What Is Yeast Overgrowth?

November 23rd, 2015

by Holly Bortfeld

Click here for the 2013 Webinar presentation slides on Yeast Overgrowth and ASD by Holly Bortfeld

The healthy gut contains both yeast and good bacteria, in balance with each other. Common “good” bacteria, also called beneficial bacteria, are lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium, And don’t panic if you see it on your test, but bacteria like e-coli exist in the normal gut. Bacteria share space in the intestinal tract with the yeast. There are many strains of yeast that live in the digestive tract including candida, which appears to be the most common. Occasionally, these complex systems get out of balance and overgrowth of bad bugs becomes an issue. This is a problem in many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Bacteria can overgrow, or there can be a complete lack of beneficial bacteria. Also, bad bacteria can develop and take over, rather than good bacteria, causing major problems for our children. There are also several different types of “bad” bacteria, including clostridia and Citrabacter F.

Antibiotics kill bacteria, both good and bad, but not yeast. Antibiotic use makes yeast worse, or can start off an unhealthy reaction causing yeast overgrowth. Yeast can grow to fill in the space left by the removal of the bacteria.

Overgrowth is made possible by a dysfunctional immune system or gastrointestinal distress. A healthy immune system and regular, healthy bowel movements should keep the candida in check.

What is important to remember: Yeast lives and feeds on sugar. Limiting high sugar (or foods that turn into sugar in the gut) is the first and most important step to controlling yeast overgrowth. A diet high in carbs causes and feeds yeast overgrowth.

What does yeast overgrowth look like?

Yeast overgrowth manifests itself in behavior and physical signs.

Behavioral signs

  • Headaches
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Unexplained intermittent crying episodes
  • Belly aches
  • Constipation
  • Bed wetting
  • Gas pains
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • “Fogginess”
  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anger, aggression
  • Increased self-stimulatory behavior
  • High-pitched squealing
  • Increased sensory defensiveness
  • Climbing/jumping off things
  • Sugar cravings
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to potty train, or loss of this skill
  • Self-limiting foods
  • Plateauing in skills

Physical signs

  • In the mouth, in the form of thrush
  • On the skin, via diaper rash or eczema
  • Red ring around the anus
  • Rash or cracking between the toes or joints


What Yeast Overgrowth Looks Like

How to test for yeast

According to best practices, yeast levels are best measured via a stool (poop) test.

Genova Diagnostics offers a stool test called the CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis).

A test such as the CDSA tells you the types and amounts of yeast and bacteria (both good and bad) that are present in your child’s stool, and offers you information about which pharmaceutical and homeopathic treatments might be the most effective to treat your child’s issues.

Other labs that offer a stool analysis include Doctor’s Data and Metametrix.

Urinary Organic Acid Tests (OAT) may measure levels of fungal metabolites (yeast waste products) in the urine. Several labs offer this test including:

Non-specialty lab OAT tests

If you only have Medicaid or prefer to use insurance-covered labs:

  • OAT test: With the exception of gut pathogen metabolites, a regular quantitative organic acid test will include most of the markers on the OATs offered at specialty labs.
  • For the gut pathogen metabolites, a stool culture, O&P x3, giardia, cryptosporidium will give the bacteria and parasite parts.
  • The only bad part is that no commercial test measures beneficial flora levels. An alternative would be to use a broad-spectrum probiotic, though it is better to focus on which type of probiotic is low if there is an imbalance. The CDSA from Genova Diagnostics measures beneficial flora, and some insurance companies will cover it. Call your insurance company to see if they will cover the test. The Genova website offers CPT codes to use when calling about coverage.
  • The equivalent of the specialty lab testing can be achieved with two pieces – a standard-lab OAT and stool testing.

How to treat yeast

There are three main ways to treat yeast overgrowth – medications, homeopathic treatments, and dietary changes.

Medications are only a stopgap measure, to be used in acute cases.


As long as you feed your child too many carbs, the yeast will keep coming back. Over and over and over. You must cut off its food supply, boost the immune system, and heal the gut to stop it.

Medications (prescribed) include:

  • Nystatin
  • Ketoconazole
  • Sporanox
  • Amphotericin B
  • Flagyl (Metronidazole)
  • Diflucan (Fluconazole)
  • Bactrim
  • Vancomycin
  • Neomycin
  • Lamisil
  • Nizoral
  • Albendazole (aka Albenza®)

Homeopathic treatments include:

  • Probiotics
  • HBOT (anecdotally)
  • Colostrum
  • ThreeLac
  • Grapefruit seed extract (GSE)
  • Olive leaf extract
  • Oil of oregano
  • Garlic extract
  • Pau d’Arco
  • Uva ursi
  • Biotin
  • Sugar-eating enzymes like CarbDigest or No-Fenol
  • Caprylic acid
  • Berberine
  • MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) oil

Note: Dosing and frequency are recommended based on the individual’s age and weight. Your doctor will prescribe the treatment according to your child’s unique needs. Yeast treatments can require several treatments or reoccurring treatments to remedy the imbalance. Rarely is one yeast treatment the only requirement for keeping bacteria in balance. Dietary intervention controlling sugar and carb intake is also a crucial step in this process.

Dietary changes include:

What is a no/low yeast diet?

Yeast lives and feeds on sugar, so a low/no-yeast diet should limit or remove sugars and foods that break down into simple sugars, such as corn, rice, and fruit. Removing juices, candy, and all sugars is the first step. Read here for a list of sugar and carbohydrate foods that feed yeast.

