If you’re not familiar with Candida, it is a naturally occurring yeast/fungus that may exist on a person’s body. It may be on a person’s mouth, digestive tract, skin, or genitals. It is possible for Candida to grow too much and cause problems. Eliminating the overgrowth of Candida is a complex issue, and if not handled correctly, may cause extra problems such as those that arise from Candida’s die-off.
Logically, if a person wants to eliminate Candida, they want to eliminate it for good. Treatments go into the Candida cell, disrupt the usual function of those cells, and lead to their ultimate death. This can be obtained through disruption of the cell wall or cell membrane, enzyme inhibition, replication inhibition, and even Candida cell DNA/RNA disruption.
Understanding Candida Die-Off and the Herxheimer Reaction, a Historical Perspective
Karl Herxheimer first described the phenomenon where microorganisms rapidly die off and release harmful substances. They may be released faster than a body can detoxify this waste. This is called the Herxheimer Reaction. This reaction was first discovered when studying syphilis, but today can be seen when treating Lyme disease, various bacterial infections, and Candida. In terms of Candida die-off, the various symptoms that may be seen include flu-like symptoms, GI upset including diarrhea or constipation, itching, mental fog or confusion, irritability, anxiety, muscle or joint pain, and unusual fatigue.
The Science Behind Candida Die-Off
When Candida cells die off, they release endotoxins. Endotoxins are part of the membrane of Candida albicans cells (the most common form of Candida). Their release causes a person’s body to launch an immune response. They are recognized as invaders. This may lead to inflammation and the other symptoms discussed above of cell death. It is critical to observe that if a person is having this type of reaction to the treatment, generally speaking, it is working. The treatment used is targeting the correct cells and eliminating them. It is important to remember that the discomforts felt when this happens are temporary.
Symptoms of Candida Die-Off Versus Candida Symptoms
Candida die-off may cause inflammatory reactions to be triggered. As your body senses the release of endotoxins, it will likely recognize them as invaders and launch an immune response. When your immune system is activated, it releases cytokines. These control the response and may contribute to flu-like symptoms and cause inflammation. In addition, cell breakdown may cause oxidative stress. This is when your body cannot get rid of reactive oxygen species quickly enough, resulting in inflammation. Your body also may recognize cell die-off as an allergic reaction and will release histamines if this occurs. Most of a body’s immune system is housed in the gut. Because of this, gut inflammation may occur during die-off from immune response.
Though the treatment may be unpleasant, Candida itself is not pleasant. It is generally preferable to endure the temporary treatment to eliminate other symptoms. Candida may cause sore patches inside a person’s mouth, swallowing difficulties, food becoming tasteless, itching and burning on various affected areas of the body, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge, painful intercourse, painful urination, skin fold tenderness and itchiness, secondary bacterial infections. These are all superficial concerns. A person may also become infected with Systemic Candidiasis. In this situation, the affected person may see fever, tachycardia, hypotension, chills, and confusion.
Candida infections may last anywhere from months to years depending on the type. Candida die-off typically lasts a few days to a few weeks. Factors that can contribute to how long die-off symptoms last include but are not limited to severity, individual immune response, underlying health conditions, and type of treatment.
Factors Influencing the Intensity of Die-Off Reactions
Immune response varies from person to person and may be responsible for the duration of symptoms. This is because my ability and your ability to clear out toxins are different. While certain symptoms may indicate treatment is working, if a person experiences these symptoms severely or more than a week or two they should contact their medical provider. These symptoms may mimic other medical conditions, and without a trained eye, may be misinterpreted. Even stress may carry similar symptoms as Candida’s die-off. Please consult your medical provider throughout your treatment. Everyone may not experience these types of symptoms. A person may still experience effective treatment and have no to mild symptoms.
Managing and Reducing Candida Die-Off Symptoms
To prevent die-off symptoms, providers may opt for a gradual approach to treatment. This is where a medical provider starts with a low dose and gradually increases the dose through the course of treatment. It is important while going through treatment to gradually decrease the consumption of foods that may help Candida grow. These include high-sugar foods, refined carbs, and foods that contain yeast. This will help to support a person’s body during die-off by not feeding the excess yeast.
Holistic approaches may also be helpful in the case of Candida die-off. Activated charcoal may aid in a person’s detoxification during die-off. Activated charcoal may reduce the absorption of endotoxins, which may alleviate or ease potential symptoms. Milk thistle has long been used for its detoxifying properties as well. It may help aid the liver in eliminating toxins. Probiotics also may be important in this process. The thought is if a person’s gut is well balanced, it will effectively support a body’s healing process. Probiotic, good bacteria, also may compete with Candida in the gut. If a person promotes good bacteria, Candida may lose valuable space in the gut and not be able to overgrow. There are great Candida-specific probiotics on the market such as CanXida brand that help with healing and avoiding relapses. Saunas and lymphatic massage are excellent methods to aid in detoxification. They also may be very relaxing which may help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. Lymphatic massage in particular stimulates lymph flow, which may expedite the removal of toxins from die-off.
Candida Die-Off Versus Side Effects of Antifungals
It is important to note here that there are some side effects of anti-fungal medication. These may include GI upset, head pain, rashes, itchiness, swelling, alterations in taste, sunlight sensitivity, and confusion. It may be difficult to figure out if symptoms are from die-off or the actual medication. It is very important to contact a physician to clarify these symptoms. In general, if the side effects are from the medication they will occur soon after ingesting the medicine and will be larger reactions versus at the site of the candida. One of the things we have found out that works best is to do our Candida Crusher Big Clean Up before you take any antifungal.
Preventing Intense Die-Off Reactions
The best case scenario is that a person avoids difficult to treat Candida overgrowth in the first place. Dietary modifications can be extremely helpful with this. Limiting sugar and focusing on complex carbs is a great place to start. Candida loves sugar and carbs that are refined. Complex carbohydrates include vegetables and whole grains. Candida also loves highly fermented foods. These include alcohol and vinegar and may be best to limit these. On the other hand, increasing intake of highly probiotic foods may be beneficial. Kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt are delicious ways to include probiotics in your diet. Certain foods are naturally anti-fungal. Garlic, oregano, ginger, and coconut oil are included in this category. Staying hydrated also supports proper bodily detoxification.
Gut flora checks may help avoid Candida or even catch a potential overgrowth early. Gut flora checks can shed light on imbalances in your gut bacteria and let you know how to remedy potential problems before they arise. These checks also may allow for more custom guidance in supplement or dietary changes needed to maintain gut health.
Something to consider when exploring treatment options for Candida overgrowth is natural anti-fungal options versus prescription options. Natural options include oregano, coconut, and tea tree oil, garlic, and probiotics. These options may have less intense side effects than the prescription route and are generally tolerated better. The use and efficacy of natural options will depend on a person’s Candida strain, severity of infection, longevity of infection, and lifestyle.
It is best to contact a medical provider to examine severity and extent of Candida. Pinpointing these will help determine the best treatment plans, whether holistic or antifungal. Candida die-off can sound scary before learning what it means, but remember everyone may not experience it and it is temporary. A person’s health should be the number one priority regardless of what is chosen going forward into treatment.