Before we talk about a Candida overgrowth and the symptoms and health problems that can occur, it must be stressed that the Candida fungus is a normal and expected part of the body’s inner ecosystem mix.
Candida albicans is a fungus that exists as a yeast in a person’s gut flora. These yeast organisms are normal components that naturally co-exist in a relatively benign state with the other elements that make up the digestive system. The fungus also exists in other areas of the body, including the skin.
Having healthy levels of Candida is necessary for efficient nutrient absorption. It is also important for protecting the intestinal tract against infections. As with most of our bodily systems, an imbalance is what causes problems.
The gut functions with its own neurological and immune systems, and maintaining a healthy and balanced system is critical to proper digestive function and overall wellbeing.
Modern Lifestyle Can Disrupt the Gut Balance
Unfortunately, a modern lifestyle encompasses many factors that are far from natural.
Diet is the most impacting of these, but not the only one. Various dietary and environmental inputs can cause a disruption to the natural balance that makes up a healthy gut flora.
Yeasts, by their nature, are opportunistic. When the ideal conditions exist for them, they can explode in numbers. The conditions in our digestive that yeasts find ideal are when we’re consuming high quantities of sugar, alcohol and gluten.
Candida yeast is normally helpful in the intestines
In a healthy gut, yeast works to our advantage, which is why they are part of our gut flora in the first place. For example, in a healthy, balanced digestive system, if there is a sudden spike in sugar in the gut, the yeasts, which live on sugar, reproduce rapidly, expending and neutralizing the excess sugars. This helps reduce the reliance on our body’s Insulin cycle, and can act as a buffer protecting us from insulin resistance and diabetes.
As their food supply diminishes (largely due to their consumption of it) the yeasts die off to a sustainable level. Balance is restored and all is good in the gut again.
Hidden dangers of Candida overgrowth
Problems arise, and remain, when the triggers that cause the yeast explosion continue to be present. So then, rather than being a solution to a temporary problem, the continued yeast overgrowth becomes a problem in itself.
Yeast does not only consume and feed on the contents of our intestines, but also, like any other living organisms, produces waste products. Candida albicans can produce over 400 mycotoxins, which can cause systemic illness.
Candida albicans is capable of forming biofilms, which are thin layers of microorganisms that adhere to a surface and produce a protective matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). In the human body, Candida albicans can form biofilms on mucous inside our digestive system.
Biofilms can contribute to the persistence of Candida infections and make them more difficult to treat. They can also protect Candida cells from the immune system and from antifungal medications. This can make Candida infections difficult to eradicate and increase the risk of relapse.
The term ‘Candidiasis’ is often referred to as a condition that is specific and diagnosable, such as thrush or yeast infection. This is what most people have heard of before, although they may not have understood the reasons why it came about in the first place.
Once the signs and symptoms of candidiasis are evident, it is often termed a “yeast infection”. Technically this is not correct as the organism was already present in the body, the problem is actually a yeast overgrowth.
Understanding this may help sufferers realize the aim is not to eradicate the yeast, but have it return to normal levels in their body. However, the term “yeast infection” is commonly used to describe an outbreak of candida, and will be discussed in this book.