Yeast Overgrowth, Candidiasis, and Thyroid Disease

Is there a relationship between yeast and your thyroid?

Woman rubbing aching stomach
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Many readers have asked if there's a relationship between candidiasis, or candida/yeast overgrowth, and thyroid disease. In some ways, this is a controversial question, because some doctors dismiss candidiasis and candida allergies as a "fad" diagnosis. Other doctors -- in particular integrative physicians, naturopaths, and herbalists -- are firm believers that this problem, brought to public attention by Dr. William Crook in his groundbreaking 1983 book, The Yeast Connection, is at the root of many hard-to-diagnose chronic illnesses.



Candida is a fungus. Normally, there is some of this particular fungus located around your body -- specifically on the skin, in the mouth, in your intestinal tract, and the vagina. Normally, it stays in check, but in some cases, you can develop candida overgrowth.

Candidiasis can most commonly affect your skin, fingernails or toenails, mouth (thrush), vaginal area, or internally. 

Causes of Candiasis / Candida Overgrowth

The most common causes of candida overgrowth include: 

  • A diet high in sugar
  • A diet high in foods that contain yeast or mold
  • Use of antibiotics
  • Chronic stress
  • Immune dysfunction, such as autoimmune disease
  • Being on the Pill
  • Being diabetic
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Lack of sleep

Candida overgrowth of the skin or nails is most commonly caused by:

  • Clothing that is too tight
  • Poor hygiene
  • Damp  or wet skin, especially in warm weather
  • Communal showering/bathing/hottubs
  • Poor hygiene by manicurists
  • Contact with an infected person's feet, shoes or socks
  • Having your hands or feet in the water frequently

At one point, my doctor, an MD who is also an acupuncturist, suspected that I was going through what appeared to be a major outbreak of candida. It is not clear whether or not candida can be a cause of hypothyroidism -- as Dr. Crook claims -- or whether thyroid disease can allow candida to flourish.

But there is evidence of a definite relationship. (My doctor believes that the impaired immunity of autoimmune thyroid disease makes us more susceptible to all allergens and chronic infections, including candida.)

Symptoms of Candida / Yeast Overgrowth

What was happening was that my system seemed allergically out of control. In my case, symptoms included irritable bowel, stomach bloating/pain after I ate anything, crawly/itchy/hot skin, severe aggravation of asthma-like response to allergies so bad that I could barely breathe and went to the emergency room twice with what we thought were asthma attacks, but wasn't. It was awful. I felt like I was allergic to the world.

Some of the other common symptoms of a chronic candida overgrowth include: 

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Cravings for sugar and sweets
  • Skin problems, including acne, cysts, fungal infections in nails and skin, athlete's foot 
  • Bad breath
  • Thrush, a white coating on your tongue
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, memory problems
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Chronic sinus infections and allergies
  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues 
  • Recurring vaginal yeast infections
  • Urinary infections
  • Itchy eyes, sensitivity to light
  • Inability to lose weight

My doctor suggested that I read up on candida, so I bought The Yeast Connection and Woman's Health, the updated version of Dr. Crook's earlier book, considered one of the "bibles" for candidiasis sufferers.

The symptoms of candidiasis are wide-ranging. In any case, according to everything I'd read, I was a textbook candida sufferer. Years of antibiotics as a teenager, frequent yeast infections, and my doctor even ordered tests that showed candida and overgrowth of other inappropriate stomach and bowel bacteria. My whole system was out of control.

Treatment

What I did was follow the candida diet -- avoiding sugar, bread and yeasty foods, taking probiotics, vitamin C, garlic supplements, and ate yogurt with garlic at least once a day.

In particular, I avoided sugar, fruit, foods with yeast, foods with gluten, vinegars, mushrooms, alcohol, moldy cheeses, processed meats, smoked meats, and processed foods with refined flour. 

Over a couple of weeks, my overall system allergic response calmed down dramatically, until I was back to normal again, my stomach and digestion were fine, and breathing returned to normal. My doctor was prepared to prescribe an antifungal drug, but we didn't need to take that particular step to get my candida under control.

Periodically, I'll go back to the candida diet when I feel my system becoming too allergic, and it works for me.

In addition to following a candida diet, avoiding some foods that seem to be particularly problematic, and taking probiotics for yeast overgrowth, there are some other natural approaches that can help, including: 

  • Fiber supplements
  • Garlic supplements
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Antifungal herbs and supplements
  • Olive leaf extract
  • Tea tree oil
  • Goldenseal
  • Gymnema sylvestre

Some Additional Reading

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