What is Candida? (and How to Tell if You Have It)

Katie Wells Avatar

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This post contains affiliate links.

Read my affiliate policy.

Candida - what is it and how to know if you have it
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » What is Candida? (and How to Tell if You Have It)
Note from Katie: I get a lot of questions about Candida, and I only mentioned it briefly in this post about gut bacteria, so I asked Christa Orecchio, who is a clinical nutritionist and holistic health coach to share her program for identifying and eliminating Candida. Enter Christa…

It’s safe to say by now that we all know sugar is bad for our health.

We know that we shouldn’t consume it often, but that’s much easier said than done. Sugar is a sneaky, addictive substance and the break up isn’t always as easy as just making the decision to stop. That’s why we have to understand what it does to our biochemistry well enough to put an effective and long-lasting sugar-kicking strategy in place.

In some cases, it’s not our fault that we are collectively addicted to this stuff. Our food supply has changed so dramatically in the last 60 years, that we kind of got lulled into it.

For example, the average soda size in 1955 was only 7 ounces. Over the last five decades, it slowly crept up and now we have the Big Gulp weighing it at 128 ounces (that would be like 17 sodas in 1955)!

What Qualifies Something as an Addictive Substance?

  1. Having just a little bit creates a desire for more
  2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings, and fatigue

This addiction has led to a downward cycle of health issues including mineral deficiencies, thyroid imbalances, adrenal exhaustion, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune conditions, and digestive and mood imbalances.

It’s a slippery slope, but sometimes the sugar cravings are bigger than us.

I have seen this so often in my practice and experienced it acutely myself. When someone comes to me with sugar cravings that “take over” (like a craving that has you running out for something sweet at 11pm in your pajamas) then I test him or her for Candida as a root cause not only of their sugar addiction, but also of all the issues listed above.

What is Candida?

Candida albicans is an opportunistic organism and pathogenic yeast. We all have it in our bodies, and most of the time, it’s harmless. But when it overgrows, it causes major problems and symptoms such as:

  1. Persistent constipation, bloating, or gas
  2. Mental fog you simply can’t shake
  3. Debilitating chronic fatigue/exhaustion
  4. Intense sugar cravings
  5. Chronic sinus infections
  6. Excess mucous
  7. Recurring vaginal yeast infections
  8. Persistent food or environmental allergies
  9. Depression and anxiety
  10. White coating on the tongue
  11. Hypothyroidism (Candida inhibits thyroid conversion)

In a perfect world, our good bacteria would keep Candida in check and it wouldn’t be a problem, only we are doing so many things daily to kill our good gut bacteria that so many people unknowingly struggle with it.

What Contributes to Candida Overgrowth?

  1. Antibiotics- even just one full-spectrum round can cause it
  2. Antibiotics in our meat supply
  3. Overconsumption of sugar and processed, refined foods
  4. Overconsumption of alcohol and coffee
  5. Chronic, prolonged stress
  6. C-section deliveries
  7. Mercury exposure from dental fillings, vaccines, & tattoos.
  8. Birth control pills

Any one or a combination of these things kill our good gut flora, thin our gut lining, and compromise our immunity enough to allow this opportunistic organism (and often times many other pathogens) to take over and dominate our gut health.

And when anything dominates our gut health, it’s only a short matter of time before it dominates our hormonal health and immune health.

How to Test for Candida

There are stool, blood, and saliva lab tests for Candida overgrowth. While I prefer to run an 8-day stool test on someone when looking for pathogens in their GI tract, many people cannot afford to run labs and many don’t want to go through the hassle of testing.

When that is the case, there is a fast, easy, free DIY Candida spit test you can do at home.

For six days, keep a pen and paper in the bathroom. When you wake up, (before you eat or drink anything), fill a glass of water halfway and spit a dime-sized amount of saliva into the glass.

Watch it a few times (you don’t have to stare it down) over a 45-minute period and record your results each day for six days.

Your saliva will either stay floating on top, it will sink to the bottom, or it will grow legs. If it stays floating on top, there is likely no Candida overgrowth to worry about, but if it grows legs or especially if it sinks, then Candida is likely an issue for you.

