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Candida overgrowth

I have had a range of symptoms for approximately 6 months. Every day I have a sore throat and swollen glands, when I breathe in deeply I get a slight burn in my chest and at the end of the breath. I have a slight muffled/clicking noise in my right ear. I have slight pain in my right jaw. I also generally feel very tired all the time.

I suffer with stress, slight anxiety and minor depression. I used to grind my teeth, so for the last 6 months wear a mouth guard to sleep at night. I have had all blood tests but are all clear.

For the first 3 months of this year, I was on a strict diet to starve off a yeast/candida overgrowth. I cut out all sugar, dairy, wheat, gluten, alcohol and coffee. After 9 days of being on the diet all the above symptoms disappeared and I felt great. However as soon as I went back on a normal diet all the symptoms returned. I can't believe that I have to stay on that strict diet for the rest if my life and question whether this is the problem as recently I tried the diet again for 2-3 weeks but have not felt any better at all.

Please can you help as it is making me depressed.

28 March 2019

What is a candida overgrowth?

Candida is a type of yeast – or fungus – that occurs naturally in the gut to aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Usually the amount of candida present in the digestive tract is controlled by the so-called ‘good bacteria’ that exist there. However, if the good bacteria are compromised or the balance of good and bad bacteria is otherwise upset, for example, through illness, certain medications, extreme stress or your diet, the levels of candida can overgrow causing an infection called candidiasis. This can lead to a diverse range of symptoms, from brain fog and fatigue, to yeast or fungal infections, low mood, skin conditions, allergies and all sorts of digestive problems.

Candida is the most common form of fungal infections in humans and is usually pretty straightforward to treat. However, if left the infection can spread, eventually entering the bloodstream and causing more serious complications, so it’s important to seek medical help if you recognise any of the symptoms and suspect candida overgrowth may be to blame.

Treating candida overgrowth

Effectively treating candida involves stopping the yeast overgrowth, restoring the friendly bacteria that usually keep them in check and allowing your gut to restore its natural balance, so that candida can no longer enter your bloodstream.

As in your case, the first step in getting rid of the candida overgrowth is to switch to a low carbohydrate diet. Sugar (a carbohydrate) is what feeds yeast, so eliminating sugar in all of its simple forms, as found in fizzy drinks, sweets, cake and alcohol is key. Additionally, reducing to only one cup a day of the more complex carbohydrates, such as grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta, and potatoes will help prevent the candida from growing and eventually cause it to die. I would suggest eliminating fermented foods as well.

Using diet alone it could take three to six months before the candida is back under control. Your doctor may also suggest the use of an anti-fungal medication such as Diflucan or Nyastatin for a month or longer to speed up the process. If you’re self-treating there is a supplement you can take called caprylic acid, which may help. Caprylic acid comes from coconut oil and basically "pokes holes" in the yeast cell wall, causing it to die. The anti-fungal medications and caprylic acid are very specific to yeast and won’t harm your good bacteria.

It's also a good idea to restore the healthy bacteria that typically keep your candida population under control. For this you could consider taking a probiotic on a regular basis. Taking anywhere from 25 to 100 billion units of probiotics should help to reduce the candida levels and restore your levels of good bacteria.

The fact that you’ve only been on the diet for 2-3 weeks this time around may be why you’re not yet feeling any benefit. It could be that the initial three months of restricted eating wasn’t sufficient to wipe out the overgrowth completely or there may be other factors coming into play, but it’s worth persevering with your low carb regime – perhaps with the addition of a probiotic supplement as detailed above. Once your gut’s natural balance has been fully restored you should be able to introduce carbohydrates back into your diet without suffering from a return of your symptoms.

The burning sensation you’ve noticed when breathing and persistent sore throat may indicate inflammation of the oesophagus or gullet (this is common with candida overgrowth). I would suggest discussing these symptoms with your GP, as prescribed medication such as Omeprazole could help.

Swollen lymph glands are a result of inflammation or infection within the body and as the fatigue has returned, this does suggest you may still have candida overgrowth. Your GP can test for this either by blood test for candida antibodies or a stool test which will indicate candida in the intestines or colon, and tends to be the most effective indicator.

Your GP can refer you to a dietician who could help review your diet and advise on how to adapt your dietary intake. A nutritionist may also be another option for you.

The clicking of your jaw may be more related to your history of grinding your teeth as this can lead to issues with your jaw joint and can cause related facial pain and ear pain. Initial treatment is using a bite guard while sleeping but if the problem persists you may need to see a facial-maxillary surgeon to review this.

I hope this helps. If you have any further questions or concerns about this or any other health issue you or your family may be experiencing please do contact us again via our Ask the Expert service.

Answered by Health at Hand team

Further reading

How to curb your enthusiasm for sugar - AXA Health

Tips for a healthier gut - AXA Health

Love your gut: Exercises to improve digestion - AXA Health

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