(causes, symptoms & treatment)
- coconut oil
- antifungal oils
- antifungal herbs and spices
- sugary fruits
- white flour
- yeast and foods containing it
- starchy vegetables
- glutinous grains
- caffeinated or sugary drinks
Candida is a type of yeast that naturally exists in human body. It’s a normal part of gut bacteria and is present on healthy skin, in mucous membranes of respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract and female reproductive organs.
Typically, the healthy bacteria in our body keep Candida levels under control and it coexists with the other intestinal tract bacteria. However, if healthy bacteria levels are disrupted or the immune system is compromised, Candida can begin to overproduce.
Despite being less common than viral and bacterial infections, Candida as most common cause of fungal infection often evades weakened immune system.
Candida overgrowth relies on increased alkalinity in our intestines and it needs neutral or alkaline conditions to switch to its fungal form. Acidic fungal outcome destroys the body’s acid-alkaline balance, the ratio between beneficial and harmful microbes is broken and the fungus can develop excessively. It’s only when candida grows and overpopulates our digestive system that it can spread throughout the rest of our body and cause an infection known as candida overgrowth.
Candida comes from the Latin word candidus (meaning white), including all subspecies. There are more than 60 different types of candida that can cause a fungal infection, but the most common are Candida albicans, Candida glabrata and Candida rugosa.
Signs and symptoms of Candida infection
Candida shares many of the same symptoms with other health problems, therefore symptoms of candidiasis are often misdiagnosed or dismissed.
The most common signs include fungal infections of the skin (acne, eczema, psoriasis) and nails, digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas, cramps and bloating), recurring genital yeast infections, oral thrush, food allergies, brain fog, etc. If a Candida infection enters bloodstream and travels through our body, it can infect the joints and cause arthritis. Candidiasis is most common in individuals with a weakened immune system and may be accompanied by various nutritional deficiencies, which can result in feeling tired and fatigued.
As suggested above, candida can cause discomfort throughout entire body with symptoms such as intense sugar and processed carbs cravings, mood swings and irritability, poor memory, focus and concentration, back pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, asthma, headaches, painful periods, abdominal pain, vertigo, teeth and gum problems, weight gain despite regular activity and proper nutrition, cellulite, urinary tract infection, depression, anxiety, low libido, rarely throat inflammation or acute pharyngitis and other candida induced inconveniences.
Candidiasis is often accompanied by nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6, essential fatty acids and magnesium.
Causes of Candida
The health of our digestive system relies heavily on a good balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in our gut.
In most cases, candida overgrowth is triggered by factors in our diet and lifestyle, causing a weakened immune system prone to produce invasive fungi. It can also develop as a result of frequent use of antibiotics, as they wipe out all of the good gut bacteria, which are responsible for protecting the body from fungal infections, meaning keeping candida in check and prevent overgrowth.
Patients with diabetes or chronic insufficient functioning of the immune system, such as AIDS, are more susceptible to fungal infections. Susceptibility also increases with other chronic illnesses that have a poor effect on the immune system’s function.
Among other factors such as high alcohol intake, oral contraceptives, diabetes, etc., high levels of stress are a commonly overlooked cause of candida overgrowth.
Candida is typically not life-threatening, but if left untreated, it can spread and eventually reach the bloodstream. Once the fungus is circulating throughout the body, it can affect vital organs like the brain and heart and cause more serious complications, including death.
The Anti-Candida diet
The best way to treat candidiasis and prevent recurring infections is to address the underlying cause. The food we eat plays an important role in maintaining the balance of healthy and harmful bacteria in our gut. A healthy immune system should be able to keep Candida under control, however, a modern diet rich in sugar works to depress our immune system, leaving it vulnerable and allowing the Candida yeast to proliferate. Inflammatory foods, refined carbs and high-lactose dairy products, combined with higher levels of stress and possible antibiotics consumption is most likely to cause a weakened immune system and consequently Candida and other “bad” microorganisms’ overgrowth.
In order to get rid of unpleasant infection, we have to follow a strict regimen of diet and lifestyle improvements. We have to be willing to change our eating habits to starve the candida and recolonize our gut with healthy bacteria.
The Candida yeast cells need sugar to expand their colonies and switch into their more virulent, fungal form, therefore the first element in a Candida treatment plan is a low-carb diet.
On the contrary, certain foods (antifungals, probiotics) have specifically been shown to encourage healthy bacteria to grow and fight Candida.
Our diet should include lots of non-starchy vegetables, proteins like eggs, white meat and fish, some probiotic foods and non-glutinous grains. Protein-rich foods and unsaturated fatty acids are also excellent choices on a Candida diet. To avoid a wide range of additives the food should be fresh, harvested without pesticides and unprocessed.
Foods to avoid
Sugar (all forms, with the exception of stevia and xylitol)
Candida needs organic, carbon-based compounds for growing and to build the cell walls, comprised 80% of carbohydrates. In practice this means sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose should by all means be avoided, especially, being the most damaging, white sugar, liquid sweeteners and honey.
The high sugar content in fruit is a good food source for Candida, therefore most, if not all, fruits should be avoided in the early stages of the diet. Later on the fruit consumption should be limited, but not totally excluded as it, on the other hand, supplies our organism with vitamins, minerals and other useful substances.
Despite the fact that there is no need of complete exclusion of the fruits from the diet, we should avoid at least most sugary kinds, such as grapes, oranges, plums, peaches, blueberries, cranberries. It’s particularly important to avoid dried fruits like raisins, cranberries and also candied fruits. Another fruit product to avoid is fruit juice. Without the natural fiber that slows down absorption of sugar, fruit juices have an almost immediate impact on blood sugar levels.
