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One of the most common underlying contributors to anxiety, chronic stress, an imbalance in Gaba and glutamate, as well as many other conditions and syndromes like adrenal fatigue, sugar and carb cravings, and high histamine, which often goes unidentified is the overgrowth of microbes like Candida.
Candida is one of the most cunning and adaptive organisms that exist. It has developed a variety of ingenious mechanisms to ensure its survival and can wreak havoc on one’s mental, physical, and spiritual health. Here are a few fascinating facts about this microbe that you don’t hear about very often that can help you understand how it can have such a wide range of effects on the mind and body.
Candida is a polymorphic or pleomorphic organism because it can take on a range of morphologies or different forms. It may be present as a single oval cell yeast; as a blastospore or blastocondia, which is the result of a budding yeast cell; or it may elongate and form filaments called hyphae (mycelia) or pseudohyphae; or as chlamydospores or cyst-like form. Candida may even exist as a cell wall-deficient form. It can change back and forth between forms depending on its needs at any given time, which enables it to adapt and survive in a wide variety of different conditions.
Although Candida Albicans is the fungi that we hear the most about and the primary cause of most infections, there are more than 200 known species of Candida and a vast array of different strains within the species. Each species and strain within a species may have slightly different characteristics, and behavior, and respond to treatment differently. Over the years, we have seen an increase in the non-albicans Candida and it is expected that we will continue to see the incidence of infections with other less common species emerge more frequently.
Candida can be a primary cause of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other mental health conditions. It can play a role in more serious mental health issues like schizophrenia, psychosis, and bipolar disorder. The toxins released by Candida can impair neurotransmitter production and/or function, disrupt brain chemistry, and lead to profound changes in thought, emotion, mood, and behavior.
A toxin produced by Candida called acetaldehyde has the uncanny ability to combine with two key neurotransmitters in the brain, serotonin and dopamine, and form substances called tetrahydro-isoquinolines, which closely resemble opiates in structure, function, and potential for addiction, thereby producing an opiate-like high. This may generate cravings for opiates and lead to opioid addiction or in the case of the individual trying to recover from opiate addiction, it may result in relapse. Since serotonin and dopamine are highly involved in the addiction process to any substance or activity, that means Candida promotes addiction of all kinds and puts the one who is in recovery at high risk of relapse. This is one of the primary causes of sugar addiction that occurs in most people with Candida.
Candida overgrowth and all that goes with it is a huge burden on the adrenal glands, therefore adrenal fatigue is highly common in the individual with Candida. Once adrenal fatigue is in place, then it perpetuates Candida overgrowth by weakening the immune system and impairing endocrine function even further and can lead to cravings for sugar and carbs, which can sabotage one’s efforts to remain on the Candida diet.
Candida increases zonulin levels, the substance that controls the tight junctions between enterocytes in the gut, which leads to weaker junctions and the development of a leaky gut. Candida can also penetrate directly through the wall of the gut lining and contribute to a leaky gut in this manner as well. A leaking gut allows undigested food particles, toxins, Candida, bacteria, or other pathogens to get into the bloodstream where they do not belong, which prompts the immune system to create antibodies towards these substances, resulting in food sensitivities and inflammation. The immune system may become confused in a process called molecular mimicry, whereby these antibodies may cross-react with body tissue in the thyroid, skin, joints, brain, or other areas and lead to more inflammation and the development of autoimmune disorders.
Candida forms complex, dynamic, three-dimensional structures called biofilms on the surfaces they colonize, which provides them with a protective shield from your immune system, antifungals, or anything else that endangers them. Instead of existing as a single-celled yeast organism, they join together as a large population to form a highly sophisticated ecosystem that enables them to evade detection and eradication. We’ve come to understand in recent years, that one of the primary reasons that it is so difficult to eradicate yeast overgrowth is due to the formation of biofilms. Candida in the biofilm can be up to 1000 times more resistant than organisms outside the biofilm, or in some cases, they can be completely resistant.
One of the primary byproducts of Candida’s fermentation of carbohydrates is alcohol. Alcohol levels can be so high that the individual may feel and appear drunk, fail a breathalyzer test, and experience a hangover after the sugar or carbs have left the system. This phenomenon is called auto-brewery syndrome and it can lead to cravings for alcohol that advances to alcoholism or can perpetuate alcohol addiction in an alcoholic. In the recovering alcoholic or drug addict, it can lead to relapse. This also provides fuel for the addiction to sugar and carbs.
Just like us, Candida requires a variety of nutrients for its own survival and the construction of its biofilms. It obtains these nutrients by stealing them from our body, which can lead to deficiencies in a wide array of nutrients like Zinc, B6, and Biotin to name a few.
Candida has the ability to suppress or activate the immune response of the host, which in this case is the human body, to meet its needs. It may manipulate all aspects of the immune system including phagocytes, natural killer cells, cell-mediated immunity, and humoral mechanisms.
Like all other microbes, Candida produces a small population of persister cells. Persister cells are dormant and they are completely resistant to all antifungals or other methods that typically kill yeast cells. When an antifungal or some other method of eradication is administered, they are not affected. Once the treatment is discontinued, then the persister cells will repopulate the colony.
Candida needs an alkaline environment to survive. Therefore, if it finds itself in an environment that is too acidic, like your gastrointestinal tract, it will release ammonia to make the environment more alkaline.
The toxins released by Candida can cause a burst of glutamate activity and increase the release of histamine in a couple of different ways. In either case, this can contribute to an imbalance in the GABA and glutamate balance and contribute to histamine excess, both of which can precipitate a wide array of psychological and physiological symptoms.
Like other microbes, Candida mutates and develops resistance to treatment. It has been found that Candida Albicans can rearrange its genes and adapt to just about any method of eradication that may be used against it, including antifungals, oxidative stress, and an increase in temperature. Antifungals and other treatment approaches are most effective when a couple is combined together and they are rotated, which helps prevent mutation and resistance.
These are just some of the fascinating but frightening characteristics of Candida; there are hundreds more, like the fact that it generates high levels of oxalates, impairs the methylation process, causes hormonal imbalances, impairs thyroid hormones, causes inflammation, and more.
If you think Candida is contributing to some of the symptoms or conditions in your life, then you can find everything you need to know to address this problem most effectively by taking a look at my eBook, Candida Secrets. Here you’ll find a blueprint for success, as well as delicious recipes, meal plans, and tips to help you remain committed to your diet.