Your PMS May be Caused by Yeast!
Normally, candida is a commensal or a harmless saprophyte but it can quickly turn into a virulent pathogen. Candida overgrowth is one of the causes of premenstrual syndrome and the major trigger for candida overgrowth in women with PMS is estrogen. Estrogen dominance during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle can allow candida yeast to overwhelm the immune system and then cause PMS. How exactly does a simple yeast go on to become the champion of PMS? What is the relationship between estrogen and candida? Can you treat your PMS with anti-candida diet? This article provides all the answers you need about the relationships between candida, ovarian hormones and PMS.
PMS or premenstrual syndrome is the term used to describe a set of emotional symptoms (they may also be accompanied by physical symptoms) that are caused by hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle.
A number of symptoms appear around a woman’s menstrual cycle but the ones grouped together as PMS are those associated with the luteal phase of the cycle.
The luteal phase begins right after ovulation and ends just before the beginning of menstrual flow. Therefore, the symptoms of PMS can last between 10 – 14 days.
Every woman within childbearing age has a predictable pattern of PMS that may vary from those of other women.
Although physical symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness are commonly accepted as symptoms of PMS, the emphasis is on emotional symptoms especially those severe enough to affect daily living.
These emotional symptoms can be so severe that a related condition (PMDD) is diagnosed. PMDD is also known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It shares most of the symptoms of PMS including physical ones such as bloating but its emotional symptoms usually involves deep depression.
Because most of the core symptoms of PMS involve emotional changes, scientists believe that the syndrome is caused by a complex interaction between certain neurotransmitters and sex hormones.
The levels and/or activities of a number of neurotransmitters have been shown to dramatically change during PMS. Such neurotransmitters include serotonin, glutamate and beta endorphin.
Serotonin and glutamate are linked to mood disorders. While serotonin activity may decrease during PMS, the level of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) shoots up just before menstruation. In addition, the level of beta endorphin falls in most women experiencing PMS.
Beta endorphin is an opioid neurotransmitter. Therefore, the fall in beta endorphin level creates opiate-like withdrawal symptoms that may account for most of the mood changes experienced during PMS.
However, changes in the levels and activities of neurotransmitters and hormones are not the only possible causes of PMS. There is good evidence to suggest that candida overgrowth can trigger PMS.
But how does candida cause PMS? Some researchers believe that candida infection can cause PMS through its disruption of the immune system.
When candida overcomes the normal gut flora, the resulting yeast overgrowth destroys the lining of the gut and leads to leaky gut syndrome. The entry of candida into the bloodstream causes systemic candida infection.
Since the immune system is directly wired to the gut, this systemic infection triggers a number of reactions from the immune system. Such reactions include inflammation and hypersensitivity reactions.
In this case, studies show that systemic candidiasis can promote autoimmune reactions to sex hormones such as estrogens. The autoimmune responses triggered in this way can lead to PMS symptoms.
Candidiasis or thrush is a yeast infection caused by microbes in the fungal species known as Candida. The most popular member of this yeast family is Candida albicans.
Although the most common forms of candidiasis are oral thrush and vaginitis (vagina candidiasis), these are not as dangerous as systemic candida infections. Systemic candidiasis can cause life-threatening diseases and commonly affects people with weakened immune systems.
Candida yeasts are naturally found in the skin, gut and other mucosal surfaces in the body. However, they are kept in check by probiotics and the immune system.
A number of factors can turn these yeasts virulent or promote their excessive replication. The most popular factors that promote candida overgrowth are the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and also weakened immune system.
Other common causes include certain diets and hormone replacement therapy. This latter factor is the one that ties PMS with candida yeast.
The relationship between PMS and candida yeasts involves estrogen, the main female sex hormone.
A number of studies confirm that estrogen feeds candida growth. Because estrogen promotes candida growth, drugs that increase estrogen levels and/or activities can cause candidiasis.
This is why yeast overgrowth is commonly reported among postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy as well as women taking oral contraceptives.
To underscore the importance of estrogen to candida, the yeast can produce chemicals that mimic the hormone. Therefore, even though estrogen is required to trigger candida overgrowth, the yeast can perpetuate its own replication by producing estrogen-like compounds.
Therefore, this form of candidiasis increases estrogen level and estrogenic activities in the body.
While estrogen is an important female sex hormone and essential to the menstrual cycle, too much estrogen is definitely bad. This state of high estrogen level and activity is also referred to as estrogen dominance.
Stress can also be a factor in estrogen dominance. The increased production of stress hormone, cortisol, is achieved by the adrenal gland from sacrificing progesterone.
Cortisol production does not only lower the level of progesterone but also its activities because this stress hormone blocks progesterone receptors.
These inhibitions of the production and activities of progesterone are important because progesterone is the hormone that counterbalances the effects of estrogen.
Therefore, stress can contribute to PMS and strengthen the harmful effects of yeast overgrowth by lowering progesterone levels and allowing estrogen to act unhindered.
Estrogen dominance can lead to PMS when high estrogen levels interacts with the neurotransmitters of the central nervous system.
As mentioned above, sex hormones can influence the levels and activities of certain neurotransmitters.
This interaction between estrogen and neurotransmitters end up influencing mood and is responsible for most of the psychological symptoms of PMS.
