Last updated April 8, 2019 by Lisa Richards, CNC

Acetaldehyde And Candida: The Connection

Woman with headaches

Have you ever noticed that the symptoms of a hangover are similar to those of a Candida overgrowth? Symptoms like brain fog, headaches, nausea, and fatigue are present in both alcohol-induced hangovers and Candida Related Complex. For any readers still recovering from their Fourth of July celebrations, now is a great time to look at the connection between these two conditions!

The common factor that we see in both hangovers and Candida overgrowth is an organic chemical named acetaldehyde. It is actually all around us – there is acetaldehyde in polluted air, tobacco smoke, synthetic fragrances, and many of the foods we eat. However, the amounts that we get from environment exposure alone are pretty low. Acetaldehyde usually only becomes a problem during a Candida overgrowth or when we drink alcohol.

Why does it matter if our levels of acetaldehyde become elevated? For starters, it is a known neurotoxin and possibly carcinogenic. But you’re probably more familiar with the more immediate effects of acetaldehyde – headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and nausea.

In today’s article I’m going to examine how alcohol and Candida can both lead to higher levels of acetaldehyde, and look at what you can do to prevent this from happening.

Alcohol And Acetaldehyde

Higher levels of acetaldehyde are often caused by one of two things – alcohol metabolism and Candida overgrowth. Let’s take a look at the alcohol first.

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The metabolism of alcohol is a multi-stage process that happens in your liver. First, the alcohol is oxidized into acetaldehyde by an enzyme named alcohol/dehydrogenase. Second, the acetaldehyde is broken down again into acetic acid, a harmless substance that is ultimately broken down further into carbon dioxide and water.

When this process is running efficiently, the acetaldehyde exists only for a short period of time before being broken down. It doesn’t have any time to circulate through your body and cause unpleasant symptoms like headaches and nausea.

However, when the liver runs out of the substances (like molybdenum) and enzymes that it needs to complete this metabolic process, large amounts of acetaldehyde can remain. This is what happens when you drink too much, and it’s one of the major causes of your hangover.

Candida And Acetaldehyde

Candida overgrowth is another significant contributor to elevated acetaldehyde levels, but through a very different process. If you are suffering from a Candida overgrowth, the Candida colonies in your gut continually produce a number of toxins as metabolic byproducts. Among these toxins are uric acid, ammonia, and (you guessed it) acetaldehyde.

According to a team of researchers looking at the link between Candida overgrowth and Parkinson’s disease, “Patients with chronic polysystemic candidiasis exhibit significantly elevated levels of acetaldehyde in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This phenomenon is a direct result of the metabolic processes of the invading organism – Candida albicans.”

Now you can see why many of the same symptoms regularly associated with hangovers (fatigue, nausea etc.) frequently appear in Candida sufferers too. The toxic chemical that contributes to bad hangovers is the very same toxin that is released by the Candida albicans living in your gut.

On a related noted, have you noticed that your hangovers are particularly bad recently? That could be a sign that your liver is overloaded and already coping with the acetaldehyde produced by a Candida overgrowth. After you drink alcohol, your over-stressed liver is simply unable to cope with the extra workload.

Reducing Your Acetaldehyde Levels

Cutting back on your alcohol intake is one sure way to reduce your acetaldehyde levels. You should consider doing this anyway, as part of a healthy, low-inflammatory, low sugar diet. But if you’re suffering from chronic Candida, your body is going to need a little more assistance.

Supplements like molybdenum and milk thistle can help your liver to process the acetaldehyde into acetic acid and remove it more efficiently. This is certainly a useful way to get relief from your symptoms, but it’s only a short-term fix.

To achieve a long-term reduction in your acetaldehyde levels (and relief from those annoying Candida symptoms), you need to attack your Candida overgrowth. As we describe in our Ultimate Candida Diet program, the best way to do this is through a staggered approach that incorporates a low-sugar diet, some natural antifungals, and a good probiotic. If you regularly suffer from symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and brain fog, an effective Candida treatment plan will offer relief.

