Candida is a form of yeast, also classified as a fungus, that lives in the large intestine and is also found on the skin and genitals. It is only a problem when it becomes overgrown or when an individual has a supressed immune system. The goal is not to totally get rid of it but to deal with the overgrowth and restore balance to your body. Total removal of candida is impossible and the effort to attempt this does your body a disservice. Some candida is fine. A lot is not.
When Candida is overgrown, it can cause:
Incessant sugar cravings
Bloating & gas
Toe Nail fungus
Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
Frequent urinary tract infections
Acne, skin issues, rashes
If you are struggling with any of the above, you are probably eager to find relief and ready to get started. Before you do, read about the common mistakes of candida treatment:
Mistake # 1: You Self Treat without Testing
Many people assume they have Candida overgrowth based on their symptoms or based on the “candida spit test”. This is problematic because most symptoms for yeast overgrowth are non-specific which means they can also be the symptoms for various other health conditions. Diagnosing yourself based on symptoms or a spit test alone is never a good idea. A spit test is just an initial screening.
Candida is a common thing to suspect. Many people browse “Dr. Google” and assume they have it. It could be candida but it could also be a number of other fungal species. It may not even be yeast. It could be a parasitic infections (surprisingly common!), bacterial dysbiosis, leaky gut, autoimmune problems or a number of other disorders that mimic candida.
These conditions are not mutually exclusive. You could have candida plus any of these other conditions at the same time. To self treat candida is to run the risk of never getting to the bottom of your health complaints.
For example, I rarely see candida overgrowth without other gut issues. Yeast is commonly a secondary infection, meaning that some other infection came first and allowed the candida to overgrow. If you do not holiststiclly heal your gut, the likelihood is high that the yeast will return.
How to Test for Yeast
There are a number of different testing options that will identify yeast overgrowth. A microscopy stool test ( a test where a skilled lab technician looks at your sample with a high powered microscope) will rarely identify candida because candida is hard to culture in a petri dish. I like the Diagnostics Solution Lab ‘GI-MAP’ because it can identify several different types of yeast overgrowths, (not just candida) because it uses DNA analysis of gut bugs (as opposed to micoscopy methodology) to give an excellent picture of the GI environment. I also like the ParaWellness Test.
Mistake # 2: You are using the “candida diet”
The candida diet recommends removing sugar, starch, alcohol and refined foods. Since sugar and starches are a primary food source for the yeast, it postulates that by cutting these things out the yeast will go away. Not entirely correct.
By drastically limiting fuel to candida, you are pushing down the overgrowth. By pushing down overgrowth, it may also be harder to kill off candida with herbs. It sounds silly, but you actually have to keep the yeast happy in order to control the overgrowth.
In keeping with my philosophy that there is no one right diet for anyone, this applies to candida treatment as well. Some people may be able to simply cut out sugar to control yeast but other people may need a more comprehensive approach. Some people may fare better on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is based on the molecular structure of carbohydrates and actually allows some sugars, though not many, and not in the beginning phase. The SCD diet may also be better to help heal the lining of the small intestine.
Mistake # 3: Failure to Heal a Damaged Gut
The main reason why people fail to eliminate the candida overgrowth is because they do not address the reason(s) which allowed the yeast to spiral out of control.
Candida is a natural part of you and is kept in check by the other beneficial microflora that reside alongside it. When gut flora becomes depleted from food intolerance, inflammation, alcohol, leaky gut, poor diet, toxic overload or other pathogenic infections, the yeast can move beyond the large intestine and affect other areas of the body.
Yeast is opportunistic. If it has the opportunity to overgrow, it will. Many people diligently do their candida diet, take herbal or conventional remedies but do nothing to address GI imbalance or to repair the mucosal lining of the gut.
If you do not change the environment that coaxed the candida to overgrow in the first place then you will never get rid of the yeast.
Healing candida involves addressing inflammation, restoring beneficial bacteria, and identifying other pathogenic infections.
As always, lifestyle plays a role here as well: Are you getting enough sleep at night? Are you going to bed at a decent time? Are you managing your stress? Do you exercise regularly?
All these things are important in maintaining total body balance and ensuring that yeast is kept in check. It’s never just about killing yeast.
Mistake # 4: You Opt for the Nystatin from your doctor and think you are done
Herbal medicine to manage candida can be highly effective if done right but it takes longer to manage candida this way and therefore, some people opt for an Rx from their doctor, such as nystatin. I understand this, I really do. And sometimes it can even work. But most people who go the standard treatment route do nothing to heal their gut (mistake #3) and they are back at square one again.
Mistake #5 You Don’t Give Herbal Medicines a Chance to Work
As I said in #4, herbal medicines can be very helpful for managing candida but they take longer than using a prescription and require you to be vigilant in taking your remedies, often up to 3x/day. You are also looking at 40-60 days of doing this versus 2 weeks on nystatin. There are also candida clease packages on store shelves that purport to work in 1 to 2 weeks. This is not nearly long enough to address a candida problem. If you opt for the herbal route, and want to do it properly, you are looking at 1-2 months of treatment and then perhaps another few months of working on gut health.
Remember, working on candida is never just about the candida. It’s about good gut health and assessing lifestyle as well.
As a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner (FDN-P), I have been trained in functional lab work and holistic protocols. The test that I favor for candida assessment is called the GI-Map. If you suspect you have candida but don’t want to make any of the above mistakes, I encourage you to reach out to me and see if we might be a good fit to work together.