You’ve probably heard of Candida or Candida overgrowth or the most common - a yeast infection.
Maybe you aren’t sure what it actually is, except for it being “bad”. The truth is, most people have Candida in their body and it’s only a problem when it’s growth gets out of hand, that’s when your health and well-being may be negatively impacted.
Candida (albicans) is a type of fungus and also a yeast and an opportunistic pathogen. This fungus exists in the GI tract & gut microbiome of about 70% of people and it actually plays a positive role when it’s in balance, that role is to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients!
Out of balance pathogens are never a good thing and often problematic for our health and even happiness. 🙁
According to Dr Amy Myers (a leading doctor in the field of Women's health):
“Its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption—which it does when it’s in balance with the good bacteria in your microbiome. The problem occurs when there is too much Candida in relation to your body’s good bacteria, and it overpowers the bacteria, which can lead to leaky gut and a host of other digestive issues, as well as fungal infections, mood swings, and brain fog…”
Candida seems to most often get out of balance in women. When it grows out of control, this infection is called ‘candidiasis’.
This fungal infection can affect the mucosa of the GI tract, mouth, vagina and the oropharynx (middle part of your throat) also known as ‘thrush’. Did you know, that it was actually Hippocrates who discovered and named thrush? So interesting 🤔
According the Hindawi.com (an Indian Health Journal):
“C. albicans has a unique ability to grow in a variety of morphological forms and at least, four kinds of forms, that is, yeast-like, hyphae, pseudohyphae, and chlamydospores"
What Causes Candida Overgrowth (CO)?
Your Diet & Lifestyle: If you eat a lot of sugar, grains, starchy foods, refined carbs or you drink alcohol frequently (especially wine or beer or anything yeasty), you may create an overgrowth of candida.
Antibiotics & Medications: Certain types of medications (including the pill and antibiotics) may effect the gut microbiome and encourage Candida overgrowth. Most drugs (especially the ones mentioned, damage the gut microbiome and one it's damaged, it takes a lot of work to repair and heal it - you can trust me on that one)! I am currently in the process of healing my chronic gut and health issues by doing the GAPS diet. I was given a lot of antibiotics in my teens and was on the pill for at least 10 years. My gut has been an absolute mess but is getting better ❤️🩹
Stress: Oh thank you modern world, for all the daily life challenges! I am being sarcastic but maybe we need to be thankful for our challenges as it's powerful to have an attitude of gratitude! By shifting the way we look at stressful events and people, this can help us to reduce our emotional and physical stress.
I almost forgot to mention how stress is a causative factor in CO...
Stress is known to trigger candida to overthrow the good gut bugs and then candida fungus proliferates.
Try daily deep breaths, take things off your crazy plate (we all load our to-do list too high, I am also guilty of this), take things OFF your list instead of ADDING things on!
Meditate, do qi qong/tai chi/yin yoga, listen to calming music, get out in nature, be with animals, walk.
Give up perfectionism, this will take the pressure off you in a major way!
Avoid stressful or toxic people where possible. This goes without saying really.
Avoid caffeine if it makes you jittery, nervous or anxious. Coffee and other highly-caffeinated beverages can create stress hormones for most people and if you are sensitive, it might be time to re-evaluate how you would like to feel?
There are many more things you can do to reduce stress but these are a great place to start!
Candida Overgrowth & Leaky Gut
Leaky gut is never fun and is often caused by a fungal overgrowth of candida. This problem can lead to many other health issues can arise if this is not corrected early. Issues such as:
- Autoimmune disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Concentration and cognitive issues
- Constipation or Diarrhoea
- Joint pain that moves around the body
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Rashes that move around the body
- Sugar cravings
What is happening is that the gut wall gets broken down; its integrity gets compromised and toxic byproducts are released into your body. When this happens, your ability to digest and absorb nutrients goes down.
As you can probably imagine, this is not good and can lead to nutritional deficiencies and further issues due to lost nutrition.
That is why it is vital to get properly diagnosed and treat the problem ASAP!
What are the Warning Signs?
There are many common warning signs but we don't recommend self-diagnosis. It's best to speak to a functional/integrative doctor if you can as allopathic doctors aren't really that knowledgable here and may ended up giving you antibiotics (which may cause damage to your gut microbiome) and also thrush cream (do we truly know if the ingredients of this product are safe? It is after all, going into a very precious and sacred part of your body - your vagina!
