Candida. What is it? How do you know if you have it? What do you do about it if you do have it? These are all great questions! Questions that we are asked very often here on Young and Raw. In this article I am going to do my best to explain candida to you, as I feel it is often over simplified or made out to be overly complex. I want to give you tools for balancing your body in general, so that you can naturally balance out your candida levels.
What is Candida?
Candida albicans is a yeast that inhabits the mouths and intestinal tracts of all humans. That’s right! Everyone has candida. When you are healthy, the candida in your body lives in a symbiotic relationship with you. It will help to detect and destroy other harmful bacteria from harming your body, as well as helping to clean up any excess sugar that may be floating around in your bloodstream that your cells are not able to absorb. This is where candida can become a problem.
When there is an imbalance in blood sugar levels, candida will be given the opportunity to grow to a level that is not optimal for the human body.
Every time you eat, there will be a small candida “bloom” as the candida feeds on the sugars that are in your blood stream waiting to be ushered into the cell with the help of insulin to be used for energy. Then, once that sugar has been processed, the candida will reduce in number back down to their normal levels.
What Causes Candida To Grow Out Of Control?
There are several things that support a Candida overgrowth and thus lead to an imbalance. Some of them include:
- Blood sugar imbalances – Poor insulin receptivity of the cell or other reasons that keep sugars in your bloodstream too long.
- Bacterial imbalance.
- Over use of antibiotics without replacing lost beneficial bacteria.
- A nutrient poor diet that is rich in refined carbohydrates.
- Having an over abundance of factors that support the candida, such as prolonged stress and lack of sleep. These two things in particular will compromise your good bacteria balance, as well as your blood sugar balance.
- A compromised immune system
- Heavy metals in the body.
- Inadequate stomach acid levels and other digestive enzymes
As you can see the causes for an imbalance can be, and most likely will be, multi factorial. The body is very wise and it has many systems in place to protect you from things becoming out of whack. It is when the body becomes overloaded with influences that are counter intuitive to health and balance that issues like candida arise. We cannot point to a single causative factor because that is generally an over simplification.
How Do I Know If I Have A Candida Overgrowth?
Just like there is no single cause for candida, there is no one symptom that will tell you that you have an overgrowth. Candida flourishes in dark, damp sugar rich environments, and so outbreaks are most common in the mouth, vagina, groin area and the intestinal tract. Candida do have a pointy tail that when growing out of control can perforate the intestinal wall and get into the blood stream. This is what is known as “systemic candida” in which case the candida can grown in places like the lungs, joints muscles and other areas of the body.
If you do have a candida overgrowth, you will most likely have more than one of the following symptoms. Most people will identify with a few of them, but that does not mean you have a candida imbalance. Bacterial imbalances, regular yeast infections, poor digestive function and imbalanced hormones will share many of the same symptoms as candida. Think critically about the list of symptoms provided here and if several of them apply to you, it is possible that you have an over growth of candida.
Common candida symptoms include:
- Thrush – in the mouth or other areas of the body
- Athletes foot
- Poor Digestion (gas and bloating)
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme sugar cravings
- Rectal itching
- excessive fatigue
- Brain fog – lack of ability to focus the mind
- Mood Swings
- Soar throat
- Low sex drive
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic pain
As I mentioned, many people can identify with some of the aforementioned symptoms. Other imbalances in the body can cause similar symptoms as well, and I feel that lately candida imbalance has been over diagnosed. It is becoming somewhat of a catch-all, similar to IBS. I feel it is important to rule out other issues like gluten or dairy sensitivity, adrenal burn out, blood sugar imbalance issues and even general fatigue before diagnosing yourself with candida overgrowth.
The treatment for candida in many ways will be very similar to the treatments that would cause other issues that may manifest like candida. A basic protocol for bringing the body back into balance can heal an assortment of issues. If you have several of the symptoms for a candida imbalance following some simple steps for re-balancing your body should help move you in a healing direction whether or not the root issue is a candida imbalance, or if the candida imbalance is a symptom of another issue.
**If you feel that you may have a severe case of imbalanced candida, your treatment plan may need to be a little more intense than would be used for a mild to moderate imbalance. If you feel that your imbalance is really bad, we highly encourage you to seek medical advice from a Naturopathic Doctor. If you are experiencing many of the symptoms mentioned above, you may also want to go see a Naturopath just to be sure that there is not a deeper imbalance going on that needs professional attention. Never feel bad about seeking help. **
How Do I Treat A Candida (or a Candida-like) Imbalance?
Treating a candida imbalance or any other mild imbalance that could be causing the symptoms mentioned above can be quite simple. A few dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way to bringing your body back into the balance it naturally wants to be in. Remember that your body is designed for health. It wants to be and fights to be in balance. Choosing dietary and lifestyle habits that support your bodies natural balance will help lead your body back to balance.
