What is Candida Overgrowth? – Causes & Symptoms

Have you been suffering from chronic fatigue, digestive issues, joint pain or sinus issues lately? If the answer is yes, do not ignore these symptoms as they are an indication that you may be suffering from candidiasis.

Candida is a fungus which is found naturally in our body mostly in the mouth, intestine and on the skin. Overgrowth of this fungus leads to an infection known as candidiasis.


Moving further, we will understand what is candida and candidiasis, causes, symptoms, etc. in detail.

What is candida overgrowth?

Candida is a strain of fungus that naturally exists in our body. Small amounts of this fungus live in our mouth, digestive system, birth canal and on our skin without causing any problems (1).

However, when Candida grows out of control and overpopulates the digestive tract and spreads to other parts of the body, it causes the infection known as candidiasis (2).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 150 species of Candida exist. Around 20 different types of Candida can cause infection, but the most common among them all is Candida albicans.

Candida overgrowth can cause severe damage to tissues and organs like the brain and kidneys. It can also lead to oral thrush, vaginal and urinary tract infections.

Causes of Candida overgrowth

Usually, factors like lifestyle and diet trigger Candida overgrowth. These are some of the leading causes of Candida overgrowth.

1. Weak immune system

Around 70 percent of our immune system cells are found in our gut. The good bacteria in the stomach that keep us healthy also help keep Candida in check (3).

When our immune system becomes weak, the good bacteria in the gut also become less, and this leads to infection.

2. Overuse of antibiotics

Frequent use of antibiotics kills the beneficial bacteria along with the wrong kind (4). Since the good bacteria in the gut, which is responsible for keeping Candida in check, are also destroyed, it leads to frequent infections.

3. Stress

Chronic stress can lead to inflammation, which in turn wears down the immune system. A weakened immune system can lead to Candida overgrowth (5).

4. High sugar diet

Refined sugars encourage the growth of yeast (6). The more refined sugar you eat, the more likely it is for the yeast to thrive in your system. If you already have low immunity, then a diet high in sugar can increase your risk of Candida infection.

Refined sugars and alcohol can also ruin the healthy balance of the intestinal bacteria.

5. Oral contraceptives

Oral contraceptives have also been linked to yeast infections. The exogenous estrogen from contraceptives stimulates the growth of fungal cells, and this can lead to infection (7).

Candida symptoms

Symptoms of Candida can occur on different parts of the body, in ways that may be unique to that person. This is why this condition is often misdiagnosed.

Here are the nine most common symptoms of Candida.

1. Chronic fatigue

If you feel tired all the time, then Candida overgrowth in your gut may be the cause of it. Candida albicans affects your energy levels in the several different ways.

Too much of Candida in the stomach can affect nutrient absorption and can lead to nutritional deficiencies like vitamin B6, magnesium and fatty acids (8). Magnesium deficiency, in particular, is known to cause fatigue (9).

According to a 1995 study, prolonged Candida can also lead to the chronic fatigue syndrome (10). Candida infections occur in people who have a weak immune system. A weakened immune system can itself make you feel fatigued.

2. Oral thrush

Our mouth is particularly vulnerable to candidiasis. It is common in newborns, the elderly who have removable dentures and those with a weak immune system (11).

The symptoms of oral thrush include white, bumpy patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, tonsils, and throat. It can also lead to soreness of the tongue and the mouth. If this infection reaches the esophagus, it can also cause difficulty in swallowing.

If left untreated, this infection can also spread to the digestive tract, lungs, and liver and heart valves. Oral thrush is communicable. Newborns can get it during childbirth; children can get it by sharing toys and adults through saliva.

3. Recurring UTI and vaginal yeast infections

If you are suffering from recurring vaginal or urinary tract infections, Candida may be the cause. Around 75 percent of women get vaginal yeast infections in their lifetime, and half of them have at least one recurrence (12).

Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include redness, swelling, itching, pain during intercourse and white discharge from the vagina. Men can also develop a genital yeast infection, but it is less common than women.

UTI caused by Candida is commonly seen in the elderly, hospitalized and those with low immunity (13).  The symptoms of Candida based UTI are dark or strange smelling urine, pain or pressure in the lower abdomen, burning sensation during urination, and a frequent urge to urinate.