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  1. Ingrid says:

    Hi Lisa, I was so excited when I read your book, but unfortunately I have so far failed to beat my sugar addiction. I am at my wits end as I am an addict that has stopped drinking alcohol for one and a half years now however since then I know I have only swapped addictions and sugar is my problem now. I was relieved to find out about having candida as there is a cure however the addict in me has caused tremendous turmoil- I only lasted two days on the detox and now I am worse than ever on the sugar.
    It makes me feel so sick after but the sensation I get when I am eating sugar is frightening. I am scared I am also giving myself diabetes with sugar over load plus my self esteem is so low as I feel so useless not being able to control myself. How do people follow this? Is there any secret tips for this recovering alcoholic sugar addict? I am so proud of how I have changed my life but my insides I fear are still as unhealthy due to the junk I just can’t seem to put down..every morning I pray that I can control myself!
    Any suggestions…please throw them my way.

    1. Hi Ingrid. Beating a sugar addiction can be difficult – some studies have shown sugar to have the same addictive qualities as cocaine and other drugs. Switching to stevia or xylitol might help, because they will satisfy your psychological craving without spiking your blood sugar. Here are some more tips –

    2. Pam Eurich says:

      Look into MMS and MSM. MMS is sodium chlorite in liquid form that you activate with equal drops of hydrochloric acid, found in stomach digestion. MSM is organic sulfur. Making huge changes in my mind, body and health. By the way, it’s inexpensive and does sooo much for your body.
      Jim Humble is a true humanitarian in my opinion. Best wishes. PS- just be sure to take it as prescribed, start very low dose and work up SLOWLY as die off can be very unpleasant to the extreme as I did, but I’m fine. I upped dosage too fast and it was rough. Believe me. Slow and steady wins the race! Kill it weekly little by little so less critters dying at once. They ruin your life while living in you, then give a major dose of toxins on the way out.

    3. Jeanette says:

      I’m also struggling terribly with sugar addiction. My downfall is the healthiest dark chocolate with one othe ingredient….cane sugar. I’m so addicted and i pray every day to stop too but then evening comes and i give in again. All day long i eat anti candida super healthy then fail at night. I’ve been breaking out with insane irching. Every day i say okay….im done with the sugar and then get weak in the flesh. Dear Lord please help us overcome this addiction. Sugar can be deadly as it causes a dilation of the capillaries. It goes straight fron the stomach into the blood stream to spike a sugar high. I’ve researched and know all this and yet havent chosen to stop. After all it is a choice and NO one else can make it for me. 😞

  2. Margot Griffiths says:

    Can I ever get over a 6 year establishes systemic candida problem?

    1. Hi Margot, yes it is certainly possible! However, in general terms the longer you have had your Candida, the longer it will take to beat it.

    2. Pam Eurich says:

      Yes! See my info above! Best wishes.

  3. Katie says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I find this article very interesting, and I have experienced the hangover like symptoms that you described even in the absence of drinking alcohol. Do you have any evidence based research on the subject that you can share? I don’t see any references for the information you provided, and I would like to read more about acetaldehyde and its effects on the body. Is this information provided in your book?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Katie, here are some resources that you should find interesting, in addition to those linked from the article. There is lots more research out there on acetaldehyde and it’s negative effects.

  4. Nicole says:

    Try checking out the website

  5. Mlwall says:

    Ingrid, you might find Kathleen DesMaisons’s work helpful. She has conducted research in this specific area. One of her books is called Potatoes not Prozac and she has a website called Radiant Recovery. Her book includes a step by step plan for beating s sugar addiction which she originally designed for people recovering from alcohol addiction I believe.

  6. Peder Sverdrup says:

    I have read about this before, but I thought the candida produced alcohol? Because candida ferments carbohydrates into alcohol. So from candida in your intestine you get the alcohol produced in your intestine, it gets into your bloodstream and you feel intoxicated, almost the same way one feels when drinking alcohol. First time they discovered this was the case with Charlie Swaart. I do not know what is correct – your explanation or the one alternative I give. Your explanation does seem to fit better with my own symptoms, actually.

    1. Hi Peder, you’re almost right! Candida actually produces both ethanol and acetaldehyde. Here is a study on how it produces ethanol – So which of these causes the hungover, groggy feeling that Candida sufferers report? It’s actually the acetaldehyde. Any ethanol that the Candida produces is quickly processed by your liver into acetaldehyde. So when Candida sufferers report feeling ‘drunk’ it’s not actually because their blood alcohol level has risen – it’s due to the effects of the neurotoxin acetaldehyde. I hope that clears things up!

  7. beryl says:

    Dear Lisa

    Thank you so much I am so encouraged to stay on track by your constant reminders and help. Thank you.

