What is candida?
Candida albicans is a harmless yeast, a type of fungus, that lives naturally in everyone’s body. In a healthy body, it lives symbiotically in a balanced environment in the gastrointestinal tract (GI), on the mucous membranes, and on the skin. Candida is a commensal organism (one that benefits from another organism without damaging or benefiting it) and is present in almost all human beings from birth. Thus, it can easily advantage of any weakness in the host, and probably has few equals in the variety and severity of the infections for which it is responsible. Sometimes this harmless yeast can easily overgrow by taking advantage of any weakness in the host, and thus turn into an opportunistic pathogen.
Interesting fact: Candida grows in colder, wetter climates and cannot thrive in hot, dry climates. Hence it tends to grow more in winter.
Candida overgrowth has been linked to leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability). It burrows its roots into the intestinal lining and creates leaky gut which allows the fungus and its by-products to escape into the blood-stream. Candida albicans is the most common human systemic pathogen, causing both mucosal and systematic infections, particularly in immunocompromised people. A systemic fungal infection is called candidiasis.
Once Candida is in an overgrowth state, the body has to deal not only with the overgrowth but also with the toxic by-products, or mycotixins. They weaken our immune system and can attack any organ system in our body. The attack is relentless, 24 hours a day, until treated.
One of the major toxins produced by Candida albicans is acetaldehyde. Candida floods the system with the toxin, which poisons the nervous system, joints and muscles. It acts as a mitochondrial poison. Acetaldehyde can affect metabolic, endocrine and immune system function. It may interfere with receptors for acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory, motor and autonomic function. It also stimulates histamine release and so makes existing allergy and inflammation worse. Examples of damage from aceldehyde are: impaired memory, ‘brain fog’, depression, lethargy and apathy, irritability, increased anxiety and panic, decreased sensory acuity, increased tendency to alcohol and sugar, decreased sex drive, increased PMS.
Interesting facts: A good sign of acetaldehyde excess is sensitivity to fragrances and smells. Alcohol can make the symptoms of candididasis worse because it is also broken down to acetaldehyde.
When the Candida fungus infects the mouth, it is called thrush. White sores form on the tongue and gums and inside the cheeks. Candida infection may also take the form of athlete’s foot or jock itch. Systemic candidiasis is an overgrowth of Candida everywhere, throughout the body. In the most severe cases, Candida can travel through the bloodstream to invade every organ system in the body, causing a type of blood poisoning called Candida septicaemia. This condition almost always occurs in persons with serious underlying conditions, such as advanced cancer or following a severe burn injury.
Candidiasis may affect both men and women; however, it is rarely transmitted sexually. It is most common in babies (infected mother may pass it to her new-born) and in persons with compromised immune system. Because Candida grows it releases toxins that weaken the immune system even further. Pregnancy and the use of corticosteroid drugs are other factors that increase the chance of developing Candida overgrowth. Women develop Candida overgrowth more often when using oral contraceptives (most probably due to an increase in the amount of sugar/glycogen/ in the vagina induced by changing hormone levels).
Very often, people with Candida overgrowth also have food allergies. Oral thrush, athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, fingernail or toenail fungus, and even diaper rush can develop as a result of the combination of a food allergy and Candida albicans overgrowth. Some people with candidiasis can also develop environmental sensitivities. Many cannot tolerate contact with rubber, petroleum products, tobacco, exhaust fumes, chemical odours.
Factors that encourage Candida overgrowth:
• Birth control pills
• Estrogen replacement therapy
• Poor diet
• Heavy metals
• Alcohol overuse
• Recreational drugs
Antibiotics can destroy up to 95% of the healthy colon microflora which keep yeast numbers in balance, especially repeated courses of broad-spectrum antibiotics. This allows Candida to flourish.
Candida overgrowth problems usually occur in people who are already unhealthy and have an underlying immune dysfunction. Candida targets mainly areas where there has been severe immune system stress, diabetes, and long-term use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, oral contraceptives and anti-ulcer medication. Ongoing exposure to environmental pollutants, or mercury seeping from amalgam fillings, breeds Candida.
Yeasts, including Candida, feed on sugar. So, if the body’s pH balance is upset for any reason, the friendly bacteria (such as lactobacilli) that normally metabolize sugars cannot thrive and do their job properly, and there is a high risk of Candida albicans flourishing in its sugar-rich environment.
