Could Yeast Be the Root Cause of Your Ongoing Discomfort? Everything You Need to know About Candida

Posted by Amina AlTai on

If you speak with any functional medicine doctor or Naturopath for more than five minutes, you’ll undoubtedly hear the word “Candida” mentioned.  Candida Albicans, more specifically, is a type of single-celled fungus or yeast that is a normal part of a healthy microbiome—in small doses.  They also inhabit other warm, moist areas of our bodies such as our mouths, skin, vagina and rectum.  This yeast is kept at bay by healthy bacteria, ensuring it stays at normal levels and doesn’t overrun the GI tract.  However, when the yeast is allowed to overgrow, issues like sinus infections, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, fatigue, weight gain and GI discomfort ensue.

It’s estimated that 70% of the US population has Candida in their GI tract.  A modern epidemic, thanks to the standard American diet (SAD), overconsumption of sugar refined carbohydrates, alcohol use and overuse of antibiotics (note, I am not against antibiotics, they have a real and functional role in our society, but they are majorly overprescribed resulting in antibiotic-resistant-bacteria as well as systemic yeast infections).  Candida Albicans, when found in large quantities in our bodies, produces waste products known as acetaldehyde, a neurotoxin and carcinogen that promotes free radical activity in the body.

Of course, our bodies have a natural way of removing such waste products; but when too much acetaldehyde is being released the body can struggle to break it down and remove it fast enough. Resultantly, it can be released into the bloodstream, causing symptoms like nausea, headaches and more. 

Symptoms of Candida can generally be distilled into the following categories:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Digestive issues
  • Recurring yeast infections
  • Oral thrush
  • Sinus infections
  • Food allergies/intolerances
  • Fungal infections on the skin and nails
  • A weak immune system
  • Joint pain
  • Low mood

Here is a quick questionnaire from bodyecology.com to help identify if you are at risk for Candida infections. Additionally, there are ways to test for Candida so check in with your health care provider for an actual diagnosis. 

  1. Have you taken tetracyclines (Sumycin®, Panmycin®, Vibramycin®,Minocin®, etc.) or other antibiotics for acne for 1 month (or longer)?
  2. Have you, at any time in your life, taken other "broad spectrum" antibiotics for respiratory, urinary or other infections for 2 months or longer, or for shorter periods 4 or more times in a 1-year span?
  3. Have you taken a broad spectrum antibiotic drug – even for one period?
  4. Have you, at any time in your life, been bothered by persistent prostatitis, vaginitis, or other problems affecting your reproductive organs?
  5. Have you been pregnant 2 or more times?
  6. Have you taken birth control pills for more than 2 years? Taken birth control pills 6 months to 2 years?
  7. Have you taken prednisone, Decadron®, or other cortisone-type drugs by mouth or inhalation** for more than 2 weeks? Taken these drugs 2 weeks or less?
  8. Does exposure to perfumes, insecticides, fabric shop odors, or other chemicals provoke moderate to severe symptoms? Does exposure produce mild symptoms?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and are experiencing symptoms, if could be time to speak to your healthcare provider about Candida. 

So, how do we keep Candida at bay?

One of the challenges of this particular type of yeast is that it is exceptionally adaptive.  However, there are a few general changes you can make that make it difficult for Candida to thrive. 

Manage your stress

Chronic, unmanaged stress can wreak havoc on our digestive tract.  The hormones produced by the stress response moves our body from rest and digest more to fight-or-flight response. 

Studies suggest that bacteria that is normally present in the gut can detect the stress response and turn usually harmless microbes into pathogenic bacteria that rapidly mutate.  When bacteria becomes pathogenic, they grow quickly and this can cause infection and dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance).  Additionally, when we’re stressed it impacts our digestion and our immune system, so our bodies become challenged at fighting and eliminating these invaders.

Remove sugar and minimize carbohydrates:

Sugar and carbohydrates actually feed the yeast allowing it to proliferate and perpetuate your symptoms. Even though fruit contains fructose, a generally perceived healthier sugar, it still feeds yeast. Be particularly wary of dried fruits as they tend to contain added sugar along with the fructose.

