There are a number of common symptoms that can indicate a problem with yeast overgrowth. The signs from these various strains of candida including the super-fungus Candida auris include:
- skin rashes such as acne and eczema
- mucous build up in the throat nose and lungs
- sinus infections
- Itching genital infections
- athlete’s foot
- nail fungus (usually occurring in the toenails).
If chronic, yeast overgrowth can affect the nervous system leading to many cognitive symptoms such as:
Opportunistic yeast such as candida are organisms that normally exist harmlessly as a normal part of our internal environment. They do not cause harm until they outgrow the good bacteria that keep balance and harmony within the body, which also keeps the immune system functioning properly. At this point is when fungal overgrowth can wreak havoc, disrupting the immune system and progressively leading to one or more of the above symptoms.
What Causes Yeast Overgrowth?
Opportunistic bacteria and yeasts like Candida albicans don’t just spontaneously “take over”.
There’s a reason this happens! I prefer to group these causes into three main categories: stressful lifestyle, poor diet, and pharmaceutical drugs (not just antibiotics) have a powerful impact on our gut flora providing the opening for opportunistic strains of yeast to exert authority and overgrow with dire health consequences over time.
- Diet– A diet high in sugar, starch and processed foods is fuel for yeast to thrive and multiply. This study found that biofilms of Candida are made of 32% glucose. It was found that Candida yeast needs sugar not just to reproduce, but also to create the protection in the form of a biofilm that keeps our immune system from attacking it.
- Lifestyle- A stressful lifestyle can lower immunity and therefore lead to a decrease in beneficial gut flora. Remember 80% of immunity is located in the gut. Keeping bacteria in check is crucial to keeping symptoms and sickness at bay. Other factors that can lead to yeast overgrowth is exposure to chlorinated water, alcohol abuse, and digestive distress coming from a lack of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) which causes undigested food to putrefy in the gut, leading to symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea.
- Drugs- Antibiotics and the birth control pill are a huge factor in candida and yeast overgrowth. These pharmaceuticals eliminate beneficial flora creating the ideal environment which allows for harmful pathogens to overgrow.
Gut Flora and the Skin
Since the majority of my focus in nutrition is with skin issues, about 95% of my clients have digestive concerns and almost always have some extent of dysbiosis (imbalance of gut bacteria), and of course yeast or other microorganisms that need to be treated. Beyond addressing the three main categories above, eradicating these critters is necessary to see lasting improvements in skin symptoms, whether it’s acne or eczema.
Biofilms: Overlooked Step in Treating Yeast Overgrowth
Much of the information regarding yeast and candida out there addresses treatment, including diet and supplements, although leaves out a very crucial step.
There’s another side of the story that rarely gets talked about that can make all the difference in an effective treatment plan.
Biofilms act as a protective shield around yeast and other microorganisms. This makes it even more challenging to attack the yeast as the antifungals that are taken by most cannot get through this matrix of a biofilm, whether it be drugs or herbal based remedies.
This is how yeast hides and protects itself from being destroyed. One study found that a group of anti-fungal drugs, including Nystatin and Diflucan, which are used to treat Candida, found that they were initially effective until the biofilm developed. At this point, they became less effective and after 72 hours of the biofilm development, the candida cells were highly resistant. This research indicates that drug resistance develops over time due to biofilm development. Now researchers are seeing more common anti-fungal drugs such as amphotericin B and fluconazole developing resistance as well.
Using Enzymes to Attack Yeast Biofilms
Common herbal antifungals (this is a comprehensive formula I use in my practice) used in yeast overgrowth treatment such as oregano oil, black walnut, uva ursi, berberine, and olive leaf can be great options, but these alone won’t do the trick. To properly get to and kill the microorganism that is causing the trouble, you first have to breakdown the biofilm that’s protecting it.
Think of it as attempting to get past a security guard, it’s possible to get through him, you just need a more comprehensive approach to ensure your game plan is effective.
Anti-fungals need to be paired with a biofilm disruptor, which is a combination of specific enzymes that are designed to eat their way through the matrix.
Candida and other types of yeasts have no resistance and are not able to build a resistance to enzymes like they may be able to do with drugs or herbs. There are no side effects, only side benefits with this type of biofilm disruptor. When looking for an enzyme formula (I like this one) make sure and find one that contains a varied number of enzymes to target the layer of the cell wall, biofilm, nucleus and fibrin.
Enzymes to look for specifically in a product are cellulase, glucoamylase, amylase, invertase, protease, and serrapeptase.
Amino Acid (NAC) an Effective Biofilms Disruptor
Another agent that has been studied to also be effective as a biofilm disruptor is N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC). This is an amino acid and a strong antioxidant but also has antibacterial properties. It has been tested on several different bacterias and shown to be effective, especially in upper respiratory infections.
Because of the number of relapses in both bacterial and yeast issues, alternative treatments as these biofilm agents provide are needed to complete eradication. I suggest working with a holistic health care practitioner who has experience treating yeast overgrowth to get an effective treatment plan. This is why an anti-yeast/candida type diet can be difficult and usually not enough. You have to get the support to address the cause effectively otherwise you may not be seeing the results you’re after.
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Carla Hernandez is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She specializes in Digestive Issues, Weight Loss and Skin Conditions.