Candida is a fungal infection and can be very serious. It can be perplexing for many, as potential candida signs are so varied. They can include exhaustion, cravings for sweets, bad breath, white coating on the tongue, brain fog, joint pain, digestive issues and more.
Let’s dive into the different types of candida, what can cause it in the first place and then, most important, the possible natural remedies for it.
What Is Candida?
Candida can be very serious. The “superbug” candida species known as Candida auris has emerged as a dangerous health threat in several countries and many health care facilities in the U.S. This version of candida — which often spreads through candida biofilms on surfaces such as catheters and bedrails — has proven resistant to multiple drugs, resulting in serious illness.
Meanwhile, Candida albicans is the most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina (vaginal/genital candidiasis), and it may affect skin and other mucous membranes. If the immune system is functioning optimally, this type of yeast infection is rarely serious.
However, if the immune system is not functioning properly, the candida infection can migrate to other areas of the body, including the blood and membranes around the heart or brain, causing serious candida symptoms. This is referred to as invasive candidiasis.
Candida is a fungus that aids with nutrient absorption and digestion when in proper levels in the body. When it overproduces, typical candida symptoms may appear. In the digestive tract, if left unchecked, it breaks down the walls of the intestinal lining and penetrates into the bloodstream. This releases byproduct toxins and other toxins from your system, causing leaky gut syndrome.
When your body’s natural pH balance is upset, the candida yeasts can grow out of control, creating a systemic problem and unpleasant candida symptoms. Good healthy bacteria and a properly functioning immune system are essential when fighting this stubborn infection.
Candida overgrowth syndrome, or COS, is the term used when candida has grown out of control in your body. Make no mistake: This is a chronic health condition. In addition to candida symptoms, individuals who have never experienced a serious yeast infection can find they have developed new sensitivities, allergies or intolerances to a variety of foods. These foods include dairy, eggs, corn and gluten.
There are many possible causes of candida, including a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol that help feed candida. To add to that, here are six other potential causes below.
1. Broad-Spectrum Antibiotics
Sometimes, antibiotics are needed to fight a stubborn infection to kill the offending bacteria in your system. The problem with antibiotics and with overusing them (often creating antibiotic resistance) is that they don’t just kill the bad bacteria; they kill the good ones, too.
The good bacteria in your system are responsible for digestion and keeping candida under control. After a long course (or multiple courses over a short period), antibiotics can make your body a literal breeding ground for candida.
2. Birth Control Pills
Unlike antibiotics, birth control pills in and of themselves do not directly cause a yeast infection or candida overgrowth syndrome. However, when a woman consumes a diet high in refined sugars and has had a course of antibiotics, birth control pills can adversely affect her body, leading to a candida infection.
Some women find that birth control pills seem to instigate yeast infections — and even long after the initial infection is gone, once they start taking the birth control pills again, candida can take root.
3. Oral Corticosteroids
Individuals who treat their asthma with corticosteroid inhalants are at an increased risk of developing candida in the mouth, leading to systemic candida overgrowth. It is imperative that individuals using corticosteroid inhalers for asthma follow the directions for swishing the mouth out after each use. If oral candidiasis is detected, it can be treated with the gargling of coconut oil and a drop or two of essential clove oil.
4. Cancer Treatments
According to the Department of Clinical Research at Merck Research Laboratories, candidiasis can become invasive in cancer patients and present a serious complication. In this study, one-third of patients being treated for cancer had invasive candidiasis. Chemotherapy and radiation can both work to kill cancerous cells and tumors; however, they also kill off the healthy bacteria that naturally fight candida.
In a Type 1 or a Type 2 diabetic, sugar levels in the mouth and other mucous membranes are traditionally higher than in an individual without diabetes. Since candida is a type of yeast and sugar feeds yeast, it is understandable that those with diabetes are at a greater risk for developing candida overgrowth syndrome.
6. Weakened Immune System
Any individual with a weakened immune system is more likely to develop candida. This population includes infants, small children, the elderly, those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, and other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
Candida yeast overgrowth can be difficult for a physician to diagnose. Possible methods of testing include stool testing, serum testing, candida DNA test, stool PCR testing and microbial organic acids testing. This type of systemic yeast infection presents different ways in different people.
Below are nine of the candida symptoms to watch for if you are concerned you have candida or candida overgrowth syndrome.
1. Chronic Fatigue
If you have fatigue or exhaustion that you simply cannot shake, regardless of the number of hours you sleep, you may have chronic fatigue syndrome. The disease is characterized by fatigue that lasts a minimum of six months and is often accompanied by other candida symptoms, including headaches, joint pain, difficulties with memory and concentration and sore throat.