 Introduce probiotics

A great probiotic blend will help to restore your microbiome by supporting the proliferation of good bacteria, fighting the bad bacteria and inhibiting the growth of Candida.  A good rule of thumb is to look for a probiotic with at least 15 different strains of bacteria, because a diverse microbiome is a healthier one. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure your probiotic has at least 25 billion CFU to ensure you’re getting the right quantity of bacteria as well.

Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods naturally contain healthy bacteria that will help support bacterial diversity and ward off bad bacteria and yeast. 

Remove alcohol

Alcohol can be troubling for those dealing with Candida for a few reasons.  It weakens the immune system, it impacts sleep, and it effects your adrenal glands.  Alcohol is also quickly metabolized as sugar which, we know, is food for yeast.  So, if you’re looking to get rid of your symptoms once and for all, avoiding alcohol should be part of your plan.  

Watch the caffeine

Our favorite morning cup of joe might be causing more harm than good when it comes to Candida.  Not only is it highly acidic, but can also weaken the immune system and tax the adrenals.  Moreover, coffee can have high concentrations of mold and mycotoxins which can continue to support the growth of Candida.  What’s more, a 2012 study found caffeine can also perpetuates spikes in your blood sugar which, in turn, feeds the Candida overgrowth.

So what specifically should we eat and avoid on a Candida diet?

Foods to Eat

Non-starchy vegetables

Asparagus
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Celery
Cucumber
Eggplant
Garlic (raw)
Kale
Onions
Rutabaga
Spinach
Tomatoes
Zucchini

Low sugar fruits

Avocado
Lemon
Lime
Olives

 

Non-glutinous grains

Buckwheat
Millet
Oat bran
Quinoa
Teff 

Healthy proteins

Anchovies
Chicken
Eggs
Herring
Salmon (wild)
Sardines
Turkey

Some dairy products

Butter
Ghee
Kefir
Yogurt (probiotic)

Low-mold nuts and seeds

Almonds
Coconut
Flax seed
Hazelnuts
Sunflower seeds

Herbs, spices & condiments

Apple cider vinegar
Basil
Black pepper
Cinnamon
Cloves
Coconut aminos
Dill
Garlic
Ginger
Oregano
Paprika
Rosemary
Salt
Thyme
Turmeric

Healthy fats and oils

Coconut oil (virgin)
Flax oil
Olive oil
Sesame oil

Sweeteners like stevia and erythritol

Erythritol
Stevia
Xylitol

Fermented foods

Kefir
Olives
Sauerkraut
Yogurt

Drinks

Filtered water
Herbal teas 

Foods to Avoid

High sugar fruits

Bananas
Dates
Fruit juices
Grapes
Mango
Raisins

Glutinous grains

Barley
Rye
Spelt
Wheat

Meats like pork and lunch meat

Pork
Processed meats
Shellfish
Swordfish
Tuna

Some dairy products

Cheese
Milk
Cream
Whey isolate

Moldy nuts and seeds

Nut butters from moldy nuts (cashews, pistachios and peanuts to name a few)

Condiments with added sugars

Barbecue sauce
Horseradish
Ketchup
Mayonnaise
Soy sauce
White vinegar

Refined and processed vegetable oils

Canola oil
Fake “butter” spreads
Margarine
Soybean oil
Sunflower oil 

Sugars and sugar substitutes

Agave
Aspartame
Cane sugar
Corn syrup
Honey
Maple syrup
Molasses
Sugar

Caffeinated or sugary drinks

Black tea
Coffee
Diet & regular soda
Energy drinks
Fruit juices

Alcoholic drinks

Beer
Cider
Liquors
Spirits
Wine

 

Disclaimer: The information provided on our social media channels, blog and newsletters is for educational and informational purposes only and is made available to you as a self-help tool. While we draw on our professional and clinical experience, this information should not be substituted for advice from your medical professional.

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