Both fruit juices and dried fruit are good examples of how a relatively low sugar fruit can be processed into something that has a much greater impact on our blood sugar.
Refined carbohydrates (anything made from white flour, including bread, pasta, pastries)
During digestion white flour’s carbohydrates are converted into sugars, which, as previously mentioned, promote the development of fungal overgrowth.
Yeast (all forms)
As being one of the fungi’s main food sources, yeast ingestion causes excessive candida overgrowth. Cookies, yeast containing bakery products, alcohol, vinegar, mold cheese and beer yeast, often used as a food supplement, should be avoided.
Starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, yams, parsnips, beets)
Starchy vegetables consumption should be limited as much as possible, applying the same to rice, containing mainly carbohydrates. Avoid potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, beetroot, peas, root parsley and other high level starchy vegetables.
Gluten is a protein that can cause minor changes in the mucous membrane when passing through the gut. Being a very common trigger for food sensitivities and often resulting in symptoms like bloating, indigestion, cramping, brain fog and fatigue, combined with Candida gluten is likely to exacerbate our symptoms and weaken our intestinal walls.
Gluten intake can also impair intercellular contacts in the intestinal wall, thereby permitting the passage of microorganisms into the body’s bloodstream. The susceptibility to harmful effects of gluten depends on hereditary propensity and the ratio of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
All foods containing wheat, rye, oats or barley are harmful in fighting Candida because of the high gluten content.
Caffeine raises blood sugar levels, thus supports the fungal overgrowth, but the main problem being, like most caffeinated drinks, it weakens the adrenals and can impair our immune system. Similar effect appears with real tea containing thein.
An ideal anti-candida diet will be high in protein and healthy fats and low in carbs.
The medicinal use of garlic was well documented by many of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations. When ingested it expresses powerful antifungal properties for attacking Candida, while also preserving and boosting the good bacteria in our digestive system. Garlic stimulates the liver and colon, giving it a potent additional effect to body’s own detoxification processes.
Garlic contains an antifungal allicin, yellowish oily substance, which gives a fresh garlic a distinctive odor and has been shown to act against Candida yeasts. Chopping garlic helps increase the healthy, disease fighting nutrient, furthermore storing it correctly helps maintain allicin’s healing potential. Following these tips garlic will become an immunity boosting, anti-inflammatory powerhouse.
Coconut oil is a potent Candida killer, and one of the most useful antifungals there is. It contains Lauric acid and Caprylic acid, which both help prevent Candida overgrowth and strengthen our immune system. At the same time it does not harm lactic acid bacteria, such as L. acidophillus, when administered with food, so it can be combined with it.
Whey, the liquid residue of cheese, casein and yoghurt production, is one of the biggest reservoirs of food protein available nowadays. It contains alkaline lactic acid with a positive effect on the pH of the gut. It also contains important minerals needed for body’s normal development. Whey has a wide spectrum of positive effects and is suitable for fighting various digestive problems. It is recommended to drink one to two deciliters of whey two to three times a day.
Oils rich in omega 3 fatty acids are linseed, evening primrose, starflower, sesame, olive, rapeseed and palm oil.
Consumption of vitamin E results in strengthening of the immune system, therefore at least 400 IU intake, twice a day is recommended. Vitamin E rich foods are peanuts, corn germ oil, whole grains, leafy vegetables, pulses, egg yolk, walnuts, meat and fish.
Anise, cinnamon, oregano and peppermint oil are antifungal.
Antifungal herbs and spices
Oregano, thyme, cardamom, wild garlic (fresh), basil, black pepper, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, pepper, rosemary, turmeric and as previously mentioned garlic.
Fermented milk and soy products, sour milk, whey or buttermilk are natural probiotics that accelerate the fatty acid breakdown, strengthen the liver function and improve intestinal flora. Foods with the Lactobacillus acidophillus addition help changing the intestine’s pH therefore act against the fungal infections.
To begin replenishing natural stores of healthy gut bacteria, it’s important to take a high quality probiotic supplement. We can also get probiotics from fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and coconut milk kefir or yogurt (as long as no sweetener has been added).
Additional ways of preventing Candidiasis
When it comes to candida infection, body can also benefit from drinking sufficient amounts of water or with various herbal remedies consumption, therefore removing toxins from the body. A stress reduction in the living and working environment, regular moderate physical activity and enough movement outside in the fresh air can also result in better functioning of the immune system.
It is also recommended to quit smoking, lose weight, regulate blood pressure, get enough sleep, sufficient hygiene, etc. Considering chronic stress is also a primary cause of candida, in addition to adjusting our diet and supplement regimen, we should incorporate stress coping mechanisms to lower cortisol levels and reduce inflammation, which will create a healthier internal environment and a stronger defense against yeast overgrowth.
Many products on the market promise us positive effects, but we need to consider it with precaution. It is often a matter of substance that can be consumed with food, or the promised substance does not work at all as presented in the advertisement.
- Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. The Encyclopedia of Healing Boooks. New York: Atria Books. 2005.
- »Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) in Men and Women«. WebMD. 2012-11-12. World wide web 2016-07-13.
- Richards L. The Ultimate Candida diet program: How to beat your Candida and restore your health.
- Kennedy, MJ; e tal. »Mechanisms of association of Candida albicans with intestinal mucosa« Med microbiol 24: 333-341.
- Košnik, M. et al. Interna medicina. Ljubljana. Littera picta. 2011.