Candida and Hashimoto’s connection

Candida is sometimes called a microorganism and sometimes an infection. So what is it? The fact is that Candida is both a microorganism and can be contagious. Candida is a fungus or more specifically yeast, that can reside in our body. 

There are over 20 species of Candida yeast that can cause infection or symptoms, but the most common is Candida albicans. In healthy individuals, Candida albicans acts as a microorganism that is a natural part of the intestinal flora and does not cause any problems. 

However, when there is an imbalance between Candida and other microorganisms in the body, this fungus can become a “bad” or opportunistic pathogen. When this happens, Candida changes from a natural fungus found in the general microbiome to a pathogenic infection. 

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There are other changes that also mark the transition of Candida albicans from a microorganism to opportunistic pathogens, such as the transition from a round yeast form to an elongated (branched) hyphal form.

candida in intestine

Candida overgrowth can occur in the intestines, vaginal canal, or moist membranous areas such as the mouth and/or nasal cavity (leading to sinusitis). In rare cases, it can also become a systemic infection, affecting the following organs and systems:

  • Blood
  • Brain and the central nervous system
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Eyes
  • Bones, muscles, joints
  • Spleen

When Candida overgrowth occurs, it exerts its opportunistic or harmful effects and health problems can arise. One mechanism used by Candida to exert these effects is the release of toxins which lead to various symptoms.

symptoms

 

When Candida exerts its pathogenic action and these toxins are secreted and released, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Food sensitivities
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating, especially from carbohydrate-rich foods
  • Gas
  • Belching
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Bad breath
  • Pain in muscles or joints
  • Weakness
  • Feeling cold
  • Brain fog
  • Vaginal burning/itching and recurrent “yeast infections”
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Sinus congestion if the infection is in the nasal cavity
  • Rash if the infection is on the skin
  • An overall autoimmune disease progression

 

Interestingly, symptoms of Candida overgrowth or infection, such as fatigue and brain fog, may mirror symptoms of hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto’s. 

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Candida can be a major cause of  Hashimoto’s, and in some cases, it can be a major factor that leads to  Hashimoto’s. In other cases, however, it may be a secondary causative factor, meaning there is another imbalance causing both Candida and Hashimoto. 

leaky gut

Changing from a round,  yeast-like shape to an elongated (branched) hyphal shape allows Candida albicans to weaken and easily penetrate the intestinal barrier,  causing leaky gut  (or leaky gut), which is a prerequisite for diseases autoimmune like Hashimoto’s. 

Therefore, Candida can cause or contribute to thyroid disease! A leaky gut barrier can also allow toxins and partially undigested food molecules to enter the bloodstream. Food intolerance, progression of autoimmune diseases, and other systemic problems are often the result. 

Additionally, pathogenic yeast with a weakened barrier can release its various toxic byproducts endo (internal) and Exo (external). Each toxin released by Candida albicans (or other Candida strains) will have a different effect on the body and the thyroid. 

One of these toxins is acetaldehyde, which increases the activity of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that cause damage to the body and contribute to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. 

Another important toxin released by Candida is gliotoxin, which can affect the immune system. This toxin is released during intestinal and vaginal Candida Albicans infections. In fact, one study found that people with vaginal candidiasis or Candida albicans infection in the vaginal area had high levels of gliotoxin in their vaginal secretions. 

immune system

Candida and its toxins also have a significant impact on the immune system by upsetting its balance and are linked to autoimmunity. The immune system is made up of different types of cells, each with a unique role to play. One type is the T helper cell, of which there are four types: Th1, Th2, TH17, and Treg. There is usually a balance of activity between these four types. However, Candida activates Th17 cells which then release pro-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-17. Since IL-17 is pro-inflammatory, it causes toxicity to the cells surrounding it. 

Due to their mechanism and effects, Th17 cells can lead to autoimmunity. In addition to their link with Hashimoto’s, these cells are also implicated in Graves’s disease. Another way Candida throws off balance is by increasing the amount of Th2 cells in the body. Anytime there is an imbalance in the immune system where one type of cell becomes over-activated, autoimmunity can result.

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The overactivation of Th1 cells has been linked to that of Hashimoto. However, this is a general rule and does not apply to everyone. In some cases, over-activation of Th2 leads to Hashimoto. From a broader perspective, Candida over-activates the immune system and upsets the balance through its toxins, leading to an overactive immune system which, along with other factors involved, begins to attack the body and thyroid.

medicinal approach

In conventional medicine, Candida is only treated when women have “vaginal yeast infections” or when immunocompromised HIV patients have overgrowth. 

But in functional medicine, we know that if left unchecked, Candida can break down the walls of the intestinal lining, cause a leaky gut, and allow toxins and partially undigested food molecules to enter the bloodstream.

Treatment options are relatively simple for common and over candida infections such as thrush and vaginal infections.  People usually start by trying an antifungal drug to deplete pathogenic candida.  

lifestyle

Some lifestyle changes can help too. For example, regularly rinse your mouth if you are using a corticosteroid inhaler or wear breathable underwear if you regularly have vaginal yeast infections. However, treating candida overgrowth in the gut is much more complex. There is no single test that can determine if you have candidiasis. 

A first step to reducing candida is treating underlying health conditions that may be contributing to your body’s inflammatory response and stress.  

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Therefore, people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism must treat their thyroid disease to meet their metabolic demands. To reduce pathogenic candida in your body, health professionals may recommend starting the diet by following a candida-free or anti-candida diet. Some people also take specific supplements to help grow healthy bacteria.

 

Therefore, Candida is a natural part of our microbiome, but it has the potential to become pathogenic. In its pathogenic form of hypha, it can create intestinal permeability, cause an imbalance in the immune system and become a cause of Hashimoto. The effects on the body can lead to symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, and constipation. However, as these symptoms are similar to other conditions, such as SIBO and fungal toxicity, it is important to get tested to confirm Candida's overgrowth.

 

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