Foreword written by: Dr. Susan Slipacoff, ND
March 20, 2019
There is a lot of information available these days on the microbiome as it relates to overall health and chronic disease. Many of you may not realize it but candida is a microbe that is found in everyone’s digestive system, even the healthy ones. The issue is when the proper microbial balance is disrupted by insults such as a poor diet, frequent medication including antibiotics, smoking or a depressed immune system, that these uni-cellular organisms grow and multiply, creating a load that is outside of normal limits. Common symptoms include: Fatigue, frequent infections, bloating, irregular bowels, diarrhea/constipation and/or frequent yeast infections. Tests available to diagnose this issue include those done through the blood and/or stool.
If you are suspicious that you have a candida or yeast overgrowth then read the article below to become more informed. If you would like further guidance and assistance on assessing and treating the issue then feel free to contact the clinic (phone or email) and set up a naturopathic appointment to discuss your concerns further.
Candida albicans is the most common kind of yeast that co-exists with humans. Under optimal conditions, candida plays a valuable role in our digestive systems, since we need small amounts of candida in our mouths and throughout our digestive system in order to fully digest our food.
However, as anyone who’s ever baked bread knows, yeast likes to grow. (It is a fungus, after all.) When circumstances are ideal, our gut bacteria keeps intestinal yeast growth in check, creating a harmonious balance between bacteria and yeast.
This delicate balance is, however, easily disturbed. For example, we can lose beneficial bacteria after taking a round of antibiotics, or power candida’s growth by bingeing on sugar or alcohol. Estrogen dominance, birth control pills and stress can all multiply the amount of yeast in our systems. The result? Candida overgrowth.
Most people are familiar with the different kinds of yeast infections. A candida infection in the mouth is called oral thrush, and is marked by white, bumpy patches in the mouth and on the tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing. A vaginal yeast infection causes redness, swelling, and itchiness, and produces an unpleasant white discharge. These reactions are typically immediately noticeable - and very irritating.
In contrast, a systemic candida overgrowth can be much more subtle - although it’s impact may be more troublesome. When beneficial gut bacteria decrease and yeast multiplies, the overall effect on our bodies can be far-reaching.
When candida grows unchecked, it can permeate into the lining of your intestine leading to “leaky gut” syndrome. As the name suggests, leaky gut syndrome causes undigested food, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” from your intestine into your bloodstream.
When the immune system is faced with these unknown invaders, it kicks into overdrive trying to neutralize the threat in any way it can. This can lead to a number of symptoms ranging from inflammation to autoimmune diseases.
Candida overgrowth is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary so greatly. If you’re experiencing autoimmune symptoms, wondering why your thinking has been foggy recently, or trying to figure out troublesome digestive issues, it’s possible that a systemic candida overgrowth could be the underlying problem.
Despite your best intentions, you have strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. (Candida wants to keep multiplying, so a taste of sugar will leave you wanting more!)
You feel itchy all over, especially, and sometimes embarrassingly, in the anal or vagina.
Speaking of embarrassment, you suffer from toenail fungal infections or unexplained itchy foot rashes.
Your digestion feels out of whack, with a lot of gassiness and bloating.
You experience mood swings and frustration for no obvious reason - or you frequently feel anxious or depressed, even though you are doing your best to look after your emotional well-being.
Unexplained joint pain makes it hard to keep up with your exercise routine, and that lack of exercise is only worsening your other symptoms. You want to work out, but it’s not easy!
Boxed candida “kits” may be popular, but in reality overcoming candida overgrowth and restoring a healthy balance of yeast and gut bacteria can be very challenging. Our office can work with you to develop a program that’s tailored specifically for you - starting with a complete analysis and treatment plan.
Once we have a good picture of what’s really going on in your system, we can work on a plan to restore balance.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as our holistic approach means taking an in depth look at various aspects of your lifestyle.
In general, the first step of treatment consists of dietary changes. (You knew that was coming, right?) Together we can work on a diet plan that works for you to starve out the candida.
Dietary changes should be realistic and manageable over the long term. After all, we want to create a sustainable solution, not a quick fix that may be too difficult to stick with.
To get candida under control, patients have greatest success by limiting all processed sweets from their diet. We also recommend cutting back on starchy carbohydrates. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are the best options for a sweet treat.
Eliminating all fermented or moldy foods and drinks, including alcohol, will help control candida growth. This includes well known fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha, and also the less-obvious ones, like soy sauce or peanuts.
Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking lots of water (2-3 litres a day is a good goal) can help improve your intestinal “transit time” so nothing lingers too long in your system.
It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t necessarily completely forbidden on a candida diet. Although processed flour can contribute to to a candida overgrowth and slower transit time, whole food carbohydrates such as rye or quinoa can add good fiber and minerals to your system. We can work together to look at your carb consumption and make any necessary adjustments.
The steps above can slow the growth of candida which may improve some of your symptoms, but as always tackling one side of the issue isn’t enough. You also want to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. An effective way to do this is by consuming more probiotics or “healthy bacteria”. A high quality supplement of the right kind of probiotic for you is usually recommended, as they are able to rapidly populate the gut and restore balance.
Research has found that many substances aid in the killing off of stubborn overgrowth. Studies have found turmeric to be effective as well as coconut oil, some essential oils and much more. In order to determine the right solution for your body, help by your naturopathic /integrative doctor is recommended. We can talk about the best treatment plan to eradicate this overgrowth and eliminate the problems candida overgrowth can cause in your system.
In addition to dietary changes, reducing your stress levels can help. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time will increase blood sugar.
Since candida feeds off sugar, stress can make us more vulnerable to candida overgrowth. It’s not always easy to lower stress levels - life often gets in the way. However, we can change the way we react to stress through science-backed stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.
Candida overgrowth is one of the more common reasons people seek holistic care. The good news is that we are experts in treating digestive issues.