The Natural Approach to Fighting off Candida
Do you ever have overwhelming cravings for sugars or carbs, feel bloated after meals, experience PMS symptoms monthly, or battle with frequent yeast infections?
While many of us may think these are normal every now and again, you should remember my cardinal rule – anything short of feeling 100% amazing is your body’s way of telling you something is not quite right! So, if you experience those symptoms, keep reading as I walk through what many people suffer from unknowingly – Candida albicans (Candida) overgrowth.
What is Candida and how do you know if you suffer from Candida overgrowth?
Candida is a species of yeast that co-exists happily with the rest of the microbiome in your gut…most of the time. However, under some circumstances, it can grow out of control. The overgrowth can happen in your intestines, mucus membranes, genital tract, mouth, throat, skin, and even nails. It results from poor intestinal function most commonly caused by a lack of good bacteria and/or diets too low in fibre or too high in processed foods.
So, what to do if you have Candida overgrowth?
Since there is no quick fix to these ‘yeasty beasties’, fighting off Candida can feel daunting and almost impossible, but I have good news! Candida overgrowth can be treated. With diligence and the right approach, it’s possible to get it under control and restore your health. Before we dive into the approach, let’s look at some more signs of Candida overgrowth:
- Premenstrual symptoms. Candida is much more common in women than in men and affects the hormonal balance, causing irritability, depression, fatigue, which leads to painful menstrual periods.
- Mental symptoms, such as depression, mood swings, or confusion.
- Recurrent vaginal yeast infection or skin fungus infections, such as ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, and nail problems.
- Cravings for sweets, breads and/or alcohol. Candida thrives on sugars for cellular growth.
- Sensitivity to molds, dampness, and certain smells.
- Chronic fatigue, indigestion, or food reactions. Food allergies often develop from poor digestion and an unhealthy intestinal lining.
Any of these sound familiar? If so, I highly recommend you to follow six simple rules, which will help you fight off Candida overgrowth and regain your health.
- Test Your Gut Microbiome
If you’re concerned about Candida overgrowth, a great first step is to test your gut microbiome. Your results will uncover the levels of good bacteria, bad bacteria, types of yeast and antifungal values. With this knowledge, you can develop a personalized dietary plan to reset your gut function and expel excessive Candida.
- Avoid added sugars
Sugar is Candida’s favourite food. This yeast cannot survive without sugar, so the first and most important rule is to avoid sugar. Not only will your symptoms disappear, but cutting back on sugar has other benefits, including feeling more energised, better-looking skin, and disappearance of abdominal fat among others. Remember to also keep an eye out for those sugars hiding away in the foods we least expect!
- Eat non-starchy vegetables
Eating more plants is almost every health expert’s golden rule for getting your health back, and it also holds true for fighting off Candida overgrowth. The best vegetables to eat are generally those that are high in micronutrients but relatively low in carbs, including leafy greens like spinach and kale, as well as members of the cruciferous family, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumber.
- Stay away from gluten
Gluten is another controversial topic in today’s health world – is it necessary in your diet? More and more evidence shows that gluten can cause gut inflammation, leaving it more vulnerable to Candida overgrowth.
- Cut back on alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can seem impossible to give up in Hong Kong, where there are social events every weekend and daily work deadlines. But, limiting them will benefit you in numerous ways. The sugar in alcohol nurtures Candida growth and regular coffee consumption can irritate your gut and impair your digestion, leaving you more susceptible to Candida.
- Incorporate the following foods into your diet:
- Coconut oil – Coconut contains caprylic acid and monolaurin, both powerful antifungals. A great way to add coconut oil to your diet is to add a teaspoon to your smoothies.
- Garlic – Eaten raw, this acts as an incredible antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal. Add a clove to any fresh juice to reap the benefits without the side of unwanted garlicky breath.
- Pumpkin seeds – Pumpkin seeds are antiparasitic and help to support the immune system. You can easily sprinkle some seeds over your salad to increase the nutrient value and taste.
- Lemon juice – I love to start my morning with a hot cup of lemon water which helps to fight off Candida and improve digestion. Lemons are highly alkalizing and a great source of vitamin C.
- Naturally fermented foods and probiotics – Cultured foods, such as homemade sauerkraut, kimchi, and beet kvass are naturally fermented. These foods contain innate probiotics that can aid intestinal repair and repopulation of good bacteria in your gut. Also, don’t forget about probiotics! Taking an effective probiotic every day is a simple way to give your body a boost.
- Chia seeds – Chia seeds have gained a lot of attention recently for their high nutrient value. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they are an essential nutrient for supporting a healthy immune system.
I recommend trying these guidelines for one month and see how you feel. Making these simple changes can have a major impact on how you feel on a daily basis. If this process feels a bit overwhelming, start by following one rule at a time and slowly incorporating the others into your lifestyle. Before you know it, you will have six new healthy daily habits and Candida free for good!
- Staying Healthy with Nutrition, The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine (Elson M.Haas, MD with Buck Levin, PhD, RD., 2006)
- Nutritional Symptomatology; A Handbook for CSNN Students (Danielle Perrault, R.H.N., 2016)
- Living Candida-Free (Ricki Heller, PhD, R.H.N. with Andrea Nakayama, C.N.C, C.N.E., 2015)
- The Candida Diet (Lisa Richards, CNC. DR Eric Wood, ND, MA, LACH. Katie Stone, ND. Zia Sherrell, MPH.)
Vera is an aspiring nutritionist who believes in the power of natural, alive and good-quality foods on an individual’s health. She has a holistic approach to health and considers a strong interrelationship between the mind, body and spirit as the key to ultimate health and happiness. She is based in Hong Kong, busy pursuing her diploma in Natural Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.
When she is not studying, you can find her running in the trails of Hong Kong, playing on the netball court, soaking up the sun, and whipping up new smoothies in her kitchen.