Do you have the following symptoms:
Brain fog or memory problems?
Reactions to certain foods?
Cravings for sweets?
It could be candida. But I’d bet it’s something entirely different!
Candida might be the root cause of your fatigue. But before starting a candida cleanse, make sure your fatigue isn’t caused by something else! Today, we’re going to get clear on candida overgrowth and it’s effects on fatigue. I’ll empower you with evidence-based information that you can use to improve your energy starting tomorrow!
Let’s get going!
Is candida overgrowth legit?
I find myself talking about candida overgrowth every week. I don’t know why, but it seems like the vast majority of naturopaths in my area diagnose their patients with candida overgrowth. Sometimes, the diagnosis is accurate. But all too often, I see the candida overgrowth diagnosis being thrown around for just about any symptom. Especially fatigue.
On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got the conventional medical system. While they do acknowledge candida overgrowth as a legitimate condition; so far as they’re concerned, it only occurs in those who are severely immunocompromised.
You’ve got natural health practitioners on one side diagnosing everyone experiencing fatigue with candida overgrowth. Then there are the conventional practitioners on the other side that only hand out the diagnosis in the most extreme circumstances. Clearly, there needs to be a middle ground.
That is my hope for this post. To show you how to avoid BS candida diagnosis while at the same time advocating for further and better testing. Your fatigue could be due to candida. But it could also be from a myriad of other potential causes.
I’ll help you gleam some clarity today.
Who’s at risk of candida overgrowth?
There are specific members of the population that are legitimately at increased risk for developing candida overgrowth. The general rule of thumb is those with a compromised immune system are the most at risk. This includes:
- Those undergoing cancer treatment with chemotherapy or radiation.
- Those taking long-term antibiotics or corticosteroids.
- Individuals with HIV/AIDS
Note that each of these groups suffers from the common symptom of a compromised immune system. When your immune system struggles, yeast species like candida have the opportunity to overgrow.
But that’s not the crowd getting diagnosed with candida overgrowth by natural health practitioners. Chronic fatigue patients aren’t always immunocompromised. Sometimes they have an overactive immune system. Yet these patients are often told that yeast overgrowth is the root cause of their low energy.
Let’s learn some more about yeast before we get to the debunking!
Welcome to the wild world of yeast
Candida is a yeast species. It’s also the most common cause of fungal infections on the entire planet. (1) When talking about candida infections, it’s Candida Albicans that you need to know about. That’s the one thought to do the damage.
When you’re healthy, you’ll find plenty of Candida Albicans taking up residence in your gut. Much like all the bacterial strains that compose your GI tract, there are many different beneficial yeast species doing the same. Most of the time, these yeast species pose no threat to your health.
Until they do…
There are thought to be ten billion bacterial cells in your large intestine alone. (2) Think of your gastrointestinal tract as a dog-eat-dog world. Bacteria and yeast compete against each other for resources. This constant competition keeps some semblance of balance between the species. No one species is able to take over as there’s so much competition.
All that changes when you alter the state of your gut. Like when you take antibiotics. A longterm dose of antibiotics can kill off too many bacterial species that the candida species no longer have the same degree of competition. This promotes the flourishing – and not in a good way – of yeast species.
Just like that, you’ve got candida overgrowth.
Ok, now that you know a little more about candida, let’s dig into testing. Specifically, how you should and shouldn’t test for candida.
Don’t test for candida like this
The natural health world has so many ways to diagnose candida overgrowth. Unfortunately, nearly all of them don’t hold up to the rigors of science. Below I’ll debunk the most common – though ineffective – methods for diagnosing candida overgrowth.
If you got a positive diagnosis based on one of the below testing methods, I implore you to find and work with a knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner. Your fatigue might have nothing to do with candida. You may need to keep looking for the real root cause. A knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner can help you do that.
1. Candida questionnaires
This is – by far – the worst form of diagnosis. Please, please, please do not diagnose candida overgrowth based on a survey or questionnaire.
The symptoms listed on a candida questionnaire are what are known as non-specific. Meaning that these symptoms could point to just about anything. The symptoms are not unique to candida.
Fatigue is almost always listed as a symptom of candida overgrowth. But think about the vast number of conditions/illnesses that have fatigue as an associated symptom. Nearly every illness out there will probably cause fatigue to some extent!
Just because you have the symptoms on the survey does not mean you have candida. Do not use questionnaires to diagnose candida overgrowth. Use questionnaires as an initial screening tool to see if you should look at further diagnostic testing for Candida.
2. The spittle test
Upon waking in the morning, you are asked to fill a glass with bottled water. You then spit into said glass. For the next hour, come back to your glass in 20-minute intervals looking for:
- Strings coming down through the water from the saliva at the top
- Cloudy saliva sitting at the bottom of the glass
- Opaque specks of saliva suspended in the water
Your saliva will be altered by many things other than candida. Like what you ate or your level of hydration. This makes drawing conclusions from how your spit behaves in water about as accurate as reading tea leaves.
The spittle test is not any better than a questionnaire. It is not an accurate diagnosis. Do not use the spittle test to diagnose candida overgrowth.
3. Live blood cell analysis
This test is carried out by viewing a drop of your blood at high levels of magnification under a dark-field microscope. Its used as a diagnostic tool by many natural health practitioners. Unfortunately, it’s almost always used as a way to sell supplements. Supplements that said practitioner just so happens to have in stock at his office.
