Candida is an opportunistic pathogen that can attack anywhere in or on the body and is the most common of human fungal pathogens that can trigger systemic infections. Pathogens are defined as infectious agents that cause diseases in a host.
What Is Candida?
Candida is defined as a fungus. It begins as a microscopic organism that can live in the body for months or even years, not causing any damage whatsoever until internal hormonal, chemical, and microbiological balances are interrupted, or when the immune system becomes weakened. At this point, Candida blossoms to life as a fungal infection, more commonly called a “yeast infection” or Candidiasis. It then becomes virulent and makes its way through the intestinal wall, causing numerous problems.
Candida albicans is the most prevalent form of Candida, – a normal bacterial flora found in the mouth, throat, gastro-intestinal tract and in vaginal mucosa. Normally, levels of Candida are beneficial to health and wellness, functioning as a barrier to overgrowth of other fungal and bacterial invasions.
Five different species of Candida pathogens have been recognized as the most common causes of fungal infections, although to date, over two dozen species of Candida have been clinically identified, such as:
- Candida albicans
- Candida glabrata
- Candida tropicalis
- Candida parapsolosis
- Candida krusei
An increase in Candida infections today may be due to the use of antibiotics.
What Causes Candida?
The growth of Candida yeasts is usually contained by a healthy immune system and competition from other microorganisms occupying the same space in the body. In order to grow, Candida needs moisture.
A number of causes of Candida overgrowth and infections have been identified and continue to undergo research. Among them include:
- Environmental toxins – Exposure to environmental toxins, such as mercury, on an ongoing basis can compromise a healthy immune system, leaving it susceptible to a Candida overgrowth.
- Inadequate diet – Foods and beverages high in sugar and fat content can trigger colonization of yeast due to disruption of hormonal levels including estrogen and insulin. Higher than normal estrogen levels can interfere with the body’s ability to not only identify, but fight pathogens.
- Medications – Some medications, especially steroids, antibiotics, and acid blockers, can destroy normal gut flora, leaving an open door to proliferation of Candida or other bacterial, fungal, or viral microorganisms.
- Health issues – A number of health issues can lead to candidiasis and include HIV/AIDS, mononucleosis, Lyme Disease, cancer treatments, stress, and diabetes.
Signs or Symptoms of Candida/Candidiasis
If you have a Candida overgrowth, you may experience several symptoms depending on the area infected. Minimal issues can occur, such as redness, itching, and discomfort. It sometimes presents as an infection of the skin, fingernails, or toenails. It can also appear in mucous membranes such as the throat, mouth, esophagus, or genitalia.
In its more virulent form, Candidiasis can attack the gastrointestinal, urinary and/or respiratory tracts. It is not uncommon to have a patient present with at least two or more symptoms. Because it can take so many different forms, it often makes it difficult for physicians to correctly diagnose and treat the underlying issues.
Specific signs or symptoms of a Candida overgrowth/Candidiasis include the following:
- Skin conditions – Irritating skin conditions that crop up as a result of Candida include Athlete’s foot, ‘jock itch’, psoriasis, hives and rashes.
- Respiratory – Symptoms include congestion in the lungs and nasal passages, asthma, chronic bronchitis, sore throats, and frequent colds.
- Genital-urinary – Vaginal infections, infections of the male genitalia, prostatitis, rectal itch, and urinary tract infections are the most common genital-urinary issues related to a yeast overgrowth, but it can also cause menstrual issues, impotence and infertility.
- Gastrointestinal – Heartburn, belching, gas, bloating, indigestion, nausea, intestinal cramps, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and gastric ulcers are typical symptoms of Candida.
- Neurological – Neurological indications include irritability, mood swings, fatigue, headaches, a foggy brain, as well as poor concentration, depression and anxiety.
- Allergic reactions – Allergic reactions to foods, beverages and chemicals are not uncommon. Often these show up through respiratory or gastrointestinal problems.
The best ways to avoid getting Candidiasis, or a Candida overgrowth, include:
- Avoiding antibiotics, steroids, and acid blockers unless absolutely necessary;
- Eliminating sugar, dairy, and complex carbohydrates from your diet;
- Eating a healthy diet of fruits (not to exceed two or three per day), vegetables, whole grains and no more than 6 ounces of protein daily. Organic, antibiotic and hormone-free choices are preferable;
- Taking probiotics and digestive enzymes daily;
- Avoiding alcohol and sugary drinks.
Candida Pathogens and Your Health
Candida pathogens are opportunistic. In the presence of other infections, Candida can increase the risk of pneumonia. It can wreak havoc on oral and dental health. Several studies have linked Candida albicans to a proliferation of other bacterial species such as Streptococcus.
Initial approaches (conventional and alternative) to Candida treatment should include avoidance of steriods, acid blockers and antibiotics unless absolutely required. Essential is restoration of nutritional support through foods and supplements such as probiotics, which aid the body’s absorption of nutrients and can reduce Candida proliferation as well as boost immune system function. Just as important is the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, including a well-balanced diet, plenty of water, adequate intake of macro- and micronutrients, and supplements to support your identified deficiencies, as well as exercise.