You may not think about how you're carrying around trillions of bugs with you wherever you go, but your gut is home to more bacteria and yeast than you could count. Most of the time, these bugs live in harmony with no issues, but if you have too much yeast in your body, it can cause problems.
Yeast overgrowth can cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, but the good news is that there are a lot of things you can do at home to get your numbers down within normal ranges again. Of course, if you suspect you have a problem with yeast overgrowth, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor who can help you develop a treatment plan and even recommend an antifungal as part of your care.
What Is Yeast?
Before jumping into how to get rid of too much yeast in the body, it's good to gain an understanding of what yeast is. Yeast belongs to a larger class of microorganisms called fungi.
According to an October 2016 report published in the journal Virulence, many different species of yeast have been found in the human gut. Some of them come from food or the environment, but there are only a handful that are capable of growing and multiplying directly in the gut.
The most common of these is the Candida species, specifically Candida albicans, which lives on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy people. If an immune system is compromised in any way, the yeast can travel to other areas of the body that are outside the gut and cause infection.
A November 2015 report in mSphere describes Candida albicans as the most common human fungal pathogen — the fungus, or yeast, most likely to overgrow and cause a problem.
Symptoms of Too Much Yeast
So if Candida albicans lives in the gut normally, how do you know if it has traveled or grown out of hand to the point that you now have too much yeast in your body? The first clue is usually that you're experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. A Candida infection can affect the mouth, throat, skin, vagina and even the blood, according to Harvard Health, and the symptoms you experience depend on where that overgrowth is.
- Mouth (thrush): Marked by white patches inside the mouth, inflammation, redness, bleeding, cracked corners of the mouth.
- Throat (esophagitis): Involves painful or difficult swallowing, chest pain.
- Skin: Can be moist and show redness and oozing patches.
- Vagina: Exhibits vaginal itching, soreness, thick discharge, burning around the vaginal opening, pain during urination, pain during sex.
- Blood (systemic/deep): Results in fever, chills, shock, organ failure.
Most cases of Candida overgrowth aren't serious and can be resolved with a comprehensive treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes, but if the overgrowth is systemic and in your blood, it can potentially be serious, leading to organ damage and failure.
If you have symptoms like a high fever, chills and shock and suspect too much yeast in your body, seek emergency medical care instead of relying on at-home remedies to solve the problem.
Candida Overgrowth Test
Symptoms are one of the obvious clues of too much yeast or Candida overgrowth, but if you suspect an issue, your doctor can confirm or rule it out with a few simple tests. The first thing he'll do is look at the affected areas. Often, you'll be able to get a diagnosis just by how an area looks.
But in addition to a physical examination, it's also likely that your doctor will do a swab test. This is a simple Candida overgrowth test that works by gently scraping the affected area — like the inside of the cheek, the tongue or the vagina — with a swab and then sending it off to a lab so they can look at the sample under a microscope to determine whether it's Candida.
If Candida overgrowth is confirmed, your doctor will either move right into treatment options or will request further testing to determine why you might be experiencing a yeast overgrowth. Since a yeast overgrowth is more likely in those with a compromised immune system, your doctor may look for things like undiagnosed diabetes.
Read more: Is Eating Yeast Bad for You?
Candida Cleanse Diet
After a yeast overgrowth is confirmed, your first treatment may be an antifungal medication that quickly kills off excess yeast and gets your body back in balance. But while this may alleviate symptoms and help you find relief in the short-term, it doesn't identify the reason you got the infection in the first place.
So after your infection is under control, it's a good idea to take a look at your diet and make some changes that can help prompt a Candida cleanse. The nutrients you eat provide food directly to the yeast in your body. This means that if you don't change your diet, yeast doesn't really have to look elsewhere for food and, instead, can continue to grow at a rate that's out of control.
One of the first things to do is remove (or limit) wheat and sugar. According to a report published in the journal Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny in 2019, eating lots of wheat-flour products, and lots of carbs in general, was linked to an increased amount of Candida in the GI tract.
That's because sugar is a very important nutrient for the growth of fungi, and it can help it grow where other nutrients aren't available, according to a January 2019 report in Frontiers in Microbiology.
On the other hand, the report also noted that a diet low in carbohydrates and high in saturated fatty acids, like the ones that come from cheese, actually has the ability to reduce Candida overgrowth. The November 2015 report in mSphere added that the fatty acids in coconut oil can not only help kill off an overgrowth of yeast, but can also help prevent future recurrences.
That doesn't mean simply eating coconut oil will cure an overgrowth, but that coconut oil may be a welcome part of a well-balanced diet.
Read more: How Does Coconut Oil Kill Candida?
- Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny: "The Influence of Diet on Gastrointestinal Candida Spp. Colonization and the Susceptibility of Candida spp. to Antifungal Drugs"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Candidiasis"
- Virulence: "Fungi in the Healthy Human Gastrointestinal Tract"
- mSphere: "Manipulation of Host Diet to Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida albicans"
- Frontiers in Microbiology: "Sugar Sensing and Signaling in Candida albicans and Candida glabrata"