Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Symptoms of and Treatments for Yeast Overgrowth

Yes, I am still here! Sorry for the long silence here at the blog. As most of you know, I have had a very difficult fall and have been severely crashed for much of the past 3 months. With the holiday season on top of that, I just haven't had any time/energy at all for writing (my book blogs and commercial writing have been neglected also!). But I am back now - back to feeling pretty good and back here on the blog.

As it turned out, much of my suffering the past three months was due to yeast overgrowth, a fact that I didn't figure out until about a month ago. I wanted to share my recent experiences with you in the hopes that perhaps it might help some of you.

Yeast (aka candida) are a type of fungus that normally live in small amounts in your mouth and digestive tract. Problems occur when the yeast increases and/or good bacteria in your gut that normally keeps it in check decreases. One common cause of this yeast overgrowth is taking antibiotics - they kill off all the bacteria in your system, including the good stuff that lives in your digestive tract, allowing the yeast to take over. This is what happened to me this time. Back in September, I took 5 days' of Zithromax for bronchitis. Under normal circumstances, such a small amount of antibiotics wouldn't bother me (especially since I take probiotics every day - see below), but ever since I was treated for Lyme disease (over 3 years of antibiotics every day), I've had occasional flare-ups of yeast overgrowth.

For those of us who have ME/CFS, we don't even need antibiotics to cause yeast overgrowth. Since immune system and GI dysfunctions are an integral part of our illness, yeast overgrowth is a very common occurrence, though one that is often missed or not diagnosed.

How did I know I had a problem with yeast overgrowth? Well, it took me many weeks to figure it out, even though I've experienced it before. My symptoms included fatigue that was much worse than usual and severe flu-like aches all over my body; in fact, the aches these past few months were some of the worst I have experienced in my 12 years with ME/CFS. Increased brain fog is also common with yeast overgrowth. At one point, I looked back at my records and saw that of the past 60 days, I'd only been well enough to leave the house 14 days. That's far worse than is normal for me. For a long time, I assumed that the virus that triggered my crash initially (and started my bronchitis) was the reason for the prolonged crash.

I finally figured out that yeast was responsible when I noticed that my tongue hurt, especially when I ate certain foods (anything bitter, sour, or sugary). The light bulb finally went off at that point, and I ran to the bathroom mirror. Sure enough, I had active thrush on my tongue. Thrush is one sign of a yeast overgrowth - when you stick your tongue out, it looks like a whitish or yellowish fuzz on the back of your tongue and mouth. It generally makes your mouth hurt or feel sore, as mine was feeling, though sometimes it's your throat that feels sore - something easily excused by "normal" CFS symptoms!  While I usually get thrush in my mouth when I have yeast overgrowth, some people get vaginal yeast infections or an itchy feeling around the vagina or anus.

So, what do you do about it? Well, I should have gone directly to my doctor, but instead I tried to treat it myself first (and lost another month to the couch!). There are lots and lots of herbal remedies and supplements that can help, as well as dietary changes, but I wasn't making much progress with those approaches. They definitely helped, but I found that if I had even the tiniest bit of sugar, my symptoms returned. I finally went to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago, and she prescribed an anti-yeast medication (the two most common ones are Diflucan and Nyastatin). This time, it had gotten so bad that it took me a full 10 days on Diflucan before I finally began to feel better...and then it was like someone had flipped a switch!

Here are all the remedies that my son (who is currently being treated for Lyme disease) and I have tried for yeast overgrowth:

* Probiotic: Probiotic are the healthy bacteria that normally live in your GI tract; they also affect the immune system, so it's a good idea for anyone with ME/CFS to take them daily and to double the dose when you are on antibiotics (always take it at least 2-3 hours away from antibtiocs so the meds don't kill off the good bacteria). I take New Chapter All-Flora (dairy free), 1x/day normally and 2x/day during a yeast flare-up; my son takes HMF Forte brand, which was recently rated as having the highest amount of active bacteria.

* Saccharomyces Boulardii: This is a specific type of probiotic that is most effective against yeast. Ever since my Lyme treatment, I take it every day (as does my son). I am now taking it 2x/day until I get the yeast under control.

* Phytostan: This supplement blend was recommended by a Lyme treatment guide that I read, but it seems to have been discontinued just this week. Its main ingredient is caprylic acid, plus other anti-yeast ingredients, so I found an alternative that seems to be comparable, NOW brand Candida Support. My son and I are both currently taking it 2x/day. (NOTE: Phytostan has been discontinued but there are lots of anti-yeast supplement blends available)

* ADP (emulsified oil of oregano) and/or Olive Leaf Extract: Both of these herbal supplements are potent anti-fungals, antivirals, and antibacterials. Our Lyme doctor recommends ADP, and we have taken Olive Leaf for years when exposed to a virus. One potential problem, however, is that both of them could possibly kill off good bacteria while also killing off yeast. Currently, we both take one or the other 1x/day.