Simple tips to bring the body back into balance:
- Reduce or eliminate processed and refined sugars – These foods cause blood sugar imbalances by spiking blood sugar levels, causing the body to have to produce lots of insulin, which will lead to a blood sugar crash. Whole food sources of carbohydrates like fruits and veggies will not have this same effect and will support health blood sugar and insulin levels. ** If you are suffering with a severe case of candida, it may be wise to cut down on high sugar fruits like bananas and mangoes, and replace them with lower sugar fruits like berries, green apples, pears and cherries. You can even cut fruit out for a period of time, but remember that is no a long term solution, just a short term tool.
- Drink fresh, clean water, or water with lemon – Proper hydration is so important for a body in balance. Every single cell in your body needs hydration to function at its optimal level. Adequate water intake can also help to flush out unwanted pathogens and bacteria, helping to balance your body. Skip all drinks with added sugars like store bought fruit juices, sodas, coffee drinks and the like. Water, herbal teas and green based juices and smoothies are your best bet here. ** Here again, there are some people who recommend that you skip out on raw greens and raw green juices when dealing with sever candida overgrowth. Use your judgement and notice how these items feel in your body. If they make you feel better, keep drinking them, if you notice they make you feel worse, you can skip them until you feel more balanced.**
- Eat A fibre Rich Diet – A diet that is rich in fibre will work wonders for your body over all, but can have a profound healing effect on candida imbalance. Eating lost of fibre will help ensure that your blood sugar levels remain more even and constant throughout the day. This means that the sugars you consume will be released into your blood stream at a much slower rate than if you were eating simple, processed carbohydrates. This will mean that there is less sugar at a time for the candida to feed upon, and that the sugars can be ushered from your blood into your cells in a timely matter. Fibre will act as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your system that will help to defend you against an overgrowth of candida yeast and other pathogens and microbes. Fibre will also help to move toxins out of your digestive system, which means a cleaner body, a cleaner bloodstream, and less chance of pathogenic bacteria thriving.
- Reduce or Eliminate Dairy – Dairy is one of the worst offenders when it comes to candida imbalances. Dairy is one of the most acid forming foods you can eat, and it will cause your body to leach alkaline minerals from your bones in order to neutralize the acids. This also throws your acid/alkaline balance out of whack, which can create an ideal environment for candida outbreaks. Dairy is also highly mucus forming, which means that you will be producing an excess of mucus which will further hinder your body’s ability to properly release toxins. Mucus will coat the lining of your intestinal tract, blocking your body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, and this can also support a candida imbalance. Remember that you can still get plenty of calcium from non-dairy sources, like this list of a nutritionists top 10 sources of plant based calcium.
- Reduce or Eliminate Processed /Gluten Containing Grains – Processed grains, especially those that contain gluten, can have a very damaging effect on your intestinal lining. We talked about how the candida can perforate the gut lining, and get into the bloodstream above. Gluten containing grains can have a similar effect by sticking to the gut lining. When the intestines work to remove the stuck semi-digested grains, little holes can be torn in the digestive tract that lead to a leaky gut. This means that any candida that is living in your gut can leak through the gut wall and become systemic. Gluten can also get caught in the villi (the little finger like projections that increase the surface area of your digestive tract to increase how the nutrition you can absorb) and ferment, which will then feed the candida. Many people find that all of their gut issues go away by simply removing gluten and dairy from their diets. This is part of why you should consider ditching wheat.
- Consume Naturally Fermented Foods – Fermented foods contain heathy bacteria that help to support the health of the good bacteria in your gut. It can help to increase the number of good bacteria you have populating your intestinal track, which will improve your digestive health, as well as your ability to fight candida overgrowth. Fermented foods are very healing for the gut, and can go a long way to healing candida imbalances. Look for naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. Just be sure that what you are getting is naturally fermented and unpasteurized. Or you can make these items yourself with step-by-step help from a beginner’s guide to fermentation.
- Rest, Relax, De-stress – Stress is one of the number one causes of bacterial imbalance in the body. When you go through periods of prolonged stress, it will set up a cascade of hormonal and nutritional reactions that deplete your body of energy, resources and good bacteria. It is relatively difficult to really heal when you are in a state of constant stress. I know that you have a life and responsibilities, and letting go of all you are doing is not plausible. Some stresses are going to be present in your life, and that is OK. You do not have to quit life or give up on your responsibilities to reduce your daily stress levels. Taking 15 minutes of your lunch break to go out for a walk, stopping periodically throughout your day to take 10-20 deep belly breaths, turning off all electronics 30-60 minutes before bed, starting your day with a cup of tea and a journal, affirmations and playing with your children or pets are all awesome, easy ways to reduce stress in your life.
