Unlike a common cold or the flu, candida isn’t something you should just assume that you have and treat accordingly.
The average person probably hasn’t heard of candida. But do a little poking around on the internet, and you’ll finally discover the mysterious culprit at the root of all your health woes:
Intense sugar cravings? Trouble losing weight? Depression? Super low energy levels? Candida overgrowth is to blame—and once you see all the symptoms that are linked to this nasty fungal infection of sorts, you’ll be convinced that it is definitely the thing that’s causing your ailments.
Candida is a fungus that naturally lives in the body, and functions like probiotic bacteria. When it has balanced levels in the body, it aids with nutrient absorption and digestion. But when there’s an overgrowth of candida—usually due to a diet high in sugars, a round of antibiotic treatments, hormonal birth control pills, or exposure to environmental fungi—it can cause everything from recurrent yeast infections to sinus infections. And usually it’s a chronic issue, because many patients don’t realize that fungal overgrowth is to blame for many of their ailments.
Because it has such a broad range of symptoms, a quick WebMD search might be enough to convince anyone who’s feeling a little rundown that they’re teeming with excess yeast and fungi. Candida is a little bit of a catchall, according to Dr. Mark Hyman: “Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include chronic fatigue, loss of energy, general malaise, decreased libido, thrush, bloating and gas, cramps, rectal itching, diarrhea, constipation, yeast infections, bladder infections, allergies, depression, thyroid problems, and the list goes on! I see [it] all the time in my office.” And while candida overgrowth affects as many as 42,000 patients a year, many people improperly self-diagnose.
You can take some of the guesswork out of it with an at-home test. Although the rumored “saliva test” was debunked years ago, that’s another simple home test that could indicate whether candida is your problem. Bonus? It involves our favorite Thrive Market product—COCONUT OIL!
Here’s how to do it:
- Right after you wake up, swallow a spoonful of coconut oil.
- Don’t eat or drink anything for a few hours.
- In the early afternoon, head to the bathroom.
- If urine is cloudy, you’ve probably got a fungi issue.
And as for how it works, it’s pretty simple: Thanks to coconut oil’s antifungal properties (is there anything it can’t do?), it will kill off some candida. The fungi will be expelled through urination, causing it to look cloudy.
Sure, it’s not the most scientific way to diagnose a serious chronic health issue. But Hyman notes that even if you go to a doctor to get tested, the methods for diagnosis of yeast problems aren’t necessarily definitive or foolproof. That’s why he recommends working with a Functional Medicine doctor to get rid of the yeast, because they’ll customize a treatment using a combination of Eastern and Western medicinal practices. “A diagnosis often must be made based on a patient’s story, symptoms, and physical findings on examination,” Hyman says.
Ok, so try the coconut oil test, but head to your doctor before you begin any sort of candida-curing protocol you find online. The symptoms of yeast overgrowth vary from person to person—and so does the response to treatments. “Some people may need aggressive treatment, while others may need only simple changes to make a significant difference in their health,” says Hyman.
Ditching sugary and starchy foods, reducing stress levels, and taking a probiotic supplement could all help kill off excess candida. Of course, some people might require more invasive methods—for more serious cases, Hyman prescribes an antifungal medication that can be used short term or long term. Your doctor can help you figure out the best approach for you.
Illustration by Karley Koenig