Yeast overgrowth thrives in the presence of diets high in refined carbohydrates, but also dairy products, alcohol, processed foods, and hormones secreted as a result of high stress levels. Acute and chronic stress elevates cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Excessive cortisol, in turn, would raise blood sugar. Here it is important to note: No matter if the increased sugar in your body is due to eating sweets or to having an episode of extreme stress, the yeast will use the sugar as fuel to reproduce itself.
Once an imbalance occurs, Candida continues to multiply as it is fed by sugar in any form – alcohol, desserts, white flour, dairy products, and elevated sugar levels caused by high stress. As years go by, mild to severe health conditions appear.
Researches show that Candida infections and/or intestinal candidiasis is more likely to develop in people who have:
• Autoimmune conditions
• Chronic antibiotic use
• Diabetes or metabolic syndrome
• Weakened immune systems
• High levels of estrogen (oral contraceptives or estrogen replacements)
• Unhealthy dietary habits such as overeating, consuming too much sugar and processed foods, diet low in fibre
What are the signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth? Here is a list of the less severe symptoms:
• Stomach bloating
• Brain fog
• Weight gain
• Arthritic pain
• Sinus infections
• High and low blood sugar
• No sense of joy
• Severe forgetfulness
• Confusion and unpredictable emotions
• Blurred vision
• Yellow sclera
• Low libido
• Severe sugar cravings
• Rectal itching
• Tingling sensation
• Night sweats
• Clogged sinuses
• White spots on the tongue and in the mouth
Depending on the person’s health situation, as well as on the right circumstances, more severe conditions could eventually develop, such as autoimmune conditions and cancer.
Keep in mind that symptoms often worsen in damp or mouldy places, or after consumption of foods containing sugar or/and yeast.
How to naturally get rid of Candida overgrowth through diet and lifestyle changes
There are 3 main rules or steps to follow when you want to minimize Candida overgrowth with a natural approach:
- Do not feed the yeasts foods upon which they thrive. Follow the Candida diet.
- Reduce yeast growth through natural agents.
- Re-establish normal intestinal flora.
I would also add one more rule that is highly important when dealing with Candida, and that is lowering stress. As mentioned above, stress is one of the main factors that contributes to yeast overgrowth. Therefore, I recommend practising stress management techniques or avoiding stress triggers as much as possible during the cleaning process.
Before you start your journey towards reducing Candida, keep in mind the following: You need to be physically and mentally prepared for the elimination program. Following the program along with taking natural antifungal agents can cause you to experience die-off symptoms from killing the yeast. This detoxification process may make you feel worse before you feel better, and you may experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, body aches, abdominal distress, or worsening of your existing symptoms.
1.The Candida diet
While there are no studies confirming the effectiveness of the Candida diet, practice shows that you can starve away Candida by changing your dietary habits and restricting certain foods. Main rule here is: eliminate all foods the yeasts thrive upon. This includes all sugars, dairy products, refined carbohydrates, gluten, yeast containing foods (including fermented foods), corn, and alcohol.
The idea behind a Candida diet is to limit or completely exclude foods that may promote Candida growth. Restricting certain foods also helps limit the growth of other unhealthy bacteria, not just yeast, which may help restore the balance of whole-gut and body flora. It is recommended to follow this diet for six months to a year.
Candida thrives on sugar. When you have Candida overgrowth, your body craves sugar as a way to continue to “feed” the Candida. It’s important to note that sugar depletes the vital vitamins and minerals that our body needs to sustain itself. Sugar has absolutely no nutritional value; it drains the body and overloads the pancreas, which controls blood sugar levels, thus weakening the immune system. Refined sugar can be found as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, brown sugar, glucode, evaporated cane juice, high-fructrose corn syrup, lactose, and maltose.
Interesting fact: A study of 100 women in the July 1984 issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that our intake of sugar and dairy products had a positive correlation with the incidence of vaginal yeast infections. After going on a diet which eliminated these foods, more than 90 percent of these women became yeast infection-free for over a year.
Trans fats can disrupt the immune system function. As Candida overgrowth is already depressing the immune system, consuming trans fats makes it even easier for the yeast to grow and thrive. Trans fats can be found in any product that lists ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ oil among its ingredients. This means that the oil has been heated to a high temperature for the sole purpose of preserving the food product for a longer shelf life. Trans fats are found in pastries, breads, crackers, processed foods, microwave popcorn, chips, cookies, margarines.
Refined carbohydrates coat the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and could interfere with the process of absorbing nutrients and of eliminating waste. They are irritants that could contribute to leaky gut syndrome and thus lead to inflammation, allergies, Candida overgrowth, celiac disease, malnutrition.
