If you’re experiencing bloating, brain fog, chronic fatigue, and frequent migraines or headaches, it might be wise to ask your doctor to test you for candida yeast overgrowth. Not sure what candida is? Or why it’s a leading suspect in these and other conditions linked to chronic disease? That’s what today’s post is about.

Candida albicans is a microscopic yeast that lives within and around us all. Like many microorganisms, it doesn’t cause a problem until an imbalance occurs in the community of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that populate the body. Then, it can cause all sorts of illness, from obvious conditions, such as thrush and vaginal yeast infections, to a wide range of illnesses with more mysterious symptoms. These include fatigue, headache, food sensitivities, rashes, and digestive issues. In addition, Candida yeast overgrowth can trigger and contribute to numerous autoimmune disorders, including arthritis, allergies, gastric ulcers, colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

The medical community recognizes and provides treatments for the obvious, acute medical conditions caused by Candida yeast overgrowth, including thrush, vaginitis, frequent urinary tract infections, certain skin and nail infections, and severe systemic infections that affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones, and other parts of the body. But that same community has been slow to recognize the role Candida plays in chronic medical conditions.

Graphic of word cloud of candida overgrowth

In fact, for the last half century and even today, most conventional medical practitioners continue to push back against any suggestion that Candida yeast plays a role in chronic health conditions. They are skilled at identifying conditions that are relatively easy to diagnose and can be treated with pharmaceutical-grade antifungal medications. But they tend to overlook Candida infections that fly below the radar.

Tracing Symptoms to Causes

To be fair, the connection between Candida yeast overgrowth and chronic health conditions can be elusive. Candida overgrowth is typically just one link in a chain reaction of causes. For example, overuse of antibiotics can cause an imbalance in gut flora that triggers an overgrowth of Candida. That can lead to leaky gut that promotes an overactive immune system that attacks the joints, resulting in arthritis. In this complex case, conventional medicine would simply treat the symptoms of arthritis without ever addressing other links in the chain reaction.

In contrast, the functional medicine and integrative healthcare providers here at PROVOKE Health take a different approach. Like curious children, we keep asking questions until we have a complete picture of what’s going on:

Question: Why does this patient have arthritis?

Answer: Arthritis is an auto-immune condition that causes inflammation of the joints. The immune system is attacking the joints.

Question: Why is the immune system attacking the joints?

Answer: Because the immune system is overactive.

Question: Why is the immune system overactive?

Answer: Because foreign substances that should be contained within the gut are leaking out (leaky gut) triggering an immune response.

Question: Why does the patient have a leaky gut?

Answer: Because the community of microorganisms inhabiting the gut is out of balance.

Question: Why is the community of microorganisms out of balance?

Answer: Because the patient was on several rounds of antibiotics to treat various bacterial infections.

This unconventional approach to diagnosis involves asking questions and finding answers by conversing with our patients, examining family history, and ordering tests. The resulting diagnosis and treatment are far more detailed and nuanced than the diagnosis of arthritis offered by mainstream medicine. Based on the answers to these questions and results from lab tests, we now know that we need to take a specific root cause approach that does the following:

  • Calms the inflammation — to alleviate the joint pain and swelling.
  • Restores immune system health and function — so it stops attacking healthy tissues.
  • Heals the gut — to prevent substances that should not be entering the bloodstream from leaking out and triggering an immune response.
  • Rebalances the community of microorganisms residing in the gut — to keep the population of Candida yeast in check.

In addition, a functional medicine approach will identify any nutritional deficiencies and lifestyle issues that may have contributed to or resulted from the illness, with the goal of restoring our patient’s whole health.

