[ updated July 2023]
The 4 Stages of Candida Overgrowth
The 4 stages of candida overgrowth are
- Gut Symptoms
- Vaginal Symptoms
- “Brain fog” or cognitive impairment
- Chronic fatigue
At Mitchell Medical Group, we see almost a dozen patients a week suffering from candida overgrowth symptoms. In most cases, these patients have seen at least half a dozen doctors: gynecologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, ENTs (Ear, Nose, and Throat), as well as their primary care doctor and possibly a chiropractor.
In many of these cases, these patients have been suffering for years with Candida yet visiting these doctors hasn’t gotten to the root of the problem.
Why is this? Each doctor tends to focus on just one organ where Candida may be causing symptoms rather than focusing on the big picture.
For example, candida overgrowth can result in several health problems such as digestive issues, fatigue, and joint pain. When multiple symptoms occur simultaneously it can lead many doctors to focus solely on each issue individually instead of looking at what could cause all of these issues to happen at the same time.
Through taking a medical history and using supportive skin testing, I have become an expert in diagnosing symptoms of candida overgrowth. And I have become even better at treating Candida to get patients, like you, back to health. Watching the incredible transformation that happens when patients beat candida overgrowth – the return of energy, vitality, and mental clarity – never gets old.
From my experience, I see that there are four different stages of clinical candida overgrowth.
Detailed Stages of Candida Overgrowth
Stage 1: Gut Symptoms
The classic gut symptoms with Candida are bloating after a meal, excessive gas, and usually constipation. Many Candida patients have a long history of relying on over-the-counter antacids or laxatives to get relief. Eventually, they will see a gastroenterologist who diagnoses them with irritable bowel syndrome. If your physician tells you this, they are essentially saying “I don’t know what is causing your stomach pain!!”
Candida originates in the gut because the microbiome becomes unbalanced. This means the good bacteria are depleted and the Candida is overgrown. This usually happens due to long-term antibiotic use, birth control use for years, and a diet high in refined sugars and processed carbohydrates (like wheat flour).
When your gut bacteria is imbalanced you can experience digestive issues which include constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas, cramps, and bloating. Recent studies show that an overgrowth of Candida is associated with several diseases of the gastrointestinal tract which include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Stage 2: Vaginal Symptoms
Of course, only women are prone to vaginal symptoms, but I have seen men with genital rashes and men can also get the vaginal equivalent – chronic sinusitis (I’ll explain shortly).
Once the candida has overgrown in the gut, it can exit the intestinal system in what’s been termed Leaky Gut syndrome. This happens when the bowel’s cell lining becomes more permeable and allows the Candida toxins to enter the bloodstream, which means it can affect other areas. Some women run to their gynecologist because the vaginal itching, burning, and discharge make them incredibly uncomfortable (it’s even hard for them to sit!).
The most common symptoms women experience with candida vulvovaginitis or vaginal thrush include:
- Pain when urinating
- Soreness, redness, and swelling of the vulva
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- An itching/burning sensation around the vulva and vaginal opening
- Vaginal discharge, which can range from watery to thick and chunky
Note** Candida sinusitis is probably the most underdiagnosed cause of chronic sinusitis. The whole situation becomes a real “Catch-22” situation.
Patients with sinus symptoms tend to see a general doctor or specialist for sinus pain. This doctor gives them a prescription for antibiotics and this will happen over and over again because the patient isn’t getting better. The patient thinks these antibiotics are making them better when they are actually making Candida worse.
In medical school, I took a course called histology which examined the cells of tissue under a microscope. Strangely, the sinus and vaginal tissue look very much alike under a microscope. Even though they are at opposite ends of the body, they both seem to be a comfortable homes for candida overgrowth.
Stage 3: “Brain Fog” or Cognitive Impairment
You may think “Brain Fog” doesn’t sound like a medical condition, but it is! From listening to thousands of patients with candida, “Brain Fog” best describes their difficulty concentrating on and remembering daily tasks. I have had patients crying in my office as they explained how they used to be so sharp and capable, but now simple daily reminders are a strain.
I was at a loss to understand this medically until I saw more information that came out explaining that with candida if you eat foods with sugar your metabolism literally ferments the sugar into alcohol. This makes you feel hungover. If you have candida you may pass a breathalyzer test if you are pulled over by a policeman, but you might not pass a short-term memory test.
Stage 4: Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue syndrome is still mystifying by doctors and patients. Its cause may be elusive in many cases, but when a patient’s medical history is consistent with Candida overgrowth this indicates a late stage of Candida. The good news is that, unlike cancer, a late-stage for Candida isn’t fatal and in fact can respond quite well to a comprehensive treatment plan.
Why do patients develop this profound fatigue? My best guess is that they have become mineral and vitamin deficient from the long-standing problem and they need aggressive Candida treatment with supplements.
Think You Have Candida?
If you think you have candida overgrowth symptoms, consider these different stages and where you may be. The good news is that you will realize you are not crazy and that all the symptoms you are experiencing may have a common cause. The even better news is that the treatment can be highly effective.
If you want to learn more about candida overgrowth check out this podcast episode with Dr. Marjorie Crandall who wrote Overcoming Yeast Infections which is the most comprehensive candida book ever written.
- What is Candida Brain Fog and How is it Treated?
- The Best Probiotic for Your Candida
- How to Test for Candida
- Candida Diet – fewer Restrictions, More Options
- The Most Comprehensive Candida Book Ever Written by Marjorie Crandall – Podcast Episode
About the Author – Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist based out of NYC. He graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine and completed training at the Robert Cooke Allergy Institute in New York City. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the author of Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time. Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. has also been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fitness Magazine, Dr. Oz, and News NY 1. Dr. Mitchell also hosts the podcast The Smartest Doctor in the Room – a combination of a lively, personal, and in-depth interviews with top healthcare specialists.
Seladi-Schulman, Ph.D., Jill. About Candida Albicans: Natural Yeast and Problematic Infections. Medical News Today, August 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322722.php
Malhotra S, Nirmaljit Kaur, Bhatia MS, Kumar P, Hans C. Yeast Infection and Psychiatric Disorders. Psychomicrobiology, October 2010. http://medind.nic.in/daa/t10/i2/daat10i2p345.pdf
Cleveland Clinic, Yeast Infections. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5019-yeast-infections
CDC.gov, Candidiasis. https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html
6 Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth (Plus How to Get Rid of It). Alana Biggers, MD, MPH. Yvette Brazier. July 4, 20223. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/candida-symptoms-treatment