If you’ve been struggling with debilitating fatigue, itchiness, recurring UTIs and yeast infections, troubling gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas and constipation or diarrhea, brain fog, a craving for sugar, carbs and sweets, as well as chronic sinus infections and allergies, then you might have candida.
In this article we’ll look at what candida is, why it has a high recurrence rate and how to heal your body from it so you can get your life back.
Candida is a form of naturally occurring fungus, or yeast, found in the body especially in our mouth, gut, skin and vagina. Nearly all of us have small amounts of candida, however when the body is out of balance, then we experience an overgrowth.
The most common type of yeast infection is from candida albicans, an opportunistic fungal pathogen. However there are over 300 different species of candidiasis, and we currently know of five different invasive species of candida, and over 25 species that are pathogenic when they are out of balance with the body.
Candida have mycelia, which are little tentacle-like structures that literally grow roots into our gut wall and attach themselves there. And when these candida latch onto our intestinal lining, they give off something called mycotoxins, which travel throughout the body, wreaking havoc on our entire system. Candida are also small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why people who suffer from this fungal infection often experience neurological and mood disorders such anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, memory loss, brain fog, Alzheimer’s and dementia, bipolar disorder, and so on.
In fact, studies show that candida is more common in males who suffer cognitive decline and mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than those who do not. And again, this is due to the mycotoxins from the mycelia embedded into the gut wall.
Candida overgrowth is fairly common these days due to increased stress, a diet high in refined sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol as well as low stomach acid, which allows harmful pathogens like this fungus to sneak through into our gut lining. Anyone who has taken broad spectrum antibiotics over a longer period of time is more at risk because we know antibiotics can kill off our good gut flora and lead to antibiotic resistance. Some forms of birth control can also have a negative effect on the body, paving the path for recurring yeast infections, which can eventually allow for the yeast to find their way to the gut and make it their new home.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, some of the common symptoms of candida include:
How do you know if you have candida? I usually take a combination approach in my practice of using the above symptoms as a guide, followed by a complete health history, and then occasionally will leverage testing such as a comprehensive functional stool test like the GI Map, a urine test, and blood test that looks at IgG, IgA and IgM candida antibodies. I mainly rely on a stool test because I am often also trying to rule out other pathogens for my clients in addition to candida.
Once you identify a candida overgrowth, the way to go about eradicating it is to focus on your gut, specifically restoring the balance of your microbiota to bring more good bacteria to push out the bad. You also typically want to follow a candida friendly diet that is very low in sugar (even natural healthy sources like honey and maple syrup) and carbohydrates, and high in healthy fats, clean organic protein (pasture raised/grass fed) and some fermented foods. For some people, that means eliminating healthy complex carbs like sweet potatoes and other ancient grains and root veggies to starve off the candida in addition to restoring gut flora and using herbal supplementation to facilitate the die off of the fungi. Foods that are antimicrobial and antifungal, such as coconut oil, garlic, onions, pumpkin seeds, ginger, apple cider vinegar, cloves, and cruciferous veggies, are also really helpful to include in a candida diet.
Some helpful herbs and supplements that can be effective at eradicating die off and restoring microbial balance to the gut include several bacillus probiotic strains (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri, among others), liposomal vitamin C, caprylic acid, emulsified oregano oil, grapefruit seed extract, olive leaf, berberine, goldenseal and oregon grape.
Also if someone is struggling with candida and GI issues, it’s likely that they also have leaky gut so it’ll be important to work on healing and sealing the gut in the future as well. You can read more on how to identify leaky gut here, and then check out some nourishing foods and supplements that help with gut healing in a previous article I wrote.
For some people, however, candida isn’t the end story, but in fact, one piece of a larger puzzle, especially if there is recurring candida overgrowth after treatment.
If you’ve done all the “right” things, it’s time to consider another factor: heavy metals and copper toxicity.
Oftentimes if candida is sticking around, it’s because it is serving a purpose in the body, and that is usually to protect the body from the harmful effects of heavy metals, inducing mercury. It’s important to note that copper isn’t a heavy metal, we all need a little bit of copper in our diets from whole food sources for optimum health, however, in excess, it can become toxic.
You might be surprised to learn just how common heavy metal toxicity is today in our modern environments. We are constantly being exposed to the most common ones (lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium) through our air from industrial pollution, our water and soil from agricultural runoff and old lead pipes, poor quality spices and teas such as matcha and turmeric, vaccines, amalgam (or silver) fillings, and even in some food sources such as conventional seafood and fish like tuna, swordfish, mackerel, etc.
Heavy metal toxicity can be debilitating and can affect people at varying degrees. Some of the common symptoms include tremors, headaches, brain fog, anxiety/depression, cognition issues, digestive disorders, fatigue, poor immune function and autoimmune diseases, poor kidney function, and a few others.
While it’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss every heavy metal in detail, let’s focus on copper as it is the most common metal present in those with recurring candida. Remember, that copper is not a heavy metal, however, when it builds up, it becomes bio-unavailable, meaning we have excess copper circulating in our cells that the body can’t use. Copper can actually have antifungal properties, but in excess, we can’t tap into that benefit, so candida steps in and takes over. They thrive in environments with excess metals, especially copper toxic (and mold, but more on that in a minute).
So how do you develop copper toxicity? It’s usually a combination of things, but one of the biggest common causes is drinking tap water with high copper levels and eating a vegan/plant-based diet that is high in copper containing foods. Foods such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains are very high in copper. While meat does contain copper it also contains high levels of zinc to balance out the copper.