* Grapefruit Seed Extract: Another supplement recommended in Lyme treatment guidelines to prevent overgrowth of yeast. We both take it 2x/day for now; I will probably stop once I get this under control again.

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar:  This is NASTY tasting stuff! My son tried it once and said no way, but I took it every day for a while, until I started the Diflucan. Lots of websites recommend this for yeast - I have no idea if it helps, but it seemed to at the time. 1 Tbls diluted in water, 1x per day as needed.

Tea Tree Oil:  Another herbal remedy I've read about - you can add a drop to your toothpaste (and brush your tongue, too) or add a few drops to a cup of water and gargle/rinse your mouth with it. Again, pretty nasty tasting, but it did seem to help, especially if you have active thrush in your mouth.

Avoid Sugar, Refined Carbs, Yeast, and Alcohol: OK, this is the one that's been the toughest for me, and I still can't convince my son to try it (even though his Lyme doctor told him at the last visit that sugar is like poison for him!). People with ME/CFS already avoid alcohol (since it makes OI so much worse), but the rest has been tough for me. However, I did find that it helped. That's when I finally went to the doctor - when the yeast seemed to be improving and even a single bite of something sugary would make it flare up again. I miss my square of dark chocolate at night! (not to mention fruit). Just like you see when you bake something with yeast, yeast literally feeds on sugar, so this can be an important step in difficult cases.

Diflucan or Nyastatin: These are prescription medications and are often necessary when yeast overgrowth has been present for a long time or is stubborn. Like I said, taking Diflucan finally flipped the switch that got me back on my feet, so I am grateful. I have been on it for 16 days so far and still can't eat sugar without a flare-up, so I will probably need to stay on it a bit longer. My son has been on it for years, as part of his Lyme treatment (and I took it every day when I was being treated for Lyme, too). I know people who were totally incapacitated by Lyme disease even after their treatment, until they took an anti-yeast medication and were magically better. I highly recommend seeing your doctor sooner rather than later if you suspect yeast overgrowth or have signs of thrush or yeast infection.

Here is a general overview on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of yeast overgrowth. And here is a far more complex article on yeast overgrowth that might be helpful specifically for those with ME/CFS. This ties in with methylation issues which are very, very common in people with our illness. This is a complex topic for another day, but we have been investigating this in depth because it is certainly a huge factor in my son's illnesses...and after reading this article about the connection between methylation and yeast, I am now wondering if it might be critical for me as well. If you like, skip past all the details about methylation and focus in on the "Recommendations for reducing yeast overgrowth" at the bottom. We haven't tried many of these yet, though I plan to.

So, that's been my recent experience - another of many examples where I thought I knew all about a topic and then I found out I had a lot to learn! I hope this is helpful.

And, please, let me know if you have some tips or remedies for yeast overgrowth that I didn't mention here. I am still relying on Diflucan at the moment and still unable to eat any sugar (plus my son is constantly battling yeast overgrowth), so any information is greatly appreciated!

* P.S. Please see my later post on Timing of Supplements as to when to take the anti-yeast supplements and probiotics. I had it all messed up at first!


  1. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Hi Sue, I read the articles about candida and what to do about it. Maybe it would be of some help to change your diet and eat different food from different food groups in cyclescheme fashion (recommendation when your oversensetive to food but maybe it can have some help for candida).

    I have a question for you cause I probably recently got lyme and I have ME. I got a treatment with doxy for about two weeks and I felt free from the nerve symtoms and pain in my legs. But as soon as I stopped the symtoms reaccured. Im getting depressed and scared by the possibilty that I got lyme aswell. As I live in europe my only alternative for a longer therapy is a clinic in germany. And to be honest I dont know if its worth doing or not. Some people seem never to be better and maybe I gotta live with lyme forever now. You have a lot of experience in this field ofcourse and I have som questions.

    I already had very strong herx when I take azitromax before lyme but with ME so Im scared of taking with lyme if thats a part of the treatment. What do you think?

    Second reading the scary stories about lyme makes me wonder what is true and whats not. If I get a child (im a man) is this a big risk that my child would get it in some form.

    Right now i need hope in huge doses and I would be greatful if you can write something positive so I just dont loose hope about everything.

    1. Your response to the antibiotics is proof that you DO have Lyme - and possibly other tick infections as well. Two weeks' of antibiotics is NOT even close to enough to completely get rid of Lyme disease (and if you ave other tick infections, as many people do, then you also need other treatments). The Lyme bacteria have a 28-day reproductive cycle (they move back into the bloodstream every 28 days) so you would need minimum of a month of antibiotics - and if the infection has been present for more than a couple of weeks, then possibly much more. The rule of thumb among experts is to continue treatment until all symptoms are resolved and then another 4-8 weeks past then. Otherwise it will keep coming back.

      You absolutely must find a doctor who understands all of this and can test and evaluate you for ALL of the tick infections and treat you for any that you have. Here are several links to Lyme resources in Europe and UK to help you find a doctor:

      That last one is a private clinic in the UK that diagnoses and treats tick infections; the other two are resources for finding a doctor and other information.