Signs of an infection:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Anxiety and depression (most of our serotonin is produced in the gut)
- Autoimmune disease & suppressed immune function (linked to leaky gut)
- Brain fog and inability to think clearly
- Dandruff (this is yeast)
- Digestive issues (bloating, constipation, gas)
- Fungal Infections (nails)
- Immune sytem suppression
- Joint pain
- Mood issues (mood swings) due to serotonin production
- Tiredness, lethargy & fatigue
- Recurring Genital or Urinary Tract Infections
- Digestive Issues
- Sinus Infections
- Skin Issues (eczema, hives, rash, rosacea)
- Sugar cravings
- Thyroid disfunction
How to Test?
The best thing to do as mentioned is to go and see a functional doctor, where they may perform any number of tests, such as:
- Antibody test: IgA*, IgG and IgM are the antibodies that are tested and their levels will show the doctor what's going on with your immune response - or high levels can indicate an infection that your body is responding to. Obviously you'll need other tests and not just an antibody test as this reaction could be related to any other infection really?
- Complete Blood Count test: WBC (white blood cell count) when low, can be associated with an overgrowth of yeast but like the antibody test, it can be related to other infections too?
- Poop test (stool test): You'll need a full comprehensive stool test as this is what tests for candida in your lower intestines. You can also get your IgA level from this test.
- Urine test: the test used here is called 'organix Dysbiosis test'. This type of test looks at the waste product that is excreted from the yeast - this product is called d-Arabinitol. High levels of d-Arabinitol is a strong indicator of yeast overgrowth in the small intestines.
So as you can see, there are a few tests that may need to be done in order to truly determine an infection of candida fungus. The test I had many years ago was the full comprehensive stool test and it was very enlightening shall we say.
*IgA is suppressed when Candida overgrowth occurs. Immunoglobulin A is a very important antibody in your body’s defence system so if this goes down you are more susceptible to pathogenic infection.
If you go to a conventional doctor they will no doubt give you a prescription for thrush cream and possibly even give you antibiotics (which in our opinion is only making matters worse as antibiotics destroy the gut microbiome thus setting you up for more potential health problems down the track).
This is why we recommend a functional doctor (integrative). If you don't have one in your area, try searching for one online as zoom calls can usually be done and tests ordered and sent out to you. There is always a way! 😊
So how to heal naturally?
If you do end up working with an alternative practitioner, they will most likely put you on some kind of protocol. Just make sure it includes the following 3 healing steps:
- Don't Feed the Fungus! You must adjust your diet and lifestyle until you have this problem under control, there is no other way or a quick fix that doesn't have repercussions. The diet will have to cut out all the foods that feed fungus (see our list below)
- Win The Battle: Overpowering the beast (candida overgrowth) will call in for further artillery - such as coconut oil (anti-fungal) and things that bust the biofilm that gets created by the fungus. Biofilm-busters like as NAC and grapefruit seed extract. Good nutrition is vital also! (ensure you are getting a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals from your foods mostly and supplement with liver capsules and organic acerola vitamin C super food supplement to fill in gaps).
- Replenish the Good Guys: Throughout your treatment protocol, you may wish to take a good quality probiotic (your health practitioner may recommend one) I like the IMUNI Specialised Probiotic and the Seeking Health ProBiota HistaminX (if you have a problem with histamines). This will be an important step in colonising the gut microbiome so that the good guys outnumber the bad!
Other Helpful Foods or Things to Support Healing
Make sure to read our healing foods list below and you may like to add in things like garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, olive oil and lemons as these foods add extra support and are very helpful on this journey.
Other things that can help encourage healing are Pau d’Arco tea (you can drink this and also use it as a douche daily if suffering with vaginal thrush).
Some women also find adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the bath helps with vaginal thrush (I’m assuming it has something to do with balancing the vaginal pH?)
Bath your body in safe sunlight for at least 10 minutes each day without toxic sunscreen. Please be smart about it and don’t roast yourself! We certainly don’t advocate sun silliness!
We’ve been taught to fear the sun but the sun ☀️ is incredibly healing. We have to have respect for it’s benefits but also it’s powerful rays.
Foods and Beverages that Must Be Eliminated During Candida Overgrowth Removal
- Mushrooms and any type of fungi
- Sugar in all forms (CO loves sugar)!!
- Starchy foods including starchy veggies (even beetroot)
- Most Fruit* (contains sugar that feeds the problem)
- All processed foods
- Any refined carbs
- All grains and things made from grains (grains turn to glucose and this feeds the fungus)
- Nuts (especially peanuts) as nuts can contain a small amount of mould which may hinder the healing process if consumed
- Be mindful of the seafood you're eating (choose low-mercury seafood*)
- Any juice or sweet drinks
- Any sweetened yoghurts or yoghurts with fruit
- Ice cream and desserts (obviously)
- Take away food (as it's often cooked in inflammatory vegetable oils)
- All baked goods (pastries, pies, etc.)
- Some dairy (see our approved dairy section below)
- Vinegars or anything pickled in vinegar
- Some Fermented foods and beverages*
*store-bought fermented foods can often contain extra things that make them problematic to candida cleansing, such as sugars, sugar alcohol like erythritrol/Xylitol etc so if you're going to have fermented foods make sure they're organic with no additives and you test them out to see how you feel.
*Low-sugar fruits in small amounts is ok. These are berries, limes, lemons, grapefruit and apples. Try to choose organic produce where possible as herbicides and pesticides destroy the health of our gut microbiome.
*Seafood that is usually high in mercury is tuna, bluefish, shellfish, swordfish, shark (flake), mackerel, orange roughy, marlin etc. The safest options while you're cleansing (low in mercury options) are wild caught Alaskan Salmon, Cod, herrings and sardines.
*I am unsure about lactose-free dairy (if it's allowed). Best to speak to your health practitioner.
Your diet will seem limited and it will be a big adjustment but clearing candida properly takes a diet-focused approach, to avoid this step would only be to your detriment.
Try to shift the way you think about it, if you see it as difficult and impossible and restrictive, it will make your experience miserable (and those around you). Try to see it as an opportunity to give your insides a clean out and a break for your pancreas from sugar.
What Foods Can I Eat?
The list seems pretty daunting and maybe even a bit depressing but again, let's shift our focus away form the negative to the positive... Look at the foods you can have on this list and think about how good you are going to feel when you've completed this. It will be an accomplishment!
- Non-starchy veggies such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant**, onions, radish, zucchini,
- Green leafy veggies (except for spinach**) - cooked in ghee to reduce oxalates and certified organic where possible to reduce harmful agricultural chemicals
- Swede is allowed but sweet potato, potato, corn, pumpkin, peas and beans are not (high starch/sugar)
- Jicama is allowed but this can be difficult to source in Australia
- Carrots are ok in small amounts and best steamed to keep GI lower
- All fresh meats (try to choose grass-fed or organic where possible to avoid gut-destroying pesticides, herbicides etc.)
- All herbs (homegrown or organic if possible)
- Avocado* and other healthy fats such as animal fats*, coconut oil and olive oil
- Tomatoes** (organic) and only in small amounts
- Buckwheat*** (organic, soaked and activated)
- Quinoa*** (organic, soaked and activated)
- Probiotic-rich dairy such as milk kefir and yoghurt**
- Fish (low mercury such as wild caught salmon, cod, herrings or sardines**
- Eggs (pasture-raised and organic for better gut health)
- Bone broth** (so easy to make) you can also buy ready-made from health food store. Try to avoid supermarket bone broth as it's usually not good quality.
- Raw Organic Cold-pressed coconut oil that is free from toxic hexane solvent. Coconut oil is a powerful anti-fungal and used worldwide to help kill candida overgrowth
*Animal fats might be ghee, tallow, lard, duck fat, goose fat or the skin from cooked organic chicken, also the fat from meats that have been slow-cooked (osso bucco, lamb shanks, pig shoulder etc). Just try to choose a grass-fed or organic source to reduce antibiotics or growth hormones etc.
**These foods are high histamine or histamine-liberating so if you have histamine breakdown issues (also known as histamine intolerance) you'd be best to avoid these.
***These foods may be low in histamine but contain plant toxins such as oxalates, lectins, phytates etc.
Want a Simple Stress-free Diet to Help Heal Your Candida?
A diet that cuts down all the stress of worrying about plant toxins and carbohydrates, is the carnivore diet (yes it is controversial but many people are getting incredible healing on this diet - including me).
The key is to choose fresh meats and if you have a problem with histamine, stay away from aged meats, cured meats, processed meats. Best to avoid shellfish, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, Mahi-Mahi and fish sauce as these are either high in histamine or they liberate histamine in your body.
The most simply way is to have ruminant meats and drink water. This is a whole book really and too in-depth to really get into here.
If you're interested in this diet but don't know where to start, try Dr Shawn Baker's Book - The Carnivore diet.
Well that was certainly a lot wasn't it? I hope you don't feel overwhelmed, it was not my intention to do that. I just want to to know all the information so you can feel like you understand the process and have the tools to help you on your healing journey.
I wish you so much health, healing and happiness! ✨
Disclaimer: the information in this article is intended purely as information and not health advice. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure and one should always seek expert advice from their trusted health practitioner.