For those who have been following me for some time, will realise that this is an area of personal interest to me.
I was the typical party girl through my teens, abusing my body with binge drinking, loads of refined carbs, lack of sleep, together with years of taking the oral contraceptive pill. But my body wasn’t prepared to just stop and take it, instead it put up a fight.
By the time I hit my late teens, I had developed some major warning signs. Among many other imbalances, I was experiencing ongoing thrush infections and I clearly remember the dreaded discomfort I would go through daily.
If only I had listened to my body.
The Pathogenic Yeast
Just like many of my patients today, I now realiase I was suffering from a typical overgrowth of Candida Albicans. Candida is a pathogenic yeast, which in the right conditions will thrive and grow and take over the gut environment (more yeast, less protective beneficial bacteria). Candida converts sugar into ethanol (alcohol), placing stress on the elimination organs of your body including your liver. A byproduct of this ethanol metabolism is the very toxic acetaldehyde, which contributes to many of the brain fog, fatigue and hungover type symptoms.
Candida is so persistent and difficult to control, due to its ability to develop a protective layer around itself, called a biofilm. It is important to control your Candida, as the longer it remains at imbalanced levels, the more dangerous it is for your health.
Causes of Candida:
Candida is normally found in the intestinal tract and only becomes a health issue when an overgrowth occurs. Candida has the chance to grow rapidly out of control, when you give it a little push in the right (well, wrong) direction. Often this push comes from one or more of these causes:
Babies born C-section & lack of breastfeeding.
When a baby is born naturally, they receive a crucial dose of good bacteria through the birth canal. C-section babies miss out on this good bacteria, and right from day one, won’t have adequate good bacteria to fight against yeasts, such as candida.
Breastfeeding is also crucial towards supporting the growth of bub’s immune and digestive system, through colostrum, good fats and loads of other nutrients they receive through the milk. Those that are are exclusively bottle fed, once again miss out on this important start to life and will be more prone to developing a candida overgrowth.
Antibiotics wipe out the bad bacteria, but also unfortunately wipe out the good guys with it. As the beneficial bacteria plays a major role in keeping yeasts, such as candida in check, once you take just one course of antibiotics, the good bacteria are outnumbered and the rapid growth of candida occurs.
Antibiotics also have the ability to damage the small intestinal lining, called gut mucosa and therefore contribute to a condition called ‘leaky gut’ (intestinal permeability). What follows is a whole host of frustrating digestive discomfort conditions, which food intolerances are often caused by and also trigger.
A diet high in sugar trans fats, alcohol and/ or caffeine.
Candida feed off of sugar, so it is a no brainer that a diet high in sugar can cause levels of overgrowth in the body. Alcohol and caffeine put pressure on the bodies vulnerable adrenal glands. When these become weak, the strength of the stomach acid and therefore the immune system is also affected, leading to an an environment where candida can flourish. Transfats, found in heated and processed industrial seed oils (cotton seed oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil) create inflammation in body and disrupt the bodies immunity. This can contribute to ongoing Candida overgrowth.
The Oral Contraceptive Pill.
Taking the pill has a direct impact on your gut flora. Not just that, it has an detrimental affect on your children’s and grandchildren’s gut bacteria as well, increasing susceptibility towards Candida. More info on less intrusive options is available here.
Chronic, long term stress.
Stress acts in a similar way, upsetting the crucial balance of the good and bad bacteria in the gut. If stress is ongoing, this can contribute to long term digestive issues and an increased risk of candida. Lack of quality sleep is considered a major stress on the body and can cause candida overgrowth, by affecting the health of the immune system.
A natural mechanism for the body to protect you against harmful levels of heavy metals, is to produce higher levels of candida.
Red flag signs of Candida:
Ticked some boxes above and keen to find out what this candida bizzo is doing to your body? Well, to be frank, the signs and symptoms for candida are endless, and vary from person to person. These however, are the signs and symptoms I see regularly in clinic:
- Intense sugar, and / or carb cravings (sweets, bread, pasta). Candida feeds off of sugar, it needs it to survive and thrive. With high levels in your system, these cravings will often get the better of you!