Refined carbohydrates can be found in white-flour-based goods like pasta, pastries, baked goods, white rice, and bread. Keep in mind that even though breads are often enriched with vitamins and minerals, when the flour is bleached and refined, it loses important micronutrients, fiber in particular, which are still lacking after enrichment. Fiber is essential for proper elimination and for keeping blood cholesterol levels down.
The simple sugar galactose found in dairy products has been identified as a promoter of Candida adhesion to human cells. Lactose-containing dairy products are the main source of galactose.
Even though dairy does not directly feed Candida, it is a highly inflammatory food. Inflammation damages your gut lining. As people with Candida overgrowth often have leaky gut syndrome, this makes them more sensitive to casein, a protein in milk. And the milk sugar (lactose) is also just sugar. This allows the yeast to continue escaping into the bloodstream, along with toxins, microbes, and other particles. Once all of these foreign particles enter they bloodstream, they contribute to inflammation as the immune system tries to neutralize the threats.
Alcohol contains sugar, which should be excluded from your diet during the elimination process. It also suppresses your immune system, and a strong immune system is needed to fight off toxins in your body, and to keep the gut yeast population under control. Wine is also fermented, meaning it is made from yeast. And beer, which is also fermented, contains gluten. All of these factors contribute to Candida. According to one study alcohol negatively affects gut flora, contributes to intestinal permeability and inflammation.
Gluten and grains
Gluten is highly inflammatory. It causes inflammation in the gut, worsens intestinal permeability, and can also worsen your Candida symptoms. It’s found in grains, and all grains are broken down into simple sugars during the digestive process, which can feed Candida. That’s why I recommend avoiding them completely (especially if you have an autoimmune condition) or at least minimizing your intake of them.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are great sources of probiotics, but they can also feed Candida. These are all healthful foods, however, I would recommend waiting until after the die-off phase of Candida removal before adding them back in to recolonize the microbiome. Keep in mind that certain probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics can also feed overgrowths. Therefore, I recommend focusing in minimizing Candida overgrowth with the help of your diet first and then using fermented foods to help restore the good bacteria.
Beans and Other Legumes
Even though beans and legumes provide a great plant protein, they are starchy foods and feed Candida. Legumes can cause or worsen inflammation in many people because they contain agglutinins. Legumes can also be difficult to digest, which means there is more partially digested food in your gut. An overabundance of partially digested food in the intestinal tract contributes to bacterial overgrowth. I recommend minimizing legumes or eliminating them altogether.
Fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice
Initially, fruit should be eliminated, or minimized to up to 1 or 2 pieces a day, and preferably sweeter fruit such as melons, bananas, grapes should be avoided.
Although fruits can have anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in antioxidants, they are also high in sugar and would still feed Candida. Dried fruit and fruit juice can be major contributor to Candida overgrowth. In addition to natural fruit sugars (which is still sugar, even though it’s natural), dried fruit and fruit juice are often full of added sugars as well. Therefore, I would highly recommend cutting out all dried fruit and fruit juice.
2. Reduce yeast growth through natural agents
Take natural nutrients with antifungal/antimicrobial functions, such as:
• Grapefruit seed extract
• Olive leaf extract
• Caprylic acid (this is an octanoic acid from coconut butter)
• Oregano oil
• Coconut oil
• Clove oil
• Vinegar (NOTE: some cases of dysbiosis can be aggravated, rather than helped)
• Herbal antifungals
Rotating through two or three different antimicrobial supplements can provide better results in some cases and prevents your body from developing resistance.
3.Re-establish normal intestinal flora
Only after the Candida overgrowth is eliminated or under control, probiotics (as well as fermented foods) should be taken to reintroduce the right microbes after the opportunists have been cleaned out. Keep in mind that this can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the severity of the case. In addition, you can also start supporting the gut lining with aloe vera, as well as digestion with a supplement containing HCl (hydrochloric acid), enzymes, and bile (this could be done from the beginning of the elimination program).
My personal opinion: Candida is a natural resident in our body, and only becomes problematic under the right circumstances (when there is an overgrowth). Therefore, prevention and taking care of our gut health is really important to avoid that. There are simple rules you can stick to when it comes to your diet. In addition to that, you can work on reducing stress in your daily life by applying different stress management techniques; you can try to stay active (by doing sports, walking, or simply moving more throughout the day). Last but not least, if you get sick and have to take antibiotics or other medicaments, then make sure to extra support your gut and immune system.
I hope this information was helpful for you! If you have any questions or if you are currently on your own journey with battling Candida overgrowth and need extra support, you can always get in touch with me!