By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
The balance of organisms in your gut, also called the gut microbiome, is very important to so may aspects of your health: digestion, mood, hormone balance, weight, energy, mental function and more. The most common imbalance has to do with yeast, which are ‘opportunistic’ organisms, meaning that if there is an opening, they will grow. These openings usually come from frequent antibiotic use, but there are more – read about symptoms and causes of yeast overgrowth below.
Symptoms of too much yeast in the body may include:
- gas and bloating (because yeast ferments sugar, creating gas)
- constipation, diarrhea or more commonly an alternation of both
- a diagnosis or suspected diagnosis of “IBS” (irritable bowel syndrome)
- intense ‘unreasonable’ cravings for sugar
- a thick white coating on the tongue, especially at the back
- cracks and irritation at the corners of the mouth
- mental fogginess and difficulty concentrating
- frequent vaginal yeast infections
- recurrent or difficult to treat fungal skin rashes
As mentioned above, the main cause of a yeast overgrowth is frequent antibiotic use (even if it was back in early childhood, and especially if it went on for months for acne treatment). For many women, the use of oral contraceptives also creates a yeast-friendly environment. A third cause is our love of too many carbs and sugar. In fact if you look at the ingredients of almost all packaged foods (even the organic ones!) you will find sugar somewhere on the list. The last cause is from genetically modified foods, where the insecticides they are grown with have a big impact on the balance of the gut microbiome.
Why yeast overgrowth may be keeping you from losing weight:
When the gut flora is healthy, your appetite is usually well-matched to your metabolism. However, when there is an imbalance in the gut, especially with yeast, cravings (particularly for sugar or sweets) will overpower your natural appetite, resulting in overeating and weight gain. If you have been struggling with your weight, I would highly recommend starting with your gut!
Studies have shown for example, that when children are on frequent antibiotics for ear infections, tonsil infections or urinary tract infections, there is a high association with being overweight by puberty. This happens because the antibiotics destroy the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, allowing yeast to overgrow. When there is too much yeast, a child will have ‘unreasonable’ food cravings and an appetite that is out of proportion with his or her needs.
Rebalancing intestinal flora:
Rebalancing intestinal flora is essential for treating irritable bowel syndrome; recurrent vaginal yeast infections; complaints of abdominal bloating; and also in many weight-loss programs.
A yeast cleanse has three parts:
- An anti-yeast diet – simply eliminating white flour, sugar, all sweeteners yeast and fermented foods)
- Taking supplements to kill yeast
- Taking high-dose probiotics (such as acidophilus supplements) to allow healthy bacteria to re-colonize the intestines.
The duration of the plan varies – it is typically strict for 1 month and then more moderate for 2 more months.
The results for many patients – when intestinal flora are back in balance – are profound: First of all, bloating will go away, and secondly the intense cravings for sugar and carbs will be greatly reduced. If you have been struggling with IBS, recurrent yeast of fungal infections, or even with difficulty losing weigh, I would highly recommend looking into yeast overgrowth as a potential cause.