Candida, or yeast overgrowth in the GI tract is blamed for symptoms ranging from fatigue to joint pain. How can you tell if yeast is causing your symptoms?
What is Candida?
Candida albicans, commonly referred to as Candida, is a strain of yeast and it is a normal inhabitant of the body. There is some yeast in any healthy person’s mouth, digestive tract and in women’s vaginas. In healthy people, the normal flora is far more abundant than the yeast and it prevents Candida from overgrowing. The trouble begins when the immune system is struggling or the healthy gut flora is compromised by anti-biotic use or poor diet.
What are the symptoms of yeast?
Some symptoms of yeast are very clear. Many women experience painful vaginal yeast infections as the result of antibiotic use. Toenails are another common location for yeast to overgrow. Candida is a type of fungus, and foot fungal infections cause white, distorted toenails, and burning, itchy red rashes on the skin of the feet. Thrush is a thick white coating of Candida that develops in the mouth or throat.
If the yeast is overgrown in the GI tract, the symptoms may not be as visible as in these examples. Candida overgrowth in the GI tract impairs nutrient absorption, monopolizes the immune system and perpetuates an imbalance in the healthy GI flora. The byproducts of yeast metabolism, the chemicals that yeast make when they eat and reproduce, are toxic to the body. The symptoms that you would feel from yeast overgrowth in the gut develop over time. They may include fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues, autoimmune disease and skin problems. Yeast has been associated with depression and schizophrenia as well.
How to test for yeast
There are ways to test whether yeast is causing your health concerns. If you are feeling the signs of a yeast infection, your gynecologist can swab and test for the presence of yeast. Yeast in the mouth or on the skin can also be tested to make sure it is really Candida albicans. Testing for the yeast that lives in your GI tract can be trickier.
When your doctor tests your stool, they are usually looking for parasites or serious bacterial infections that need immediate treatment with antibiotics, such as Clostridium difficile or dangerous strains of E. Coli. The comprehensive stool tests that will measure how much beneficial bacteria and how much Candida is present are usually done by Functional Medicine practitioners.
Integrative medicine practitioners, who focus on signs and symptoms, but also on how the body is stressed in its effort to work well, might also test for d-Arabinatol. Arabinatol is a chemical made by Candida. Even when the yeast are living in the GI tract, this chemical is absorbed into the blood stream and eliminated in the urine. If the amount of Arabinatol present in your urine is high enough, it suggests that your yeast population is overgrown.
As with any allergen, the yeast could be a smaller problem than your body’s response to it. In the same way that a small amount of pollen can cause huge symptoms in someone who is allergic to pollen, yeast can cause an allergic response. Your doctor could test different immune cells for signs that your body is working hard to fight the yeast present in your body. These immune tests might be called IgM, IgG or IgA, each of which is an antibody made by your body in response to yeast. High levels mean your immune system is working hard in response to any Candida albicans to which it is exposed.
What can you do about a yeast overgrowth?
The first thing to do is improve your body’s natural defense by supporting a healthy GI tract and effective barrier layer. Since the diet and lifestyle have not been enough to create this healthy atmosphere, this is a great time to add a probiotic.
Many strains of Lactobacillus, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. reuteri, have been demonstrated to actively fight Candida infections. Bifidobacteria species support the work done by Lactobacillus by creating an atmosphere that actively supports healthy bacteria and maintains a pH that is hostile to yeast.
Nutrivee’s Advanced Probiotic Formula has a great mix of these strains, delivered directly to the part of the intestine where fungus can overgrow. Nutrivee’s capsule is designed to dissolve only in the intestines, not in the to the strong pH of the stomach, so no bacteria is lost.
Along with building a healthy GI defense system, it is important to remove the yeast population. Yeast are able to form strong colonies called biofilms, making it difficult for beneficial bacteria to adhere to the lining of the GI tract and helping the Candida keep hold on your health. Different natural substances can help disorient and kill Candida, as well as strong pharmaceuticals, including Fluconazole. Your practitioner will help you choose the best approach to killing the yeast without putting too much strain on your liver or the health of your GI tract.
Once the yeast is removed and good bacteria are well supported, support the healing of your gut lining. This can be done with soothing herbs including slippery elm and marshmallow. These herbs reduce the inflammation left behind by the yeast and the battle to overcome it. Your nutrient absorption can then begin to improve, helping your immune system find its balance and restoring your quality of life.
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