Candida is a fungus, which is a form of yeast. A very small amount of candida lives in our mouth, gastrointestinal tract, birth canal, skin and lungs.
Increasingly more and more patients inquire about being tested for candida overgrowth, candidiasis or leaky gut syndrome. Traditional doctors steer away from such diagnoses rightly or wrongly, but what is clear is that traditional medicine does not meet the needs of all patients.
The traditional view
The traditional view of conventional doctors is not to think of candida overgrowth as a cause of widespread symptoms. In General Practice, we usually only think of and treat candidiasis when we can see the infection when one has limited symptoms– such as in oral thrush or vaginal thrush for example. We take swabs; we prescribe anti-yeast medication such as Nystatin or Clotrimazole. Traditionally, widespread candidiasis is only considered in poor immunity states, such as cancers or HIV for example.
Given that traditional doctors are ready to accept limited manifestations of candidiasis that can be seen, and, as we already know, candida is present in the whole of the gastrointestinal tract -what if conventional doctors are not seeing what patients are suffering from?
Functional doctors’ approach
Functional doctors’ approach to this subject differs. Functional medicine doctors believe that the key to a healthy gut is a balance between the good and the bad bacteria and that candida has a significant role to play when this balance is disturbed. This can happen in various situations such as after taking antibiotics, lack of sufficient dietary fibre. Under such circumstances, functional doctors view is that Candida growth takes over and the bad bacteria take over – fuelled by excess sugar in one’s gut. When this happens, Candida penetrates into the bloodstream releasing toxic byproducts and causing the so-called ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This can lead to many different health problems ranging from digestive issues to depression (90% of our Neurotransmitters such as serotonin are produced in the gut) and autoimmune disease (70% of our immune system is present in our gut).
In the context of a functional medicine approach, symptoms or conditions that may point to a Candida problem include: chronic fatigue, reduced libido, bloating and gas, diarrhea or constipation, menstrual irregularities, premenstrual tension, thyroid dysfunction, depression, irritability, inability to concentrate, allergies, chemical sensitivities, low immune function, eczema, psoriasis, craving for foods rich in carbohydrates.
Working with a functional medicine doctor like Dr Maddi Ridley helps to understand whether Candida overgrowth could be the cause of chronic symptoms that conventional doctors cannot help with. This is a joint patient-doctor process that assesses your story, symptoms and physical findings on examination. Specific functional tests may be carried out, that would confirm Candida overgrowth (through a blood test, stool or urine test). If a diagnosis of candida overgrowth is established, you will then work with the doctor through the best methods of treatment. These may range from diet and lifestyle to herbal remedies to medication. Some people may need aggressive treatment, while others may only need simple changes to make a big difference to their health.
Please share your views on the subject or ask Dr Ridley or one of our traditional GPs any questions you may have.