If I could put all of the triggers of Hashimoto’s into 6 different buckets, I would categorize Hashimoto’s as a combination of food sensitivities, nutrient depletions, intestinal permeability, an impaired ability to handle stress, and impaired ability to handle toxins, and in some cases, chronic (often hidden) infections.
Many times, it’s these underlying triggers that keep us from feeling well, despite taking thyroid medications.
One potential trigger for Hashimoto’s via the intestinal permeability mechanism is the opportunistic yeast Candida albicans. Candida is a fungus that is treated with anti-infective protocols but is not necessarily an infection.
This is because Candida is a form of yeast that is naturally found in a person’s mouth, intestines, and for women, in the vaginal tract. We all have it, and it is a natural part of our internal ecosystems.
The problem occurs when there is an imbalance between Candida and other microorganisms in the body…This can turn Candida into an opportunistic fungal infection that can overgrow! In traditional medicine, Candida is only treated when women have “vaginal yeast infections” or when immunocompromised HIV patients have an overgrowth of it.
But in functional medicine, we know that if not addressed, Candida has the potential to break down the walls of the intestinal lining, cause leaky gut, and allow for toxins and partially undigested food molecules to cross into the bloodstream. Food sensitivities, autoimmune disease progression, and other systemic problems are often seen as a result.
A history of antibiotics, steroids, pregnancy, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, birth control pills, and a diet rich in simple carbohydrates increases the risk of Candida overgrowth, which is present in many people with Hashimoto’s.
Candida loves starchy foods, sugar, and alcohol. If you, too, share this common love with Candida, you may inadvertently end up with excess Candida growth in your intestines (I did!).
The symptoms of a Candida infection can mimic many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, including feeling spacey, having cold extremities, and lethargy.
Symptoms of Candida
According to Donna Gates, founder of the Body Ecology diet, the following symptoms could indicate that you have Candida:
- Bloating, gas, belching
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Mood Swings
- Bad breath
- Pain in muscles or joints
- Brain fog
- Vaginal burning/itching
Yeast Overgrowth Is Common in Hashimoto’s
Yeast overgrowth is a very common occurrence in people with Hashimoto’s. Most of the people with Hashimoto’s will have some degree of overgrowth of the yeast Candida. Eliminating the yeast overgrowth can help with numerous symptoms!
In some cases, the yeast may hide in the sinuses… Sinusitis is often also seen when there is too much yeast in the body; this could be due to Candida, mold or other invasive fungal species. Using a Neti-pot to rinse your sinuses on a daily basis can be a helpful, supportive measure you can implement.
Testing for Candida
Root Cause testing can be helpful to get the right diagnosis and treatment, as symptoms of Candida are similar to symptoms of many other diseases and triggers, especially those that cause leaky gut. For example, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) symptoms also include bloating, constipation, diarrhea. Other leaky gut manifestations such as pain, fatigue, and mood swings are often seen with SIBO as well.
Stool, urine, and in some cases, blood tests are used to determine if there is an infection, to identify the strains of Candida that need to be targeted, to see which antifungals and botanicals can be used effectively, and to understand the severity of the infection.
My favorite tests for Candida are the GI-MAP and the GI Pathogen Screen 401H. The GI Effects from Genova offers the advantage of listing botanical and pharmacological options that are effective against the yeast. When I first set out to do gut testing, I was found to have a 3+ overgrowth of the yeast, which is quite significant!
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