Practitioners claim to be able to see yeast overgrowth under the microscope. (3) Alas, hematologists suggest what they’re actually seeing is an artifact. The slides the blood is put between are not pristine. Meaning that there can be stray cells, environmental dirt, dust, or cloth. These stray bits are known as an artifact. And they have nothing to do with candida.
Consider that if you actually did have candida in your blood you would be in a profound state of sepsis. The infection would be so horrible that your life would be on the line. You’d be at the hospital. Not at a natural health practitioner’s office.
4. Bio meridian or EAV testing
My acupuncture colleagues love EAV testing. You’ve probably seen or experienced it yourself. During this test, you would hold a brass hand mass that would offer a grounding component while the doctor puts a small stylus on certain points on your hands and feet.
To diagnose candida overgrowth, the practitioner will often put a homeopathic remedy of candida in the device to see how this changes the conductivity on your skin’s surface. If your skin becomes more conductive, it is thought that you are dealing with candida overgrowth.
Unfortunately, readings can be easily manipulated by increasing/decreasing pressure, by changing the angle of the probe, or by making the skin more/less moist. Multiple studies have shown this is not an effective means of diagnosis. (4, 5, 6) Please don’t start a candida treatment based on this type of diagnosis.
Proper methods of testing for candida overgrowth
Ok, now that you know what not to use for diagnosis, let’s explore the legitimate forms of diagnosing candida overgrowth.
If you did receive a positive candida overgrowth diagnosis based on any of the questionable testing methods, I strongly recommend you confirm the diagnosis with one of the below tests. You could be embarking on a long and uncomfortable treatment journey for an infection that doesn’t exist.
1. Stool testing
So far as I’m concerned, stool testing is the gold standard for diagnosing candida overgrowth. There are two different types of stool testing that can be employed:
- Culture testing
- In this version, the lab will examine your stool sample under a microscope. If there is an over-abudance of yeast species, they will be easily viewed under a microscope.
- The lab will also culture your stool. Meaning they will try to grow yeast species in a petri-dish. If candida overgrowth is present, there will be a large culture of yeast species grown on the petri-dish.
- DNA PCR testing
- This is the new era of stool testing. Instead of growing cultures, labs analyze the DNA of the bacteria, yeasts, and parasites found in your stool.
- This is a more sensitive test than stool cultures. It is able to pick up even very small amounts of candida overgrowth.
2. Serum antibody testing
If you’ve got a leaky gut, small amounts of candida species may make their way from your GI tract and into circulation. This will cause an activation of your immune system. In response to the foreign species, your immune system will create antibodies to kill the candida.
You can measure levels of these antibodies to candida in your blood. If your body does have antibodies to candida, you can assume that a candida infection has been present.
The challenge with antibody testing is that it cannot discern whether the infection is current or something that happened long ago. Yes, you can look to the levels of antibodies. Higher antibodies usually point in the direction of a current infection. But I don’t like to rely solely on antibody testing.
3. Organic acids testing
Candida species create a sugar alcohol known as arabitol. After getting processed by your liver and kidneys, D-arabinitol is excreted in your urine. D-arabinitol can be measured via organic acid testing.
While I personally don’t use organic acids testing for Candida overgrowth, the evidence suggests this is a legitimate form of diagnostic testing.
Does candida overgrowth even cause fatigue?
Alright, so now you know which tests to avoid and which ones to use. You know who’s most at risk for yeast overgrowth. You know that candida overgrowth is a legitimate condition but it probably doesn’t occur at the frequency your naturopath thinks it does. All in all, you know more about candida than most people on earth.
This leads us to the crux of this article…
Does candida overgrowth cause fatigue?
I don’t think we have the evidence to say that candida overgrowth causes fatigue. Not yet anyway. There are preliminary studies that propose a connection between chronic fatigue syndrome and candida. (10, 11, 12, 13)
But these studies by no means show a causal relationship. For all we know, chronic fatigue syndrome could be what causes candida overgrowth; not the other way around.
The bottom line:
If your practitioner says your fatigue is caused by candida overgrowth, raise a skeptical eyebrow.
In my clinic, I cannot recall a single case of chronic fatigue I’ve come across that was caused by candida overgrowth. I see toxic mold as a much more common cause of chronic fatigue.
Let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Candida could very well be causing your fatigue. But based on personal experience, it’s not the most likely.
But candida could certainly be adding to your symptoms!
How we treat chronic fatigue at Flourish Clinic
At Flourish Clinic, we take a 4-step approach to treating chronic fatigue. The four steps we employ are:
- Identify your personalized fatigue-fighting nutrition plan
- Identify and treat hidden gut infections.
- Balance your stress hormones.
- Uncover hidden toxins making you sick and tired.
Candida overgrowth would fall under step two of our fatigue protocols. But as I said, candida overgrowth is just not as common as you think it is. I see SIBO as a cause of hidden gut issues far more often than candida.
If proper lab testing confirms you have candida overgrowth, then it needs to be treated in order for you to regain your energy. Just be sure you’ve diagnosed it properly. Use the laboratory tests I recommended in this article.
Ok, now you know whether candida really is contributing to your fatigue!
Now, I want to hear from you!
How did you diagnose candida overgrowth?
How has candida affected your energy levels?
Leave your answers in the comments section below!