Often one of the candida symptoms is chronic fatigue. While a candida infection is not the only cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, many physicians believe it heightens the risk of CFS.
2. Mood Disorders
One of the reasons it can be difficult to diagnose candida is that so many of the candida symptoms are common to other conditions, including mood disorders. Individuals with candida overgrowth may experience dramatic mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression and even panic attacks.
3. Recurring Vaginal and Urinary Tract Infections
When an individual experiences recurring infections in the urinary tract or vagina, candida may be at the root of the problem. It is important to realize that candida can be sexually transmitted, and partners can spread it back and forth. For women, reduce the risk by avoiding tight-fitting underwear or pantyhose and avoid hot baths during an active infection.
4. Oral Thrush
Oral thrush is actually a yeast infection caused by the same strain of candida that affects other mucous membranes, including the vagina. It’s most often caused by the use of prednisone or other oral corticosteroids as mentioned above. Left untreated, it may spread through the body, including the digestive tract, lungs, liver and heart valves.
Oral candida is communicable. Newborns can get thrush during birth; children can get it from sharing toys with other children; and adults can pass it back and forth through the saliva.
5. Sinus Infections
As with many of these other candida symptoms, sinus infections are common today, and it can be difficult to pinpoint the root of the cause. Candida does affect the sinuses and can result in a persistent cough, post-nasal drip, an increase in congestion, seasonal allergies, and general flu-like symptoms. If you experience consistent problems with your sinuses, it’s time to check for a candida infection!
6. Intestinal Distress
Ongoing intestinal distress is one of the more uncomfortable candida symptoms. Persistent flatulence, burping, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, and stomach cramps may be caused by a lack of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract.
When yeast overtakes the intestines, healthy bacteria are undermanned, and cannot fight off the infection alone. When the bacteria in your gut are out of balance, it’s known as dysbiosis. Many individuals experience dramatic relief of chronic intestinal distress when effectively treating a candida infection.
7. Brain Fog
Along with mood changes and chronic fatigue, brain fog is often overlooked as one of the candida symptoms. However, candida overgrowth can cause a lack of focus, poor physical coordination, difficulty in concentrating on tasks and poor memory.
8. Skin and Nail Fungal Infections
Athlete’s foot and fungal infections in the toenail are common yeast infections, which stem from the same strain of candida. Continued infections may be a sign that you have a systemic candida infection.
9. Hormonal Imbalance
A hormonal imbalance is one of the candida symptoms that presents in many other health conditions. However, it is important to recognize how an infection can cause early menopause, PMS, a low sex drive, migraines, endometriosis, water retention, mood swings and an inability to lose unwanted pounds.
While in the midst of candida overgrowth, your body becomes inflamed, causing the yeast to grow and spread beyond the digestive tract. One of the byproducts of candida actually can mimic estrogen, leading to a serious hormonal imbalance.
How to Get Rid of Candida
1. Do a Cleanse
The candida cleanse helps to rid the body of excess candida through the flushing of the digestive tract, and the introduction of healthy candida fighters found in fermented foods.
You really have two options for a cleanse: a liquids-only cleanse or a more gentle cleanse with food. You may also opt the most thorough gut reboot: starting with the step one cleanse and then move to the step two cleanse. The whole process will set the stage for starting the candida diet as well!
Option One: Liquids-Only Candida Cleanse (Duration 1–2 Days)
Start by making a vegetable broth from organic onions, garlic, celery, kale, sea salt and pure water. Let simmer and strain. Discard the vegetables and refrigerate the broth.
Throughout the day, sip on the warm broth; it’s imperative that you drink lots of water to help your body expel all the toxins in your system. While this is not a long-term cleanse, it can be repeated as needed every few weeks. It can also be used as a jumpstart to the food cleanse below.
Option Two: Steamed Vegetables (Duration 3–5 Days)
By eliminating grains, sugars, fruits, starches and alcohol from your diet for three to five days, you can make great headway in your fight against candida overgrowth.
Mostly, eat fresh, organic vegetables that have been steamed. For this cleanse stage, keep away from any starchy vegetables like carrots, radishes, beets, sweet potatoes and white potatoes, which may contribute to sugar levels and feed the candida. Continue to drink plenty of pure water, a minimum of 72 ounces per day, to help flush the candida and byproducts from your system.
During this time — no more than once a day — you can eat salads made from leafy greens (like romaine) or bitter greens (like chard) and topped with just a bit of coconut oil and apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice).
During either of the candida cleanses above, you can use bentonite clay to help surround the toxins and efficiently remove them from your system.
2. Follow a Candida Diet
This is a diet to not just discourage candida; it’s the diet to help you rid your body of candida! This is also a great next step if you have already started with the candida cleanse.