You should avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear to reduce the risk of yeast infection and avoid hot baths if you have an active infection.

4. Chronic sinus infection

Though bacteria cause most acute short-term sinus infections, long-term chronic sinus infections are a result of candidiasis. Its symptoms include a persistent cough, post-nasal drip, congestion, loss of smell and headaches.

During a 1999 study on 210 individuals with a chronic sinus infection, Mayo Clinic researchers found that 96 percent of them had fungi in their mucous (14).

While antibiotics are used to treat most bacterial sinus infections, they can have an opposite effect on fungal infections. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria too, and this can spread fungal sinus infections further.

5. Digestive issues

Digestive issues like flatulence, burping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and stomach cramps are amongst the most uncomfortable symptoms of Candida.

When yeast overtakes your digestive tract, it causes an imbalance in the gastrointestinal flora. When there is an imbalance in the gut bacteria, it is known as dysbiosis. Overgrowth of Candida can also lead to GI tract diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (15).

6. Fungal infections on skin and nails

Our skin also has protective microorganisms known as skin microbiota which stop the spread of pathogens like Candida. However, a high-sugar diet and a weakened immune system can cause Candida to overtake the skin flora and cause infection.

The warm, moist areas of the skin like armpits and groin are more vulnerable to fungal infections. Itching and rashes are the two most common signs of Candida infection.

It can also lead to conditions like athlete’s foot, ringworm and toenail fungus (16).

7. Brain fog

Brain fog is often overlooked as a symptom of Candida. Candida overgrowth can cause lack of concentration, poor memory, confusion and lack of focus. This happens because Candida albicans produces acetaldehyde, a chemical that can affect your mental focus.

When there is too much acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, the liver is not able to process it, and it circulates to the nervous system and the brain.

The red blood cells that combine with acetaldehyde move slowly and carry less oxygen to the brain. Acetaldehyde can also lead to vitamin B1 deficiency and can also damage nerve cells.

8. Joint pain

Candida can also enter your bloodstream and infect joints and cause arthritis (17). Candida arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling of joints.

In extreme cases, Candida can also cause bone infections or osteomyelitis (18). These infections are rare in people with a healthy immune system, but it is difficult to get rid of them.

9. Hormonal imbalance

If left untreated, Candida can spread beyond the digestive tract. One of the by-products of Candida can mimic estrogen and can lead to hormonal imbalance.

The hormonal imbalance can lead to early menopause, PMS, mood swing, migraines and a low sex drive. So, when a doctor is trying to diagnose PMS or other hormonal issues, he must check for estrogen dominance that has been triggered by Candida overgrowth.

How to treat candida?

You can treat candida by reversing the factors in your diet and lifestyle that may have caused it. The foods we eat play a prominent role in managing the good and the harmful bacteria in the gut.


Foods to avoid

These foods create an imbalance in the gut flora and feed Candida.

  • Refined sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Refined Carbs
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Deli Meats
  • High-lactose dairy products

Foods to eat

Some foods have anti-fungal properties that help kill off Candida. These foods promote good bacteria and improve the gut microbiota.

  • Garlic – Garlic contains allicin which acts against Candida.
  • Coconut oil – Coconut oil contains lauric acid which helps fight candida infections.
  • Aloe vera – Aloe vera can prevent candida infection in the mouth.
  • Pomegranate – Pomegranates contain beneficial compounds that prevent Candida growth.
  • Kombucha Tea – Kombucha tea contains polyphenols, which help prevent infections.
  • Curcumin – Studies have shown that curcumin kills candida yeast and reduce their growth.
  • Probiotics – Probiotics help prevent infections in the gut.
  • Xylitol – Xylitol helps fight Candida by decreasing its ability to stick to a surface.

Final thoughts on candida overgrowth

Candida overgrowth is one of the most common fungal infections, yet doctors often misdiagnose it. The typical symptoms of candidiasis include chronic fatigue, oral thrush, sinus infection and digestive issues.

You can reverse these symptoms by making some lifestyle and dietary changes. Avoid refined carbs and sugars and opt of foods like garlic, coconut oil, pomegranate, and probiotics to improve your gut flora.


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