- Catch Up On Sleep – In order to have a healthy body ecology, you are going to have to sleep enough. Your body does the bulk of its healing work when you are asleep. When you sleep your body is busy repairing damage, filtering out toxins, absorbing nutrients and generally healing. Without adequate rest it is very difficult for the body to bring itself back into balance. Try to aim for at least 7.5 hours, or more, if you can swing it.
- Start Your Day In Peace – When you are stressed out, your body will be producing a hormone called Cortisol. This hormone mobilizes your bodies stored glucose molecules into your bloodstream to be used by your cells in case you need to run away or fight. When you have an excess of cortisol, you are most likely going to have an excess of sugar floating around in your bloodstream leading to blood sugar imbalance issues. By starting your day doing something peaceful like reading a book you enjoy, sipping a cup of tea, taking a gentle walk outside, stretching, breathing, listening to peaceful music, you will be setting your body up to be less stressed all day, and more able to achieve a balance that supports the reduction of candida levels.
- Reduce or Eliminate Processed Fats – Most of the time when experts talk about candida, they point the finger of blame towards sugars. While this is not wrong, processed sugars and processed carbohydrate foods in general do lead to blood sugar and thus candida imbalances, but that is just one side of the story. It is also important to look that the level and quality of fats one is consuming. If you are eating an abundance of trans fats, saturated animal fats or processed vegetable fats (think margarine, corn oil, soy oil, vegetable oil ect) you will be flooding your bloodstream with fats that are difficult to process. This could possibly lead to blood sugar imbalances because these fats can block your cell’s ability to properly absorb the sugars that are also in your blood. This means the sugars will stay in your blood stream longer, feeding candida. This does not mean you need to go on a really low fat diet. Just be very mindful about the kind of fats you choose – whole food fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut and olives are great choices. If you are in the middle of a serious candida issue, it is best to consume your fats at least 3 hours before you consume anything with a higher sugar content like fruit, or to wait at least an hour after eating fruit.
- Start Taking A Probiotic – The majority of people in the Western world could stand to take a probiotic. This is the one supplement that I feel comfortable recommending to most people I talk to. We live in a hyper sanitized world, where antibacterial soaps, washes, scrubs and everything in between are used on an all to frequent basis. The use of antibiotics will kill off any bad bacteria you have, along with the good. Stress, lack of sleep, lack of clean, fresh water and poor nutrition are all contributing factors to decreased levels of good bacteria within the body. Taking a round of a good probiotic that has at least 1 billion cells per capsule, has at least 3 different strains of bacteria and is stored in the fridge at least once or twice a year is something that most everyone can do to help balance out bacterial imbalances, and help to fight candida.
Creating a lifestyle that includes proper, balanced nutrition, lots of clean, fresh water, moderate activity and reduced stress will go a long way to helping heal and correct any imbalances you may be experiencing in your body. Doing these things will also help to put you more in contact with your own intuition, which will let you know when and if it is time to take further action, seek extra help and support or anything else that your body may be asking you for.
Supplements That Can Help
If you are confident that you are dealing with a candida imbalance, and you have taken steps to help create a lifestyle that facilitates proper balance in your body, there are some supplements you can consider taking to help support the body in fighting off excess candida. Many of these items do have anti-microbial action, so it is a good idea to take some probiotics in tandem with them. We highly recommend that you consult a practitioner before you start taking any supplements. Listen to your body and to your intuition as well. Remember that supplements are medicine, so you really do not want to be taking things that you do not need.
Supplements that can help the body find a bacterial balance that can fight candida imbalance:
- Grapefruit Seed Extract – Grapefruit Seed Extract is highly anti microbial and can really help to kill of lots of pathogenic microbes, including Candida.
- Garlic – You can take garlic in its whole food form or in its supplemental form. Garlic is highly anti-microbial and will aid the body in killing off pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungus.
- Caprylic Acid/Lauric Acid – Caprylic acid and lauric acid are both fatty acid that can be found in coconut and palm oil that have an affinity for fat coated bacteria. You can take them both in supplemental form or you can take it in the form of coconut oil. Lauricidin is an awesome supplemental form of Lauric Acid which you can check out here – http://lauricidin.com/
- Coconut Oil & Black Walnut Oil – These have been shown to be very effective at treating all sorts of bacteria, fungus and parasites.
- Nascent Iodine – You need to buy Nascent Iodine and this is very good at fighting many kinds of bacteria.
There are lots of other antibacterial supplements that can help, this is not an exhaustive list. These are some great items to get you started. Again, do what feels right for you.
In the end, having a balance lifestyle is your best defence against a Candida overgrowth. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.