1. The first step of the diet is to boost your immune system through the elimination of sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates. These items are contributing to the growth of the candida in your system.
2. Step two is to replace these foods with organic vegetables, including carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale and asparagus.
According to ancient Chinese medicine, warm starchy vegetables support the spleen in clearing candida from the body. While I don’t recommend these vegetables during the “cleanse” stage, the regular candida diet includes warming fall vegetables that nourish the spleen, such as sweet potatoes, yams, peas, mung beans, lentils, kidney beans, adzuki beans, carrots, beets, corn, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, zucchini, yellow squash, rutabaga and pumpkin. These should be the main sources of carbs that satisfy your cravings for sweets as well.
What about grains? Some grains like quinoa, barley, teff, sorghum and amaranth and a starch like corn can help to dry the overly damp gut, so one serving a day (no more!) of those grains can work for most people with candida.
The same story follows for cold foods, which shouldn’t be consumed more than once per day. Therefore, don’t have a gut-friendly smoothie on the same day you have a salad. Your candida gut will heal most from warm nourishing foods.
As with any food, however, it’s always important to monitor how you feel after consuming a meal when you have candida. Some people who suffer stomach distress after eating any kind of starch, for instance, should avoid starchy vegetables like corn, peas, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, zucchini and yams. Instead, they should eat non-starchy vegetables — typically the flowering parts of the plant — like lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers and tomatoes.
Also, keep fruit intake low as well as natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey.
3. Add cultured dairy, preferably goat milk kefir, because healthy probiotic foods can effectively kill the candida in your system. Probiotics like kimchi and sauerkraut are good additions to your diet, as well as unsweetened cranberry juice, because they create an acidic environment that makes it difficult for candida to thrive.
Fermented foods contain microflora that help to protect the intestines. Regular consumption of fermented foods can help improve the immune system, making the body less hospitable for candida. Begin with a half cup per day of sauerkraut, kimchi or other fermented vegetables as part of a new eating plan dedicated to bringing your body back into a healthy balance.
The candida diet helps to provide beneficial bacteria, regulate appetite, and reduce your cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugars.
3. Add Supplements, Essential Oils and Coconut Oil
Research shows that C. albicans, the strain of candida that leads to systemic candida overgrowth is often resistant to both fluconazole and itraconazole, the antifungal medicines most often prescribed for candida.
1. Coconut oil can effectively fight candida due to its antimicrobial properties. The combination of lauric acid and caprylic acid found in coconut oil, kills off harmful candida through both ingestion and topical application.
2. Milk thistle supplements help to cleanse your liver from prescription medications (steroids, birth control, antibiotics, as well as others), environmental pollution, heavy metals, and the remnants from both chemotherapy and radiation.
As mentioned above, some prescription medications and cancer treatments can lead to candida overgrowth. Milk thistle, along with the candida diet, can help your body recover and create an environment where candida ceases to thrive.
3. Vitamin C helps to boost adrenal glands and helps to restore your immune system. I recommend 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C two or three times per day, taking a total of 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams daily.
4. Clove oil, oregano oil and myrrh oil help to kill a variety of parasites and fungi, including candida, in the body. Lavender oil also inhibits the growth of candida and is effective at preventing the spread of the infection.
For example, by adding a couple of drops of clove oil or lavender oil mixed with coconut oil during your cleanse, you can help to kill off the offending candida. Because these essential oils are powerful, they should only be taken internally for 10 days or less.
Also, for oral thrush, use three drops of clove oil with one tablespoon of coconut oil and swish in the mouth for 20 minutes.
Do not give clove oil internally to children under 2 years of age. If you are pregnant or nursing, check with your natural health care provider before taking clove oil internally.
Candida Die-Off Symptoms You May Experience
Rapidly killing off candida in your body creates a metabolic reaction that releases over 70 different toxins into your body. Symptoms that show the candida cleanse and the candida diet are working include:
- Impaired brain function
- Intestinal distress including bloating, gas, constipation and nausea
- Sweating and fever
- Sinus infection
- Skin breakouts (not limited to face)
- Typical flu-like symptoms
When you start experiencing the candida die-off symptoms, rejoice! These symptoms usually clear up in seven to 10 days. The candida is leaving your body, and within just a few weeks, you will notice an increase in energy and focus, as well as relief from other symptoms you have experienced.
After your symptoms have subsided and you have completed the cleanse and the diet, you should continue eating a diet that is high in protein and high-fiber vegetables, and limit grains, fruits, sugar and high-starch vegetables like white potatoes. Continue to consume fermented vegetables and kefir to help your body stay in balance and keep the candida at bay. Prevention is key.