Can Candida Cause Autoimmune Disease?

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Overabundance of candida, a yeast found in the gut, is associated with many issues. Primary among them being autoimmune dysfunction. Having a strong understanding of candida overgrowth, autoimmune disease, and recognizing the relationship between the two may help you better protect your health and aid in the treatment of chronic illness.

What is Candida?

Candida is a yeast found naturally in the digestive tract. When maintained at the appropriate balance, candida supports better digestion and nutrient absorption. However, unhealthy spread or excessive colonization of candida, known as candida overgrowth, can cause major dysfunction.

Learn more about candida here.

Intestinal imbalances, lifestyle factors, and various health conditions may allow candida to proliferate and invade numerous regions throughout the body including, but not limited to the lungs, mouth, esophagus, small intestine, vagina, and stomach. The spread of candida to these areas can produce a variety of symptoms including:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
  • Digestive issues including constipation, diarrhea, and bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to environmental and chemical toxins
  • Loss of libido
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • New food sensitivities or allergies
  • Recurrent infections
  • Reduced cognitive function
  • Skin conditions
  • Symptoms consistent with IBS
  • Thrush
  • Thyroid dysfunction

Despite its prevalence, candida is often overlooked or misdiagnosed by practitioners. Doctors frequently misattribute symptoms of candida such as brain fog, fatigue, and skin issues, to factors such as aging, stress, or other chronic diseases. This common error allows cases of candida to remain undiagnosed for multiple years. Such a delay in diagnosis can be hugely detrimental to an individual’s health because the longer that candida goes untreated the greater the risk of developing other, more severe issues such as autoimmune disease.

The Basics of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune disorders are described as irregular immune activity that causes the immune system to incorrectly identify healthy bodily tissue (which could be a specific organ or whole system) as a threat. Such a misidentification triggers the release of antibodies to attack the body’s own cells and tissues. This type of chronic dysfunction can cause widespread disruption throughout the body and is notoriously difficult to treat.

Autoimmune disorders come in a variety of forms depending on the type of tissue or system that is being attacked. For example, inflammation and damage to joints suggests Rheumatoid Arthritis, attacks on the skin points to Psoriasis or Scleroderma, and damage to the thyroid indicates Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. More often than not, patients diagnosed with one autoimmune condition are likely suffering from others at the same time. Studies suggest that the presence of an autoimmune condition increases the risk of developing further autoimmune issues by 300 percent.

Learn more about autoimmune disease here.

The Connection Between Candida and Autoimmune Disease

Candida overgrowth increases the toxic load, promotes leaky gut, and exhausts the immune system. As such, candida is a prominent contributor to autoimmune dysfunction. If a case of candida goes untreated for an extended period, it is almost assured that the patient will develop an autoimmune disorder.

Candida is able to produce an estimated 180 chemical toxins. When the gut is in good health and candida maintained at the appropriate level the chemical production of candida does not cause disruption. However, overabundance of candida effectively increases endotoxin production, which promotes the spread of candida, suppresses the immune system, and weakens the intestinal wall. All of these factors contribute to autoimmune dysfunction.

The gut, which contains the majority of the immune system, is protected by a small but strong layer of cells called the intestinal lining. This barrier is maintained by protein-based structures called tight junctions. When working correctly, the semipermeable barrier allows beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to enter the bloodstream while keeping harmful toxins, microbes, and food particulates within. If candida overtakes the gut, it may grow tendril-like structures that effectively drill into the intestinal barrier and damage tight junctions. As the intestinal barrier becomes increasingly permeable, harmful substances can more easily escape into the bloodstream. Weakening of the intestinal wall and destruction of tight junctions are the primary causes of a condition called leaky gut – learn more about leaky gut syndrome here.

Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions holding the intestinal will together begin to deteriorate. The immune system responds to the release of these particulates by producing antibodies to seek out and destroy them through inflammatory action. When employed appropriately, this protocol of identification and elimination is highly effective. However, constant activation of the immune system can result in immune exhaustion. When fatigued, the immune system is far more likely to make errors and accidentally target healthy tissues. Candida overgrowth taxes the immune system while also promoting the occurrence of leaky gut meaning that an unchecked case of candida significantly increases the risk of developing autoimmune disease.

Alleviate Autoimmune Dysfunction by Resolving Candida

The connection between candida and autoimmune dysfunction is strong. Both conditions can lead to widespread dysfunction throughout the body. Studies suggest that those suffering from candida overgrowth or an autoimmune disorder, have a significantly higher risk of developing the other. Candida exhausts the immune system with toxins and instigates leaky gut by weakening the intestinal wall. These actions strongly encourage the development of autoimmune disease.

At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to uncover and address both candida and autoimmune disease. If you are suffering from symptoms of candida or exhibit issues consistent with autoimmune disease , call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!


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2. Raz-Pasteur, A et al. “The pathogenesis of Candida infections in a human skin model: scanning electron microscope observations.” ISRN dermatology vol. 2011 (2011): 150642.
3. Howard F. Jenkinson, L. Julia Douglas. “Chapter 18: Interactions between Candida Species and Bacteria in Mixed Infections.” Polymicrobial Diseases.
4. Alessio Fasano. “Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases.” Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, February 2012, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 71–78.
5. Counsell et al. “Coeliac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease.” Gut 1994;35: 844-846.
6. Collin et al. “Autoimmune thyroid disorders and coeliac disease.” European Journal of Endocrinology 1994;130:137-140.
7. Amy Myers, MD. “The Candida and Autoimmune Disease Connection.” Amy Myers, MD.

About Holtorf Medical Group

The Holtorf Medical Group specializes in optimizing quality of life and being medical detectives to uncover the underlying cause of symptoms, rather than just prescribing medications to cover-up the symptoms. We are experts in natural, prescription bioidentical hormone replacement and optimization, complex endocrine dysfunction, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and Lyme disease.

We’ve dedicated our practice to providing you the best in evidenced-based, integrative medicine that’s not only safe and effective, but provides measurable results.