If you speak with any functional medicine doctor or Naturopath for more than five minutes, you’ll undoubtedly hear the word “Candida” mentioned. Candida Albicans, more specifically, is a type of single-celled fungus or yeast that is a normal part of a healthy microbiome—in small doses. They also inhabit other warm, moist areas of our bodies such as our mouths, skin, vagina and rectum. This yeast is kept at bay by healthy bacteria, ensuring it stays at normal levels and doesn’t overrun the GI tract. However, when the yeast is allowed to overgrow, issues like sinus infections, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, fatigue, weight gain and GI discomfort ensue.
It’s estimated that 70% of the US population has Candida in their GI tract. A modern epidemic, thanks to the standard American diet (SAD), overconsumption of sugar refined carbohydrates, alcohol use and overuse of antibiotics (note, I am not against antibiotics, they have a real and functional role in our society, but they are majorly overprescribed resulting in antibiotic-resistant-bacteria as well as systemic yeast infections). Candida Albicans, when found in large quantities in our bodies, produces waste products known as acetaldehyde, a neurotoxin and carcinogen that promotes free radical activity in the body.
Of course, our bodies have a natural way of removing such waste products; but when too much acetaldehyde is being released the body can struggle to break it down and remove it fast enough. Resultantly, it can be released into the bloodstream, causing symptoms like nausea, headaches and more.
Symptoms of Candida can generally be distilled into the following categories:
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Digestive issues
- Recurring yeast infections
- Oral thrush
- Sinus infections
- Food allergies/intolerances
- Fungal infections on the skin and nails
- A weak immune system
- Joint pain
- Low mood
Here is a quick questionnaire from bodyecology.com to help identify if you are at risk for Candida infections. Additionally, there are ways to test for Candida so check in with your health care provider for an actual diagnosis.
- Have you taken tetracyclines (Sumycin®, Panmycin®, Vibramycin®,Minocin®, etc.) or other antibiotics for acne for 1 month (or longer)?
- Have you, at any time in your life, taken other "broad spectrum" antibiotics for respiratory, urinary or other infections for 2 months or longer, or for shorter periods 4 or more times in a 1-year span?
- Have you taken a broad spectrum antibiotic drug – even for one period?
- Have you, at any time in your life, been bothered by persistent prostatitis, vaginitis, or other problems affecting your reproductive organs?
- Have you been pregnant 2 or more times?
- Have you taken birth control pills for more than 2 years? Taken birth control pills 6 months to 2 years?
- Have you taken prednisone, Decadron®, or other cortisone-type drugs by mouth or inhalation** for more than 2 weeks? Taken these drugs 2 weeks or less?
- Does exposure to perfumes, insecticides, fabric shop odors, or other chemicals provoke moderate to severe symptoms? Does exposure produce mild symptoms?
If you answered yes to any of these questions and are experiencing symptoms, if could be time to speak to your healthcare provider about Candida.
So, how do we keep Candida at bay?
One of the challenges of this particular type of yeast is that it is exceptionally adaptive. However, there are a few general changes you can make that make it difficult for Candida to thrive.
Manage your stress
Chronic, unmanaged stress can wreak havoc on our digestive tract. The hormones produced by the stress response moves our body from rest and digest more to fight-or-flight response.
Studies suggest that bacteria that is normally present in the gut can detect the stress response and turn usually harmless microbes into pathogenic bacteria that rapidly mutate. When bacteria becomes pathogenic, they grow quickly and this can cause infection and dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance). Additionally, when we’re stressed it impacts our digestion and our immune system, so our bodies become challenged at fighting and eliminating these invaders.
Remove sugar and minimize carbohydrates:
Sugar and carbohydrates actually feed the yeast allowing it to proliferate and perpetuate your symptoms. Even though fruit contains fructose, a generally perceived healthier sugar, it still feeds yeast. Be particularly wary of dried fruits as they tend to contain added sugar along with the fructose.
A great probiotic blend will help to restore your microbiome by supporting the proliferation of good bacteria, fighting the bad bacteria and inhibiting the growth of Candida. A good rule of thumb is to look for a probiotic with at least 15 different strains of bacteria, because a diverse microbiome is a healthier one. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure your probiotic has at least 25 billion CFU to ensure you’re getting the right quantity of bacteria as well.
Eat fermented foods
Fermented foods naturally contain healthy bacteria that will help support bacterial diversity and ward off bad bacteria and yeast.
Alcohol can be troubling for those dealing with Candida for a few reasons. It weakens the immune system, it impacts sleep, and it effects your adrenal glands. Alcohol is also quickly metabolized as sugar which, we know, is food for yeast. So, if you’re looking to get rid of your symptoms once and for all, avoiding alcohol should be part of your plan.
Watch the caffeine
Our favorite morning cup of joe might be causing more harm than good when it comes to Candida. Not only is it highly acidic, but can also weaken the immune system and tax the adrenals. Moreover, coffee can have high concentrations of mold and mycotoxins which can continue to support the growth of Candida. What’s more, a 2012 study found caffeine can also perpetuates spikes in your blood sugar which, in turn, feeds the Candida overgrowth.
So what specifically should we eat and avoid on a Candida diet?
Foods to Eat
Low sugar fruits
Some dairy products
Low-mold nuts and seeds
Herbs, spices & condiments
Apple cider vinegar
Healthy fats and oils
Coconut oil (virgin)
Sweeteners like stevia and erythritol
Foods to Avoid
High sugar fruits
Meats like pork and lunch meat
Some dairy products
Moldy nuts and seeds
Nut butters from moldy nuts (cashews, pistachios and peanuts to name a few)
Condiments with added sugars
Refined and processed vegetable oils
Fake “butter” spreads
Sugars and sugar substitutes
Caffeinated or sugary drinks
Diet & regular soda
Disclaimer: The information provided on our social media channels, blog and newsletters is for educational and informational purposes only and is made available to you as a self-help tool. While we draw on our professional and clinical experience, this information should not be substituted for advice from your medical professional.