Candida is a type of yeast that lives in our bodies, typically in the mouth or gut. While small amounts are normal and harmless, Candida overgrowth can cause serious symptoms and severe infections. Certain risk factors can contribute to this overgrowth, and understanding who may be at the most risk can help individuals take precautions to prevent an infection. Here are the risk factors for Candida overgrowth and infections that you should know.
A Weakened Immune System
A compromised or weakened immune system predisposes an individual to numerous illnesses and infections, including Candida. Use of immunosuppressive medications, autoimmune diseases, organ transplants, chemotherapy, and HIV/AIDS all increase the risk of Candida overgrowth.
It is also important to understand that young children and older adults are at a higher risk of an infection because they also have weaker immune systems.
Prolonged Use Of Antibiotics & Steroids
Bacteria are vital for keeping the levels of Candida low in the digestive system. Destroying these bacteria through the prolonged use of antibiotics gives Candida the environment it needs to thrive, with the user experiencing symptoms of Candida when the infection gets too severe.
If you use antibiotics for a long time or need broad-spectrum antibiotics for any other reason, you should get a Candida test if you experience symptoms. These can include excessive gas, loose stools, confusion, brain fog, a distended stomach, and regular stomach aches among others.
Prolonged use of corticosteroids, especially when used as part of an immunosuppressive protocol, can also increase the risk of Candida infections. If you require these drugs, talk to your doctor if you start to experience any Candida symptoms. They should advise you on the next steps and might change your treatment protocol to reduce your risk of infection.
Diet & Alcohol Consumption
Candida is a yeast, so it thrives in environments with a lot of sugar. Eating foods rich in sugars, especially processed sugars, is a significant risk factor for developing an infection. Other foods that can increase your risk include carbohydrates and processed foods.
Alcohol consumption is another risk factor for Candida infection. Alcohol presents this risk in two ways. First, alcohol contains sugar that fuels the growth of Candida. Second, it can disrupt the gut microbiome while also weakening the immune system.
Oral Contraceptives & Oestrogen Replacement Therapies
Oral contraceptives that contain high oestrogen levels increase the risk of Candida infections. In addition to developing a digestive tract infection, users can also develop vaginal Candida infections. The prescribed treatment for Candida in these cases is antifungal medications and switching to other types of birth control. Talk to your doctor about alternatives, especially if you have recurring vaginal Candida infections.
Pregnancy can also be grouped with the above risk factors. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes, including elevated oestrogen levels. It is a good idea to go for regular checks and Candida tests regularly if you are pregnant so the doctor can check for symptoms of Candida and catch any infections early.
While it can be harmless, Candida can cause serious infections in case of overgrowth. This overgrowth is more likely in people already predisposed. The presence of one or more risk factors discussed above does not guarantee an infection will occur, but you should always see a doctor if you develop symptoms.