Candida Albicans is the most common cause of fungal infections in humans. Ordinarily, candida lives in the body without any issues. Found in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, it's a normal part of the human flora but it also has the ability to colonise nearly every human tissue and organ, with the potential to cause serious and invasive infections. If it grows out of control, Candida can cause chronic health complaints and more seriously impacts the bloodstream, heart, kidneys or brain.
If you struggle with any of the following, you might like to investigate whether overgrowth of candida is a trigger or exacerbating issue for you;
- Foggy, clouded thinking or headaches
- Poor digestive health or recurring stomach problems
- Chronic skin conditions, brittle, broken or infected nails
- Autoimmune disease
- Sinus infections
- Recurring urinary tract infections
- Joint pain
Candida Albicans and Skin Problems
An overgrowth of candida can impact our skin in a couple of ways. Firstly, we might experience a fungal infection on the surface of the skin itself. This type of infection typically occurs in warm, moist, creased areas such as the armpits, under the breasts, between the legs, and under folds of skin in people who are obese. Candida is also the most common cause of nappy rash in infants.
If your immune system is weakened due to chemotherapy treatment or HIV, if you're pregnant, taking long term antibiotics or if your diet is rich in refined carbohydrates and sugar, you might be more susceptible to this type of infection.
Superficial candidal skin infections often appear as a red, flat rash with sharp, raised edges. Skin can feel irritated, hot and itchy. In severe or persistent cases of candidiasis, your doctor may recommend using a special antifungal cream or powder, which can be applied directly to the affected area. You should always consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Candida in the Gut and Chronic Skin Conditions
Candida can also affect our digestive tract and might be associated with ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease. This impact on our gut health can have long term implications for chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis. There is growing research which suggests that psoriasis patients could be more likely to have excessive candida present, this in turn can lead to infection and may worsen psoriasis symptoms.
It's possible that some immunosuppressant medications used in the treatment of psoriasis might make patients more susceptible to fungal infections, including candidiasis, since they inhibit the immune system. This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, highlights a correlation suggesting candida can make psoriasis symptoms worse.
Candida and Leaky Gut
Leaky Gut Syndrome (or Intestinal Permeability) is a common illness affecting an increasingly higher percentage of the population in recent years. There is still some controversy surrounding its existence, with more in depth studies required.
Many health practitioners (myself included) believe the condition results in little holes appearing in the lining of the gut, which allow microbes, toxins, undigested food and other substances to 'leak' through the gut wall. These in turn activate a protective immune system response and this is what links the condition to a wide range of prevalent chronic diseases in the Western world such as: diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic skin complaints and asthma.
Some evidence already exists that notes a significant number of instances of Leaky Gut Syndrome in patients complaining of digestive issues such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease. These are closely linked to food sensitivities (gluten) and allergies (dairy) and many patients found they could recover from their food sensitivities after successful treatment of Candida overgrowth.
Due to the everyday strain of our stressful modern lives, our digestive tract has a lot to deal with! This includes stress, intake of antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and improper nutrition. We're so often in a rush, dealing with fatigue or taking medication for one problem or another that we can end up altering or destroying the delicate balance of beneficial microflora in our gut. Candida overgrowth can come about as a result of this imbalance and may trigger yeast infections as well as Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Candida and Diet
Because we know Candida Albicans live in the gut, looking after our digestive health is really important. Good gut health is something I'm really passionate about, especially when it comes to naturally healing chronic skin conditions. Both my books Radiant and Skin Healing Expert are focused on a gut-friendly diet, and if Candida is something you're particularly concerned about, you might also like to consider taking a Skin Clear Complex Probiotic, which can boost healthy bacteria such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus acidophilus - both known to fight candida.
Following a gut-friendly candida diet limits the intake of sugar, gluten, alcohol, and dairy products, all of which may promote the growth of Candida yeast. I'd also recommend eating plenty of healthful fats and anti-inflammatory foods such as non-starchy veg and leafy greens, which can help to boost immunity and lower the chances of diabetes, another risk factor for candida.
