Candida Related Complex is such a difficult condition to diagnose because it tends to affect each sufferer in a different way. Candida symptoms can occur on different parts of their body, in ways that may be unique to that particular person.
For this and other reasons, Candida is often misdiagnosed. If you have a doctor who is unaware of the importance of gut health, he or she may treat the symptoms rather than the cause. Fatigue might be written off as depression, and digestive problems might be blamed on IBS. The underlying cause, an imbalance in the gut flora, might not be recognized or treated.
Just like other syndromes and chronic conditions, the symptoms of Candida can flare up in different places. There are tests for Candida overgrowth but in many cases patients do much of the diagnostic work themselves. Looking at the various symptoms that you’re experiencing can give a good indication of whether you have a deeper issue with your gut flora.
The consensus is that many more people are suffering from Candida than those few who are diagnosed correctly. You may find yourself suffering from any or all of the following symptoms if you have Candida. All of them can be linked to an imbalance in the gut flora.
Here are the 11 of the most common Candida symptoms that you may be experiencing:
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Digestive issues
- Recurring yeast infections
- Oral thrush
- Sinus infections
- Food allergies/intolerances
- Fungal infections on the skin and nails
- A weak immune system
- Joint pain
- Low mood
These are the symptoms that are most commonly seen. You may have just a handful of these, or you might recognize most of the list. Let’s start by taking a look at these symptoms in more detail. Then I’ll list a few of the less common symptoms that you might be experiencing.
Do you feel like you’re tired all the time? A gut imbalance like Candida overgrowth could be to blame. A pathogen such as Candida albicans can affect your energy levels in several different ways.
When an external factor like antibiotics disturbs the balance in your gut flora, one of the most immediate effects is on the way that you absorb nutrients. Your gut is the place where much of the digestive ‘heavy lifting’ takes place. It’s here that nutrients are broken down, processed, and absorbed.
If Candida (or another pathogen) has expanded its colonies to the point where it affects this balance, your nutrient absorption can suffer. Foods can pass through your gut without being properly broken down, and you lose the opportunity to absorb the nutrients they contain. Over time, this can lead to fatigue as your body simply doesn’t get the fuel that it needs.
In the meantime, these Candida cells are not sitting idle. Their metabolic processes produce a wide variety of chemicals, many of which are toxic to us. These include a neurotoxin named acetaldehyde, which is coincidentally the same chemical that causes hangovers.
In a healthy individual, the small amounts of acetaldehyde produced by Candida are easily processed by the liver. In a person with a Candida overgrowth, this is not necessarily the case. The liver becomes overworked as it struggles to process larger amounts of acetaldehyde. This build-up of acetaldehyde and other toxins can slow down various processes in your body. And don’t forget that the liver is responsible for energy storage too.
This leads us on to the last reason why Candida can lead to fatigue. Things like an overworked liver, a weakened immune system, and chronic fatigue can put pressure on other organs. For example, adrenal fatigue is often seen at the same time as Candida.
The reason is that many of your body’s resources are being diverted to process Candida toxins, fight the Candida overgrowth, and maintain your energy levels. Over time, this can deplete the hormonal precursors that are needed to produce crucial hormones like pregnenolone, cortisol, and DHEA. As your levels of these hormones drop, it can start to affect your energy levels, your libido, and much more.
I’ve already touched on the reason why a Candida overgrowth can lead to brain fog, confusion, difficulties with memory, and poor concentration. A chemical named acetaldehyde, one of the toxic metabolites produced by Candida albicans, is to blame.
Acetaldehyde is one of many chemicals produced by Candida (by one count, there are at least 79). Others include ammonia and uric acid. But it’s acetaldehyde that is likely to have the greatest effect on your wellbeing. If your head is permanently ‘foggy’, you struggle to stay focused, and you are more forgetful than you used to be, acetaldehyde could be to blame.
During a Candida overgrowth, there may be too much acetaldehyde in your blood stream for your liver to process efficiently. This allows it to circulate to your nervous system and brain.
There are several ways in which acetaldehyde can affect your mental focus:
- Red blood cells that combine with acetaldehyde can carry less oxygen to the brain and travel more slowly through blood vessels.
- Acetaldehyde can cause a deficiency in vitamin B1, which is crucial for good brain health.
