Candidiasis, an overgrowth of the yeast, Candida Albicans, is quite a controversial subject these days. On one side there are a few medical doctors and a slew of alternative practitioners who blame Candida for everything from migraines to cancer. On the other, the medical establishment, generally refuses to recognize the seriousness of this condition, primarily because it’s symptoms so closely mimic those of other conditions. As with most controversies, the truth likely resides somewhere between the two extreme points of view. My own experience has convinced me that, to varying degrees, Candida is a problem for a large number of Americans. If you’re wondering whether it’s a problem for you, read on.
In general, symptoms will include two or more of the following: fatigue, depression, brain fog, insomnia, bloating, gas, intestinal cramps, chronic diarrhea or constipation, sensitivity to chemicals, perfumes or other odors, loss of sex drive, allergies and food sensitivities. And that’s just for starters. If you are a woman, you might also experience recurrent yeast infections, bladder infections, and have painful menstruation or PMS. A man might suffer from persistent jock itch, athlete’s foot, other fungal infections, or prostititis. Symptoms in children can include recurring colds, sore throats, ear infections, and digestive problems like gas, constipation or diarrhea.
The most common sign of Candida is a craving for sugar and starches like bread and pasta (which quickly convert to sugar in the body). This is because Candida uses sugar as its primary fuel. Think about how many people you know who crave sweets and/or bread and you’ll have some idea of the extent of this problem.
While Candida may not be responsible for every illness that befalls mankind, letting it go unattended for years can lead to a variety of chronic health problems. Candida produces a potent toxin called canditoxin which suppresses the immune system at the cellular level.
Once in the blood, Candida can cause symptoms such as migraine headaches, irritable bowel, Crohn’s disease, eczema, hyperactivity, weight gain, chemical and inhalant allergies and rheumatoid arthritis. Candida “short-circuits” the body’s defenses at its deepest levels. That’s why attempts to rid the body of any of candida’s symptoms without addressing the candida itself, usually prove futile, and why allopathic doctors have a relatively poor track record treating many of these conditions.
The extensive use of broad spectrum antibiotics destroys much of the “good” bacteria in our gut that would otherwise keep candida in its place. Many women are aware that taking antibiotics for a bladder infection virtually guarantees an onset of a vaginal yeast infection.
Birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy are also thought to put women at a greater risk for Candidiasis. Yeast, a natural inhabitant of the vagina, proliferates in the presence of the estrogen in these drugs. According to Candida expert Leon Chaitow, N.D., fully 35% of women using birth control pills have associated cases of acute vaginal candidiasis.
There is no doubt that the main culprit responsible for opening the door to candida overgrowth is a poor diet, high in sugar and white flour. According to Newsweek Magazine, In Sugar We Trust (July 13, 1998), the average American now consumes 150 lbs. of sugar per year, up 28 lbs. since 1970. And we’re paying the price. Our bodies’ digestive and eliminative systems have become sluggish under the strain of our inadequate, sugar laden diet. When sugary foods remain in our intestines for two to three days (the average transit time for Americans) we become a veritable smorgasbord for all sorts of opportunistic organisms, including Candida Albicans.
To win the battle with Candida you must avoid sugar. This is more challenging than you might think. Sugar goes by many names and has a way of sneaking into our diets wearing many disguises. Make sure nothing you eat contains sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltose, lactose, glycogen, glucose, mannitol, sorbitol, galactose, maple syrup, maple sugar, molasses, brown sugar, raw sugar, date sugar, turbinado sugar, nutra-sweet (contains lactose), aspartame, corn syrup, honey, and fruit juice. They are all sugar, and fuel for yeast. If your cravings for something sweet are strong, try Stevia, a sweet herb that is safe to use on this program.
You’ll want to avoid all refined, white flour products. This includes most pastas, breads and other baked goods, which also contain yeast, another no-no. My clients have had very good results when they remove wheat altogether.
It is also important to stay away from alcohol, and fruits – again, because of their high sugar content. All dairy products are out. Also eliminate mushrooms, sprouts, and most nuts (with the exception of almonds), because of possible mold contamination. All vinegar, except for raw apple cider vinegar, and other fermented foods, are verboten.
One of the most important foods is protein. Because it is acid forming, protein helps to create an unfriendly environment for the alkaline dependant yeast. For the first month or two of a Candida program, eat plenty of naturally raised chicken, turkey, fish and eggs, free of hormones and antibiotics. All kinds of fresh vegetables are also great, especially ocean vegetables, because of their high mineral content.
The grains quinoa and buckwheat are made into pastas or noodles. Millet and amaranth can be substituted for rice which, because of its high glycemic index (turns to sugar quickly in the body) is also off limits for now. Beans (garbanzo, kidney, pinto, black etc.) are fine as long as they don’t make you too gassy, and other starches like corn and potatoes are allowed.
Use your imagination, and this new way of eating can be a real adventure. If you need some help, there are a number of good Candida cook books on the market.
Supporting your immune system during its fight with Candida is important. The antioxidants A, C, E, zinc, selenium, Glutathione and NAC should be included. Take the load off the liver with milk thistle and lecithin. Garlic, goldenseal root, cinnamon bark, cloves, Pau d’arco, Caprylic acid, and zinc tannates all have candicidal properties.
Repopulating Candida’s natural enemies, lactobacillus acidophilus, which inhabits the small intestine, and bifido bacteria which lives in the oxygen-poor environment of the colon, is very important. Look for non-dairy, high potency products.
There are potentially dozens of supplements that might be of benefit. Have a qualified nutritionist design a supplemental program that is right for you. But the fact is, regardless of which supplements you use, the key to your success will be the adjustments you make in your eating habits.
Candidiasis is a problem that will not go away by itself. Left unaddressed it will become entrenched, migrate from your intestines to other organs, weaken your immune system and ultimately threaten your health.