I have run this test in tandem with stool, saliva, and blood tests many times and it has proven accurate. The reason you must test daily for six days is to mitigate variables. Keep to your normal diet while testing.

I have a short video showing you exactly how to do this DIY test here.

How to Get Rid of Candida

If you have Candida, don’t worry; you can get it back in balance. You can break up with sugar, for good. You can get your thyroid working well again so that you have mental clarity and can lose weight and keep it off with greater ease. You can have good digestion, a strong immune system, and good moods.

We use a combination of a carefully crafted no sugar, no fermentation, diet (here are 52 Candida-diet friendly recipes) along with a 16-day antifungal rotation that includes grapefruit seed extract, oregano oil, olive leaf extract, and Pau D’arco. There are also GI cleansing agents involved like food grade diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay as well as the yeast eating strain of probiotic called saccharomyces boulardii.

This cleanse is then followed up with gut rebuilding agents to re-establish good gut flora, repair the mucosal lining, and rebuild hydrochloric acid. All of these components are necessary for lasting positive health changes and to be sure the Candida does not return. After digestive repair is achieved, then we give the thyroid and adrenals a boost.

Note: if you are pregnant or nursing, you cannot take the majority of the supplements recommended, except the probiotics. You can instead increase antifungal food sources on a smaller scale.

After a decade in private practice and working with thousands of real people, I cannot have a stronger belief in the power of the human body. When you give the body what it needs and remove what burdens it, it will heal itself and it will thrive.

You don’t have to live your life craving sugar, being tired, or managing a litany of other uncomfortable symptoms. You can use food as your medicine to heal and to thrive.

About the Author: Christa Orecchio is a clinical and holistic nutritionist with a mission to help as many people as possible using food as medicine so that they can thrive. She’s the author of “The Whole Journey Cookbook: 180 Delicious Ways to Use Food as Medicine“. Check out Christa’s website, The Whole Journey, to learn more.

Do you have symptoms of candida? Ever been tested? Want to try out the Candida Protocol? Share below!

Candida is a type of yeast that naturally occurs in the body but that can be harmful in abundance and can lead to sugar cravings and health problems.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


59 responses to “What is Candida? (and How to Tell if You Have It)”

  1. Liz Avatar

    I had horrible side effects from the candida cleanse diet. I was even ordered to stop it by my primary care dr because I was so light headed and dizzy, my blood sugar levels, blood pressure and urine needed to be checked. My legs and arms felt like jello and the fatigue was out of this world. Help! Yes, giving up all the foods I love sucks, but that I could care less about. I’m happy to do the diet, and do whatever it takes to get rid of the yeast, but not if it impacts my health. Did anyone else have this issue? What did you do?

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Liz, check out “die off” or detox in conjunction with cleanses. That may explain the intense reaction, and most sites give solutions, like magnesium supplements, or Epsom salt baths, etc. If your primary care doc doesn’t know about cleanses and die off, those symptoms would seem pretty alarming, but it’s actually common, athough not necessary.

  2. Elizabeth Egan Avatar
    Elizabeth Egan

    I tried the Candida free diet for over a week, and I’ve never felt worse. I went into it knowing I would have sugar cravings and miss all the comfort foods that I loved, but that really was the least of my problems. I was severely light headed, dizzy and extremely fatigued. It felt like being drunk, without the added bonus of actually drinking anything. My functional dr suggest I eat more to combat this. But even eating a meal every single hour did nothing to help. I finally had to stop the diet after about a week and half bc I was concerned about simple tasks like driving. My primary care dr ordered me to come in immediately to have my blood sugar and blood pressure tested. And I’m now waiting for the results. Did anyone else have this experience? I had a very comprehensive stool test done that indicated I had very high levels of yeast in my system and I’m still determined to do everything I can solve this, but I’m not willing to risk my general health bc if it. Did anyone else have these side effects? What did you do? How can you get ride of the yeast without being on such a restrictive diet?

