Understanding Causes and Symptoms of a Candida Infection
As women, you're all too familiar with the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection. They're uncomfortable and make you feel miserable and you think that a few days of over the counter treatment will cure them. In some cases, the vaginal yeast infection is caused by a simple imbalance that can be treated quickly and easily. In other cases, that same infection keeps coming back. Along with it are other irritating symptoms ranging from depression to bowel irritations.
What you have is more than a simple yeast infection. You've got to stop thinking in terms of simple female issues and start looking at the root cause – the candida albicans organism.
What is Candida Albicans?
Candida albicans is the formal name for the yeast organism that lives naturally within your body. This concept is similar to the idea that good bacteria also exist within your body. The good bacteria often keep the bad bacteria in check. When you take antibiotics, they attack both the good and bad bacteria and you temporarily have an imbalance that can sometimes lead to other disorders and intestinal conditions.
The Candida albicans organism and the good bacteria in your body work hand in hand. If the good bacteria is for some reason off-balance, the candida yeast organism can grow freely. When this happens, candida infections can occur.
How Do Candida Infections Manifest?
Most women are familiar with the vaginal yeast infection and many people who hear the term “yeast” automatically assume that's what we're talking about. While Candida does cause vaginal yeast infections, through some sort of stressor or through the imbalance of Candida to bacteria after taking antibiotics, the organism can cause a wide variety of other conditions as well.
Some you may be familiar with include oral thrush, diaper rash yeast infections, jock itch, athlete's foot, ringworm, and even fingernail fungus. Candida infections can be systemic, affecting your entire body. Systemic infections often mimic other conditions and are often left untreated or misdiagnosed for a very long time.
The Signs and Symptoms of Candida Infections
The signs and symptoms of Candida infections vary widely. Vaginal yeast infections, oral thrush, and the other conditions noted above are relatively easy to spot. Systemic infections, on the other hand, are often misdiagnosed because of the way they appear. Some common symptoms include bloating, gas, fatigue, craving carbohydrates, painful joints, muscle pains, excess mucus, coughing, anxiety, earaches, headaches, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation. Those with Candida infections often suffer from anxiety and depression as well.
Less common symptoms include dizziness, mood swings, vision changes, brain fog or fuzziness, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, short term memory problems, agitation, and inappropriate drowsiness. You may also find you have gastrointestinal symptoms, urinary tract symptoms, heart rate issues, general itchiness, and respiratory problems. These symptoms obviously seem more closely related to other conditions. You could easily be diagnosed as being depressed, having irritable bowel syndrome, or a simple urinary tract infection. You might be prescribed antibiotics or some other drug and you may end up temporarily alleviating the symptoms – which are likely to return – while making the overall Candida infection worse.
How are Candida Infections Diagnosed?
There are several tests you can perform at home to determine if you have Candida. The smell test – literally smelling your feet, breath, and general body odor – is one method of diagnosis. People with bad bacteria in the body tend to have more offensive body odors.
The spit test is also very popular. It involves spitting into a glass of water. The test must be done first thing in the morning, before you have anything to eat or drink. You'll check the water every 15 minutes for up to an hour. If your spit is still floating after an hour, you probably don't have a Candida problem. If the spit becomes cloudy and sinks, stays at the top by has legs reaching down from it, or becomes speckled and suspends in the middle of the glass, you may have a problem.
The most practical method of diagnosis is the Candida-5 Blood Test. You can ask your doctor to order this for you and within minutes you'll have a definitive answer.
How is Candida Treated?
We could go on and on about how Candida infections are treated, but the most important point to remember is that a total body approach is critical. While anti-fungal medications and probiotics can help, you'll need to take a very close look at your diet and lifestyle as well, making drastic changes to the things you eat for a few weeks or months and then gradually adding foods back into your diet. A combination of the Candida diet, anti-fungals, and probiotics is usually best.
The next time you develop a vaginal yeast infection – or any infection at all – take a close look at your symptoms. Do you really have a bacterial infection or should you, after a period of fighting a condition that seems like it won't go away, ask your doctor to test you for Candida? You may be surprised at the outcome.
About the Author: Dr. Eric Bakker, N.D, is a naturopathic physician. He has spent the past 20 years of his medical career specializing in the research and treatment of Candida infections impacting men, women, and children alike.