  8. Nick says:

    Are activities such as hot yoga and yin yoga safe to participate in while doing the detoxing/candida diet?

    1. Certainly! They can help with your detoxification and reduce your stress levels, both of which are important parts of beating Candida. The only thing I would say is that you should be careful not to over-do the hot yoga. It can be very draining, so a more peaceful and relaxed yoga (like yin yoga, as you suggested) is probably a better option.

  9. Kate says:

    I wondered why I can longer tolerate even a small amount of alcohol, this explains it. What dose of molybdenum do you suggest?

  10. Navotni says:

    This is the first time in a while that I have seen some quality content about candida. Chemistry is my thing so I really appreciated the chemical references to aldehyde and such that you made. I feel that what you have here could be valuable to those still suffering from yeast infections or candida die off symptoms. Either way just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated this article.

  11. Bailey says:

    I’ve gone to my GP with the complaint that, though I only drink on occasion, in moderation, and am careful not to mix different types of alcohol, the day after drinking I am terribly hung over, as if I had several times the amount of alcohol that I actually drank. I was told I’ve probably developed a food allergy, but it seems to occur whether it’s vodka, beer, wine, etc. I wonder if Candida overgrowth may actually be my problem. Does this sound probable?

  12. Haley says:

    Hello! I find this very informative as I have suffered from what I call “drunk brain”, fatigue and headaches for years. Have been to rounds of doctors that have never suggested this as a cause. I don’t ever get any yeast infections though…can this still be the culprit in the absence of having that as a symptom? Thank you!

  13. Lu says:


    I don’t know if anyone reads this thread anymore but I have a problem and I think it’s acetaldehyde but I’m not positive. Preface: I have had Candida symptoms for about 5 years. When I ate normally(tons of sugar, unhealthy, etc) I would get eczema on my hands and I experienced bloating, irregular BMs, low energy, fuzzy head. None of that comes close to comparing to what happened to me last month. I had been drinking more than usual(heavily about once or twice a week) and eating a lot of sweets. So one day I decide to buy a back of assorted candy and just have at it – thats when it started. I just totally lost touch with myself, extreme anxiety, distress, horror is the best way I can describe it. I wasn’t and am still not MYSELF. The feeling I associate with ME. Identity. Reality. Being. it’s like I’m living 50 feet above my life and its awful its horrible its the worst feeling in the world. Dissociation. Depersonalization. I’m scared to death I’ll never have it back. I don’t know what to do. I have gone on a low sugar diet (less than 5grams of sugar per day, so basically sugar free) and I’ve been taking antifungal supplements for the past week. I have had some improvement but I’m still out of touch. I’m still panicking because something. is. wrong. something is very wrong.
    Anyway I figured it was from the neurotoxin Acetaldehyde and I’ve been supplementing with tons of B1, NAC and Vitamin C. Those three together are supposed to knock it out. I have never had a headache. I was experiencing some fatigue, I was in bed all day but I’m more energetic now. But i’m still not me. Could it be something else? I was sure it was Acetaldehyde because it happened after I ate a ton of sweets and was much worsened when I then started drinking heavily.

    I don’t know anymore, i wish someone could help me figure this out.

    1. Jubilee says:

      How are you now? Did you get through a “die-off” period?

    2. Monique Terry says:

      HI Lu!

      I’m wish you buddy! I ate clean for about 8 months and during the thanksgiving and Christmas holiday I ate whatever I wanted plus two bags of Halloween candy. (add alcohol to it every weekend) Then came the anxiety, panic attacks, crying spells, hair loss, digestive problems, just about everything. I was following a similar protocol along with a high probiotic, but added powdered glutamine, and digestive enzymes after every meal. I also take ginseng to help keep a positive mood. 🙂 I’m almost back to my old self! I hope this helps!!! This journey is challenging, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be Blessed!


  14. Steven Simpson says:

    Here’s a huge THANK YOU! I’m on my fifth day of a Candida-balancing diet, only hearing about it five days ago. A friend had a wedding two weeks back, and I couldn’t believe how hung-over I felt; it lasted at least three to five days later. I’ve done all sorts of cleanses, studied Ayurveda for the past two years, and was finally WOW’d by how I feel now. Couldn’t be more grateful for your work, and posting this information up for all of us. THANKS SO MUCH! I feel great, and have a better understanding of staying within balance. In light.

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Glad to hear it 🙂 Keep us updated!

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