The SCD-CF diet is the single most effective and highest-rated diet used with the ASD population, because it is GFCFSF and also combats the issue of carbs, processed foods, preservatives, colors, and other toxins.

For info and recipes, see www.pecanbread.com

What are carbs?

Carbohydrates are found in sugar, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains. They exist in either a natural or refined form. Most carbohydrates break down into glucose (a specific type of sugar). There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Both of these feed yeast.

A diet too high in carbohydrates can upset the delicate balance of the body’s blood sugar level, resulting in fluctuations in energy and mood that leave you feeling irritated and tired.

Simple vs. complex carbs

Simple carbohydrates, monosaccharide (one) and disaccharide (two) carbohydrates, include sugar, juice or soda, candy, and some fruits. They have little to no nutritional value and therefore should be limited. They provide short bursts of energy and activity, followed by a crash of blood sugar and energy.

Simple carbohydrates are also known as sugars and are considered empty calories, since there are no vitamins or minerals in sugar.

Complex carbohydrates include corn, rice, potato, nuts, and oats. They provide a slower release of energy and don’t cause the same drastic blood sugar changes. Complex carbohydrates are often referred to as starch or starchy foods.

Treating yeast

Die-off (rapid dying of gut bugs, leading to excess release of toxins) of massive quantities of yeast and bacteria can be physically hard on the body. That much dead or dying stuff flying around can wreak havoc, so it’s common to see a negative reaction before a good reaction when starting yeast treatment. This is also called a Herkshimer reaction, a massive die-off of pathogens. There are ways to help combat this and bring your child through the process with the least bad reaction.

Things that can help lessen the negative reaction:

  • Activated Charcoal capsules
  • Alka Seltzer Gold (not regular)
  • Drinking lots of water (8 oz. every two hours minimum)
  • High doses of Vitamin C or magnesium to help them to stool the toxins out faster
  • Gut cleanout to remove the buildup* (see below)

Typically, the die-off following initial treatments can be disconcerting. Witnessing a die-off reaction in the first week is typically a sign that the treatment is starting to work. Stopping the treatment regimen prior to its completion is not recommended, as it can aggravate and make the condition worse. Consult your doctor for details and to address any concerns. Not every individual on a yeast treatment protocol experiences die-off or a negative reaction.

After the typical die-off is over, usually lasting 3-7 days, most parents report that treatment improves their children’s behavior and concentration –– kids seem more aware and less “foggy.” Anecdotal reports claim that the frequency of inappropriate noises, teeth grinding, biting, hitting, hyperactivity, and aggressive behavior decreases. The child acts less silly and shows less inappropriate laughter, just to name a few improvements.

Does yeast ever stop being a problem?

Parents often have to fight yeast over and over. Here are some reasons that it returns in our children:

  • Certain treatments that we use for other issues in autism, like chelation for removal of heavy metals, or anti-virals to reduce extremely high viral markers, can also exacerbate yeast.
  • A common mistake parents make when starting the GFCFSF diet is to substitute a lot of high-sugar, high carbohydrate foods for the old foods that contained gluten and casein, thus causing more yeast.
  • Weak immune system. Since yeast overgrowth wouldn’t be possible with a healthy immune system, it’s very important to stabilize the immune system. A weak immune system can bring back yeast in a hurry.
  • Side effect of a prescribed supplement or a drug.
  • Toxic metals, such as mercury and chemicals (aspartame, MSG and others) can kill friendly intestinal flora, alter immune response, and allow yeast to proliferate.
  • Disorders like hormonal imbalance, celiac disease, or hemochromatosis.
  • Reports from parents indicate that as the child’s overall health improves, yeast and other bacteria imbalances become less of an issue. This process takes time and a dedicated doctor to monitor and assist in this process.

Antibiotics and other meds

Antibiotics and other meds (oral chelation meds, for example) can cause yeast but may be needed to address other issues, so probiotics and other gut/immune boosters must be given with them in order to stem the yeast flares.

You must not give antibiotics and probiotics at the same time. Space them out, or they will cancel each other out. For example, if you give the antibiotics at 7 am and 4 pm, you want to give the probiotics at noon and bedtime (8/9 pm).

Other immune boosters should be given with antibiotics to help the body combat whatever bacteria are invading.

Reality check: Only YOU can stop yeast


Yeast Reality Check

Tips for keeping yeast at bay

  • Probiotics: Rotate probiotics every three months to include different strains.
  • Diet: makes sure your child is not getting too much sugar or too many carbs. Limit juice consumption.
  • Enzymes: Use sugar-eating enzymes.
  • Immune boosters: Products like colostrum, zinc, Vitamin C, cranberry extract, grapefruit seed extract, and others boost the immune system.
  • Albendazole/Albenza® – using this starves sugar-eating organisms; the standard dose is one pill every 10 days.
  • *Gut cleanouts: To “wipe the slate clean” every 6-12 months can be a good thing. This is a standard pediatric gut cleanout protocol that has worked for us for many years:
    • Bottle of magnesium citrate (any drug or grocery store)
    • Fleet enema
    • Lots of water
    • Dulcolax: Give first according to package directions, and start hydrating with water. The next day, do enema, then give the magnesium citrate. Keep your child hydrated with water.

Suggested Additional Reading on Yeast Overgrowth:



Related Links:

Dietary intervention (including GFCF, SCD)

Gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free diet

SCD-CF (Specific Carbohydrate Diet)

Autism Journey Blueprints
Parent Mentor Program
Find a TACA Chapter near you
Email or Phone


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