before blood immunoglobulins are going to rise, where I think the urine and stool tests are more sensitive to intestinal overgrowth itself.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Often, I will see clues on a CBC that let me know that Candida is present. A low white blood cell count (WBC) has been associated with Candida overgrowth as well as a pattern of high neutrophil and low lymphocyte count. While these are non-specific to Candida, after working with thousands of patients, I can tell you I see this pattern very frequently in those with Candida overgrowth.
Test #2 Stool Testing
I personally find this to be the most accurate test available. This will check for Candida in your colon or lower intestines. However, you need to make sure that your doctor orders a comprehensive stool test rather than the standard stool test.
With the stool test, your stool is
What I like about this test is that comprehensive stool analysis is that it can give us some clues as to what else is going on: Are there parasites in the gut? Is their bacterial overgrowth? Are there any pathogenic bacteria showing up at high levels? How are secretory IgA levels and immune markers? That gives a window into the immune health of the gut itself. Are there elevated levels of inflammatory markers? What strains of bacteria are missing from the microbiome?
Test #3 Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test
Microbial organic acid test – this is a urine test and can be done in the comfort of your own home. It measures a number of markers associated with yeast, but to me the most useful one is called arabinose – this is a waste product of Candida that shows up in the urine.
I like this test because it is easy for parents and children to collect the sample at home – just a single morning urine test is all that is needed. There are pediatric collection bags available for kids who are not potty trained, that go inside their diaper.
I also like it because it really quantifies the problem. If the level is supposed to be less than 29, and it comes back at 35, then we know we have a more advanced problem. If the level comes back at 20, we know we know that we catching a problem in advance. It’s also a great marker to check throughout treatment to make sure it’s going down in response to anti-fungal therapy.
Not Sure which testing Might be best in your case? We can Help get started here