Thursday, December 04, 2014

Treating Yeast Overgrowth/Candida

I have mentioned several times since early October that I’ve been worse than usual and going through a bad period. The source of that worsening is a flare-up (again) of yeast overgrowth, after I needed strong antibiotics for bronchitis/early pneumonia two months ago. I was waiting to write about it until I could tell you what worked to get rid of it. I’m not 100% yet but have improved enough to tell you more about what has worked for us (my son also struggles with yeast overgrowth after several years on antibiotics for Lyme).

First off, some basics. Many, many people with ME/CFS have yeast overgrowth, even if they don’t realize it. One reason it is common for us is that it is related to immune dysfunction. One recent study confirms this andidentifies the exact immune markers associated with yeast overgrowth. Yeast or candida is naturally occurring in our bodies and is not damaging normally. Problems occur when the yeast takes over. This often happens after a course of antibiotics because they kill off the good bacteria (aka probiotics) in our gastrointestinal systems that normally keep yeast/candida in check.

Symptoms of yeast overgrowth can vary widely. Some people (like my son and I) get thrush in their mouths. Thrush looks like a white or yellowish coating on the tongue caused by yeast overgrowth. When it gets worse, it can make your mouth and tongue hurt or feel sensitive, especially when you eat sour or bitter foods. Some women develop vaginal yeast infections – another obvious sign of yeast overgrowth (interestingly, though I have struggled with yeast overgrowth for years and often get thrush, I have never in my entire life had a vaginal yeast infection).

However, many of the symptoms of yeast overgrowth are less obvious and far more debilitating. For my son and I, all of our ME/CFS symptoms get much worse – flu-like aches, sore throat, cognitive dysfunction, exhaustion, etc. For me, the worst part is the aches. I spent almost two months this fall wracked with achiness every single day. Amazingly, after experiencing yeast overgrowth so many times before, I didn’t realize what was going on for weeks, until I noticed my mouth was sore. I ran to the bathroom mirror and stuck my tongue out and sure enough, there was obvious thrush in my mouth. Duh.

At first, I tried all the usual approaches (see list below) but to no avail – there was still visible thrush in my mouth and I still felt absolutely awful and was barely able to function. At that point, I asked my doctor to prescribe antifungals (yeast is a fungus). At the normal dosage, even those barely helped. I had to double the dose to finally, finally begin to get the yeast under control. Even that was barely effective – when I went in to see my doctor after more than a month on Diflucan (an antifungal), and she looked in my mouth and still saw the thrush there, she prescribed a stronger antifungal (Ketoconazole), alternating days with the Difucan. I finally started to feel better!

Here are the treatments we’ve tried to get yeast/candida under control, in rough order of what to do first:
  • Take strong probiotics. Probiotic strength is shown by the number of billions of active cultures in each capsule. When yeast overgrowth flares up, we shoot for at least 100 billion units a day. They must be taken away from any antibiotics or even herbals with antibacterial properties (like olive leaf, oregano, or monolaurin) and work best on an empty stomach. We take them before breakfast and before dinner. Saccharomyces Boulardii is a specific type of probiotic that is most effective against yeast, so you should take that as well as general probiotics.
  • Elminate sugar, yeast, and grains from your diet. Depending on how severe the yeast overgrowth is, you may need to severely restrict your diet. Yeast feeds on sugar and, to a lesser degree, on grains. We already eat a Paleo diet (only natural sugars, no grains, no dairy), but I got even stricter to try to get the yeast overgrowth under control. Yes, it is difficult at times, but it is better than feeling so horrible. First thing to eliminate is sugar in almost all forms – a small amount of honey or coconut sugar is OK, and we still eat fruit (at first) and use Stevia for sweetening. You also want to avoid alcohol and yeast (so no bread). If that alone doesn’t work, then also eliminate flour and other grains. I got so desperate, I even eliminated fruit from my diet for a while.
  • Take antifungal supplements & herbals. There are many natural substances that have antifungal properties. I use a product called Yeast Cleanse that includes several of these – there are many other combination products available. (UPDATE: Our dietician suggested I stop using the Yeast Cleanse product because it also contained some vitamins and minerals that may encourage yeast). Natural antifungals include:
·      Pau D’Arco
·      Tea Tree Oil
·      Caprylic Acid
·      Grapefruit Seed Extract
·      Uva Ursi
·      Olive Leaf, Oregano (we use ADP – emulsified oil of oregano), Monolaurin – these all have natural antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties
·      Coconut oil or other unsweeetened forms of coconut (coconut contains monolaurin)
  •  Use probiotic toothpaste. This is a new one for us, but it is definitely helping. Thanks to a blog reader for suggesting it! Our dietician said she uses it, too. The brand we are using it Designs for Health. I am still brushing with my regular toothpaste, then rinsing, then brushing again (tongue and gums especially) with the probiotic toothpaste (you spit it out but don’t rinse after).
  • Rinse with antifungals. We have used a few drops of tea tree oil in a small cup of water as a mouthwash, and our dietician recently recommended rinsing with Nystatin mouth rinse (requires a prescription) and Argentyn 23. There are others as well. Most you use as a mouthwash – swish and spit – but she said the Argentyn 23 is swish and swallow. I just bought some but haven’t tried it yet.
  • Take prescription antifungals. For both my son and I, ALL of the above still didn’t get our yeast overgrowth under control. In that case, you need to see your doctor and ask for prescription antifungals. The three most often prescribed are Diflucan, Nystatin, and less commonly, Ketoconazole. For stubborn cases (like ours!), it can be more effective to alternate between two or more of them. I am currently alternating days with Diflucan and Ketoconazole. My son has been alternating with all 3 for a year now.

Whew. Yup, we are doing all that, and still struggling to keep the yeast overgrowth under control! But since I started the Rx antifungal rotation, I at least feel a whole lot better (no more aches!) even if the thrush is sometimes still visible. Our dietician (who is also a biochemist) says the diet is absolutely critical – you have to starve the yeast to get them under control.

I’ve felt much, much better the last two weeks (good thing with two very sick people in our household!), but I’m not out of the woods yet. The yeast overgrowth flares up with the slightest amount of sugar, and I’m worried about what will happen when I go off the prescription antifungals. I’m going to try that new Argentyn 23 mouth rinse and just have to wait and see what happens next week when my prescriptions run out.

If achiness or cognitive dysfunction are prominent symptoms for you and/or you’ve noticed some soreness in your mouth, you should see your doctor and look into the possibility of yeast overgrowth as an underlying cause. It amazes me every time I go through this just how horrible it makes me feel and how it worsens all of my ME/CFS symptoms. With it under control, I feel really good and have mental clarity – I even have energy!  - and it’s the same for my son. Treating yeast overgrowth makes a huge difference in overall well-being.

Do you have any other treatments for yeast overgrowth/candida that have worked for you?



  1. Yikes - sorry about the weird font changes - couldn't fix that! Sometimes Blogger has a mind of its own.

  2. Anonymous12:43 PM

    Don't worry about the font. Great, concise advice, thank you.


  3. Great post!
    Thank you Jason.