Have you ever experienced a bully? Well, there may be one in your gut that you may not be aware of that could be affecting your state of health. There is a yeast that naturally occurs in our bodies and co-exists with other bacteria and fungi. It can “play well” with other bacteria and viruses in our gut – until our gut bacteria becomes imbalanced. In such cases this yeast, called candida, changes its attitude and takes over as a pathogen. And just like that bully, candida can be very disruptive to the body and wreak all kinds of havoc. For example, it can cause something as minor as a skin rash, to proliferating life-threatening systemic infections and downstream autoimmune diseases.
To make matters worse, candida can establish a biofilm. This biofilm makes it very difficult for conventional treatment to be effective. Appropriately, I call candida one of the “bullies in the sandbox of our gut biome,” along with the other pathogens like staph and strep.
However, the good news is that the right diet and supplement schedule can create an inhospitable environment where candida cannot thrive. With that being said, here are some ways in which candida can negatively affect our health.
Negative Health Affects of Candida
1. Candida can weaken the intestinal barrier, leading to a number of other health concerns. When the intestinal barrier becomes weakened, pathogens and undigested food particles are able to cross into the bloodstream. Since these organisms and food particles don’t belong there, the body will likely produce antigens and antibodies – setting up conditions favorable to food sensitivities, skin and mood issues. Antibody production is a sign that the body recognizes something as an unfamiliar invader and attacks it instead of using it as fuel for the body. This can prompt an inflammatory or autoimmune cascade.
Inflammation and thyroid function When undigested food particles enter into the bloodstream through a leaky intestinal barrier, the body will likely develop systemic inflammation. This can raise the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline), slowing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) production and lowering the amounts of thyroid hormone in the body. In addition, this process can clog the liver, slowing the process of thyroid hormone conversion from thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3). All of these dynamics cause typical hypothyroid symptoms such as constipation, feeling cold, fatigue, mental fogginess, weight gain and discomfort. On top of the inflammation dynamic and hypothyroidism, something more serious can result: autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune disease In some cases, the molecular structure of the pathogens or food particles that enter into the bloodstream through the leaky intestinal barrier mimic that of the body’s own tissues, hormones or enzymes. The antibodies we produce in response activate the immune system, and our body starts to erroneously attack its own constituents. This begins the process of an autoimmune disease. One gland in our body that is especially susceptible to this dynamic is the thyroid. Leaky gut begins this process by allowing pathogens and undigested food into circulation. The gluten molecule is similar in signature to thyroid tissue – which may be why gluten can be so destructive to thyroid homeostasis.
2. Candida produces poisons. These harmful byproducts include acetaldehyde and arabinose. Acetaldehyde leads to headaches, fatigue, mental fogginess and nausea. Acetaldehyde can disrupt the methylation cycle, which is important for the production of stomach acid, necessary for protein digestion and the breakdown of pathogens. Without sufficient stomach acid, the body is unable to break down proteins into amino acids, which are the building blocks making up our cells, muscles and other tissues. This can lead to low blood sugar and other downstream effects. Arabinose may lead to vitamin deficiencies even when you’re consuming enough in your diet. Vitamin deficiencies occur, because it disrupts the function of certain compounds like B6, biotin and lipoic acid. Arabinose also disrupts dopamine metabolism – leading to neurotransmitter imbalances and a host of psychological symptoms
3. Candida reduces our levels of important minerals. These include iron, zinc, manganese and copper. Reduced amounts lead to loss of function of a large number of proteins and enzymes. This affects the way the body functions.
Doing a candida test is easy. If you think you may have imbalanced levels of candida, you have two easy options for testing:
- Spit into a cup as soon as you wake up in the morning, before you brush your teeth. Thirty minutes later, observe your saliva. If it sinks, looks like jellyfish or grows tendrils, then you should be evaluated for candida overgrowth.
- If you have thyroid imbalance, consult your doctor for a candida antibody test. By identifying candida as a possible root cause of disease in the body, we can target it using food and supplements to restore balance.