What is Candida? Part 1: Causes & Symptoms

Intense sugar cravings, brain fog, headaches, bloating and chronic digestive issues, anxiety, chronic yeast infections and low energy levels-these are just a few of the health symptoms many of us are living with and have accepted as normal. The truth is, you’re not meant to feel this way.


About 1 in 3 people suffer from yeast-related symptoms or conditions which means yeast overgrowth, candida, affects millions of people and it is a very real condition. Most people only associate candida with vaginal yeast infections but it’s much more. Considering that mainstream Western medicine protocols, poor diets, and stress overload, all major contributing factors to yeast overgrowth, it is no wonder that yeast overgrowth affects millions of Americans.

What is Candida?

Candida is a type of yeast that lives on and inside the human body. Small amounts typically exist on the skin, and inside the mouth, vagina, and gut.

However, certain factors can cause this fungus to multiply out of control, resulting in a Candida infection, which is called “candidiasis.”

Common Symptoms 

  • Yeast infections
  • Skin rashes
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Sinus infections
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Gas and/or bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Inability to loose weight
  • High and low blood sugar
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety & Depression


Most symptoms can be categorized as gut symptoms, vaginal symptoms, cognitive impairment symptoms, and chronic fatigue symptoms. Candida overgrowth causes a cascade of imbalances in the body and can lead to serious health issues if the balance in the body is not restored.

Top 5 Factors that cause Candida

In most cases, candida overgrowth is triggered by factors in your diet and lifestyle. Here are the top five causes of candida overgrowth.

1. Weakened Immune System 

Nearly 70 percent of your immune system cells house in your gut, which explains why the probiotics, or good bacteria, that help keep your gut healthy are so important for immune health.These are the same bacteria that also keep candida in check.

With most of your immune system being located in your gut, weakened immunity suggests there’s also a lack of good bacteria present, which act as a line of defense against illness and disease. 

2. Consuming a Diet High in Sugar, Alcohol & Diary products

Yes, an unhealthy diet can contribute to yeast overgrowth in the body. Yeast thrives in the presence of diets high in:

  • Refined sugars
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Processed foods
  • Dairy products

If you have gastrointestinal problems, including bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel, your candida overgrowth may be linked to your diet.

Watch out for sugar cravings as they can be a sign of candida. Many people feel a sudden and unexplained desire for refined carbohydrates, including pasta, cookies, cakes, and bread. However, other sugar cravings, including soda, fruit, honey, and other sweets, are just as problematic. While there is nothing wrong with occasionally wanting dessert, severe sugar and carbohydrate cravings may be a sign of candida overgrowth.

Another culprit linked to yeast overgrowth in the body is excess consumption of alcohol. Keep in mind that most alcohol is a by-product of yeast. Excessive alcohol consumption can create and environment for candida to grow. Try to limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks a week or eliminate completely until candida symptoms subside. 

3. Frequent Antibiotic Use 

The connection is clear that the antibiotics in eradicating a bacterial infection, whether in the throat or chest, also cleared out the “good” bacteria in the intestines. This imbalance sets the environment for candida yeast to overgrow in the body.

Candida typically occurs in patients that have been given multiple doses of antibiotics for varied conditions such as acne, sinusitis and any type of chronic infection. The same thing can occur after being on oral corticosteroids for asthma or arthritis as many different kinds of drugs can alter the immune system and gastrointestinal tract.

Next time you are being prescribed an antibiotic, make sure that your are taking a good quality probiotic throughout and after done taking the antibiotic. This way you are re-introducing good bacteria back into your system. It is also helpful during or after antibiotic use to consume plenty of prebiotic rich foods or a fiber supplement that contain prebiotic rich fiber sources to feed and help good bacteria in your gut to thrive and proliferate. 

4. Oral Contraceptives & Hormone Replacement Therapy

Although oral contraceptives do not cause candida overgrowth directly, it is evident that taking exogenous hormones (birth control) can worsen Candida overgrowth. In particular, women with higher levels of estrogen (including pregnant women) are at a higher risk of a candida overgrowth and vaginal yeast infections. Studies have been able to positively associate an increased amount of estrogen in the body to an increased incidence of vaginal candidiasis, however, researchers are still studying exactly how estrogen triggers Candida growth.

Now that you know a little bit more about Candida and what some of the typical symptoms and causes are, we have to dive a bit further into some of the treatment options available to eliminate Candida from your system. In part 2 of this series we will go over natural ways to treat Candida, as well as, discuss which diet methods are the most beneficial for keeping Candida at bay for life and rebuilt your overall gut health and immune system. 

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About the author

Chiara Ghanem