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.
See also Thrush
Candida albicans is able to penetrate the lining of the bowel with thin thready roots. 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 such as depression, burn-out and hypoglycaemia. 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 both 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.
- Diabetes is a condition that raises blood sugar levels. As candida thrives on sugar, diabetics are predisposed to candida. Insulindependent and non-insulin dependent diabetics do well on the candida diet. Of course, close supervision from a doctor is necessary for those dependent on prescribed insulin.
- A diet full of white bread and pastries, sugar, alcohol and pizza is more likely to promote candida than a healthy diet that encourages the growth of beneficial microflora.
- Those who are immune-compromised (such as HIV sufferers or transplant patients) may 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 need to reintroduce friendlier probiotic bugs, and finally 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: for instance, a stew with mushrooms for dinner, not a mushroom, cabanossi and cheese pizza with red wine.
- Sweet things to avoid: cakes, carbonated beverages, fruit juice, golden syrup, honey, molasses, sugar, sweet biscuits.
- 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, deli meats, fermented sauces (such as fish sauce, soy sauce), grapes, leftovers and mouldy food, malted drinks and cereals, melons, mushrooms, peanuts, pickles, vinegar, yellow cheese.
Foods to Eat
- All vegetables except mushrooms, all legumes except peanuts, all fruit except grapes, dried fruit and melons (limit fruit to two pieces per day), brown rice, rice cakes, rice noodles, buckwheat (such as soba noodles and kasha), corn (such as polenta), fish, free-range chicken, meat, eggs, lemon juice, millet, oats, porridge, olive oil, tofu, whole grain wheat products without yeast (for example pasta noodles), scones (scones are baked with self-raising flour not yeast), yeast-free rye and other breads (for example 100 per cent pumpernickel).
- Positive microflora are known 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, yoghurt, sauerkraut and leben. Include these fermented foods in your daily diet to establish good 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'.
Herbs and Supplements
- (See Dinky Di)
- Part of the initial treatment strategy is to reduce candida numbers. At the same time as 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 (in which case they may prescribe more obscure herbs such as pau d'arco), 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, or 2-3 1 g garlic tablets.
- Citral is a naturally occurring substance that is particularly effective against Candida albicans. It is found in Lemon grass and Australian Lemon Myrtle.
- Some people can feel unwell for a few days due to 'die-off', the reaction to a large percentage of the candida colony dying simultaneously. In their dying moments they release toxic substances such as acetaldehyde. The same chemical is released in the metabolism of alcohol. For this reason, you may experience 'hangover' symptoms including fatigue, headaches and nausea. Your existing symptoms may also worsen, but this is temporary.
- After the candida has been reduced, you need to improve the internal status quo by increasing healthy microflora populations. The most widely available probiotic supplements are acidophilus and bifidus. For the entire six weeks, take 1 teaspoon of powder (combined acidophilus and bifidus) in water each morning, or four capsules.
- A teaspoon of herbal bitters in water before dinner encourages digestive secretions, which in turn keep the microflora happy.
- For the six weeks, take a supplement to support the immune system. Find one that contains a combination of vitamin C, echinacea and zinc.
- Drink herbal tisanes that include Echinacea that can help reduce the incidence of infections, including fungal infections such as Candida.
- No-one who has survived the candida program ever wants to revisit. Ensure you don't go overboard with yeast or sugar, and maintain your immune system.
- If you have vaginal thrush try the douche recommended in Thrush
At a glance
- Good food
- Fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, fish, free range meat, chicken and eggs. Probiotic foods such as miso, yoghurt, sauerkraut.
- Food to avoid
- Yeast and sugar. Alcohol.
- Remedies to begin
- Yeast bomb. Herbal bitters. Vitamin C, echinacea and zinc, probiotics including acidophilus and bifidus
- You may need to permanently reduce sugar and be wary of yeasted foods.
- Sort out your priorities. Do you feel overwhelmed?