Are you wondering if you have Candida?
You do. But stick with me, it's not all bad. Our microbiome is filled with a large variety of bacterial and yeast strains (or at least it should be). The healthy bacteria in your gut typically keep your yeast levels in check. Our microbiome keeps us healthy by aiding in: digestion, metabolism, detoxification, nutrient absorption, and even neurotransmitter production.
So why is everyone saying Candida is a bad thing?
The issue with candida (yeast) is when it has the opportunity to overgrow. This overgrowth leads to dysbiosis - an imbalance of the microbiome. Common symptoms that develop in addition to yeast overgrowth include: bowel irregularities, bloating, excess gas, heartburn, sugar cravings, inflammation, and more.
How does an overgrowth develop?
The healthy bacteria in your gut typically keep your yeast levels in check. However, several factors can cause the candida population to get out of hand:
Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men per day)
Taking oral contraceptives (birth control)
Drinking tap water with chlorine and disinfectant byproducts
Decreased stomach acid from PPI medication, or antacids for heartburn
Drinking tap water with chlorine and disinfectant byproducts
High mercury from dental amalgams, vaccines, or other
Sexual intercourse with someone with a yeast overgrowth
What are the symptoms of an overgrowth?
Symptoms are extensive and shared between a variety of health conditions, making it hard to diagnose on your own. In order to get the most effective treatment, I recommend always working with an experienced provider.
Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include, but are not limited to:
Vaginal infections, UTI, rectal or vaginal itching
Brain fog, concentration problems or poor memory
Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
Digestive Problems such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea
Low Energy, Fatigue & Malaise
Skin and nail fungal infections (such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus)
Skin conditions, (rash, eczema, psoriasis, hives)
Stubborn excess weight, especially around the midsection
Mood swings, anxiety, depression and irritability
Seasonal Allergies or itchy ears and skin
Can a yeast overgrowth resolve on its own?
Unfortunately once yeast has overgrown it will not leave without a fight. Yeast is a living organism and just like humans, it has a metabolism. Candida's metabolism results in harmful byproducts, acetaldehyde and gliotoxin. These toxins are taxing to the liver and form what is known as a biofilm around the yeast. This biofilm is what makes it so tough to rid the body of an overgrowth, even with prescription antifungals. (1)
It is important to follow your practitioner's recommendations on healing yeast overgrowth in order to dramatically reduce your inflammatory and toxin load. The most effective treatment I have found in my clients is a combination of dietary intervention, nutrition and herbal supplementation, and natural therapies.
What does treatment look like?
While individual treatments should be tailored to you by an experienced health provider, I included the basic steps of balancing a yeast overgrowth below.
1. Dietary Plan: Yeast organisms need fuel to continue thriving. Their primary fuel source is glucose, the molecule that makes up carbohydrates. Glucose is a sugar molecule that can be found in grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy. Since everyone has different symptoms and sensitivities, your practitioner will likely tailor your recommended diet plan.
2. Anti-Microbial Support: Did you know the oregano in your kitchen is a potent antimicrobial? Luckily for us, nature has provided us with plenty of whole foods that act as an antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial. These are key tools in healing a candida overgrowth. See below for some of the top food sources.
3. Support Liver Function: The liver has a high demand in the body due to our ever-changing environment, food industry, stressful lifestyle, and chemical-laden products. Add on top of that the byproducts from our own metabolism, hormones, and microbes. Supporting the liver is extremely important, especially if we know yeast overgrowth is present. A poor functioning liver can lead to chronic inflammation and immune suppression.
Some lifestyle interventions that will also help support detoxification include: exercise, epsom salt baths, coconut oil pulling, dry brushing, intermittent fasting, and infrared sauna.
4. Restore Gut Integrity: The toxic byproducts mentioned earlier that yeast produces has a major effect on our gut lining. In order to prevent immune suppression, poor digestion, and nutrient depletion we need to ensure our gut lining is strong. Repairing the gut lining is essential for long-term health. Popular gut healing foods include L-glutamine, zinc carnosine, bone broth, aloe vera, slippery elm, and marshmallow root.
What is the basis of a candida diet?
The candida diet should be both, low-sugar and nutrient-dense. The way to increase nutrients without adding sugar is to focus your meals around non-starchy vegetables. In addition to vegetables you will want to include plenty of healthy plant-based fats and clean-sourced protein.
Healthy plant-based fats include olives, nuts, seeds, coconut products, and avocado. Both coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter) contain small and medium chain fatty acids that are anti-fungal and provide a great energy source for the gut lining.
Clean protein options include wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, free-range eggs, chicken, and turkey. Many of my clients find it helpful to include a protein powder that they can add to recipes, or drink as a meal replacement.
Candida overgrowth can drain the body of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Adding plenty of herbs, spices, and roots into your diet will ensure mineral, antioxidants. Some of my favorites include ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, green tea, & maca.
It can be tough to know what is all going on in the body when yeast overgrowth is suspected. Working with an experienced health provider will ensure that you receive an effective treatment that follows a whole-body approach and healing. If you believe you have a yeast overgrowth and want to learn what you can do, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can feel like our body is working against us, but please know that is never the case!
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Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
works specifically with women's hormones, inflammation, and digestive health. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including bloating, weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, irregular cycles, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle. Follow me @moms.hormone.dietitian