      Good luck! It is critical that you follow up on this as soon as possible - these infections became much more difficult to get rid of the longer you have them.


    2. Anonymous3:00 AM

      thanks for the tip, I didnt know about the english clinic. But I suppose it will be expensive since im from sweden, and here there are no help exept the short treatment. I guess I will go for germany or the english one (have you heard wich one people recommend?). But what I heard you will always live with borrelia but you can reduce its symtoms from cronic borrelia sites, is this true do you think or is it any possibility to get rid of it? Sadly this is putting a strain on my relationship with my partner and I hope it wont break the relationship.

      I guess I will have to go on azitromax aswell and that will give super herx but i suppose i have no choise. Since I probably have TWAR and that sickness is possible to live with withoutt treatment but its hard ofcourse. Chronic TWAR treatment with long term antibiotics doesnt work for most people when TWAR is to far gone but it seems to be different for borrelia. How do you feel yourself and do you have friends that been a lot better. Im pretty early in the borrelia but to late for a month treatment guess 4 to 8 months will be my alternative.

    3. No, what you read is not necessarily true. It depends on various factors - including how long you've had the tick infections and how long you wait before treating them - but most people are able to get rid of Lyme - the longer you wait, the harder it gets though.

      Azitromax is not a required treatment for Lyme disease - it depends on which tick infections you have and how you respond - a good Lyme specialist will work around your sensitivities and intolerances.

      I recommend you use that first link I included above and search for doctors and resources in Sweden. If there is any kind of a support group in Sweden, they will be able to advice you on local doctors and/or the best clinics in Europe. Even if Lyme experts are rare there, there are most likely at least a few nearby who can help you.

      You can't make any kind of guess as to the length of treatment at this point - it will depend on how many tick infections you have, which ones are present, and how you respond to treatment - you just have to take it one step at a time, with the help of a good doctor. The important thing is to get started as soon as possible and not delay any more.

      Good luck!


    4. Anonymous1:58 PM

      thanks for a positive answer. I will go to germany though it wont be cheap.

    5. Check out that first website link for Lyme support in Europe - there is almost certainly at least one doctor (if not several) right there in Sweden. It may also help you find other people in your area dealing with the very same issues.


    6. Anonymous12:29 AM

      Thank you for that but I already checked support group and what kind of doctors we have in sweden when I understood that it could be borrellia and I havent found any doctor that work with borrellia long term. Before we had the possibilty to go to Norway where they had a good clinic but that doctor lost his license. They are much more restricted in Sweden with antibiotics and its not like US where you have a lot of doctors that work with Borrellia in long term treatment.

  2. Anonymous8:59 AM

    By the way a holistic or alternative way to threat candida is the Pau d Arco, a tee with a bark from three (that kills fungus). Dont know if it works like always with alternative treatment.

    1. That's one of the ingredients in the anti-yeast supplement blend we take! Thanks for the tip -


  3. Hi Sue, great post...i have used Caprylic Acid also...i am glad you brought this topic up as "cadida" overgrowth gets such an eye roll often...I have also done a bit of reading about using sodium bicarrb..aka baking soda..Univ of Arizona is doing a study with sodium bicarb and yeasts relation to tumor growth... a theory i think makes sense is that the candida attaches to our other chronic infections / co-existing...glad to hear you are feeing better...

    1. Sounds like an interesting study. yes, I agree - our immune dysfunction makes any kind of "infection" so much worse - will have to look into the sodium bicarb thing - sounds much less expensive than all the rest!


  4. Anonymous6:33 PM

    By the way recent news from genetherapy that could give all ME patients a lot of hope for a better future.

    Genetherapy is getting real strong in research and can take out bacteria thats very hard to get (biofilm). They can program for example a vector in this case a e-coli bacteria to destroy a lot of bacterias in this study its P. aeruginosa and they really whipe them out in an extremly effective fashion. Borrellia and a lot of others bacteria thats problematic would stand no chance with this theraphy.

  5. Anonymous4:49 PM

    Could your long term use of LDN cause candida? I've read that can happen, I've only been on it 2.5 months I have CFS & Hashimoto's. The candida link is the reason I waited so long to try it and now worry about when/if it rears it's ugly head.

    1. Hmmm...I've never heard that about LDN and can't imagine how it could affect yeast. It doesn't kill bacteria and it does help to normalize the immune system, so I would think that any effect on yeast would be a positive one.

      For me, it is very obvious that the yeast problems are due to being on abx for 3 1/2 years for Lyme disease (same with my son) - I did get rid of Lyme but it is clear that my GI flora has not yet gotten back to normal. Both times the yeast overgrowth flared up this winter have been when I needed abx for bronchitis.

      Thanks -


      P.S. I double-checked all the websites I know of with information about LDN and not one of them mentioned any connection to candida/yeast, so I don't think you need to worry about that. Perhaps someone jumped to that conclusion when it was actually something else causing their candida problem - it's quite common in people with CFS because of our immune and GI dysfunctions.