Candida is a type of yeast that normally lives on the skin and inside the body, such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, without causing problems 1. However, if it grows out of control or enters deep into the body it can cause infections 1 several factors can lead to Candida overgrowth. These include taking antibiotics, eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs, high alcohol intake, a weakened immune system, taking oral contraceptives, having diabetes, and high-stress levels 1. Candida overgrowth can occur when a patient’s host immunity becomes disrupted. This disruption can be local or systemic, including extremes of age (newborns and elderly), immunocompromising diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and chronic systemic steroid and antibiotic use.
Candida overgrowth can cause several health problems, including digestive issues, fatigue, and joint pain 1. When there is too much Candida in the mouth, it can cause white, bumpy lesions, redness, and pain in the mouth and throat. This is also known as oral thrush 1. Candidiasis that develops in the mouth or throat is called “thrush.” It’s most common in newborns, older adults, and people with a weakened immune system 1. Since Candida is a yeast, Candida overgrowth is a type of fungal infection. Internal fungal infections are difficult to treat. There are only four classes of antifungal drugs, and fungal strains resistant to these drugs are emerging. Currently, there are no approved vaccines to prevent fungal infections 1. The reason that Candida causes digestive issues, fatigue, joint pain, and other health issues is that the presence of yeast in the gut causes inflammation both there and elsewhere in the body. Disruptions to the microbiome can cause dysbiosis that elevates zonulin, which loosens the tight junctions in the gut and allows pathogens, allergens, yeasts, and food particles to enter the system as a whole. This can cause chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation happens when the body’s inflammatory response lingers, leaving the body in a constant state of alert. Over time, chronic inflammation may have a negative impact on tissues and organs. Some research suggests that chronic inflammation could also play a role in a range of conditions, from cancer to stroke 1. When you’re living with chronic inflammation, your body’s inflammatory response can eventually start damaging healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Over time, this can lead to DNA damage, tissue death, and internal scarring 1. Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include fatigue, body pain, depression or anxiety, gastrointestinal complications (diarrhea or constipation), weight gain or loss, and persistent infections 1.
So what’s the connection to coffee? The first connection is made by some advocates that say that since coffee has weak antifungal properties, it can kill fungi, and therefore suppress Candida. There are several problems with this argument. To start with, coffee is such a weak antifungal that it’s unlikely to have any significant effect on any fungus, let alone Candida, which is difficult to eradicate, especially in the body. Secondly, drinking anything caffeinated in excess, coffee included can cause some seriously unpleasant effects, like anxiety, fatigue, and disrupted sleep 1. According to Mayo Clinic, coffee can raise your blood pressure (blame it on the caffeine content). That’s bad news, considering that high blood pressure is associated with a weaker immune system 1. As we discussed earlier, a weakened immune system allows Candida to opportunistically infect the body, and those that currently have a Candida overgrowth can find their infection worsening from stress and lack of sleep.
The other major connection between coffee and Candida is negative. According to one study, 45% of commercial coffee beans contain Ochratoxin A (OTA), a type of mycotoxin produced by certain molds and fungi 1. Mold in coffee is a fungus that can grow in coffee beans and coffee grounds. The toxic compound that mold produces is called mycotoxins and it’s not as visible as mold you may see growing on foods past their expiration date. Mycotoxins can grow on a wide range of moldy foods, not just coffee. Moldy nuts, spices, cereal, and dried fruit can all contain mycotoxins. Food (or coffee) stored in warm, damp, and humid conditions can all lead to mycotoxin growth. Mycotoxins can also infect plants and any crop grown in a field, including coffee, corn, and other food crops, or can develop during the storage and throughout any food processing stage. Not only does this suggest that coffee’s antifungal properties aren’t enough to kill molds, but ingesting coffee may very well mean you are also ingesting molds or mycotoxins.
It is difficult for the average consumer to tell if their coffee has mold or mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are not visible to the naked eye and do not have a distinct taste or smell. The best way to avoid mold in coffee is to purchase high-quality coffee beans from reputable sources that follow good manufacturing practices and have strict quality control measures in place to minimize the risk of mold contamination. Of course, if you have a fungal infection like Candida, perhaps it’s best to avoid coffee altogether. Although the mold on the coffee may or may not directly cause a problem, coffee contaminated by mycotoxins is more likely to. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by certain types of mold and fungi. They can have a range of negative effects on the body, depending on the type of mycotoxin and the amount consumed. Some common effects of mycotoxins on the body include:
Here are some ways to reduce your exposure to mycotoxins:
As far as coffee goes, some who are on a diet designed to combat Candida choose not to consume it, considering it an unnecessary food that carries too much risk. If you do decide to consume coffee while battling Candida overgrowth because you can’t live without it and are willing to take the risk, there are some ways to mitigate those risks.
Here are some ways to avoid mold in coffee:
So what’s the bottom line from the research? Aside from studies of mold and aflatoxins on coffee, there really isn’t a study that shows definitely whether coffee should be avoided or not when battling Candida overgrowth. That doesn’t mean there isn’t risk, just that those studies haven’t been done.