Combatting candida overgrowth
Combatting candida overgrowth
Candida, or the Candida albicans fungus, is the most common yeast in the human body. If fact, there are more than 150 known candida species living in various parts of your body which aid digestion and absorb nutrients from food.
Candida commonly lives in the gut, mouth, throat, vagina, and skin and for most of us, it is part of a healthy microbiome and usually doesn’t cause any harm.
Candida overgrowth, however, is when the fungus grows out of control. This happens when there are fewer beneficial bacteria present in the gut and it can cause a myriad of unwanted symptoms.
The key to treating Candida is to boost the immune system and restore the gut flora, but also remove the food supply to the yeast organism.
What is candida overgrowth?
Candida can cause infections if it grows out of control or if it enters deep into the body. This is known as candida overgrowth or candidiasis.
Once candida turns into candidiasis, many problems can occur, including skin rashes, yeast infections and GI distress. It can also cause infections in the bloodstream or internal organs such as the kidney, heart, or brain. This is called systemic candidiasis and can be a very serious, life-threatening medical condition, particularly for people with compromised immune systems.
What can lead to candida overgrowth?
One of the most common reasons for candida overgrowth is dysbiosis, which is the imbalance of the good and bad gut bacteria. The health of your digestive system relies heavily on the good bacteria that live in your gut to keep bad bacteria and fungi in check. Once your gut microbiome is disrupted, candida can quickly multiply. 
There are lifestyle factors and medical conditions that impact dysbiosis and make a person more susceptible to developing candida overgrowth, including:
- Autoimmune disease
- Taking antibiotics
- Eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbs
- High alcohol intake
- A weakened immune system
- Taking oral contraceptives
- High stress levels 
Candida can also lead to leaky gut in which particles pass through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. Candida cells normally have a rounded shape but under certain circumstances, the yeast switches to a hyphal form. That means its shape elongates into a sticklike structure that can pierce holes in your gut wall, increasing the number of particles and pathogens that pass through. 
How do you know if you have candida overgrowth?
A recurring yeast infection is easy to spot for a medical practitioner, but ongoing, chronic candida is not as easy to diagnose. There are a number of wide-ranging signs that you have candida overgrowth, including:
- Acid reflux
- Weight loss resistance 
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
- Feeling tired and worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
- Thyroid symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives and rashes
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety or depression
- Panic attacks
- Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings 
Testing for candida overgrowth
If you think you may have candida overgrowth, laboratory tests will confirm your suspicions. It is often recommended to have a comprehensive stool test, a blood test and a SIBO breath test which can reveal fungal, bacterial, or parasitic overgrowth. It may also be a good idea to test for leaky gut syndrome to find out if there is matter passing into the blood stream from the gut.
What to do if you think you have candida overgrowth
1. Don’t take antibiotics, steroids, or hormones unless necessary
2. Eat a diet that doesn’t feed yeast in the gut (low in sugar and refined carbohydrates) – more on diet below
3. Use probiotics to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria
4. Take antifungal herbs and medications
5. Identify potential environmental toxic fungi and moulds in your home or workplace
6. Reduce stress 
Use natural medicines
Some of the best antifungal compounds include the following:
- Oregano – Oil of oregano has many antibacterial and antifungal properties
- Garlic – Fresh, crushed garlic is a potent antimicrobial and immune booster
- Citrus seed extract – phytochemicals in citrus seeds have been found to have potent antimicrobial properties
- Berberine – this plant extract comes from goldenseal and barberry
- Tannins – astringent compounds found in tea and the bark of trees
- Undecylenate – a potent antifungal
- Isatis tinctoria – a Chinese herb can be a useful adjunct to treating intestinal imbalances
- Caprylic acid – a useful compound for treating yeast 
You may also wish to try apple cider vinegar which provides a strong anti-fungal and antibacterial protection and can help to reduce candida in the body. You can drink it straight or add it to tea or gargle with it to help clear a candida throat infection.
Cranberry juice or cranberry pills can help relieve urinary tract infections caused by a candida overgrowth. Cranberries are high in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that promotes immunity and can help the body better fight off a microbial imbalance. 
Eating well to reduce candida in the body
Candida in the gut feeds on the food that you eat so it makes perfect sense that your diet is key to controlling overgrowth. There are foods that exacerbate issues and increase dysbiosis and there are foods that heal.
Foods to avoid
Candida thrives on sugar so avoid junk food, sweets, juice and excessive fruit. You are going to eat fruit, stay with low-fructose fruits like berries and citrus fruits which have antimicrobial properties.
Although fermented foods are wonderful for the gut in most situations, avoiding them if you have candida overgrowth is important as they can feed the candida. Stay aways from pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi, amongst other fermented foods for the time being.
Grains can be classified as another form of sugar and should also be avoided when healing a fungal overgrowth.
Alcohol is linked to leaky gut syndrome and can harm the microbiome. Its best to avoid it if you are eradicating a fungus.
Starchy plant foods
Starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, and beets can feed the yeast overgrowth because of their high carbohydrate content.
FODMAPS aren’t easily digestion by the gut, and they can feed candida. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides and Polyols and although you will be avoiding usually healthy vegetables such as garlic, onions, cabbage and apples, it may be a good idea to limit them while you get rid of your candida.
Coffee can irritate the gut lining and can also be high in moulds. Its best to drink high quality organic beans and drink it in moderation. 
What foods should eat
Low-sugar fruits – lemon, limes, berries (may be eaten in small amounts).
Non-starchy vegetables – asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale, celery, cucumber, eggplant, onion, spinach, zucchini and tomatoes. It may be better to steam these as its gentler on the gut than it is to eat them raw.
Gluten-free grains – millet, quinoa, oat bran and buckwheat.
High-quality protein – chicken, eggs, salmon, turkey and sardines (organic, pasture-raised and wild-caught varieties are best).
Healthy fats – avocado, olives, unrefined coconut oil, flax oil, extra-virgin olive oil and sesame oil.
Certain dairy products – butter, ghee, organic kefir or plain yogurt.
Nuts and seeds low in mould – almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut or flaxseed.
Herbs and spices – black pepper, salt, cinnamon, dill, garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, paprika, turmeric and thyme.
Condiments – apple cider vinegar, coconut aminos and sauerkraut.
Non-caffeinated beverages – herbal teas, chicory coffee, filtered water, homemade almond milk, coconut milk (look for one without additives). 
How we can help
Candida Albicans are naturally occurring fungi that live in and on our bodies. Keeping our gut healthy and balanced can potentially decrease our chances of fungal overgrowth.
In summary, there are several ways to combat candida and return your gut to a healthy state:
Follow a low-yeast, anti-inflammatory, whole food diet and reduce or eliminate all added sugars, carbohydrates and alcohol from your diet.
Take a well-balanced probiotic daily, drink apple cider vinegar each morning. Reduce your stress with yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques and get plenty of quality sleep – at least seven to eight hours a night. Try natural herbs to alleviate your symptoms.
Get tested and work with your Functional Medicine expert to understand the best way to treat your candida. At Advanced Functional Medicine, our expert health practitioners have experience with Candida and will assist to get to the root cause of your candida overgrowth, through a combination of comprehensive testing and analysis of lifestyle factors. Contact us to find out more.