More About Candida Yeast

Knowledge is power. The more you know about Candida yeast, the better equipped you are to restore gut health and balance. Here are some important facts to know about Candida yeast:

  • Candida organisms commonly colonize the human gastrointestinal tract. Their presence is generally benign until they overpopulate some area of the body.
  • Recent research suggests a link between Candida yeast overgrowth and several diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. See “Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization.”
  • Candida can move from the GI tract to other parts of the body. See “Candida colonization as a source for Candidaemia.”
  • Patients with Crohn’s disease and their first-degree healthy relatives are more frequently and heavily colonized by Candida albicans than are those without a family history of Crohn’s. See “Candida albicans colonization and ASCA in familial Crohn’s disease.”
  • Antibiotics, along with steroids and other immunosuppressive medications, are associated with Candida yeast overgrowth. Here at PROVOKE Health, many of the patients we see with Candida yeast overgrowth have been on several courses of antibiotics.
  • Candida yeast overgrowth often results in a vicious cycle with Candida fueling inflammation and the resulting inflammation promoting Candida colonization. This cycle makes Candida-related illnesses very persistent, delaying healing and exacerbating illness.
  • Diets high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, including sweet drinks, many fruits, pasta, bread, and other baked goods promote yeast overgrowth.
  • Indoor environments with toxic mold promote Candida overgrowth.
  • Stress promotes loss of immune resilience, contributing to Candida overgrowth.

Diagnosing Candida Yeast Overgrowth

At PROVOKE Health, we routinely screen patients for Candida yeast overgrowth and sensitivity to yeast. Our diagnosis begins with a careful evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and family history that reveal one or more of the following:

  • Skin eruptions or irritations, including acne
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Headache/migraine
  • Bloating
  • Loose stools or constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Mood swings
  • History of vaginitis or yeast infections
  • History of oral thrush
  • History of ulcers
  • History of bowel diseases, such as irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or Crohn’s disease
  • History of taking antibiotics or steroids or other immunosuppressive medications
  • Overconsumption of sugar and other simple carbohydrates
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • History of mold exposure

If a patient has any of the conditions or lifestyle factors included in the list, we order lab tests to confirm or rule out candida yeast overgrowth. Test may include one or more of the following:

  • Microbial Organic Acids Test (MOAT): A urine test from Great Plains Lab that checks for levels of metabolites produced by yeast and bacteria
  • Real Time Lab stool test for presence of Candida overgrowth
  • Candida antibody test: A blood test from Quest Diagnostics that indicates whether the immune system has created antibodies to fight a Candida infection
  • Nasal swab for yeast colonization from Microbiology DX (in some cases, we may need to restore microbial balance to the sinuses)

Treating Candida Yeast Overgrowth

If symptoms and testing suggest a connection to Candida yeast overgrowth, our individualized plan of care may include the following:

  • Adjusting the diet to reduce consumption of foods that feed Candida yeast, such as sweets.
  • Antifungal medications (such as nystatin) or natural supplements (allicillin, caprylic acid, and berberine) to kill the yeast:
  • Probiotics and prebiotics to restore balance to the community of beneficial microorganisms that inhabit the gut. Beneficial microorganisms keep the populations of potentially harmful microorganisms in check.
  • Addressing any sources of psychological or emotional stress that may be contributing to a yeast overgrowth.

Additional treatments may include adjusting medications the patient is currently taking, detoxing and limiting exposure to environmental toxins (such as mold toxins), calming the body’s inflammatory response, and restoring a healthy immune response.

For more about what you can do to reverse Candida yeast overgrowth through diet, reach out to us using the Contact form here on our website, and be sure to ask about the “PROVOKE Health’s 28-Day Candida Elimination Plan.” This guide includes lists of what to eat and what not to eat, shopping lists, menu plans, and recipes, along with a brief guide on how to follow the plan.

However, keep in mind that dietary changes alone may be insufficient. Natural supplements, prescription medications, and other interventions may be needed. These not only to treat the overgrowth, but also to address its cause and any other health issues triggered by the overgrowth.


Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about candida is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this blog post should be construed as medical advice from Dr. Matthew Lewis, Functional Healthcare Group, PLLC, or PROVOKE Health, nor is this blog post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this blog post should act or refrain from first acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this blog post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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Dr. Matt