The aim of an anti-candida diet is to help lower inflammation and naturally balance the concentrations of bacteria inside the gut. Research on diet is fairly recent, with this study from 2017 highlighting the implications of consuming too much sugar. If you think candida might be a problem for you, you might want to consider lowering even natural sugars such as honey or the fructose found in fruit such as banana.
To support this theory, the authors of this 2015 review paper note that sugars and lactose-high dairy products may promote yeast growth by lowering pH levels in the digestive tract.
If you'd like to consider making changes to your diet to reduce the risk of candida overgrowth, make a concerted effort to limit sugar, alcohol and refined carbs such as white bread, pasta and pizza. Focus on a mediterranean diet, which has been shown to offer improvements in psoriasis. Try to incorporate as many of these healthy foods as possible into your daily diet:
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, sprouts, onions, asparagus
- Leafy Greens: lettuce, kale, spinach, salad greens
- Low sugar fruits: berries such as raspberries, blueberries, lemons and limes
- Fish: if your diet is non-vegan, wild caught fish is a good protein option
- Healthy fats and omegas: extra virgin olive oil and avocado
- Fermented foods: kombucha, sauerkraut or miso
- Healthful grains: brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds or sunflower seeds
- Natural sugar free sweeteners: including stevia, erythritol or xylitol
- Supplementing with a daily probiotic: such as this one
Whilst I absolutely love juicing and often promote its benefits, if candida is an issue for you, the high sugar content in juices containing fruit, means I wouldn't recommend them. Instead you might prefer to concentrate on a soup-fast, with homemade broths filled with low-starch vegetables.
Other Forms of Candida Overgrowth
You might not recognise this medical term for a condition that's more commonly referred to as 'thrush'. Although most vaginal candidiasis is mild, some women can develop severe infections involving heavy discharge, redness and painful swelling. If you notice any of the following symptoms, it's important to discuss the possibility of thrush with your doctor or pharmacist;
- Painful vaginal itching
- If it hurts during sex
- Discomfort when urinating
- Noticeable abnormal discharge
As women, we're more susceptible to vaginal candidiasis during pregnancy, whilst taking an oral contraceptive, if we have a weakened immune system (HIV or chemotherapy) or if we've recently taken antibiotics. Treatment options are simple and usually effective very quickly. Wearing breathable cotton underwear is thought to be able to help prevent thrush.
More commonly referred to as 'oral thrush', the conditions occurs when a yeast infection develops inside the mouth. Oral candidiasis most commonly affects infants and toddlers. Symptoms include white or yellow bumps which tend to form on the tongue and inside the cheeks. Difficulty in swallowing and loss of taste can also occur.
Treatments usually involve an antifungal mouthwash, which can clear the condition within a couple of weeks. However, if it's something you're prone to, it's important to ask your doctor to consider underlying health problems or to make diet and lifestyle changes to prevent the infection from regularly recurring.
Do you think candida overgrowth might be a problem for you? Have you made changes to resolve the problem? Post in the comments below.
What a fabulous and informative blog post Hanna, THANK YOU!! OMG, Candida overgrowth has most definitely been the root cause of my skin, digestion & health issues. I started researching this 18 months ago when embarking on your detox plan. I was horrified when I pieced together all the underlying contributors at play! I can’t believe the health care professionals couldn’t see what was going on with my body! My sinus and nasal congestion is STILL driving me mad (I have a history of nasal polyps and sinus infections!) Some days it feels like a have a full blown cold and can’t breathe!! Is there anything else you can recommend to elevate the symptoms? I’m considering going to see my Dr again to ask for a referral to an ENT specialist but I get so fearful they will only prescribe more drugs and nasal sprays. The natural, holistic approach should be the first point of call for everyone, shouldn’t, it?! Many thanks, Emily Xx