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      I didn’t have that experience, but I know that with Candida, it is possible for things to get worse before they get better and die off can be severe and uncomfortable.

  3. Rhia Avatar

    Hello peoples
    So Candida is in all of us and unfortunately if you have overgrowth of candida, then you are very very likely to have a parasite infestation also!
    We all to a degree have parasites however, when candida is running wild through out our body then parasites are likely to scatter also through out the body causing, skin itchies as i call it, eczema, acne, thinning of hair, mood swings, depression, fatigue, eye sight issues, GI issues, tumors, MS, and the list goes on and on and on…
    Upon my personal endeavor to rid myself of toxins and health related issues, i too discovered I had severe over growth of candida and parasites! I stopped taking all of my vitamins. And mainly lived of my green smoothie, And so my journey begins .
    I stopped taking all of my vitamins. And mainly lived of my green smoothie
    Amish Parasite Cleanses
    To health shop parasite cleanses
    Enemas of all varieties done daily for 6 months and still continue to do so
    Green liquid veggie smoothie with spices and lemon every morning
    Alkaline water 8.8
    Cut out all carbs, dairy, sugars and wheat
    Took diatomaceous earth
    I lost weight and passed lots of mucous and what is known to be rope worm.
    I also passed liver flukes and probably lots of other things too that i didn’t recognize at the time.
    I started to feel well and had much more energy and sunnier out look.
    and i can safely safe i am on the right track of what is working for me to rid myself of
    rope worms and the like.
    Through error at the beginning and not knowing what to do first to detox body I would highly
    recommend this order of cleanses

    Parasite Cleanse ( kill those suckers first so they dont scatter to other parts of body like lungs and brain from other cleanses )
    Candida Cleanse the cleanse that worked for me most was the food diet cleanse no dairy, wheat ,carbs or sugars
    Liver and Gallbladder Cleanse the olive oil and lemon works best for me
    And through all of the above it is paramount to take a refrigerated pro biotic 24 billion or above every morning x 2
    and drink warm water as much as possible
    And Garlinase 5000 (garlic extract) from Enzymatic Therapy, delivers 5,000mcg of allicin.
    every morning x 1
    This stuff really works to kill parasites and candida!!!

    I will admit that the Diatomaceous Earth is fantastic but the Die off phase was horrific for me and stopped me from working as i was literally in so much pain however, I am thinking of re trying the DE as it does work and i am hoping i am less toxic now so that the healing crisis will be less crippling.
    The DE worked for the week i took it as it shredded all parasites in me, when i had a bowel movement it was clear 100 % that they were dead and cut up before they came out so, be aware DE works but its not for the faint of heart!

  4. Rhia Avatar

    I am currently doing an ACV enema every other day just so i can have some form of bowel movement . In the process i have been passing severe and i mean Severe Candida, and i also passed parasites! One day i stopped having my daily BM’s and so can only go aided in an enema or colon flush….
    either way, i dont have allergies at all anymore and nor do I have itchy bottom or severe migraines and running hot all the time then cold the next….Candida is in all of us but no one told me whilst on Antibiotics it is essential to take a fridge stable probiotic to help keep the Balance of the good and the bad.
    I am still currently looking as to why i can no longer have BM’s…
    As of tomorrow 6/8/2016 i am going to do an all candida diet cleanse. juicing veggies, no carbs, dairy, wheat, fruit sugars etc…
    I am going to do this for 2 weeks solid, i shall report back with an update to candida and BM’s
    Happy Health to you all

  5. britanny tubbs Avatar
    britanny tubbs

    Looking for recent wellness mama readers who have had luck with the candida cleanse program mentioned in the blog post? Thinking about doing it… although sounding like many people get results, but soon after it comes back. Which makes me weary, especially given the price tag. Is such an intense protocol really necessary? with all these steps, etc. I recently did a round of antibiotics and have candida issue now; so much conflicting info online that it’s getting really overwhelming!!!

