There's a fungus among us! Candida overgrowth, SIFO & the Mycobiome

It’s time to start focusing on the other important players in your gut- fungi and viruses. Although all the headlines are showcasing the bacterial microbiome and its importance, more and more research is spotlighting the fungal MYCObiome and the viral intestinal virome. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about candida overgrowth in the GI tract so let’s dig into the mycobiome.

 Adapted from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708484/#R42

Adapted from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708484/#R42

Nobody is fungus-free. Candida albicans is actually part of the normal inhabitants of the human GI tract and lives on the mucosal surface, enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the human host and bacterial microbiome. More often than not, Candida doesn’t cause any problems. But in the right circumstances, it can become pathologic, grow out of control and cause symptoms. These situations include antibiotic use, inflammation, physical/chemical damage, weakened immune systems (HIV/AIDS, cancer/chemotherapy, steroid/immunosuppressant use), diabetes, anti acid use that disrupts the protective acidic environment of the stomach and even occasionally in healthy people. Have you heard of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)? Well, meet SIFO (small intestinal fungal overgrowth).

The overgrowth and outgrowth of Candida can lead to infection and invasion of tissues. I am sure many ladies reading this blog have experienced vaginal candidiasis after using antibiotics.  Well- what happens in the gut?

A spectacular study published in Gut showed that GI Candida colonization impairs the GI mucosal barrier and leads to the phenomenon of “leaky gut” (due to activation of mast cells). This means that things in your gut (food antigens) have a greater chance of getting past your mucosal barrier and into your gut wall and introduced to your immune system, which then turns on and creates antibodies like IgE. This promotes sensitization against food antigens and increases the risk of food allergy. This type of IgE reaction has been linked to the activation of the inflammatory skin disease atopic dermatitis.

In addition to leaky gut, the overgrowth and colonization of fungi in the intestine (SIFO) can lead to similar symptoms as SIBO (diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas).  Two recent studies showed that 26 % and 25.3 % of a series of patients with unexplained GI symptoms had SIFO. The most common symptoms observed in these patients were belching, bloating, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and gas. Research is ongoing looking into the association of fungal overgrowth with delayed healing of peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease/Ulcerative Colitis, IBS, GI cancers, and more.

What can I do to protect myself???

- Don’t disturb your happy myco/microbiome homeostasis—avoid antibiotics unless clinically indicated!

- Control your blood sugar levels by avoiding sugar & processed sweets, artificial sweeteners, and carb-loading!

- Don’t take anti-acids like Nexium or Prilosec unless deemed clinically indicated by your doctor and if so, only take for a specified time period- they’re NOT meant to be taken forever and have side effects!

- Talk to your doctor about taking a course of anti-fungal therapy and utility of an anti-fungal diet.

#respectyourgut #cleanyourgut #feedyourgut