Quick survey - do you suffer from most or all of the following?
Your body is a bewilderingly complex arrangement of cells, tissues, organs and systems. But if you look at the estimated numbers, only about half of those cells are actually human – the rest are made up of hundreds of species of micro-organisms, including bacteria and yeast. All these little beings usually live in perfect harmony with us, and each other. But when these critters get out of balance, bad things can happen.
One such critter is called Candida albicans. It’s a species of yeast that lives in everyone, and most of the time it doesn’t bother us. It competes for food and habitat with all the other microbes, most of which are species of bacteria. This perfect balance prevents any one species from gaining the upper hand. But one common medication – both a blessing and a curse – can upset this balance and then things can get a bit complicated: antibiotics!
Antibiotics are still the greatest medical breakthrough humans have ever made. But we’re rapidly approaching the day when we’ll have overused them to the point that they’ll be basically useless. But that’s another story.
Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria. They are not effective against viral infections. Nor do they affect yeast (for the most part). They are wildly effective in wiping out bacteria by the billions – but when they do this, they leave behind empty habitat (our bodies) to be colonized by whatever happens to be handy, which in our case is often Candida. See where I’m going here?
As you now know, symptoms of Candida overgrowth are numerous and varied.
And like I said above, antibiotics play a big role in developing this. But you can get this without antibiotics. A poor diet, one high in refined carbohydrates and alcohol, definitely plays a part. Chronic stress also contributes, causing gut inflammation and poor digestion.
How do you know for sure if candida is the problem? Testing is available – blood or urine can show it; but stool testing is the most definitive. Do you need to test? Not necessarily – if you have many of the symptoms listed above, as well as having a history of repeated antibiotic treatments, it’s pretty likely.
So what do you do? The most effective treatment is a multi-factorial approach: starving it out with a low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet; actively killing the yeast cells either with natural or pharmaceutical anti-fungal agents; and repopulating the gut with various strains of good bacteria so the yeast (which is always present, remember) can’t get out of control again. At the same time, don’t forget to heal your gut. Yeast overgrowth causes a lot of inflammation, which is what allows the yeast cells to continue to get into the bloodstream, circulate through the body and cause all those systemic symptoms that make life so uncomfortable.
If Candida is making your life miserable, come see us at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic. Any of our experienced naturopathic doctors can help guide you back to a healthy, happy life.
Reuben Dinsmore is a naturopathic physician in Vancouver, BC interested in opening up the lines of dialogue around health.