Could Candida be the root cause of your autoimmune disease?

One area that has always fascinated me is the link between Candida overgrowth and autoimmune disease. I have worked with hundreds of clients with autoimmune diseases, and at least half of them have had issues related to Candida overgrowth. 


But the question is, does Candida cause autoimmune disease, or does autoimmune disease cause Candida overgrowth? The short answer is it can be both.

So what is Candida?

Candida, a type of yeast, is naturally present in your body, primarily in the digestive system. While it is typically harmless, an overgrowth of Candida has been linked to various health issues, including autoimmune diseases and inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. 

In this article, I will explain the intricate relationship between Candida and autoimmune diseases and how they can contribute to leaky gut syndrome, inflammation and tissue damage

How does Candida overgrowth lead to autoimmune disease?

Research suggests that an overgrowth of Candida may trigger or exacerbate autoimmune diseases by influencing the immune system's response. Candida overgrowth can disrupt the delicate balance of gut microflora, leading to an immune system response that mistakenly attacks healthy cells, contributing to the development or worsening of autoimmune diseases.

Psoriasis and eczema, both chronic inflammatory skin conditions, have been associated with imbalances in the immune system, and I often see a link between these skin conditions and Candida overgrowth. 

Leaky gut syndrome

In addition, Candida overgrowth can compromise the integrity of the intestinal lining, a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. The intestinal lining is responsible for selectively allowing nutrients to pass into the bloodstream while preventing harmful substances from entering. 

When Candida proliferates excessively, it can damage the lining, creating gaps that allow undigested food particles, toxins, and even Candida itself to leak into the bloodstream. This triggers an immune response, potentially leading to inflammation and the onset or aggravation of autoimmune diseases, inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema and systemic conditions such as arthritis. 

Inflammation of the endodermal tissue

Candida primarily affects the body's mucous membranes and is commonly associated with the gastrointestinal tract, which is part of the endoderm-derived tissues. The endoderm is one of the three primary germ layers during embryonic development, giving rise to various internal organs and structures, including the lining of the digestive and respiratory systems.

Candida may induce inflammation in the endodermal tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. This inflammation can affect the functionality of the digestive system, leading to symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, bloating, and altered bowel habits.

When I run stool tests for my clients, I often see maldigestion markers paired with Candida overgrowth, and this may be the mechanism by which it has an effect. By supporting digestive function, such as adding in digestive enzymes and bile salts, the digestive function can be restored, but to get to the root of the issue, the Candida must be addressed. 

Find out more about the gut health testing package that is available at The Autoimmunity Nutritionist Clinic via our website:

The presence of Candida in the endoderm-derived tissues prompts the immune system to respond. This immune response involves the activation of various immune cells to combat the perceived threat. 

Chronic activation of the immune system, as seen in the context of Candida overgrowth, may contribute to inflammatory conditions within the endoderm-derived structures.

While Candida primarily affects the endoderm-derived tissues, its impact can extend systemically. The bloodstream can carry Candida and its byproducts to other organs and tissues, potentially influencing their function and triggering immune responses.

What are the signs of Candida overgrowth?

Candida overgrowth can manifest in various symptoms throughout the body. In addition to the generalised symptoms associated with systemic Candida overgrowth, specific symptoms such as itchy skin, toenail fungus, a coated tongue and an unusual response to eating sugar may indicate its presence. Here's how these symptoms relate to Candida overgrowth:

Itchy skin

Candida overgrowth can contribute to skin issues, leading to persistent itching. The yeast's byproducts may trigger inflammatory responses, causing irritation and discomfort. Itchy skin, especially in areas prone to moisture, may be a sign of Candida affecting the skin.

Toenail fungus (onychomycosis)

Candida can affect nails, leading to fungal infections, particularly in toenails. This condition often presents as discolouration, thickening, and crumbling of the nails. Toenail fungus may be a result of the yeast proliferating in the warm and damp environment of shoes and socks.

Coating on tongue (oral thrush)

Candida overgrowth in the oral cavity can result in a condition known as oral thrush. This often presents as a white or yellowish coating on the tongue, inner cheeks, and other areas of the mouth. It may cause discomfort, altered taste, and difficulty swallowing.

Considering these symptoms alongside other common manifestations of Candida overgrowth, such as fatigue, digestive issues, and recurrent yeast infections, can help in recognising the presence of this yeast in the body.

Sugar intolerance 

Candida overgrowth, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, can lead to a range of symptoms, and some individuals may report experiencing sensations akin to feeling "drunk" after consuming sugar. This phenomenon is often linked to the interaction between Candida and various substances, including acetaldehyde, which is made in the body after drinking alcohol.

Candida, when overgrown, has the ability to ferment sugars. This fermentation process can produce byproducts, including ethanol (alcohol) and acetaldehyde, similar to those produced from alcohol. Acetaldehyde is a toxic substance produced during the breakdown of sugars by Candida. It is known to have various effects on the body, including causing feelings of intoxication, fatigue, and brain fog.

Candida overgrowth and the subsequent fermentation of sugars can also contribute to reactive hypoglycemia. This is a condition where blood sugar levels drop rapidly after consuming carbohydrates, leading to symptoms like dizziness, shakiness, and cognitive impairment.

Considering these symptoms alongside other common manifestations of Candida overgrowth, such as fatigue, digestive issues, and recurrent yeast infections, can help in recognising the presence of this yeast in the body.

What can cause Candida to get out of balance?