- Constipation and/ or diarrhea
- Heart burn/ reflux
- Symptoms worsening after enjoying fermented foods and drinks, such as sauerkraut and kombucha.
- Sinus congestion
- Recurring infections, such as ear, sinus and the flu.
Mental, Emotional and Nervous:
- Headaches and migraines
- Fast or irregular heart beat
- Poor memory
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Mental fatigue and brain fog. When you have issues with a leaky gut, toxins will escape the gut and potentially can cross the blood brain barrier, therefore affecting the way you think and feel.
- Indecisive and feelings of overwhelm.
- Behavioural disturbances.
Hair, skin, nails:
- Fungal nail infections, Athletes foot and Tinea
- Dry, flaky skin
- Eczema and other rashes
- Oral and Vaginal Thrush
- Jock itch
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)
Reproductive, Urinary & Hormonal related:
- Low libido
- Recurring bladder infections.
Other signs and symptoms:
- Whole body fatigue.
- Muscle pain.
- Additional symptoms of adrenal and thyroid weakness can occur, partly due to the lack of good bacteria struggling to manufacture adequete B group vitamins for the body.
Convinced you’re battling with a persistent Candida overgrowth?
In order to get your candida overgrowth under control, you must look at treating the body holistically. This includes diet modifications, herbal and nutritional supplementation, along with specific exercises and activities. I wont lie, dedication is required, but if you do this right, you will reduce the risk of re-infection later on. Let’s start with the diet…
Use foods to halt Candida.
- As sugar feeds candida, your diet should restrict all sugar. Stevia (minimal), lemons, limes, grapefruit, along with 1 piece apple/ handful berries, are the exception.
- Grains should be excluded, due to their irritating effect on the digestive tract. If you opt for some pseudo grains, such as buckwheat and quinoa, ensure you soak them for a good 6-7 hours before cooking, to allow for easier digestion.
- Some fermented foods have to go (for now). This includes alcohol, vinegar, soy sauce, tamari, natto, miso, kombucha and even your favourite sauerkraut. Introducing these guys before dealing with candida, can actually feed the candida and make your symptoms worse.
- Use this high strength probiotic coconut water kefir and coconut yoghurt, to boost your beneficial gut bacteria.
- Bone broths. I’ve chatted about how to make these here. They are super important for healing the gut, and are rich in nourishing minerals and amino acids. Drink them straight, or incorporate as a stock into cooking.
- Over the day, include around quality organic grass fed meats, eggs, along with wild caught fish, lots of non starchy vegetables, some activated nuts and seeds, and a small portion (around 1 handful per day) of complex carbohydrates, like sweet potato, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth; along with 1 handful of fruit (berries are the best option).
Note, some people will also need to eliminate the fruit and complex carbohydrates if symptoms persist, or if they aggravate digestive disturbances.
- Drink around 1.5- 2 litres water (including Pau D’arco herbal tea and bone broth), daily. This will help to flush out the candida from your system.
- Use loads of garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemon juice, thyme and oregano in your food and drinks. These all different properties which help to enhance digestive system function, and therefore support healthy elimination of candida.
- Cook with and add coconut oil through your drinks and meals, due to its natural anti-fungal effects. You can use up to 3 tbsp per day.
To really get your candida under control, following this type of diet is required for at least 6 weeks, but in chronic cases, up to 12 weeks. If this sounds overwhelming, following my 21 Day Summer Detox will help prepare you for a stricter candida cleanse program such as this one.
Healthy digestion is the foundation of your health. For more information on healing your gut, I highly recommend this online Gut Healing Summit.
By using diet modifications, you can work towards overcoming the underlying digestive issues of Candida. Once you fix this, you will see many other areas of your health improve.
See more about Candida treatment here.
I love hearing your feedback. Comment below if you have experience overcoming Candida.
Love, health and happiness,
Image sourced from Photo Bucket.