- Acetaldehyde can also damage nerve cells in a similar way to chronic alcoholism or Alzheimer’s.
This one takes us right to the heart of Candida Related Complex. Candida is, after all, a gut-related condition. The changes in your digestive tract are what ultimately leads to all of the other symptoms on this list.
Whatever caused your Candida, whether it was a course of antibiotics or a sustained high-sugar diet, your gut flora can become imbalanced. As well as weakening your immunity, this can really affect the way that your body digests food. Those ‘good bacteria’ that normally reside in your gut are a crucial part of your digestive system, responsible for the processing of starches, fibers, and some sugars.
When the healthy gut flora is overwhelmed by Candida albicans, your small and large intestine can start to malfunction. This can mean diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, cramps, nausea, and many other gut-related symptoms.
Recurring Yeast Infections
Next up is perhaps the most obvious sign of an intestinal Candida overgrowth. Recurring vaginal yeast infections are a clear sign that something deeper is wrong.
Even if you clear up the localized yeast infection, Candida albicans has the ability to grow and spread to different areas around your body. So even though your vaginal infection might have disappeared, the same area may continue to be reinfected until you eliminate your Candida overgrowth.
The mouth is another part of the digestive tract that is particularly vulnerable to Candidiasis. Oral thrush is incredibly common, and in its mild form is frequently undiagnosed until it becomes quite bad. An intestinal Candida infection often occurs at the same time as oral thrush.
This is because the same environmental changes that cause an intestinal overgrowth can also lead to an oral Candida infection. If you take antibiotics or eat a high-sugar diet, they will change the environment in both your gut and your mouth, making both locations more appealing for the Candida fungus.
Doctors used to assume that almost all chronic sinus infections were caused by bacteria. Newer research suggests that this is not the case. Although acute (short term) sinus infections are mostly caused by bacteria, many of the longer term, chronic sinus infections may in fact be fungal infections.
Here’s the problem. The most common treatment for chronic sinus infections is antibiotics. And antibiotics are pretty much useless for a fungal infection. Even worse, antibiotics can kill off many of the ‘good bacteria’ and allow the fungal infection to spread. If you suffer from chronic sinus infections, improving your diet and rebalancing your gut bacteria may be a far better solution than antibiotics.
This is a good time to mention intestinal permeability, or what we know as Leaky Gut Syndrome. This condition is caused when the fungal Candida grows long branches (hyphae) that penetrate the walls of your intestines. If left unchecked, this results in a highly permeable intestinal membrane which allows food particles and metabolites to escape the intestinal lumen and enter the bloodstream behind the wall via the blood vessels.
These particles and bacteria are then identified as foreign substances by your immune system. In the case of bacteria, they may be quickly neutralized. However, your immune system’s reaction to escaped food particles can potentially lead to food sensitivities. As these foods enter the bloodstream, an area where they really don’t belong, your body begins to treat them as threats to your health. When you eat those foods again, your immune system might react to them.
Fungal Infections On The Skin And Nails
Just like the microorganisms inside the gut, there are bacteria on your skin that protect you and prevent pathogens like Candida albicans from spreading in an uncontrolled way. These protective microorganisms are often known as the skin flora or skin microbiota.
The same conditions that lead to an intestinal overgrowth (a high-sugar diet, weakened immune system, etc) can also change the environment on your skin and allow Candida to overwhelm the local flora. This can result in fungal nail infections and skin rashes. Warm, moist areas like the armpits and groin are particularly vulnerable.
As with oral thrush, changing the environmental conditions is the key to eliminating superficial fungal infections in the long run. The same therapies that can reverse an intestinal Candida overgrowth (i.e. probiotics, antifungals, and a low sugar diet) can also help to eliminate fungal skin infections for good.
A Weak Immune System
When it comes to a Candida albicans infection, your immune system can play the role of both cause and effect. A weakened immune system is typically what allows an intestinal Candida overgrowth to happen in the first place. But Candida can also play a role in weakening your immune system, all by itself. Here are three ways this happens:
- An imbalanced gut flora
Your intestines are one of the most significant parts of your immune system. Researchers have found that the bacteria and yeast in your gut ‘prime’ your immune system and keep it ready to fight off pathogens like Candida. Without the correct balance of microorganisms in your gut flora, your immune system can be significantly weakened.
