Candida: What is it and How Does it Affect My Thyroid?
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Many of us talk about having a ‘sweet tooth’. It’s ‘only human’ to have a hard time resisting those sugar-sprinkled donuts in the break room, right? Some of us can’t imagine getting through that afternoon slump without our favorite sugary beverage. But if your cravings for sugar, carbs, and even alcohol seem to be driving your dietary choices, you need to know about Candida.
What Is Candida?
Candida is a yeast that occurs naturally in our body and can co-exist happily with other bacteria and viruses in our gut. When our microbiome (gut bacteria) becomes imbalanced, Candida can take over as a pathogen and can wreak havoc on our body, causing a broad array of symptoms ranging from skin infections to life-threatening systemic infections. Candida can also establish a biofilm (1), which is an encapsulated, structured community of microbes – like a gated community for yeast. These biofilms can make it very difficult for the body to reduce the Candida population to non-harmful levels.
Candida can have multiple, devastating impacts on the body, including altering thyroid function. If you have a thyroid imbalance, it’s a good idea to have your doctor test you for Candida through an antibody test.
Connecting the Dots Between Candida and the Thyroid
Candida has the ability to weaken our intestinal barrier, thus allowing partially digested or undigested food particles to cross into the bloodstream. When this occurs, we develop food sensitivities as our body produces antibodies to these food particles. The body may then start recognizing these food particles as invaders, and begins to attack them instead of using them as fuel.
In some cases, the molecular structure of these food particles mimics our own hormones. The antibodies to these food particles then activate our immune system, and our body starts to attack our tissues or glands, like the thyroid for example. This begins the process of an autoimmune disease.
The gluten protein molecule (called gliadin), in particular, resembles that of the thyroid. When gliadin enters the bloodstream through our weakened gut lining, our immune system seeks to destroy it. Unfortunately, because of the similarities between gluten and the thyroid, the thyroid can also be attacked. This is why gluten can be so destructive to thyroid health.
When undigested food molecules enter the bloodstream from our leaky intestinal barrier, we begin to get systemic inflammation. This, in turn, raises our stress hormones: cortisol and epinephrine. As these hormones increase, our liver becomes clogged, and our ability to convert T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone) to T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) begins to decline (3).
Cortisol itself can inhibit thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion (2). As the liver becomes congested, our thyroid can enter a hypothyroid state to protect itself (3). When our thyroid goes into this self-protection, we become tired, unable to think clearly, and have a general malaise.
up next: 10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
The Domino Effect of Candida
Candida produces harmful by-products (metabolites) such as acetaldehyde and arabinose.
Acetaldehyde causes headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and nausea, and is the primary culprit in alcohol hangovers. It can also disrupt the methylation cycle, which is important for the production of hydrochloric acid (HCL) (4). Without sufficient HCL, your body’s ability to break down proteins into amino acids is impaired. This can create problems such as hypoglycemia and insulin issues, further contributing to a disease state in the body.
Arabinose may cause functional vitamin deficiencies, even when nutritional intake is adequate, because it disrupts the function of certain compounds, such as vitamin B6 and biotin (5). These are just a few of the big complications this tiny little organism can bring about when there is an over-proliferation.
Candida also reduces our levels of iron, zinc, manganese, and copper (1). These trace metals are essential for our growth and survival. If they become reduced in our body, we begin to lose function of a large number of proteins and enzymes, and our body may not be able to function optimally.
The Bright Side of Candida Diagnosis
Candida is often overlooked, but by identifying Candida as a root cause of disease in the body, profound healing is possible. Targeted methods using food and supplementation can restore balance to the microbiome and reduce the ability of Candida to cause disease. As the body becomes more balanced, it begins to heal, and the thyroid can begin to function optimally once more.
- Mayer, F.L., Wilson, D. and Hube, B., 2013. Candida albicans pathogenicity mechanisms. Virulence, 4(2), pp.119-128.
- Camacho PM, Dwarkanathan AA. 1999. Sick euthyroid syndrome. What to do when thyroid function tests are abnormal in critically ill patients. Postgrad Med; 105, pp.215–19.
- Malik, R. and Hodgson, H., 2002. The relationship between the thyroid gland and the liver. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 95(9), pp.559-569.
- Salaspuro MP. 2003. Acetaldehyde, microbes, and cancer of the digestive tract. Critical reviews in clinical laboratory sciences. 40(2), pp.183-208.
- Shaw, W. 2000. Role of abnormal microbial overgrowth of the gastrointestinal tract (dysbiosis) and opiate peptides derived from foods in autism, pervasive developmental disorder, and psychosis. Autism 2000: On the Verge of Medical Breakthroughs. Published by The Great Plains Laboratory, Overland Park, KS, pp.1-13.