Candida is a very common yeast infection of which most women will have at least one episode during their life. There are more than 100 different types of candida, the most common variety being candida albicans, which lives in the mucous membranes. Candida is found in the environment, and in the skin and mucous membranes of people. It thrives in warm, moist, alkaline areas. Small amounts exist in the mouth and intestines of everyone, and it has a very important job in aiding nutrient absorption. However, when overpopulated with candida, it can inflame and break down the wall of the intestine and penetrate the bloodstream. This pathogen often takes advantage and overgrows when you are low in the good bacteria naturally occurring in the gut.
What causes candida overgrowth?
The healthy bacteria in your gut typically keep your candida levels in check. However, several factors can cause the candida population to get out of hand. The most common cause of candida overgrowth is antibiotics. These can be lifesaving but also can come with lots of side effects that should never be ignored. Broad spectrum antibiotics do exactly what they are designed to do – kill bacteria. The major consequence of antibiotics is that they clear all the good bacteria in the gut which is needed for proper digestion and our immune system.
The next cause of candida overgrowth is poor diet, especially if an unhealthy high-sugar diet is eaten for a long period of time. The modern Western diet is full of sugar- it is found in everything and most of the time hidden very well in foods such as processed meats, pre-made sauces, salad dressings, cereals and breads. The sugary diet that most of us eat is exactly what candida albicans need to thrive. Of course it’s important to note that it takes a long term, high-sugar diet to cause a candida overgrowth.
The other causes of candida can be:
- High alcohol consumption
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Living a high-stress lifestyle
- Food intolerances
- The use of drugs designed to suppress digestive acid secretions (e.g. proton pump inhibitors and H2-receptor antagonists)
- Pregnancy and menstruation- both can disrupt good bacteria balance
Do I have candida overgrowth? Questions to determine if you may have candida albicans:
- Do you suffer from digestive symptoms like bloating and gas especially after meals, diarrhea, IBS?
- Do you have skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and hives? Redness, itching and swelling of the affected areas?
- Do you have sugar cravings, certain food cravings or low blood sugar?
- Do you suffer from ‘brain fog’?
- Do you have mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue or poor concentration/memory?
- Do you have trouble losing weight?
- Do you often suffer from thrush, or have a white coating of the tongue?
- Have you used antibiotics or the contraceptive pill in the last 2 years?
- Do you have history of yeast infections, vaginal, oral, athlete’s foot or jock itch?
- Does your partner have a history of yeast infections, vaginal, oral, athlete’s foot or jock itch?
How do you test for candida overgrowth?
A comprehensive stool test is the most accurate test available. This ‘poo’ test checks how well your whole digestive track is functioning by measuring the yeast. It can determine the species of yeast, which ensures that the proper treatment is carried with specific implementation.
Alternatively you can get a blood test to check for different antibodies such as IgG, IgA, and IgM but I always prefer a stool test because I find that these can often be negative even when the stool or urine test is positive.
Nutritional treatment for candida overgrowth
A nutritional approach to candida is to improve resistance to infection by supporting the immune system, while at the same time addressing the overgrowth of the candida albicans organism. An anti-candida diet is the most effective way to gain long term control and should be followed under a Nutritionist’s advice. Other strategies you can implement include:
- Nutritional supplementation to kill the candida species
- Restore the healthy bacteria that naturally keep your candida population under control. Repopulating the gut is essential to put good bugs into the gut and to decrease the bad ones. Including the right probiotic is essential for a nutritional approach.
- Support your immune system by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Favouring high-fibre foods also supports your body’s detoxification processes.
- Support the detox process and enhance liver function- The liver is the body’s filter and when you get rid of candida, it has to function optimally to help the body rid itself of the yeast.
- Getting rid of the candida overgrowth primarily requires eliminating sugar in all of its simple forms like candy, desserts, alcohol and flours.
- Thrush is more likely to develop in warm, moist environments. Avoid tight clothing, and wear cotton rather than nylon underwear.
- Avoid antibiotic use unless absolutely necessary.
- Investigate any food intolerances or sensitivities.
An individualized nutritional program with supporting supplements can be developed for you.