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
This Candida-related condition, often known as intestinal permeability, provokes inflammation and a strong immune response. The inflammation and food sensitivities that it causes put pressure on your overloaded immune system.
- Adrenal Fatigue / HPA Axis dysfunction
Lastly, Candida can overwork your adrenals and HPA Axis. These important organs play a role in regulating your immune system, among other things. Things like chronic fatigue and nutrient malabsorption can lead to hormonal imbalances that weaken the adrenal glands. A lengthy Candida infection can affect levels of hormones and neurotransmitters like cortisol that regulate the immune system.
Does any of this sound like your experience? If you find that you are regularly suffering from colds and flus, and you don’t know why, a gut imbalance like Candida might be the cause.
I’ve already discussed acetaldehyde, but this is far from the only Candida metabolite that can cause unpleasant symptoms. Uric acid is another toxic byproduct of Candida, and it can lead to pain in various parts of the body.
If it builds up to sufficient levels, uric acid can lead to gout, a form of arthritis associated with pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints. These attacks can happen relatively suddenly, and can occur repeatedly until the underlying problem is addressed. Longer term, high levels of uric acid can do damage to your tendons and joints.
So far, we’ve discussed a wide range of symptoms that include tiredness, joint pain, brain fog, and more. If you are experiencing a few of these different symptoms, it could be affecting your mood. But there is also a more direct link between Candida and depression.
An intestinal Candida overgrowth can suppress production of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters that boosts your mood. Most serotonin is produced in the gut, so a major gut problem is likely to throw this production out of balance.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that affects your mood, and low dopamine levels are strongly associated with depression. Candida has a role to play here too, as one of its metabolites (acetaldehyde) binds with dopamine. This, incidentally, is also one of the reasons why alcoholics tend towards depression.
Lastly, an overworked liver can reduce your ability to store and use vitamin B12. This important vitamin helps your brain and nervous system to function properly, and low levels have been linked to depression and mental illness.
37 More Candida Symptoms
The symptoms listed above might be the most common signs of a Candida problem, but they are far from the only ones. A chronic gut imbalance can affect your hormone and neurotransmitter levels, your immune system, your liver, and much more.
The signs of Candida Related Complex can also include any of the symptoms listed below. If you recognize a few of these, along with some of the more common symptoms listed above, it might be time to evaluate whether poor gut health might be causing your health issues. If you have a wide selection of seemingly-unrelated symptoms, Candida albicans might be to blame.
- Acid reflux
- Bleeding gums
- Body odor
- Cracked tongue
- Cravings for sugary snacks
- Crying spells
- Flu-like symptoms
- Fungal skin rash
- Inability to focus
- Inability to lose weight
- Itchy anus
- Itchy eyes
- Low libido
- Mucus in stool
- Muscle aches and stiffness
- Panic attacks
- Persistent extreme fatigue
- Poor coordination
- Poor memory
- Sensitivities to fragrances and chemicals
- Sensitivity to light
- Stomach cramps
- Water retention
Check out our Candida Questionnaire to see if you might have excess Candida in your gut or elsewhere.
Gut dysbiosis, of which Candida overgrowth is one of the most common forms, is possibly the least understood, and most widespread cause of ill health today. Poor digestive health has become an epidemic that affects millions of people. If you suffer from some of the above symptoms, remember that they might be connected and have a common underlying cause.
However, your doctors may not be familiar with gut-related conditions like Candida. They may see your fatigue and diagnose it as depression; they may treat your chronic sinus infections with antibiotics; and they may prescribe creams for your yeast infection. These treatments might be helpful only temporarily, or they might actually make your underlying infection worse.
Doctors are under tremendous pressure to make quick diagnoses. This can result in treating one or two localized symptoms instead of looking at the whole picture. Other conditions that may be diagnosed in place of Candida might be IBS, arthritis, Crohn’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and more. A healthcare practitioner who is trained to take a more holistic view of the body, such as an integrative doctor or naturopath, will be more likely to have the time and inclination to get to the bottom of your health issues.
For lots more information on the symptoms of Candida, take a look at my Ultimate Candida Diet treatment plan.