Last year I embarked on a short Candida cleanse (about a month). I provided information along the way, but I though a more in-depth article might provide more answers. I do plan on continuing my cleanse, but I’ve decided to wait until it’s a bit warmer; it’s difficult to do any kind of detox cleanse in the winter, especially during one as cold as the one we’ve had!!
White coating on your tongue, mysterious skin rashes, bloating, constipation and you’re always ready to eat something sweet? You could be suffering from Candida overgrowth.
What is Candida Albicans?
Candida albicans is the most common kind of yeast that co-exists with humans. Under optimal conditions, candida plays a valuable role in our digestive systems, since we need small amounts of candida in our mouths and throughout our digestive system in order to fully digest our food.
However, as anyone who’s ever baked bread knows, yeast likes to grow. (It is a fungus, after all.) When circumstances are ideal, our gut bacteria keeps intestinal yeast growth in check, creating a harmonious balance between bacteria and yeast.
The delicate balance between gut bacteria and yeast
This delicate balance is, however, easily disturbed. For example, we can lose beneficial bacteria after taking a round of antibiotics, or power candida’s growth by bingeing on sugar or alcohol. Estrogen dominance, birth control pills and stress can all multiply the amount of yeast in our systems. The result? Candida overgrowth.
Is systemic candida the same as a yeast infection?
Most people are familiar with the different kinds of yeast infections. A candida infection in the mouth is called oral thrush, and is marked by white, bumpy patches in the mouth and on the tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing. A vaginal yeast infection causes redness, swelling, and itchiness, and produces an unpleasant white discharge. These reactions are typically immediately noticeable – and very irritating.
In contrast, a systemic candida overgrowth can be much more subtle – although it’s impact may be more troublesome. When beneficial gut bacteria decrease and yeast multiplies, the overall effect on our bodies can be far-reaching.
How does systemic candida overgrowth work?
When candida grows unchecked, it can permeate into the lining of your intestine leading to “leaky gut” syndrome. As the name suggests, leaky gut syndrome causes undigested food, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” from your intestine into your bloodstream.
When the immune system is faced with these unknown invaders, it kicks into overdrive trying to neutralize the threat in any way it can. This can lead to a number of symptoms ranging from inflammation to autoimmune diseases.
Candida overgrowth is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary so greatly. If you’re experiencing autoimmune symptoms, wondering why your thinking has been foggy recently, or trying to figure out troublesome digestive issues, it’s possible that a systemic candida overgrowth could be the underlying problem.
What are the symptoms of systemic candida?
1. Despite your best intentions, you have strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. (Candida wants to keep multiplying, so a taste of sugar will leave you wanting more!)
2. You feel itchy all over, especially, and sometimes embarrassingly, in the anal or vaginal areas.
3. Speaking of embarrassment, you suffer from toenail fungal infections or unexplained itchy foot rashes (Yup, that was me!)
4. Your digestion feels out of whack, with a lot of gassiness and bloating.
5. You experience mood swings and frustration for no obvious reason – or you frequently feel anxious or depressed, even though you are doing your best to look after your emotional well-being.
6. Unexplained joint pain makes it hard to keep up with your exercise routine, and that lack of exercise is only worsening your other symptoms. You want to work out, but it’s not easy!
Diagnostic testing for gut bacteria and yeast
Boxed candida “kits” may be popular, but in reality overcoming candida overgrowth and restoring a healthy balance of yeast and gut bacteria can be very challenging. Work with a naturopath and nutritionist (if you need food or recipe guidance) to develop a program that’s tailored specifically for you – starting with a complete analysis and treatment plan.
Once you have a good picture of what’s really going on in your system, you and your health team can work on a plan to restore balance.
A holistic approach to managing candida
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as a holistic approach means taking an in depth look at various aspects of your lifestyle.
- Specialized candida diet
In general, the first step of treatment consists of dietary changes. (You knew that was coming, right?) Focus on a diet plan that works for you to starve out the candida.
Dietary changes should be realistic and manageable over the long term. After all, you want to create a sustainable solution, not a quick fix that may be too difficult to stick with.
- Say goodbye to sugary sweets
To get candida under control, people have the greatest success by limiting all processed sweets from their diet. It’s also recommended that you cut back on starchy carbohydrates. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are the best options for a sweet treat.
- … and alcohol
Eliminating all fermented or moldy foods and drinks, including alcohol, will help control candida growth. This includes well known fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha, and also the less-obvious ones, like soy sauce or peanuts.
- Add extra fibre
Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking lots of water (half your weight in ounces per day is a good goal) can help improve your intestinal “transit time” so nothing lingers too long in your system.
- Carbs are allowed, in moderation
It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t necessarily completely forbidden on a candida diet; only certain ones are. Although processed flour can contribute to to a candida overgrowth and slower transit time, whole food carbohydrates such as rye or quinoa can add good fiber and minerals to your system. Look at your carb consumption and make any necessary adjustments.
The steps above can slow the growth of candida which may improve some of your symptoms, but as always tackling one side of the issue isn’t enough. You also want to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. An effective way to do this is by consuming more probiotics or “healthy bacteria”. A high quality supplement of the right kind of probiotic for you is usually recommended, as they are able to rapidly populate the gut and restore balance.
Foods that kill candida
Research has found that many substances aid in the killing off of stubborn overgrowth. Studies have found turmeric to be effective as well as coconut oil, some essential oils and much more. In order to determine the right solution for your body, help by your naturopathic doctor is recommended. Talk to him/her about the best treatment plan to eradicate this overgrowth and eliminate the problems candida overgrowth can cause in your system.
The effect of stress on candida
In addition to dietary changes, reducing your stress levels can help. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time will increase blood sugar.
Since candida feeds off sugar, stress can make us more vulnerable to candida overgrowth. It’s not always easy to lower stress levels – life often gets in the way. However, we can change the way we react to stress through science-backed stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.
Candida overgrowth is one of the more common reasons people seek holistic care, so your naturopath should be able to provide you with the support you need in preparation for it and during the cleanse. It’s not a quick-fix by any means, but it’s worth it for your health in the long run! After all, you only have one ‘You’!