The CIRS and Candida connection
I think every chronic fatigue patient I’ve seen at the clinic has previously had a diagnosis of candida overgrowth. It’s often the first line of therapy for fatigue in the natural health world.
There is a lot of overlap between CIRS and candida symptoms. But the similarities stop there. The causes of CIRS and candida are vastly different. But before we get into the differences, let’s talk about that symptom overlap.
What is Candida?
Candida is a type of yeast that is naturally present in the human body. It is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, and vaginal area. In healthy individuals, Candida is usually kept in check by the immune system and other microorganisms in the body.
Candida overgrowth, also known as candidiasis or yeast overgrowth, is a term used to describe an excessive growth of Candida.
Candida overgrowth is a controversial topic within the medical community. Some healthcare practitioners and alternative medicine proponents believe that an overgrowth of Candida can lead to a wide range of symptoms and health problems throughout the body, including fatigue, digestive issues, skin problems, mood changes, and more.
However, candida overgrowth as a widespread condition is generally not as widely accepted by mainstream medical professionals. The scientific evidence supporting the existence of systemic Candida overgrowth and its role in causing various health problems is limited and inconclusive.
In healthy individuals, the body’s immune system and natural balance of microorganisms in the gut usually prevent Candida from overgrowing. However, certain factors can increase the risk of Candida overgrowth. These include:
- a weakened immune system,
- the prolonged use of antibiotics,
- uncontrolled diabetes,
- hormonal changes,
- a high-sugar or high-carbohydrate diet.
If you suspect you have Candida overgrowth or are experiencing symptoms that you believe may be related, you need to consult with a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your symptoms, consider your medical history, and conduct appropriate tests to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Treatment, if necessary, typically involves addressing any underlying conditions, making dietary and lifestyle changes, and using antifungal medications, if warranted.
Do you have candida overgrowth?
If you didn’t do an objective test by an accredited laboratory, I wouldn’t leap to a candida diagnosis. (If you spit in a cup and watched how your saliva behaved in water, please don’t tell me you have candida overgrowth.) The only way to know if you have candida is via laboratory testing.
I believe candida is over-diagnosed in the alternative medical world. As soon as you tell a natural health practitioner about your long list of symptoms, candida is usually the diagnosis that leaps out of their mouth. It’s similar to your family doc diagnosing you with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Ultimately, it’s a lazy diagnosis.
I won’t say that candida overgrowth doesn’t exist. There are definite cases – and I’ve seen my fair share of them at the clinic. But what I’ve always done to confirm the presence of candida overgrowth is use an objective test. I prefer to use stool testing.
As I mentioned before, candida is a normal resident of your gut. It becomes problematic when its growth gets out of hand. Stool testing shows the amount of candida species in relation to other yeast and bacteria species. If there truly is a candida overgrowth, a stool test will show it.
In summary, only treat candida if you’ve completed an objective test\. Please don’t start anti-fungal medications/supplements based on your symptoms or a spit test.
Is there a link between CIRS and Candida?
The hallmark symptom of both candida overgrowth and CIRS is fatigue.
But after fatigue, the overlap between CIRS and candida starts to diminish. Other symptoms of candida overgrowth include:
- Mood disorders
- Recurring vaginal or urinary tract infections
- Oral thrush
- Sinus infections
- GI distress (bloating, burping, constipation, diarrhea, etc.)
- Brain fog
- Fungal infections on your skin or nails
CIRS affects far more body systems than candida. These include:
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Respiratory & digestive issues
- Sleep disturbances
- Sensitivity to light, sound and other stimuli
- Mood swings and depression
You can learn more about CIRS and its symptom clusters in this post. CIRS patients generally don’t have thrush or other fungal infections.
CIRS is an illness that dysregulates your immune system. In CIRS, there is an overactive innate immune response. In turn, your mitochondria (powerhouses of the cell) become affected which leaves you with little to no energy.
Mold triggers CIRS. CIRS symptoms are caused by the dysregulation of your immune system.
While CIRS is an illness characterized by immune dysregulation, candida is an illness brought on by an imbalanced microbiome. In candida overgrowth, once the microbiome is recalibrated, symptoms resolve. That is not the case with CIRS.
How to tell if you’re dealing with candida or CIRS
You don’t have spend big dollars to tell what you’re dealing with. In fact, you can DIY a diagnosis.
Start with your diet. Candida loves simple sugars. More sugars or simple carbohydrates tends to result in more candida. This is why most candida diets advocate a low sugar approach. Read more about if keto diets help candida.
If the majority of your symptoms improve after changing your diet, odds are candida is the culprit.
CIRS is not an illness that responds to nutrition change. That’s not to say that eating healthy isn’t important in CIRS – it most definitely is. But nutrition change alone rarely improves CIRS symptoms. In CIRS, nutrition change may help to stabilize your symptoms but it definitely will not improve your fatigue or any other of your symptoms.
Some of you with CIRS will notice a slight improvement in symptoms by changing your diet. But I have found that these changes don’t last long. In CIRS, there is a constant fluctuation in symptoms. CIRS patients often note that flare states and remission states come and go without warning and without clearly defined triggers.
In summary, if nutrition change (namely a candida or keto diet) brings about lasting improvement in your symptoms, you’re probably not dealing with CIRS. Another quick way to screen for CIRS is by taking our quiz – check it out here. If your symptoms are similar to those found in the peer-reviewed literature and you have a positive VCS eye test, the odds that you have CIRS is 98.5%.