The Difference Between Yeast Infections & Candida, A Holistic Nutritionist Explains
Most of us women know about yeast overgrowth. This is by no means a fun topic, but it's, well…there. After all, at some point in your adult life, you've probably had a vaginal infection caused by yeast overgrowth (especially if you've been pregnant). Another common type of yeast infection is oral thrush, an inflammation of the mouth and throat. Yeast overgrowth can affect the entire body, as well, leading to an array of health problems. Even more surprising, many people have chronic multisystemic yeast infections that go undiagnosed for years or even an entire lifetime, leading to many health problems that diminish quality of life and are horribly annoying.
How is a yeast infection different from candida?
Most people are familiar with yeast in some form. In cooking, it is a leavening agent that you can buy in little packages at the grocery store. Known as baker's yeast, that form is just one type of around 600 species of yeast, which is a type of single-celled fungus. The yeast that commonly occurs in the human body is called Candida albicans, which is different from but related to baker's yeast. By the way, nutritional yeast, which is a B-vitamin- and amino-acid-rich ingredient that you may find in lots of vegan recipes, is the genus and species Saccharomyces cerevisiae and does not contribute to candida.
Yeast in your microbiome
Every body has some yeast in and on it. It's found in oral cavities, the digestive tract, and even on the skin. In a healthy biological system, the presence of helpful bacteria keeps yeast in balance. If you've ever taken a course of antibiotics and then suffered a yeast infection, then you are aware of some of the consequences that occur when your body gets out of balance. Post-antibiotic yeast infections occur because antibiotics kill off more than just the harmful bacteria in your body. They also kill beneficial bacteria. The result is often candida overgrowth.
Causes of yeast infections
Post-antibiotic yeast infections manifest as a sudden onset acute infection with a well-known culprit, but many other factors may predispose you to chronic yeast overgrowth, or candidiasis.
- Medications other than antibiotics such as steroids, birth control pills, and other prescription meds
- Dietary factors
- A weak or compromised immune system
- Toxins in food, drink, and your environment
- Chlorine in tap water
- Chemical sensitivities
Symptoms of candida overgrowth
- Tiredness after eating
- Constipation, diarrhea, or other forms of bowel irregularities
- Feelings of anger, depression, aggression, or anxiety after eating
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Cravings for simple carbohydrates
- Anal itching
- Skin infections
- Memory loss
- Night sweats
- Food allergies
- Feeling "drunk" after a high simple-carb meal
- Repeated fungal infections like jock itch or athlete's foot
- Joint pain
- Sensitivity to extreme environments
- Chronic pain
- Acid reflux
Candida albicans overgrowth may be a major player in a number of health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, alcoholism, anxiety disorders, food allergies, multiple sclerosis, asthma, and a host of other autoimmune conditions.
How do you know if you have candida?
While you can go to your doctor for a yeast test, sometimes these tests do not always detect a problem. You can try following a program to help eliminate or minimize yeast (low-sugar, gluten-free etc.) and see if symptoms alleviate. In my candida course, there is a comprehensive quiz that we provide you to help you pinpoint whether or not you do, in fact, have a yeast imbalance.
Controlling candida—the yeast-diet connection
Diet plays a significant role in yeast control. Yeast thrives on certain foods you eat, including sugar, vinegar (except for apple cider vinegar), alcohol, and simple carbohydrates. When you ingest foods containing these ingredients, the yeast in your body feeds on them and can quickly grow out of control. To help control candida, I recommend eliminating the following foods:
- All forms of sugar, including honey and fructose (especially agave)
- Processed foods
- Inorganic produce
- Anything containing artificial ingredients or chemicals (including diet soda)
- Wheat, rye, farrow, and barley
- Simple carbohydrates like bread, white rice, and pasta, which immediately break down to simple sugars in your body
- Dairy products, which contain both simple sugars and antibiotics from processing
- Alcoholic beverages
- Animal products, which rely heavily on the use of antibiotics
- Soy, which can throw off your hormonal balance and lead to yeast overgrowth
- Yeast fermented foods, like wine and beer
It is important, as well, to minimize any prescription medications you take (of course, speaking to your doctor first) and select a source of non-chlorinated water. If you believe birth control pills are contributing to hormonal imbalance that supports yeast overgrowth, then switch to a non-hormonal form of birth control. The Beauty Detox Solution offers some additional ideas to help you control candida. For example, rely on raw fruits and vegetables, as well as unprocessed, gluten-free whole grains. If you do eat meat, choose locally raised, antibiotic-free animal products.
Balancing the amount of fat in your diet and including particular supplements and protocols can also help powerfully bring your balance back to health, which is something we elaborate on in great detail in the class.
The other way to keep yeast in check is by supporting growth of the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. Check out my Probiotic and Enzyme Salad recipe and eat it a few times per day, with lunch and/or dinner, which contains beneficial bacteria to repopulate your intestines. If you don't want to ferment (it can take a few trials before feeling comfortable fermenting), you can purchase raw sauerkraut from the refrigerated section of your local health food store, although it may be fairly high in salt. I also recommend taking an excellent probiotic twice a day. These supplements contain live organisms that take root in your intestines to support digestive health and control yeast overgrowth.
Yeast can wreak havoc on your health. In a normal, balanced, healthy body yeast causes few problems, but when you become out of balance due to illness, diet, medication, or other factors, then you may experience difficulty. The best way to control yeast is by choosing a healthy, mostly or all plant-based diet free of processed foods and chemicals. By doing so, you will create an environment where yeast stays under control, leaving you healthier and as the most energetic version of yourself, able to go after your all your dreams and goals!
Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.