Candida or PCOS? Is there a link?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder which affects 5%-10% of women of a reproductive age. While it is so common, the cause is still unkown and there is no known cure.
Women who suffer from PCOS have a hormone imbalance, which in turn causes symptoms such as;
- irregular periods or no periods at all
- difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
- excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
- weight gain and/or trouble losing weight
- thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- oily skin or acne
- Dark patches of skin on the back of your neck and other areas, called acanthosis nigricans (a-can-tho-sis ni-gri-cans)
Not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe.
There is still no clear cause of PCOS, but it is suggested that possible causes include:
- Excess stress
- GMO foods
- Excess sugar/Insulin Resistance
- The Birth Control Pill
As you can tell from the heading of this blog post, I am going to focus on Candida and it's possible link to PCOS. Furthermore, I will dicuss practical steps in which you can undertake today to beat Candida and your PCOS.
What is Candida Albicans?
Not many people have heard of Candida albicans, therefore, before I discuss the connection between Candida and PCOS, I will first touch on what Candida is exactly.
Firstly, it is important to mention, we all have Candida. Candida albicans is a species of yeast that lives in our gut. This form of yeast is necessary and required for nutrient absorption, digestion (generally a healthy digestive system).
As I mentioned previously, we all have some level of Candida albicans in our intestines, which under healthy circumstances coexists peacefully and balanced with other gut bacteria and yeasts that live there. A combination of factors can result in an overgrowth of Candida albicans, which in turn begin to dominate your gut.
Once Candida albicans get out of control and become fungus, it wrecks havoc inside our bodies. It begins to affect your digestion, it weakens your immune system, and even damages your intestinal wall. Candida produces toxins(acetaldehyde and ethanol) in large quantity that affect our brain and interfere with our biochemical processes, leading to upset levels of hormones and many key chemicals.
Candida albicans has the potential to be deadly; affecting the liver, spleen and kidneys, when it enters the bloodstream.
As an over growth of Candida begins to occur, hormone pathways and shapes are altered. Candida over growth makes certain hormones inactive, affecting estrogen and progesterone cell growth and regulating blood sugar. Hormonal imbalance is a key symptom for women with PCOS.
How do you get an overgrowth of Candida?
While the healthy bacteria in your gut tends to keep the Candida albican levels in check, an ovegrowth only starts to become a problem and over populate when there is some change in your body, allowing it to multiply and disturb the healthy balance of microorganisms in your gut.
- Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar. Candida albican does not necessarily occur if you have a healthy diet and eat only one chocolate bar a week. An overgrowth of Candida albican occurs over a prolonged period of time, in which sugar consumption is very high.
- Taking oral contraceptives- Studies has found the main hormone, estrogen, is proven to cause Candida overgrowth.
- Chronic stress. Stress elevates cortisol, weakening your immune system and raising blood sugar leveles, making it an environment where yeast thrives.
- Chemicals- Chemicals that are added to drinking water, such as chlorine and fluoride, can kill the beneficial bacteria in your gut. As a result, you immune system weakens and allows Candida to populate.
- Antibiotics- While antibiotics are beneficial, they also come with some side effects. Not only do antibiotics may help kill off the bad bactiera, they also kill off good bacteria in our gut, allowing yeast to thrive. It is important to take antionibiotics if absolutye;y necessary and there is no alternative treatment, however, it is suggested that you take a probiotic supplement during and after you finish your course of antibioics to restore and replenish your healthy gut bacteria.
- Consuming a lot of alcohol
- Mercury- Mercury weakens the immune system, allowing Candida to grow, without the required immune cells to slow it down.
Yeast thrives off of sugar. Many women who have PCOS are also insulin resistant, which means, that their body is producing too much insulin in order to regulate the amount of glucose which is in the bloodstream. This is the kind of environment which Candida grows and multiplies. Often women with PCOS crave sugar and carbs and it is the Candida causing these cravings.
What are the Symptoms of an overgrowth of Candida?
Many of the symtpoms of Candida overgrowth mimic the symptoms of PCOS. Symptoms include:
- Recurrent Vaginal yeast Infections (fallopian tubes, ovary and uterus)
- Bloated Abdomen and/or abdominal pain
- Joint and Muscle Pain
- Brain Fog
- Poor memory
- Sugar Cravings
- Creamy white patches in the mouth or throat (oral thrush)
- Bad breathe
- Depression and mood swings
- Itchy skin rash
- Cracking at corners of mouth
- Fungal nail infections and athletes foot
- Rectal itching
- Waking up tired
Food sensitivities and allergies
- Digestive problems (gas and bloating)
- Sensitivity to foods containing yeast and mould
- Sensitivity to damp weather
How do I know if it is a Candida overgrowth or PCOS?
As I mentioned previously the symtoms of both are very similar and therefore in order to establish which you have you must complete certain tests.
Your best bet is to do a blood test. The blood test will examine three antibodies; IgG, IgA and IgM. A great thing about this type of test is that you are able to conclude whether the infection is past, ongoing or current. IgM antibodies indicate a recent infection, whilst IgG antibodies indicate a current or past infection of Candidiasis. IgA antibodies can indicate an infection of the mucous membranes.
However, your doctor may also undertake a culture of stool samples or take a vaginal swab to detect Candida overgrowth.
If the results indicate you have a Candida overgrowth, you doctor may prescribe you with an anti-fungal agent such as Nystatin, Clotrimazole and Fluconazole.
What you can do
As Candida albicans thrives on a diet high refined carbohydrates and in sugar, as well as a weakened immune system, implementing these following guidelines will help to prevent any further growth and to eventually eliminate it:
- Avoid foods high in sugar and yeast
- Including probiotics and prebiotic foods can help re-colonise the digestive tract with friendly bacteria. Probiotics act in the small intestine and prebiotics work in the large intestine.
- Increase your immune sytem with foods such as; citrus fruits, garlic, spinach, ginger.
- Include natural anti-fungal agents and supplements to help the body fight naturally against the overgrowth
It can take weeks or even months to eliminate Candidiasism therefore it is important that you are patient and are following a comprehensive programme of dietary modification and supplementation strictly and with discipline.
Seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist or health professional for further information and support to ensure successful results.
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Xu J, Schwartz K, Bartoces M, Monsur J, Severson RK, Sobel JD.(2008). Effect of antibiotics on vulvovaginal candidiasis: a MetroNet study. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. (4):261-8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18612052. [Accessed 27 June 2017].
Wilton L, Kollarova M, Heeley E, Shakir S. (2003).Relative risk of vaginal candidiasis after use of antibiotics compared with antidepressants in women: postmarketing surveillance data in England. Drug Safety. 26(8):589-97. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12825971. [Accessed 27 June 2017].
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle and online coach. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.