Seeing indications of candida overgrowth is fairly common in the clinic when looking at live blood cell samples under the microscope. Candida albicans is a form of yeast, an opportunistic fungus that, when allowed to grow out of control, results in symptoms including digestive disturbances, skin eruptions, fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog. It is a normal part of our gut flora, and usually coexists peacefully in that environment, however under the right (or should I say wrong) conditions, the population can get out of control and cause problems. Broad spectrum antibiotics, a diet high in sugar, ongoing stress, low stomach acid and overall poor gut health can make an environment where candida can thrive, establish growing colonies, and generally take over.
When Candida becomes problematic, your digestion is affected, your immune system is weakened and your intestinal wall becomes damaged – allowing the toxic by-products of candida to escape into the bloodstream and throughout your body. Candida doesn’t create infection in a healthy terrain, held in check by beneficial bacteria of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts.
In a terrain that allows it, candida rapidly proliferates and colonizes in mucous membranes (inside the mouth, the GI tract and vagina, as well as on the surface of the skin. This is one of the many reasons that working on the internal environment of the body is so important. This internal terrain is disrupted by things like repeated antibiotic use, hormone replacement drugs, chemicals in the environment, stress, genetics, existing conditions, sensitivities, etc. Lessening the impact by consuming less processed foods and sugar, eradicating molds in the home, avoiding harsh chemicals in the home and at work, learning ways to manage stress etc. are ways to strengthen the body’s ability to fight off opportunistic organisms.
If you have a candida overgrowth, you may not know it, however there are often clues. The body may send more obvious clues, like repeating yeast infections, fungal nails, or skin eruptions. You may feel REALLY horrible in an environment where there is mold, like a leaky basement or old building. You may feel easily confused, downright zonked, or have a hard time remembering things. That said, many people with candida overgrowth don’t get symptoms for some time.
If you are prone to yeast overgrowth, diet is critical. Sugar not only feeds candida, it makes it harder for the immune system to overcome the problem. Simple carbs like a bagel, pasta, a beer, a bowl of white rice, pastries, etc. will support the growth of these organisms. Avoiding sugar and processed carbs is a great start. If you are trying to eradicate a candida overgrowth, longer term avoidance of these foods (including sugary fruits) is a must. Even fermented, yeasty or potentially moldy foods could be hard on you if you have candida: mushrooms, kombucha, peanut butter, cashews, vinegars, alcohol, these can exacerbate symptoms if you are particularly sensitive. Focus your attention on foods rich in complex carbohydrate like non starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds (avoiding peanuts and cashews which are often moldy), healthy fats (coconut, avocado, olive oil) and make sure to consume quality proteins.
Supporting gut health is critical to healing a candida overgrowth. Remember, part of the reason that there is an overgrowth in the first place is the imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Avoiding foods that you are sensitive to, ensuring that you are taking a quality probiotic that is right for you, and making sure to get adequate fiber in your diet are just a few ways to take care of your gut. In addition to diet and gut support, there are many herbs that can be used in fighting a candida overgrowth, including Olive Leaf, Berberine, Garlic and Pau d’Arco, and there are some great combination remedies available. Working with a qualified professional will help you to choose the right one(s) for you.
I hope this overview is helpful. There are many ways to approach a candida overgrowth, and no one approach works for everyone. We would love to see you in the clinic to discuss your particular health journey.