Maintaining a balance of microorganisms, including Candida, in the body is crucial for overall health. Several factors can contribute to Candida overgrowth and disrupt this delicate balance.

  • Antibiotics are designed to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, but they can also affect beneficial bacteria. This disruption in the balance of the microbiota can create an environment conducive to Candida overgrowth.
  • Candida thrives on sugar. Consuming a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates provides an abundant food source for Candida, promoting its growth. This is particularly relevant in the context of processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive carbohydrate intake. One of the steps in an anti-Candida diet is to remove sugar and refined carbohydrates for a specific time period, as this helps starve Candida whilst the digestive function is restored.
  • Hormonal fluctuations, especially during pregnancy, menstruation, or hormonal therapies, can create an environment conducive to Candida overgrowth. Elevated estrogen levels, for example, have been associated with an increased risk of Candida infections.
  • And, you guessed it, prolonged stress can impact the immune system and disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the body. Stress management is crucial for maintaining overall health, including the prevention of Candida overgrowth.

Understanding these contributing factors can help you take proactive steps to maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms, supporting overall well-being and preventing Candida overgrowth.

If you are suffering from Candida overgrowth, doing an organic acid test, such as the metabolomics panel, can provide further insight into systemic Candida overgrowth. You Find out more about the cell health testing package available at The Autoimminy Nutritionist Clinic.

Managing Candida overgrowth

Managing Candida overgrowth often involves a combination of lifestyle changes and natural remedies. While it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalised advice, here are some natural remedies, including antimicrobials, that may help address Candida overgrowth:


Garlic has natural antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Consuming raw garlic or taking garlic supplements may help combat Candida overgrowth. Crushed or chopped garlic releases allicin, a potent antimicrobial compound, so when you are eating garlic, crush it up and leave it on the side for ten minutes before consuming. 

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, which has antifungal properties. Consuming coconut oil or using it topically may help control Candida. Start with small amounts and gradually increase to avoid potential detox reactions. You can also use MCT oil for similar effects. 

Grapefruit seed extract

Grapefruit seed extract is known for its antimicrobial properties. It can be taken orally or diluted for topical use. As this can disrupt other organisms in the digestive tract, it is always best to work with a nutritionist when taking antimicrobials. 

Pau d'Arco

Derived from the inner bark of a South American tree, pau d'Arco is believed to have antifungal properties. It can be consumed as a tea or in supplement form.

It's important to note that while natural remedies can be beneficial, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you suspect Candida overgrowth or are considering natural remedies, consult a healthcare provider who can assess your situation and provide appropriate guidance. You can contact The Autoimmunity Nutritionist clinic  for a free 15-minute consultation. 

The link between Candida overgrowth and autoimmune diseases sheds light on the intricate interplay between the gut and immune system. Understanding these connections may pave the way for more targeted approaches in managing and preventing autoimmune diseases associated with Candida overgrowth. As research progresses, the role of Candida in autoimmune diseases will likely continue to unveil new insights, offering hope for improved treatment strategies in the future.

Candida overgrowth quiz

Here's a simple quiz to assess whether you might be experiencing symptoms associated with Candida overgrowth. 

Keep in mind that this quiz is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and if you have concerns, it's recommended that you consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

1. Digestive symptoms

  • Do you frequently experience bloating, gas, or abdominal discomfort?
  • Have you noticed changes in your bowel habits, such as diarrhoea or constipation?

2. Skin and nail issues

  • Do you have persistent skin issues, such as itching, redness, or a rash, especially in areas prone to moisture (e.g., underarms, groin)?
  • Have you noticed changes in your toenails, such as discolouration, thickness, or crumbling?

3. Oral health

  • Have you ever had oral thrush characterised by a white or yellowish coating on your tongue or inner cheeks?
  • Do you frequently experience a dry mouth or bad breath?

4. Recurrent infections

  • Do you experience frequent yeast infections (e.g. vaginal, oral)?
  • Have you had recurrent urinary tract infections?

5. Fatigue and mental fog

  • Do you often feel fatigued or have low energy levels?
  • Have you experienced difficulty concentrating or mental fog?

6. Cravings for sugar and carbs

  • Do you have intense cravings for sugary foods or refined carbohydrates?
  • Have you noticed an increase in cravings for bread, pasta, or sweets?

7. Hormonal factors

  • Are you a woman experiencing hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause?
  • Have you been on hormonal medications like birth control for an extended period?

8. Antibiotic or medication use

  • Have you taken antibiotics for an extended period or multiple times?
  • Are you on medications that suppress the immune system?

9. Chronic stress

  • Do you frequently experience chronic stress?
  • Have you noticed an increase in symptoms during stressful periods?

10. Joint pain and muscle aches

  • Do you experience unexplained joint pain or muscle aches?


  • Each "yes" answer counts as one point.
  • If you scored five or more points, it may indicate potential symptoms associated with Candida overgrowth. However, this quiz is not a diagnostic tool, and consulting with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation is recommended.

If you would like to explore how functional medicine and nutritional therapy could improve your health, book a free consultation by visiting my profile below. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W1G & Harrogate HG1
Written by V. J. Hamilton, Autoimmune Disease Expert | BSc (Immunology), DipION, mBANT
London W1G & Harrogate HG1

After 25 years of suffering from multiple autoimmune conditions including alopecia, psoriasis and CFS, VJ discovered she could uncover the root cause of her issues to transform her health & live without symptoms.

VJ now uses these same principles to help those with autoimmune diseases regain their strength & live a whole and symptom-free life.

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