Chronic Candida: The Silent Killer

Written by Aicacia Young, RDN,Director of Scientific Affairs, Microbiome Labs.

Candida is a yeast that occurs naturally in the human mouth and intestines. In small amounts, this natural fungus can aid in nutrient digestion and absorption, but an overgrowth can damage the intestinal lining and release toxic byproducts directly into the circulatory system.

If not addressed quickly, Candida overgrowth can become chronic and lead to fungal skin infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, brain fog, mood swings, vaginal infections, and even seasonal allergies. However, the most damaging aspect of a Candida overgrowth is the fact that it can puncture holes through the intestinal lining. Due to the nature of yeast, Candida grows roots like a tree as it spreads. These roots can tear through the intestinal wall looking for food which results in a hyper-permeable intestinal lining, otherwise known as leaky gut. Once the gut becomes leaky, endotoxins from the intestinal lumen, like lipopolysaccharide (LPS) can enter directly into circulation, triggering an innate immune response that often results in sub-clinical, low grade inflammation. LPS is a major component of the cell membrane of gramnegative bacteria, which make up a majority of the microbes in the digestive tract. When these commensal gut bacteria lyse, they release LPS into the intestinal lumen, where it can do little damage to a healthy gut. However, if the mucosal barrier has degraded and the intestinal lining is damaged, LPS can enter directly into circulation, where it can trigger low grade inflammation anywhere in the body.

One of the best ways to protect the microbiome against chronic Candida and LPS-induced endotoxemia is with a combination of probiotic spores and yeast 1,2. This unique combination has the power to control pathogenic infections, repair intestinal damage, and strengthen the immune system to ward off future infections. The problem with most probiotics is that they do not effectively survive digestion in order to colonize in the large intestine. However, probiotic spores and yeasts are naturally equipped to survive the harsh gastric passage and enter the intestines completely viable. In fact, bacterial spores are the only strains shown to measurably heal leaky gut. Candida albicans is a yeast that occurs naturally in the human mouth and intestines.

A study on such probiotic spores as mentioned above were the subject of a university, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the ability of the product to reduce or prevent leaky gut3. In addition to assessing changes in endotoxic responses, the researchers also measured transient changes in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, other novel disease risk biomarkers, and the immune system itself, following a high-fat challenge meal. Healthy volunteers were screened for an endotoxic response to the challenge meal and enrolled into the study accordingly. The treatment group took the probiotic for 30 days, without any additional interventions or lifestyle changes. After the 30 days, the data showed a clear shift to a protective microbiome and a drastic reduction in endotoxemia. Interestingly, the placebo group experienced an increased endotoxic response to the second challenge meal, suggesting that endotoxemia, or leaky gut, is a progressive condition. These probiotic spores are likely the most promising therapy for metabolic endotoxemia, as no other probiotics or compounds have demonstrated this effect. Collectively, the findings of this study demonstrate a significant reduction of metabolic endotoxemia, triglycerides, and systemic inflammatory markers IL-6, IL-8, MCP-1, IL-1? and IL-12 following a 30-day period of probiotic supplementation. This study is the first to demonstrate that a short-term probiotic intervention can alter dietary endotoxemia in human subjects. Additionally, though it may seem counterintuitive, Saccharomyces boulardii supplementation also appears to have a beneficial effect on pathogenic fungal overgrowths, like Candida4. In a mouse model of colitis, S. boulardii was shown to decrease inflammation and Candida albicans colonization of the intestine5. S. boulardii is also able to reduce the translocation of C. albicans from the intestinal tract into the lymphatic tissues 6. Furthermore, a prospective study of 181 infants found that prophylactic S. boulardii supplementation was just as effective as nystatin in reducing fungal colonization and invasive fungal infections7.

Controlling Candida
When probiotics are not enough to contain a chronic overgrowth of Candida, it may be helpful to incorporate natural compounds shown to control Candida like undecylenic acid and bee propolis. Propolis is a resinous material with natural antifungal properties used by honeybees to protect the inside lining of their hives8. Bee propolis supports the immune system and fights foreign infection without the recruitment of the immune system9. This not only spares energy, by avoiding activation of various immune cells and responses, but also prevents macrophagic, inflammatory reactions that cause irritation and pain discomfort8. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that bee propolis inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, and Candida krusie in vitro9. Researchers attributed antifungal activity to the presence of lysozyme, phenolic acids, and flavonoids. Like propolis, undecylenic acid also appears to control fungal overgrowths in the gut12. Undecylenic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid with documented antifungal properties. Its topical use is safe even on the most sensitive places such as skin, mouth, and vaginal cavities. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics found undecylenic acid to be highly effective in treating the fungal infection Tinea pedis, or athletes foot14. While the abundance of research shows the benefits of using bee propolis and undecylenic acid to treat fungal infections, researchers also speculate that while reducing Candida growth at a specific site may offer short term solutions, the issue will reappear if intestinal Candida infections are not addressed15, 16. As stated above, the fungal hyphae in the gut can continue to disrupt the intestinal barrier, allowing more pathogens and toxins like LPS to enter into the blood stream. A total body system approach to fighting Candida overgrowth is the ideal treatment option. This includes addressing gut health as the source of Candida overgrowth, restoring the intestinal barrier, and including natural compounds, such as undecylenic acid and bee propolis, to balance intestinal Candida cultures. This combination could be one of the most natural and effective ways to improve gut barrier function and control harmful gut infections, like Candida.

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Reference available on request.