On that note, a zinc deficiency can also pave the way for copper toxicity. Copper and zinc have an antagonistic relationship. High copper levels depletes zinc, and high zinc can help facilitate excess copper from the body. Zinc is also an important mineral for maintaining strong immune function, and unfortunately, it’s also a common deficiency in most people. Zinc also helps reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and anxiety in the body, which is helpful for anyone dealing with candida and heavy metals.
Adrenal dysfunction and hormonal imbalances, specifically oestrogen dominance can also be another cause for copper toxicity, and is usually a sign for an increased need for liver support and detoxification. Certain birth controls, such as the copper IUD can also contribute to copper excess.
One of the easiest, most effective and most affordable ways to determine mineral balance and identify heavy metal toxicity is with a hair tissue mineral analysis test (HTMA). I use this test quite frequently with my clients to rule out heavy metals and also get a better understanding of mineral balance, including not just what is in excess, but what is missing. It’s important to note that there are no acceptable levels of heavy metals in the body, so even if the numbers are low, it’s still not ideal and can be impacting your health in a major way.
At this point, if I determine candida and heavy metals in a client, then I also do some digging to identify if there has been mold exposure. Candida, heavy metals and mold create a perfect trifecta of health issues, each feeding off the other to create an environment that is toxic and can make you chronically ill. And it is a long, slow journey to detox the body from all three of those health concerns, but I promise you, one hundred percent doable!
I’ve made it standard practice to ask all of my clients about previous mold exposure because the thing you have to know about mold is 1. It is everywhere today, 2. It lives in the body indefinitely once you’ve been exposed and 3. Most people don’t even realize that they have been exposed or shrug it off as a “one time thing.”
Mold spores release something in our bodies called mycotoxins, which are toxic compounds that cause chronic illness and can further damage our good gut bacteria. This creates an unfavorable environment that is high in bad bacteria, and low in good bacteria. If candida is present as well, then this further creates dysbiosis in the gut. Candida releases gliotoxins, an immunosuppressant compound that is also released by some mold strains, including Aspergillus molds, and so you are stuck in a pattern of repeated toxicity where two fungi are supporting each other in the gut.
I am not talking about a little bit of mold you might see on your forgotten strawberries in the back of the fridge, I am talking about black mold and mold that is in your environment after water damage or from moist, humid climates. Even if you can’t see the mold, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
If you want to learn more about the harmful effects of mold toxicity and mycotoxins on the body, I highly encourage you to check out survivingmold.com by Dr. Shoemaker, who is the Godfather of mold and mold research in the field.
For the purposes of this article, we’re looking at mold as a barrier to clearing candida from the body. Mold exposure oftentimes depletes our nitric oxide, magnesium and glutathione stores, and we need all of those, especially glutathione, which is the body’s most powerful antioxidant to help support the phases of liver detoxification in order to eliminate toxins appropriately.
Mold present in the body will not allow the body to restore its gut microbiota, even when you are taking all of the right probiotics. You also have to consider that candida and other forms of mold eat toxic metals to thrive thereby creating a vicious cycle in the body.
So before you can even touch your candida, you must work on reducing mold and heavy metals in the body.
If you’re wondering how to identify mold and mycotoxins in the body, you can run an organic acids test (OAT) and a mycotoxin profile test as well. Those can be a bit pricey, so I typically have clients take the Visual Contrast Sensitivity test first. It’s about $25 and takes only a few minutes to do from your computer. If results are positive there, then we might look to some of the other testing options.
Before you can start a detoxification protocol, you must open up the drainage system, which includes the colon to ensure you are having regular bowel movements, the liver and gallbladder, lymphatic system, organs and tissues, and cells. This can usually take about a month or more depending on how much work we need to do.
Herbs like milk thistle, beetroot powder, taurine, digestive enzymes amylase, protease and lipase, pine bark, acetyl glutathione, nitric oxide support, beetroot powder, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAQ), quercetin, creatine, CoQ10,marshmallow root etc. can be helpful for opening detox pathways. To ensure bowel regularity, you can take natural herbs like fennel seed, aloe leaf, magnesium citrate, cascara sagrada bark, senna leaf, etc. I love a product called Bowel Mover from CellCore Biosciences.
Doing lymphatic drainage activity like dry brushing, hot/cold showers, sweating and infrared saunas, yoga, tapping and vagus nerve stimulation, and epsom salt baths can also be helpful.
I also really recommend clients do a sinus drainage either with just saline solution or a colloidal silver and/or probiotic rinse to help remove the biofilms, which are sticky protective substances used by mold and other bacteria to protect themselves and evade our immune system.
From there, I typically recommend starting clients on gentle binders that will draw metals and mold out of the body and continue to break down biofilms. I like GI Detox from BioBotanical Research, which has a blend of minders like activated charcoal, humic and fulvic acids, pectin, zeolite clay, and silica, which all help remove various metals and molds from the body.
Then, eventually, I will add in some of the antifungal herbs I mentioned at the beginning of the article when I feel the individual has cleared most metals and mold from the body, and is stable enough to start killing off any lasting candida.
You can also look at chelation for mold and metals like EDTA, however it can be very harsh on the body and very fatiguing so I typically do not opt for chelation.
Please remember that doing a mold and heavy metal detox can be dangerous and tricky to go at alone, so I always recommend working with a professional. It’s much easier to try out-of-the-box candida cleanses and protocols, but you do no not want to mess with mold and metals on your own as you can place a lot of stress on your body and end up re-absorbing the toxins if you aren’t eliminating them properly.
I do specialize in candida and have experience with mold and heavy metal detoxing. If you’d like to explore working together, you can check out my packages and pricing page or schedule a free discovery call to see if we’d be a good fit.