These days, you may consider yourself a champion kombucha swigger (and probiotic popper, for that matter), but there’s still one gut-health topic you might not be talking about: Candida.
And it might be time to actually have that conversation. “When people hear the term Candida, they automatically think of a bogeyman,” says Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, PhD, who’s been studying Candida for more than 40 years. “But it’s actually quite normal to have it in the gut.”
So, what exactly is it? Candida is a fungus (or form of yeast) that’s part of the microbes that live in your gastrointestinal tract—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “It’s very common in 70 percent of the population,” says Dr. Ghannoum, who should know—he’s the scientist who named the mycobiome, or community of fungi living in your gut. “So even when you have a normal healthy gut, it’s more than likely you’ll have Candida in there.”
But Candida overgrowth is when things can get tricky. This overgrowth can lead to infection, which can cause a myriad of health problems including digestive issues, yeast infections, and chronic fatigue. And sometimes it’s difficult to figure out when this is going on.
To solve this, Dr. Ghannoum created the BIOHM Candida Report, an at-home kit that helps you keep tabs on the Candida levels in your gut’s microbiome. “If left unchecked, Candida overgrowth can have a tremendous impact on your health and wellness in a wide variety of ways,” he warns.
The kit includes everything you need to take a small fecal sample (nobody said gut health was glamorous) which you’ll then send off to the BIOHM labs. Once it’s analyzed, you’ll get a report telling you the different types of Candida species present in your gut, as well as the specific levels of each one.
If you actually have Candida overgrowth, it’s important to figure out the proper next steps. According to Dr. Ghannoum, that could be as simple as upgrading your diet and changing your probiotic and prebiotic regimen. “And if you’re dealing with substantial Candida overgrowth, your physician would likely prescribe an antifungal medication,” he adds.
Scroll down to learn how you can determine if you have Candida overgrowth—and why it’s important to find out.
1. Consider your symptoms
We all have “off” days, but if those days turn to weeks and are accompanied by fatigue as well as ongoing digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain—it could be a sign of something more. “One telltale sign is that these internal symptoms often hit after you’ve experienced an infectious-like illness,” Dr. Ghannoum says. “Which suggests Candida may be a triggering factor.”
2. Look for the signs
“You may also see physical signs,” Dr. Ghannoum says. He adds that little white spots in your mouth (and soreness and pain in that area) could also be an indicator of Candida overgrowth. “Pain in your esophagus, similar to the pain experienced from acid reflux, is another sign.”
3. Take the test
Of course, you won’t know for sure until you’re actually tested. Dr. Ghannoum recommends the BIOHM Candida Report, because the signs of Candida overgrowth and infection are often difficult to tell apart from other health issues. “This way, you can replace suspicions of an issue with actual data, giving you actionable insights regarding the Candida in your gut,” he notes. And when it comes to gut health, it’s good to have a final answer.
Top photo: BIOHM