Conventional medicine views the body in terms of distinct systems, and therefore often sees the mind as independent from the rest of the body. As a consequence, those who struggle with mood imbalances assume that treating their body will have no effect on their mental health.
Common mood imbalances that I see in my clinic are mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, and brain fog. If you suffer from any of these, your symptoms may be attributable to one underlying infection: Candida overgrowth.
Candida is a yeast, which is a form of fungus, a very small amount of which lives in your mouth and intestines. Its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption, but when it’s overproduced it can cause lots of physical and mental side effects.
Our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract. This is because 90-95% of our serotonin, the key neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, is made in our gut. A deficiency in serotonin causes depression and in some anxiety–in fact, the majority of antidepressants work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors, freeing up more of the chemical to remain present in the brain. When the Candida population grows too numerous, it creates a layer over the intestines, suppressing the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Candida also breaks down the wall of the intestine and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body.
How do you get Candida overgrowth?
The healthy or ‘good’ bacteria in your gut typically keep your Candida levels in check, and the yeast can get out of hand if a round of antibiotics kills too many of those friendly bacteria. A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, fermented foods, and alcohol feeds the yeast.
How do you treat Candida overgrowth?
Effectively treating Candida involves stopping the yeast overgrowth, restoring the friendly bacteria that usually keep them in check, and healing your gut so that Candida can no longer enter your bloodstream.
Start by eliminating sugar in all of its simple forms like candy, desserts, alcohol, and flours. Reduce to only a few cups a day of the more complex carbohydrates such as grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta, and potatoes, and consider eliminating all fermented foods as well.
Take a supplement of candisol or caprylic acid. These supplements contain plant-based enzymes that basically ‘poke holes’ in the yeast cell wall causing it to die. To restore the healthy bacteria that typically keep your Candida population under control, you should take probiotics on a regular basis. A doctor can prescribe more potent anti-fungal medications if needed.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth, as well as ways to treat it, see my article here.
A Healthy Gut Means a Healthy Brain
The key to treating mood imbalances is recognizing that most are actually rooted in your gut, not your brain. The goal should be to restore the balance of your intestinal flora by treating infections. In the meantime, you can support your body’s production of serotonin with a supplement of 5HTP, which is the precursor to serotonin.
For those suffering from mood imbalances, it can seem like a losing battle. Don’t throw up your hands just yet–the factors with the most determination in your mental health are more treatable than you think.