    1. Rhia Avatar

      Hello there
      I have tried many things to rid myself of candida and i can safely say ACV BRAGGS organic actually helps clean the bad stuff out, i drink it twice a day and i do ACV enema to flush it out of my intestines and i have had massive results as i have previously stated also in another thread.
      Candida overgrowth takes commitment to get rid of and even after the candida juice cleanse, people fall back into eating the foods that potentially was feeding it to begin with and if you have not got enough good bacteria in your intestines then, the cycle starts all over again. I an a firm believer in Enemas as candida hides the most and from there can travel to all part of your body through various means.
      i am no expert, so i am only stating my personal experiences and what others i know also do. If you think you have candida in your urine use a 100% pure cotton and dowse it with Pure Silver and insert and leave for 3 hours or when you need to pee and remove and repeat the process for 4 days, this will remove ghastly yeast / Candida also, you may get thick yellow sludge and even pinky bits which i can assure you is all part of the infections.

      1. Barb A. Avatar

        Rhia, wow I found your comments interesting.

        I have never heard of a ACV enema.
        I have done the coffee enemas, which are suppose to help with liver detox, but this is the first I’ve heard of apple cider vinegar enemas (ACV).

        I’ll have to look it up when I have more time, but what is the purpose of those? Is there a particular reason they are done or something they are suppose to help with?

  6. Ro Avatar

    Katie, I would appreciate your opinion on candida cleansing. I followed Christa Orecchio’s cleanse for ten weeks, and saw I a massive improvement in health after four weeks, and felt ‘cured’ after the tenth. It came back though, soon afterwards…I noticed symptoms a few weeks after….I highly assume the problem came back because I didn’t heal my gut after correctly after the cleanse, and I went straight back into a unhealthy diet, rather than reintroducing non-permitted foods slowly….After four months from the cleanse, I am now starting again and I’m just on week two. I think this cleanse worked and I do trust it because I saw results. For example, my hair had stopped falling out which had been a major issue for me over the past seven years. However, I have also read information about candida cleansing from Chris Kresser’s webpage, who I know you have had feature on Wellness Mama (though not on this subject)


    He talks about how a low-carb diet that eliminates any glucose or sugar in the diet can cause keystone production which could do, in turn, actually feed the candida.

    I’m sure both of these professionals have had results with their patients, and I wondered if I should try to combine their cleanses together? I suppose I really wanted to know what your thoughts are about keystone production in cleanses really. Should I be less sugar restrictive this time round on the cleanse and permit a few starches, and vegetables such as carrots…?

    Many thanks! : )

  7. Aubrey Avatar

    Hi, I have been a vegetarian for some time. My diet is free of artificial sugars and has been for quite some time. I do not eat candy or sweet treats I had my first brownie in about 5 years from whole foods two years ago and it was organic and vegetarian moreover I only ate that one. It has been so long since I have been on articial sweets that I do want them nor crave. I stay as far away from processed foods as possible no drive thrus, canned products, etc. I make non-GMO a factor when purchasing anything. Over the last year or so my diet was pretty much vegan I ate two completely raw meals consisting of fresh fruits in the morning followed by a huge salad for lunch (I buy my produce organic and as local as possible) and a pasta or rice dish for dinner mixed with vegetables. I have had yeast infections in the past especially once I had my first of two children but never like this. Well, I developed systematic candida. I mean this literally, the healthier my diet became the worse the candida became. The doctors push prescriptions which I did/do not want, I want a cure as I know the body is capable of curing itself. I was even told to put meat back in my diet at least fish, didn’t want to do that either. I added supplements to my diet such as organic raw multi-vitamins (garden of life) organic raw probiotics, activated charcoal, milk thistle, acidophilus, kyolic… I had no idea that yeast could take over the body in this way. Honestly, I cried when I figured out what it was, this is the healthiest I’ve been in my life but my body has been overtaken by a fungus.

  8. Gen Avatar

    When you talk about boosting the thyroid and adrenals after candida- what are the most important factors in that- i know, i’m trying to sleep as much as my body needs, am eating healthy fats, going outside, getting some exercise…. is this all enough? any thing in particular that could help me a bit more? x

  9. Tiffany Skudstad Avatar
    Tiffany Skudstad

    Help! I discovered I have candida by doing the spit test but I’m nursing! What should I do? I know anti-fungals/detox are an important part of the process, but shouldn’t be done while nursing.

