What is Candida?
We hear and read a lot about Candida, what is truth and what is myth?
In our intestines we have at least 500 different species of micro-organisms, mostly bacteria but also yeasts and virus’ collectively known as the microbiota or intestinal flora and these ‘bugs’ are known as ‘commensal’
Usually bacteria and yeasts are labelled as bad but in truth it is more about context as well as the patterns we find or their relationship to one another and to us as their host.
For example we like to see a diversity of lactobacillus species in our gut microbiome yet we only benefit from a selective few in our vaginal and bladder microbiome.
Fungi also belong to the intestinal flora. These can be yeasts, similar to the ones we know for baking bread or making wine or moulds similar to the tasty ones, which make cheeses. Or they can even be the black stuff, which causes food to ferment and decay. Usually their numbers are small.
Candida is a kind of yeast, a tiny single celled organism, which in normal circumstances is a harmless part of our intestinal flora.
However, sometimes when the gut is imbalanced Candida yeasts and indeed other species of yeast can develop the ability to change their metabolism, overgrow and cause symptoms.
Candida is a much used general term. Usually it refers to Candida albicans. Yet there are many more species like Candida parapsilosis, or glabrata.
Sometimes symptoms can also be caused by moulds like Aspergillus niger or Geotrichum (milkmould).
It is essential therefore to know which of these many possibilities is the cause of the problem, and that is why an accurate analysis is needed before treatment should begin.
When an uncontrolled overgrowth of Candida or other fungi occurs in the intestinal tract, we can get many and sometimes seemingly unrelated symptoms.
The most common is heavy bloating, especially after eating. Diarrhoea or constipation may also be part of the picture; frequently these alternate.
However, different symptoms like nausea and acid regurgitation can also be present, as can extreme tiredness, lethargy, sweet craving, IBS, depression, allergies, recurrent colds, eczema, palpitations, recurrent vaginal thrush, recurrent cystitis and even more.
Once Candida or other fungi have managed to overgrow our healthy intestinal flora, they usually from harmless round cells into filament shapes.
These develop the ability to cling to our intestinal walls with the help of protein digesting enzymes.
They are secreted from one end, which looks a bit like a little head. This makes them very persistent.
An important part of our immune system is located in our intestines
Here the white blood cells get their training to distinguish bad from good and then they migrate to many other parts of the body to do their work.
The fungal overgrowth can irritate this system heavily and may cause the immune system to react allergically to different substances, especially foods.
The local irritation can also cause the ”tight junctions” between the gut wall cells to become leaky (Leaky Gut Syndrome), so that incompletely digested food molecules can slip into the blood stream and also cause allergic reactions.
In addition to this the fungi give off gas and toxins, especially when they are well fed. The gas results in heavy bloating, especially after a meal rich in carbohydrates, and the toxins stress the liver and nervous system, thus causing the chronic tiredness.
Usually our own friendly bacteria keep fungi in our intestines at bay. Just sometimes our little helpers are weakened, for example by treatments with antibiotics, cortisone,hormones, other drugs or too much sugar in our diet, or our immune system is weak for some reason. In this case the fungi can cause symptoms rapidly.
Candida is not always the culprit
Even if you think you clearly recognise your own problems in this description, fungi may not be the cause at all. These symptoms can also be caused by something completely different. A safe diagnosis is essential; otherwise you could waste money and possibly loose valuable time by having incorrect treatments.
Micro organisms are far too small to be seen by the naked eye and even if they are grown in a dense layer, completely different kinds can look alike.
Yeasts are not particularly well picked up in the stool and I find that the metabolites of both mold and yeast are more accurately measured in the urine.
Not forgetting that you are an individual person experiencing an imbalance, a consultation is going to ensure that your treatment is holistic and effective for you.
If you feel that maybe Candida is a problem for you please do book an appointment with Andrea