Medical News Today: How to recognize Candida in stool

Candida is a type of yeast that grows in the body in areas such as the mouth, gut, and vagina. At normal levels, it does not cause any problems, but when a person has an overgrowth of Candida in the gut, it can appear in stools.

Environmental changes in the body, certain health issues, and the use of antibiotics can encourage the growth of Candida. If there is an overgrowth of Candida, it can cause an infection called candidiasis.

In this article, we discuss the signs and symptoms of Candida in stools and elsewhere in the body, as well as how to treat it.

Signs and symptoms

A man about to find out if he has candida in his stool
White, yellow, or brown mucus in the stool may indicate Candida.

Although the presence of Candida in stools can indicate an overgrowth, this is not always the case.

In fact, researchers have found Candida in around 65% of stools from healthy adults.

Most people might not know they have Candida in their stools until they become aware of the following:

  • white, yellow, or brown mucus
  • a white, yellow, or light brown string-like substance
  • froth or foam
  • loose stools or diarrhea

If people have a Candida overgrowth, they may also experience the following symptoms:

Other symptoms of a Candida overgrowth depend on where the yeast is in the body. In the sections below, we look at symptoms that may develop when Candidaoccurs in different locations within the body:

Mouth

Symptoms include:

  • white areas inside the mouth
  • red, inflamed tissue underneath the white patches, which may bleed
  • cracked corners of the mouth

Esophagus

Symptoms include:

  • pain when swallowing
  • chest pain under the breastbone

Vagina

Symptoms include:

  • itchy or sore vagina and vulva
  • thick, white discharge
  • pain during urination or sex
  • burning sensation

Blood

Sometimes, Candida can spread to infect the blood. This is known as deep, or invasive, candidiasis, and it can be life threatening.

Invasive candidiasis can cause shock and organ failure. If a person who is receiving antibacterial treatment for a Candida infection has fever and chills that do not go away, they should seek immediate medical attention.


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Causes

Medication use, certain health conditions, and lifestyle factors can all cause the balance of microbes and moisture levels in the body to change.

These changes can encourage the Candida yeast to grow and cause an infection.

In the sections below, we look at some possible causes in more detail:

Antibiotic use

Healthful bacteria help keep Candida in check.

Antibiotics kill good bacteria as well as bad bacteria, which can affect the balance of microbes in the body. This can cause an overgrowth of Candida.

Gastrointestinal disorders

woman holding stomach due to lactose intolerance or crohn s
A person with a gastrointestinal disorder may have high levels of Candida in their stool.

Some research found that people with gastrointestinal issues had high levels of Candida in their stool. These conditions included:

Many researchers believe that the inflammation these conditions cause and develop from promotes Candida growth, which then results in further inflammation.

Weakened immune system

People with health conditions that weaken the immune system — such as HIV, AIDS, and some cancers — may be more at risk of experiencing Candida overgrowth.

This is because the body is less able to fight off infections.

Diabetes

Diabetes can increase the risk of a Candida overgrowth because high blood sugar levels encourage the yeast to grow.

Learn how to manage diabetes better here.

Oral contraceptives

Oral contraceptives may increase the risk of vaginal candidiasis.

Stress

High levels of stress may increase the risk of a Candida infection.

One study from 2010 found that exposing healthy rats to stress led to increased levels of Candida on the rats’ tongues.

Smoking

Smoking can also increase the risk of a Candida overgrowth, especially in the form of oral thrush.

One study from 2006 found that in participants who smoked, 58% had Candida present in their stools, while only 29% of nonsmokers had Candida present.

As well as reducing the risk of Candida overgrowth, quitting smoking has many other health benefits. Learn more here.

Other factors

Other risk factors for Candida overgrowth include the use of:

  • corticosteroids
  • excessive alcohol
  • herb medication

Diagnosis

A doctor will take a stool sample to determine if there is a Candida overgrowth present.

Many healthy people have Candida in their stools, so a doctor may also carry out other tests to check for an overgrowth.

They will carry out a physical examination and take a medical history to determine if antibiotic use could be causing the Candida overgrowth.

If Candida is affecting a specific area of the body, the doctor may take a skin sample from the area.


Treatment

woman speaking with her doctor
A person should talk to their doctor about possible treatment options for Candida.

A doctor may prescribe antifungal medication to treat the Candida overgrowth and return the fungi to normal levels.

Potential side effects of antifungal drugs may include feeling nauseous, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Common antifungal medication for Candida infections include:

  • polyenes, such as nystatin and amphotericin B
  • azoles, such as fluconazole, itraconazole, voriconazole

People can take antifungal medications orally to treat Candida infections in the mouth and esophagus.

Topical antifungal creams can treat Candida infections on the skin.

For vaginal Candida infections, antifungal medication is available as a cream, tablet, or suppository.

People with an invasive Candida infection will require intravenous antifungal medication.

Probiotics may also work to treat an overgrowth. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can help restore good bacteria in the body and restrict the growth of Candida.

Prevention

People may be able to prevent a Candida overgrowth by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For example, a person can strive to:

  • keep the skin clean and dry, as fungi thrive in moist, warm environments
  • only use antibiotics when necessary and as intended
  • avoid or limit the intake of processed or sugary foods
  • keep blood sugar levels in check, as this can help prevent Candida infection
  • quit smoking or do not start
  • avoid heavy alcohol consumption


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Outlook

People may notice an overgrowth of Candida if they find white mucus, foam, or a string-like substance in their stools.

Other symptoms of a Candida overgrowth depend on where the infection occurs in the body.

A Candida overgrowth is usually easily treatable, and with the correct treatment, it will have no long lasting health effects.

Otherwise healthy people may be able to treat a Candida overgrowth with a single dose of an antifungal medication.

Candida infections may take longer to treat and may reoccur in people who:

  • are taking or have taken antibiotics over a long period
  • have a weakened immune system
  • have a chronic illness

If a Candida infection spreads to the blood, early diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent the infection from spreading to major organs.

A doctor will prescribe antifungal medication, or potentially probiotics, to treat an overgrowth of Candida.

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