Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? Wondering why you have sinus congestion, bloating and/or brain fog every day? I know this may sound like one of those annoying pharmaceutical ads on TV, but this issue is real and there is no quick-fix, cure-all pill. As many as 70% of all Americans are believed to have Candida overgrowth, yet most of them don’t even know it. A part of the problem is that it is not a recognized disease by many doctors and there is no miracle pill for them to prescribe! In addition, the symptoms range from bloating to depression and so, many cases go undiagnosed.
First, let’s just clarify that we all HAVE candida. Candida Albicans is actually helpful yeast that lives in our gut and its job is to assist with digestion and nutrient absorption. But, when most of us think of Candida, we think of systematic candidiasis, which, quite contrary, can be a real troublemaker. This is candida gone out of control, leaving it’s home in the gut and settling down in other parts of our body, causing a range of unpleasant symptoms.
Typical symptoms of Candida include (but is not limited to):
Chronic fatigue syndrome, yeast infections, brain fog, headaches, anxiety and depression, digestive problems and bloating, acne, skin rashes and sinus infections. To find out if you might be suffering from this, try taking a spit test, go see a holistic doctor or naturopath or try an online test where they sum up your symptoms and determine the likelihood of you being effected.
What causes this imbalance and over-growth of Candida?
There are many causes and often there are several lifestyle-based environmental conditions involved in upsetting the balance of the micro flora in the body. This can be;
- Antibiotics – both medical and found in our food supply (kills all bacteria in the body, including the good ones we need to maintain a healthy intestinal flora)
- Heavy Metals and environmental toxins
- Drinking chlorinated water
- Cortisone and other anti-inflammatory drugs that compromise the intestinal flora.
- A diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar (white flour, potatoes and white rice included…)
With candida we have to use a dual approach; we need to stop feeding the yeast while also healing the gut and strengthening our system.
- Probiotic foods are a great way to rebuild our intestinal flora. We need to constantly refill our good bacteria reservoir in the gut by eating raw sauerkraut, kimche and, for some, even yogurt and kefir.
- A diet based on good quality (ideally organic and local) whole foods is essential to get all necessary vitamins and mineral the body needs. Bone broths and organ meats (I know!) can be great sources of minerals and collagen to help heal the gut.
- Very often a body ridden with candida is also lacking in adequate fat. It is believed that certain saturated fats actually have anti-microbial properties. Go for coconut oil and butter (off course grass fed and organic!) Coconut Oil also contains lauric acid which help fight off the Candida overgrowth.
- Most non-starchy vegetables are OK as well as non-gluten grains such as quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth.
- Good quality protein sources include wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat and free-range chicken, turkey and eggs. The fermented soy products (tempeh, natto and miso) should be avoided. Beans, lentils and nuts are OK for most, but make sure to soak and cook them properly.
- Garlic is another very powerful anti-fungal food so eat plenty!
- Also include anti-inflammatory herbs such as cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and ginger.
- Herbal teas are great alternatives to caffeinated drinks – especially licorice tea, pau d’arco, chamomile and ginger tea. Green tea is also a great option.
- Other important factors to keep in mind is chewing and avoiding over-eating, which can cause indigestion that again can lead to fermentation and sugar production in our stomach and digestive tract. Even that sugar feeds the Candida.
- Exercise and deep breathing are also crucial for healing and strengthening of the body and mind. Set aside time in your day for mindful breathing or meditation and sweat every day! In Traditional Chinese Medicine Candida and yeast conditions are referred to as excessive dampness. When thought about in this way it is easy to understand why we need to sweat and perspire – so get in a sauna as often as you can.
- Candida is yeast, so, just like any other form of fungus, it feeds on sugar. If you have systematic Candida, sugar, and anything that turns in to sugar, will act just like a drug! Keep in mind that this is a broad definition of sugar and includes fruit (lemon and lime is usually OK), fruit sugars, artificial sweeteners (except Stevia), alcohol, natural sweeteners (agave, honey, maple sugar etc), potatoes, white rice and white flour; all pasta, bread, cakes, cookies and pastries.
- Most people suffering from systematic candidiasis are also gluten intolerant, so avoiding gluten containing grains and processed foods is important.
- Additives and preservatives used in processed foods are chemicals and can disrupt your friendly bacteria and allow the Candida yeast to flourish.
- Most people need to lower their dairy intake and some need to eliminate it all together. Milk is mucus forming and is certainly a damp food.
- Yeast- and mold-containing foods should also be avoided – molded and aged cheeses, most vinegars (except Apple Cider Vinegar which may actually be beneficial,) peanuts, bread, tempeh, miso, soy sauce and natto (fermented soy products.)