by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
I never heard of candida until about 8 years ago, when my PCOS was out of control and the naturopath I was seeing asked me to do a spit test. Yes, you heard me correctly – a spit test – it is exactly what it sounds like and I’ll tell you more about it later.
At the time, my sugar cravings were out of control, I had frequent yeast infections, a weird rash that would come and go and I was tired all of the time. She suspected that I had an overabundance of candida albicans, a fungal organism or yeast, in my system.
What is candida albicans?
I just want to clarify that we all have this candida or yeast. Candida albicans is actually helpful and lives in our gut. Its job is to assist with digestion and nutrient absorption. Candida lives in small numbers in the genital tract, on the skin, and in the bowels. It’s usually kept balanced by “friendly” bacteria, digestive enzymes, and other organisms in our body, but when we are eating lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates, like I was eating back then, we actually feed the yeast, it proliferates and overgrows wherever it can and causes its own set of symptoms which as you will see, are a lot like PCOS symptoms.
Once we throw off the balance in our bodies the candida invades, they breed and crowd out the good bacteria. The yeast begins wreaking havoc inside of us. Candida also produces toxic by-products that can infiltrate the bloodstream. These toxins are then identified as foreign invaders by the body’s immune system. Eventually, this yeast can begin to turn “parasitic”, robbing our bodies of our resources for their own benefit.
If you have ever baked bread with yeast, then you know that you need to proof the yeast with a little sugar and warm water before you add it to the flour. Bakers do this to determine if the yeast is alive. If it is alive then it eats the sugar and produces a foamy substance.
As women with PCOS, when our insulin and blood sugar are elevated, we have circulating amounts of glucose (sugar) in our bodies that are higher than your average woman. This is exactly the kind of environment that candida yeast thrives in. Many women with PCOS eat lots of food (like I was doing years ago) that is the perfect food source for candida – sugars, carbs, and even yeasted bread. If you have an overabundance of candida in your body you will probably experience an uncontrollable craving for sugar. This is the yeast yelling for nourishment!
It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve never heard of candida before. It is not a recognized condition (other than thrush and vaginal yeast infections) by many conventional doctors and there is no miracle pill for them to prescribe.
What leads to the overabundance of candida?
Many different factors can contribute to yeast overgrowth.
Both prescribed antibiotics and those found in our food supply kill off the good bacteria in our gut which allows for yeast to thrive. If you’ve taken antibiotics recently, chances are you have an imbalance if you haven’t taken preventative measures.
Stress elevates cortisol and over time elevated cortisol can lead to increased blood sugar and an environment where yeast thrives.
#3 Birth control pills
Most pills contain hormones estrogen and progestin. Due to the high levels of hormones – especially estrogen – which can lead to elevated blood sugar levels – many women suffer from an overgrowth of yeast as a result. Also during pregnancy when estrogen is elevated, candida can thrive. I can attest to this as pregnancy was the only time I ever experienced thrush.
#4 Cortisone and other steroids
These drugs compromise the intestinal flora and lower our immune response which allows candida to thrive.
#5 Chlorinated water
Tap water that has been treated with chlorine kills off the friendly bacteria in our gut.
#6 A diet high in sugar and carbs
What are the signs of Candida overgrowth?
A yeast overgrowth can cause a myriad of symptoms, many of which mimic PCOS symptoms.
They can include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Persistent gas and bloating
- Recurrent bladder infections
- Recurrent vaginal yeast infections
- Sinus problems
- Sugar cravings
- Bad breath
- Blurred vision
- Brain fog
- Mood Problems
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- A bloated abdomen and/or abdominal pain
- A slow and foggy mind
- A white coating on your tongue or inside your mouth
- Anal itching
- Feeling old and worn out
- Hair loss
- Heartburn, indigestion, and/or gas
- itchy skin rashes
- Premenstrual symptoms
- Red, itching eyes
- Waking up tired
- Weight loss or gain
- Skin rashes
How do I know if it is yeast and not just PCOS?
Now we are back to the spit test. Although, after researching, it seems that this test isn’t entirely accurate and may prove to be a hoax. If you are still curious you can see more info below…
I think a better indicator is to take both of these online questionnaires. The Body Ecology is a very reputable site that specializes in healing people from candida.
#1 Body Ecology below…
An Anti-Candida Antibodies, or Candida Immune Complexes test. There are 3 antibodies that should be tested to measure your immune system’s response to Candida – IgG, IgA, and IgM. High levels of these antibodies indicate that an overgrowth of Candida is present.
Your stool is directly analyzed for levels of yeast, pathogenic bacteria, and friendly bacteria. However, Candida often does not show up in this test, so the blood test is more reliable.
What can I do to heal a Candida overgrowth?
With candida, you have to take a two-pronged approach. First, you need to stop feeding the yeast by removing sugar and refined carbs from your diet, and secondly heal the gut and strengthen your body.
Heal the gut and strengthen your system using
Probiotics & prebiotic foods
These are a great way to rebuild our intestinal flora. We need to add more good bacteria to the gut by eating taking a probiotic (I take Probiotic Spheres) and eating fermented probiotic foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, and even perhaps a little organic yogurt, and drinking kombucha. Combine these foods with prebiotics, which act as food for the probiotics and help them to do their job. Probiotics act in the small intestine and prebiotics act in the large intestine. The two in combination create synergy in the body.
Prebiotic type foods – include raw oats, asparagus, bananas, and artichokes.
Eat more garlic is another very powerful anti-fungal food so eat plenty! I like to eat a ¼ clove of raw garlic a day to keep the yeast away!
Bone broths are great sources of minerals and collagen to help heal the gut. I have my favorite recipe in Week 1 of the Winter Meal Plan.
Coconut oil is also on my list of favorite healing foods. The mono lauric acid in coconut oil helps fight off candida overgrowth. I eat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil a day to ward off yeast. I either cook with it, use it like butter, or put it in my smoothies.
Gluten-free grains Most people suffering from candida tend to also be gluten intolerant. Hopefully, you are avoiding gluten already. Gluten-free grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth are okay. My Meal Plans are designed to be gluten-free, low in sugar, and can be helpful to get your body back in balance.
Supplements to help
There are some natural products that offer additional support if you think you may have an overgrowth of yeast. I have tried and liked all three products below. When you kill off the yeast quickly you can have flu-like symptoms. This is actually a result of the yeast “die-off”. I find that the Candaclear Four and Syntol do not cause this die-off feeling. The Candigone is more of a cleanse and you may experience some die-off.
If you have a product or remedy to help balance your body and candida please share with us!