CANDIDA 101: Treating Yeast Overgrowth in the Gut

Let's be clear...everyone has Candida.

That's short for Candida Albicans, a form of yeast from the fungus family. We all have it, but how much is too much? This yeast is attributed to the common yeast infection but what if I told you that its also frequently overgrows in your intestines. Typically it is confined to the lower intestines but given the right or should I rather say, the wrong circumstances it proliferates. The good news is that the healthy bacteria in your gut known as acidophilus and bifidobacteria typically keep your candida levels in check. The bad news is that many different factors can disrupt this micro biome. 

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So How Do You Get it? 

Brewers would know this one. Essentially, to make alcohol, you require yeast and sugar, this creates fermentation and yeast proliferation. So if you eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar such as potatoes, yam, pasta, ride bread....it acts like fuel for the yeast. But lets take it one step further, what about fruit? I thought that was supposed to be healthy. When it comes to the body, food isn't black or white, the exception being fast food and junk food. Fruit and fruit concentrates, jam, honey, juice, straight sugar that yeast uses as ammunition. Alcohol? Sugar. And if we take it one step further, think of condiments, those sweet sauces, ketchup, teriyaki, salad dressings, the list goes on.

So yes, treating candida really means avoiding sugar all together but this also includes foods that act like food for the yeast such as fermented foods including kombucha, sauerkraut and pickled foods. 

However, the major cause of overgrowth is Antibiotics, life-saving cures for so many diseases, but they are nondiscriminatory thereby killing the "good" bacteria. Remember, Candida is a yeast, which comes from a fungus, so the classic general spectrum antibiotics don't eradicate it, instead they fuel the fire.

What are common candida symptoms?

The better question to ask is what symptoms doesn't Candida cause. This yeast overgrows, and it releases toxins into your body, it basically induces inflammation from the inside out. Symptoms include: 

·       Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus

·       Feeling tired, brain fog, allergies, lack of focus, ADHD, fatigue, poor memory.

·       Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes.

·       Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, sugar cravings.

·       Autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Ulcerative colitis, etc.


How do you treat it?  

Step 1: Eliminate the use of antibiotics, steroids, immune-suppressing drugs, and consider whether birth control is right for you. Now of course this is a personal choice but its important to be informed, research shows that the change in hormones alters the flora of the vagina and the gut, hence, the data shows, women are more prone to yeast infections as a result of it and the same can be applied to the intestinal tract. 

Step 2: To wage war on Candida you need to be strong and robust. That means a healthy immune system supported by sleep, exercise, stress management and the diligence to see it to the end!

Step 3: When you kill of these critters, guess what? They release toxins, that get spilled into your gut and absorbed into the blood stream. Proponents of detoxification know that this can lead to a common side effect known as a Die Off Reaction. All these toxins build up, and if your bowels aren't moving, and your liver is under stress, you cannot eliminate them as quickly as they build up ad the outcome leads to feeling under the weather with flu like symptoms and general malaise. Therefore, its important to support your detoxifying organs. For example, consume psyllium seed or ground flax seeds to increase fiber in your diet to promote bowel movements. Drink sufficient water, take liver herbs, sweat! As your body gets rid of toxins and the yeast dies, your symptoms may get worse before they get better.

Step 4: Probiotics are some of your best friends in treating this Candida endeavour. Your crime fighting partner. We've had a symbiotic relationship with "healthy" bacteria for over thousands of years, its time to form alliances and the best way to do so is by taking a probiotic. Yes yogurt has probiotic but given the sugar and the sheer amount you have to take (I'm talking liters here), its best to stick to a supplement. 

Step 5: You need to kill the Candida by taking medication, who knew!? Now there are pharmaceutical options available but I don't find them to be more effective in clinical practice. There are many natural options available for those suffering from Candidiasis. Treatments include garlic, cloves, oregano, black walnut, goldenseal, caprylic acid, etc. Some of these can be eaten in their natural form, others need to have their medicinal ingredient extracted in alcohol and the easiest route would be to take a high quality supplement from a professional brand. 

Step 6: Lastly, you guessed it, there is a diet involved (as per usual) but what I've found in my practice is the following.

  • When you commit to something a 100% it is easier than 90%, because that last 10% will always pull you down, lure you into making a mistake and tears at your conscience. 
  • Sure, the list is restrictive, but this diet is more about you doing something different. Change is difficult but this process is about becoming creative, trying new things and expanding your palate. 

That said, here are the foods you have to cut out and yes the list is exhaustive

  • High Carbohydrate Vegetables: Sweet corn, Lima beans, English peas, White potatoes (baked), Sweet potatoes, Beans and peas (dried and cooked), Squashes.
  • Pasta: Keep to a minimum.  Refined white flour and water often acts like a refined sugar in the body.
  • Sugar and sugar-containing foods: Also avoid honey, molasses, maple syrup, maple sugar, date sugar and turbinado sugar.
  • Packaged and processed foods:  Canned, bottled, boxed and other packaged and processed foods may contain refined sugar.
  • Fruit & Fruit juices:  All fruit should be avoided for 2 weeks, then add 1 pieces per day. No fruit juices. Vegetable juices ok.
  • Dried and candied fruits:  Raisins, apricots, dates, prunes, figs, pineapple.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Condiments, sauces and vinegar-containing food

The journey is long but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and remember, you dont have to do it by yourself. Do it with a friend or a loved one to keep you accountable! Ask for advice from a Naturopathic Doctor and gain support from a nutritionist for the tips and tricks to anti-candida recipes!