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The inner ecosystem of your digestive tract is a rich community. It is bustling with bacteria and yeast. As it turns out, these bacteria and yeast do more than help digest food and manufacture nutrients. The bugs in your gut also interact with your immune system, the chemicals in your brain, and your hormones.
Candida albicans is a well-known yeast that is naturally found in the mouth, the gut, and the birth canal. (1)
It is opportunistic, which means that if it has an opportunity to grow and take over an environment—it will.
What goes into your mouth (and into your gut) influences your inner ecosystem. Certain foods can irritate the lining of the digestive tract. Other foods feed disease-causing bacteria and Candida overgrowth. Once this happens, the gut wall—or the landscape of your inner ecosystem—becomes inflamed. An inflamed gut is a “leaky gut.”
What major factors contribute to Candida overgrowth?
- A diet high in sugar
- An imbalanced immune system
- Bacterial overgrowth in the gut
- Oral contraceptives use, or an imbalance in estrogen (2)
Unfortunately, Candida is not only opportunistic. It is also aggressive.
What Makes Candida So Virulent and Tough to Control?
Once the gut becomes inflamed, leaky gut can occur. Curbing Candida overgrowth by nourishing your inner ecosystem is one way to balance leaky gut and improve digestion.
Candida has developed a number of ways to evade your immune system and manipulate its environment. This makes Candida particularly difficult to control.
For starters, Candida has the ability to stick to your cells and invade them. It does this with proteins called adhesins, which are found in the cell wall of Candida. (3)
Adhesins act like double-sided tape. They help Candida stick to mucosal tissue (this is the tissue lining the gut wall, the mouth, and the birth canal). Adhesins also help Candida cells to aggregate—or form—sticky, gummy colonies.
Even more troubling is what happens to the tissue beneath Candida once colonies begin to form. In some cases, Candida yeast cells invade human cells and bud inside the cell—undetected and unnoticed. (4) Other studies show that Candida may be able to do this because it turns “off” white blood cells that protect cells from invasion. (5)
Candida Adapts to Stress
Studies also show that Candida thrives under stress. (6)
For example, researchers have exposed Candida to:
- High temperatures that mimic the body’s response to an infection.
- Oxidative stress—a byproduct of inflammation.
- Antifungal stress in the form of a common antifungal drug called fluconazole.
The greater the stress, the more Candida adapts to stressors and to its environment. It turns out that these genetic adaptations are specifically tailored to each stressor.
Candida also shape-shifts. (7) When necessary, it can be a rounded yeast cell or an elongated hyphal cell—which form like long, finger-like threads. Candida hyphae are particularly invasive to the gut wall. In hyphal form, Candida can change the pH of the body. (8) With this change in pH, Candida hyphae can bore through tissue and make its way into the bloodstream, where it can then colonize other regions of the body.
Control Candida Overgrowth and Balance Leaky Gut
Fortunately, you have everything that you need to inhibit Candida overgrowth by optimizing your digestion and nourishing your inner ecosystem.
Your inner ecosystem is healthiest when it houses a wide range of beneficial bacteria and yeast. These good bacteria and yeast not only compete with Candida for resources, they also produce substances that curb Candida overgrowth.
For example, a 2012 study shows that lactic acid—which is produced by good bacteria—inhibits the growth of Candida. (9) Another study that was published in the Journal of Biomedical Science confirms that while Candida overgrowth activates inflammation, good bacteria (or probiotics) inhibit it. (10)
Good bacteria also help to repair damaged tissue. When it comes to leaky gut, this is especially good news since Candida colonizes areas that are inflamed. (11)
So, why does Candida overgrowth happen at all? The key here is balance.
In order to get Candida overgrowth under control, it is critical to harmonize the inner ecology of the gut. Good bacteria living in the gut work in partnership with your immune system, keeping Candida overgrowth in check.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Your digestive tract contains a thriving inner ecosystem of bacteria and yeast to digest food, manufacture nutrients, and communicate with your immune system, brain, and hormones. Candida is a yeast that is naturally found in the gut, mouth, and birth canal. It is opportunistic and can easily take over its environment.
Candida overgrowth can soon cause inflammation in the gut wall, leading to leaky gut. Candida overgrowth may be a result of a high-sugar diet, imbalanced immune system, stress, or even oral contraceptive use. In a nutshell, Candida is tough to control since it can easily adapt to stress and manipulate its environment.
Controlling Candida overgrowth is one effective way to manage leaky gut. Nourishing your inner ecosystem will create a healthy balance of good bacteria and yeast that can keep Candida overgrowth in check. Good bacteria found in fermented vegetables and probiotic liquids can even repair damaged tissue in the digestive tract to calm inflammation associated with leaky gut.
- Calderone RA. Candida and Candidiasis. 2002. ASM Press, Washington DC.
- X Zhang, et al. Estrogen effects on Candida albicans: a potential virulence-regulating mechanism. J Infect Dis. 2000 Apr; 181 (4):1441 – 1446. Epub 2000 Apr 13.
- Forche A, et al. 2011. Stress alters rates and types of loss of heterozygosity in Candida albicans. mBio 2(4):e00129-11. doi:10.1128/mBio.00129-11.
- KS Kim, et al. Traversal of Candida albicans across human blood-brain barrier in vitro. Infection and immunity. 2001; 69(7), 4536-4544.
- SA Klotz, et al. New Features of Invasive Candidiasis in Humans: Amyloid Formation by Fungi and Deposition of Serum Amyloid P Component by the Host. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2012; 206(9), 1473-1478.
- Aoki W, et al. 2012 Jun. Profiling of adhesive properties of the agglutinin-like sequence (ALS) protein family, a virulent attribute of Candida albicans. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 65(1):121-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-695X.2012.00941.x.
- Mavor AL, et al. 2005. Systemic fungal infections caused by Candida species: epidemiology, infection process and virulence attributes. Curr. Drug Targets 6(8): 863–874.
- Vylkova S, et al. 2011. The fungal pathogen Candida albicans autoinduces hyphal morphogenesis by raising extracellular pH. mBio 2(3):e00055-11. doi:10.1128/mBio.00055-11.
- DR Tucker, et al. Protection of Vaginal Epithelial Cells with Probiotic Lactobacilli and the Effect of Estrogen against Infection by Candida albicans. Open Journal of Medical Microbiology. 2012; 2(3), 54-64.
- RD Wagner, et al. Probiotic lactobacillus and estrogen effects on vaginal epithelial gene expression responses to Candida albicans. J Biomed Sci. 2012; 19(1): 58. Published online 2012 June 20.
- Klotz SA, et al. 2010. The Perfect Adhesive. Environmental Microbiology, Geomicrobiology, Soil Microbiology, Biocontrol 1, 838-844.