The exact mechanism by which estrogen can affect these neurotransmitters is unknown. However, as described above, at least serotonin, glutamate and beta endorphins are involved. The involvement of all of these neurotransmitters affect mood in different ways.
Serotonin, for example, is directly involved in the regulation of mood. It is, therefore, possible that estrogen dominance lowers the level or activities of serotonin just before the beginning of the menstrual cycle and especially in the luteal phase.
A sharp increase in glutamate levels just before menstruation has been recorded in rats. This is important because this neurotransmitter has been tied to the kind of mood disorders experienced during PMS.
In addition, human studies show that 4 out of every 10 women experiencing PMS have low serum levels of beta endorphin.
Beta endorphin is an opioid neurotransmitter with analgesic properties. Therefore, low levels of this neurotransmitter may lower pain threshold and be responsible for the pains and aches associated with PMS.
In addition, low levels of beta endorphin can cause symptoms resembling opiate withdrawal. Such symptoms include the irritability and emotional lows also experienced during PMS.
Outside the central nervous system, the estrogenic activities of candida yeast can also cause other PMS symptoms.
For example, some researchers found that the pseudo-estrogen compounds released by candida yeast may also trick the body into reducing the production of thyroxine. This action can worsen pre-existing hypothyroidism. But, more importantly, low thyroid levels can contribute to some of the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS.
A 1997 study published in the Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science compared the effects of both the alpha and beta isomers of estrogen (estradiol) on the growth of Candida albicans.
In the in vitro study, the researchers compared the colonies of the yeast growing in an agar medium with or without estrogen. They found that estrogen dramatically increased the growth of the yeast. However, candida growth in the yeast test medium was not uniform.
A closer investigation revealed that the beta isomer of estradiol promoted a faster growth of the candida yeast than the alpha isomer.
The difference between alpha and beta forms of estrogen on candida growth was also confirmed by another 1997 study published in the journal, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences.
In this study, the researchers isolated 3 samples of C. albicans and then compared their growth rates when exposed to estradiol, cholesterol and testosterone.
The results showed that estradiol, cholesterol and testosterone increased the growth rates of the yeast above the rate recorded in the control medium (with no added compound). In addition, the researchers found that estradiol was the greatest inducer of yeast growth.
In fact, its ability to promote candida growth was estimated as 100 times the abilities of the other 2 test compounds.
Furthermore, the researchers discovered that it was the beta isomer of estradiol that promoted yeast growth. The alpha isomer had no effect on increasing estrogen population or virulence.
Lastly, the results of the study showed that cholesterol did not dramatically increase the candida-promoting ability of beta estradiol.
These two studies confirm that estrogen can indeed promote candida overgrowth and any other condition resulting from candidiasis. In addition, they indicate that it is the beta form of estrogen that promotes candida overgrowth.
Alpha estrogen lacks estrogenic activities except in human breast cancer cells. Therefore, it is a useful estrogen for blocking testosterone without increasing the risk of PMS especially when traditional estrogenic activities are not required.
A 2000 study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases investigated the specific role of estrogen on candida growth.
By exposing 3 strains of Candida albicans to 2 concentrations of beta estradiol, the researchers confirmed that beta estradiol can speed up the growth of candida yeasts.
However, the researchers also showed that beta estradiol did not only increase the growth of candida but made the yeast more virulent and more resistant to heat and chemicals.
The study results showed that beta estradiol increased the expression of the gene, cdr1, responsible for multi-drug resistance in candida. Estradiol also increased the expression of the hsp90 gene to raise the production of heat shock proteins in the yeast.
Curiously, the researchers found that estradiol was not the only compound that can increase the expression of hsp90 and cdr1.
In their tests, they found that phenol and coumarin (a common blood thinner) can increase the expression of these genes as well as improve the ability of candida yeast to survive antifungal drugs and heat.
This study is important because it showed that estrogen and certain drugs can cause candidiasis.
It also confirms that estrogen (and certain drugs) not only increases the population of candida yeast but also changes the yeast from a safe commensal into a needless saprophyte and then a dangerous filamentous, multicellular pathogen.
One study found that women who experience PMS eat the same foods that are known to promote candida growth. Such foods include simple carbohydrates, refined sugars, dairy products and high-sodium foods.
Therefore, the right anti-candida diet to help reduce the symptoms of your PMS should exclude these foods. Make sure to eliminate simple sugars from your diet especially those found in soft drinks, artificial sweeteners and products with corn syrups added.
Even honey and sugary foods should be avoided at this stage of your menstrual cycle.
Also avoid products made from white flour as well as snacks with significant fat content. Besides soda drinks, alcohol and caffeinated drinks should also be avoided.
In place of these foods, eat more vegetables, white meat, seafood, nuts, beans and seeds.
Ideally, all fermented foods should be eliminated from your anti-candida diet. However, a few of them such as yogurt, are particularly helpful because of their probiotic contents.
Probiotics can help rebuild your gut flora while keeping candida growth in check. These friendly bacteria compete with candida in the gut in order to restore a healthy microbial balance. In turn, this helps calm your immune system and prevents systemic candidiasis.
However, prescription antifungal medications may be required especially if you suffer from severe, chronic or recurring candidiasis.
These antifungal drugs are available in different forms and can help treat oral thrush, vaginitis and systemic candidiasis.
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