  10. cheley Avatar

    Can this be done for vegans? I am a vegan and apparently I have a Candida issue.

    1. Jenny Avatar

      Chel9: yes if you are vegan take a magnesium supplement as well as a zinc supplement. With the zinc pill, start out with a low dose and gradually add on ( I started with 7 mg and ended with 100 mg. ) it’s normal to feel sluggish and sick while your body is adjusting to the zinc. It will pass. It took me 3 months.

      Also take a really really great multi-vitamin.

      That should help bring your body back into balance, and the candida won’t be able to thrive.

      Also avoid sugar and booze for a few months.

      There’s a good article about copper detox on the Weston Price website if you want to Google it.

      1. Mai Avatar

        Is your candida under control now?

        I have been on the candida diet for 6 months with not much progress and have just started looking into zinc/copper imbalance. (I was vegetarian for 6 years AND also took birth control so I’m pretty sure I have it) I’ve been taking zinc for about 2 weeks now and haven’t noticed much change.

        Did you avoid high copper foods? and did you supplement with anything other than zinc like molybdenum, vit c?


  11. Jenny Avatar

    I have had recurring yeast infections due to a candida problem and was on a severely restricted diet along with garlic supplements (garlic kills candida yeast), and drinking ACV.

    The garlic supplements helped and I didn’t get a yeast infection in over a year. But I knew this was merely a band-aid to the problem. The Candida ALWAYS grew back no matter what. Although the diet kept in under control, i don’t want to live my life restricting myself anymore! I was a vegetarian for 9 years. And on top of the Candida diet, I felt i couldn’t eat ANYTHING. So depressing!

    I was searching for a cure for my recurring yeast infections when I found out about “Copper/Zinc Imbalance”. When your body is Copper toxic and Zinc deficient this can cause Candida overgrowth problems!

    Sources of copper: vegetables, beans, grains, birth control pills, copper IUD, copper piping in homes…

    You may be copper toxic and not know it.

    High zinc foods: Red meat, eggs, oysters

    I started supplementing Zinc Sulfate in my diet about 7 days ago. And I started eating meat again!! I am currently copper detoxing ( day 9). My body is now leaching copper that’s been stored in my tissues for years. I had a semi-vegetarian diet (occasional eggs/dairy) for 9 years and almost no zinc supplementation.

    Also, I had a small glass of juice yesterday and felt the Candida flare up again. Fruit and fruit juice should definitely be avoided if you have a Candida problem or copper detoxing!

    Lastly and most importantly, Wellness Mamas “Bone Broth” recipe was the catalyst to all of this research and to my healing journey so Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Katie!!!!!

  12. Michele Avatar

    I have tried all the suggested diets for Candida and none of them worked. The only relief I ever got from this condition is to follow Chinese medicine first. TCM believes that you must first clean up the excess moisture in your body in order to control the candida. By using the proper herbs given to my by my acupuncturist, it made a huge difference in very little time.

  13. Ben Avatar

    From experience, the spit test is not at all accurate. I had a very high overgrowth level of Candida and saw nothing in the spit test. Only stool test confirmed it.

    I tried the candida diet for two months and have never felt so bad in my life. Not only did I prefer living with candida to going on with that diet, but it also did nothing to control the candida. The candida over grows because something is not working well in the body. There’s no point killing the candida but leaving the cause to the over growth as it is. If you have candida, go see a naturopath. Killing the candida is easy and not the issue here.

  14. Rachel Avatar

    Would I need to wait til we’re done breastfeeding to do the supplements, I eat clean already so that I know is fine, but the anti fungals I’m not sure about?

  15. Laura Avatar

    Can this cause EXTREEM dry mouth or worsen dry mouth that is caused by medications (anti-rejection)?

  16. Stan B. Avatar

    I would like the help to do this plan but I don’t have $247.00. So what now?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *