What is the cause of Candida overgrowth? And how can we combat Candida overgrowth in our daily life?
Addressing Candida Naturopathically
Do you crave sugary foods, struggle with brain fog, experience bloating after meals or battle frequent fungal (i.e yeast) infections? Although these symptoms are relatively common, when compounded, they can be indicative of a deeper issue, especially when they recur. Our gut contains trillions of bacteria, viruses and other microbes, including something called candida. Candida albicans is a strain of yeast that naturally exists on the skin and in our mouth and digestive tract. When present in small amounts, it tends to be harmless. In fact, as part of the microbiome, it helps our digestion run smoothly.
However, an overgrowth of candida, called candidiasis, can occur and often causes a myriad of health problems - it has even been linked as a contributor to certain autoimmune conditions (yes, really!). Before we get into all of that, take a look at some of the types of candida overgrowth:
Types and Symptoms
There are many different types of candidiasis, occuring on the skin, in the mouth, presenting as a vaginal yeast infection, and more. Symptoms of candidiasis vary based on the severity and location of the infection.
Candidiasis of the mouth or throat is commonly referred to as oral thrush, or oropharyngeal candidiasis. It can cause symptoms such as white patches on the palate, tongue, inner cheeks, or gums, a cottony feeling in the mouth, redness or inflammation, slight bleeding, a loss of taste, pain or soreness in the mouth or throat, or pain when swallowing.
“Cutaneous candidiasis” is the medical term for this skin infection. Because Candida thrives in warm, moist environments, cutaneous candidiasis often develops in the folds of the skin (like elbows, behind the knees and under the breast tissue) and can cause the following symptoms: inflamed skin that may crack, peel or itch, red circular patches surrounded by red pustules, and hair loss, if the infection occurs on the scalp.
A Candida infection on or inside the vagina is called a vaginal yeast infection or “vaginal candidiasis.” These infections are common, and some possible symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include white, clumpy vaginal discharge (similar to cottage cheese consistency), vaginal itching or soreness, pain during sexual intercourse, and pain or discomfort when urinating.
“Candidemia” is the medical term for a Candida infection of the bloodstream. The symptoms vary, according to the location of the infection in the body. However, it can cause generalized symptoms, such as a fever and chills. When severe enough, the condition may also cause septic shock, with symptoms such as elevated heart rate, rapid shallow breathing, and low blood pressure
Under normal conditions, Candida is harmless. The bacteria living on and in the body combined with the efforts of the immune system help keep Candida populations under control. However, a person may develop candidiasis if their good bacteria are suppressed or their immune system is weakened. Some common causes of candidiasis include:
- The overuse of antibiotics
- Anti = against, Bio = life. When you take an antibiotic, not only does it kill off the bad guys, the good guys get wiped out too. With the good bacteria removed, candida has an ideal climate to grow in. Taking a probiotic in conjunction with your antibiotic can help prevent that.
- A diet high in sugar & processed foods
- When broken down, those carb-heavy foods become the perfect fuel for yeast to grow, multiply and thrive off of. Eating these foods also depletes the immune system, increases inflammation and contributes to the overall toxic load our systems have to handle.
- Autoimmune conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Hashimoto’s
- The two conditions (candida & autoimmunity) actually go hand-in-hand. Candida can contribute to a condition known as leaky gut, which essentially means that the lining of your intestinal wall becomes damaged and in turn permeable.. Not only does this increase inflammation, it wears down the immune system and makes you more susceptible to chronic illness.
How can we combat Candida overgrowth in our daily life?
Of all contributing factors, the most influential tends to be diet. Eating a clean, whole foods diet is fundamental for optimal health. In the case of candida, it is essential. To truly kick candida to the curb, most sugars and all processed foods need to be removed. The following foods you will definitely want to avoid while trying to alleviate symptoms:
FOODS THAT FEED CANDIDA:
- Alcohol & Caffeine
- Grains & Gluten
- Fermented Foods
- Beans & Starchy Vegetables
- High-Glycemic Fruits
Bottom line, when broken down these foods become simple sugars, which are definitely a no-go. It is essential to avoid these at all costs to give our immune systems a nice break and heal the lining of our gut. Even more importantly, let’s get into the list of foods that can prevent candida overgrowth and are associated with improving health overall:
Doctors approach to healing candida overgrowth naturally includes incorporating foods into your diet that act as a natural remedy for candida.
FOODS THAT FIGHT CANDIDA:
- Coconut oil
- This oil is high in caprylic acid, which works to break down the cell walls of yeast. For any women dealing with a tricky yeast infection, coconut oil can be a great topical to provide relief. Adding just a drop of tea tree oil to that mixture can also help due to its antifungal and antiseptic properties. However, if there are any open sores or cuts, be cautious in using this essential oil - it’s very potent!
- Eaten raw, this acts as an incredible anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal. It even has been shown to be effective against killing cancer cells. If you’re having trouble eating it raw, there are actually garlic supplements you can take. Garlic can even function as a highly effective intra-vaginal suppository during yeast infections.
- Cruciferous Vegetables & Greens
- Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels and kale are all examples of these! These veggies are great for repopulating the good bacteria in our GI tract. All of the beneficial microbes help to keep candida at bay and prevent overgrowth.
- An excellent anti-inflammatory and also anti fungal. One great way to incorporate ginger into your daily routine is to make ginger tea. Simply take boiled water and add sliced ginger root. Drinking before bed is wonderful for soothing your stomach, aiding digestion and decreasing inflammation.
- Apple Cider Vinegar & Lemon Juice
- Both of these act as antifungals. Warm water with lemon in the morning can fight candida and ramp up digestion. Add a splash or two of ACV into your water bottle or over a salad and you’ll be good to go.
- Wild Caught Salmon
- Eating a diet rich in omega-3s is wonderful for healing leaky gut, which as we know, contributes to some autoimmune conditions.
- Probiotics, of course!
- Taking a probiotic each day is a simple, highly effective way to give our body a boost and keep the variety of bacterial colonies diverse and optimal.
Normally, Candida albicans is a part of the natural microflora of the GI tract, epidermis, and vagina, and does not cause disease. Some circumstances, such as taking a long course of antibiotics or having a weakened immune system can increase your risk of developing an overgrowth of candida that then turns into a Candida infection. The most common Candida infections, such as vaginal and skin infections, are localized and can be addressed easily. An untreated and prolonged Candida infection carries the risk of leading to a systemic infection in which other organs can become involved. If you notice symptoms that are consistent with those of a Candida infection, contact a doctor in order to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Try sticking to these guidelines for about a month to see if any of your symptoms improve. Although it can seem restrictive, there are so many options to choose from! For breakfast, you can have a dark berry bowl or a green smoothie - just avoid the tropical fruits (bananas, oranges, mango, pineapple), as they are higher in natural sugars. For lunch, have a loaded salad dressed with lemon, olive oil and some pink himalayan sea salt. When dinner rolls around, grab some spaghetti squash and sauté in olive or coconut oil with onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. Craving a snack? Sliced avocado with lime and a little salt or paprika is always yummy and hits the spot!
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