Dr. Doni, naturopathic doctor, explains yeast, the trouble it causes, how to know if you have yeast, and how to resolve it with natural approaches.
Yeast is a fungus. Even in a healthy body, some yeast lives on our skin and in our digestive tract. The issue is when our bodies are not healthy enough to keep yeast in check.
Healthy bacteria (known as “probiotics” when taken as a supplement) help guard the space (skin, intestines, as well as bladder and vagina) to prevent too much yeast from growing. They also prevent other bacteria and parasites.
Trouble comes when the healthy bacteria are out of balance — which can be due to antibiotic use (which kill our healthy bacteria while treating an infection), exposure to toxins and metals (in our environment, amalgam fillings and on our food) and as a result of leaky gut and exposure to foods to which your body is producing antibodies.
You see, in order for the healthy bacteria to do their job, they need what I refer to as healthy soil (intestinal lining) and trees (glycoproteins) to live on — both of which are disrupted with leaky gut and food intolerances. As long as you are eating gluten, dairy, or whatever shows intolerant for you, yeast will have a chance at overgrowing.
And…yeast themselves can cause leaky gut…and so begins a vicious cycle. Once the symbiotic and synergistic relationship in the intestines, bladder, skin or vagina is disrupted, it is very difficult to get it back on track.
The reason is that once inflammation exists, even on a microscopic level (smaller than can be seen with medical imaging), then healthy bacteria have a hard time establishing a home and preventing yeast from moving in. Once the yeast move in, they perpetuate the inflammation, making it even more difficult to reestablish an environment for healthy bacteria within our bodies.
Keep in mind — contrary to what you may read on many websites about yeast – I don’t see yeast as THE cause of all health issues. I see yeast as the INDICATOR that your body needs help. You are likely struggling with impact of stress, cortisol levels may be out of sync, your immune system is not able to function optimally, and your digestion is less able to digest, absorb and process food.
How will you know yeast is involved?
The most common symptoms I hear reported that tell me yeast is (potentially) present are: itching (skin, rectal, vaginal), burning (heartburn, rectal, bladder, vaginal), and then gas, bloating, fatigue, headache and brain fog. They can also cause sinus issues and/or set you up for infections with unhealthy bacteria (sinus infections, bladder infections, bacterial vaginosis, H.pylori, etc).
2. Blood panel.
There are blood tests for yeast antibodies, which just tell you if your immune system has ever had to fight off yeast (not necessarily telling you if it is present currently).
3. Stool culture.
If you really want to know if yeast is there, a stool culture will tell you — however the conventional cultures often miss it. You need to do a specialized stool test, which you can get from my office or from a holistic practitioner. They usually cost between $100 and $600 to check for yeast, as well as to assess your digestive function. Plus, if the lab finds yeast, they can tell us which herbs will kill it best.
How to treat yeast?
For some people, it is enough to treat yeast (I mean go after it with herbs) based on symptoms. The pharmaceutical treatment for yeast is a drug called Diflucan, which can be quite toxic to the liver, especially with multiple treatments. Herbs* can be used instead, to address yeast without the toxic side effects.
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.