Candida albicans is a yeast which lives in 90-98 per cent of humans. Yeasts, related to moulds and fungi, prefer to live in a warm, dark and moist environment, so the intestines, vagina and even between soggy toes make ideal fungal hideaways.
Candida albicans has a root system that has the ability to penetrate the lining of the bowel with thin thready roots, like a tree fungus can penetrate the outer bark. Sugar and other nutrients are eagerly scoffed by Candida. Being a yeast, Candida can ferment sugar, and the by-products of this process – methane gas and acetaldehyde – filter out through the root system into the bloodstream. This explains why the diverse symptoms of candida can range from bloating to dizziness (see below).
The difficulty in diagnosing candida is that many of its symptoms are the same as symptoms produced by other conditions – depression, burn-out and hypoglycaemia for example. If you have chronic or recurrent thrush, are prone to fungal infections such as tinea, and often feel bloated, investigate further along the candida trail.
Some Symptoms Of Candida
- Tinea and other fungal infections
- Jock itch
- Swimmer’s ear
All in the mind
- Feeling drained
- Unable to concentrate
- Poor memory
- Frequent mood swings
- Feeling ‘spacy’ or ‘unreal’
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Oral Thrush
- Itching around anus
Nerves and muscles
- Muscular ache
- Muscular weakness
- Persistent vaginal itch, burning or discharge
- Loss of sexual desire
- Menstrual problems
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Most of us have had a course (or thirty) of antibiotics in our lives, to fight some form of harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, antibiotics destroy other resident populations, including beneficial ones like Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. As candida is not a bacterium but a yeast, it persists while harmful and benign neighbouring bacteria are destroyed by antibiotics.
- Antibiotics predispose you to candida because of this change to microflora populations in the digestive tract and elsewhere. Of particular concern are those of us who have taken weeks and months of antibiotic treatment for conditions such as acne. Even if you studiously avoid taking antibiotics, watch for antibiotics in the food chain. For example chickens and dairy cows are routinely given antibiotics, so buy organic chicken and eggs rather than their poor battery cousins. Organically produced cow’s milk is also available, or try sheep or goat’s milk products as these animals are rarely given antibiotics.
- Chlorine is added to our drinking water supply to prevent outbreaks of water-borne bacterial disease such as cholera and typhoid. Naturally enough, chlorine will also have an antibacterial effect on our internal microflora population, disturbing it day after day.
- The oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy can subtly change vaginal pH, making some women more susceptible to thrush, vaginal candida albicans.
- Long-term stress increases internally generated cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisone is the synthetic version of cortisol: both are anti-inflammatory, both suppress our immune response.
- Cortisone, the anti-inflammatory drug often given for aches, pains and skin eruptions, suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight bacteria, viruses and yeasts such as candida. Cortisol – our body’s own stress hormome also has these effects.
- Diabetes is a condition that raises blood sugar levels. As candida thrives on sugar, diabetics are predisposed candida. Insulin-dependent and non-insulin dependent diabetics do well on the Candida diet. Of course, close supervision from a doctor is necessary for those dependent on insulin.
- A diet full of white bread and pastries, sugar, alcohol and pizza is more likely to promote candida than a diet than a healthy diet that encourages the growth of microflora.
- Those who are immune-compromised (such as HIV sufferers or transplant patients) suffer from candida.
What to do
Treating candida requires a three pronged approach. Firstly, you need to reduce the candida population, this is done by starving them to death in addition to nuking them with antifungals. Secondly, you will reintroduce friendlier probiotic bugs, the third approach aims to improve and maintain the internal environment and immune system to prevent candida from recurring.
Foods to avoid
The first stage is to starve candida by removing its favourite food: sugar. Yeast should also be avoided because it may encourage candida. six weeks of rigorous yeast-free and sugar-free eating should do the trick. Below is a list of all the restricted foods. After the six weeks, carefully reintroduce select foods one at a time.
Sweet things to avoid: Cakes, sweet biscuits, soft drinks, fruit juice, golden syrup, honey, molasses, sugar, fructose, glucose syrup.
Yeasty things to avoid: Beer and wine, brewer’s yeast and other yeast supplements, pastries made with yeast, pizza, vegemite, breads made with yeast.
Fermented and mouldy things to avoid: Blue cheese, yellow (cheddary cheese), brie (and any similarly delicious cheese you can literally see the mould on),deli meats, malted drinks.
Fruit to avoid: grapes, melons, dried fruit.
Foods to Eat
- All vegetables, all legumes (eg lentils, chickpeas), all fruit except grapes, dried fruit and melons (limit fruit to 2 pieces per day), brown rice, rice cakes, rice noodles. Rice, rice and more rice, buckwheat, eg. soba noodles, kasha, corn eg polenta, fish, free range chicken, meat, eggs, lemon juice, millet, oats, porridge, olive oil, tofu, whole grain wheat products without yeast. eg pasta noodles, scones (scones are baked with self-raising flour not yeast), yeast free rye (for example per cent pumpernickel).
- Positive microflora are known in the trade as ‘probiotics’. It is a relatively new area of research, so only a few members of this good bug club are known, including acidophilus, bifidus, bulgaricus and thermophilus. Selected fermented foods contain probiotics including miso, yogurt, sauerkraut and leben. Include these fermented foods in your daily diet to establish colonies of probiotics.
- Probiotics thrive on soluble fibres found in all fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. For this reason, these foods are known as ‘prebiotic’
- If you want to drink alcohol, stick to vodka, gin or scotch with plain soda or ‘diet’ softdrinks.
Herbs and Supplements
- Part of the initial treatment strategy is to reduce candida numbers. At the same time you withdraw their staple diet, you need to take further action by utilising anti-fungal substances.
- A ‘yeast bomb’ campaign which utilises prescription antifungal drugs for a couple of weeks, followed by four weeks of natural antifungals is often the most efficient approach. Natural antifungals include: garlic, caprylic acid, pau d’arco, thyme, turmeric, calendula, golden seal and echinacea.
- Unless you are consulting a herbalist, the easiest supplement is garlic. Garlic is not only antifungal, it is also very good for the immune system. Take six cloves of raw garlic daily with food, or the equivalent in freeze-dried supplement form.
Sometimes it’s necessary to ease the symptoms of vaginal thrush while you are treating the cause of candida with diet and supplements. Make a douche up by filling a squeezy plastic sauce bottle (!) 3/4 full with warm water. Add 30mls white vinegar, one teaspoon acidophilus powder (or the contents of three capsules) and 2 drops tea tree oil. Lie in a bathtub and squeeze the contents into the vagina. Don’t worry that the water rushes out. Do this every night (or morning) before your shower or bath. Avoid douching during your period. It shouldn’t sting… If so, add more water, if still stinging don’t use the tea tree oil.