Candida – what is it and is it your problem?
Candida is a form of yeast, which is naturally present in your mouth and intestines. Candida aids digestion and nutrient absorption, but when your body overproduces candida it can breakdown the wall of the intestine, causing leaky gut. Leaky gut issues can then cause further health problems, ranging from digestive troubles to depression.
Candida overgrowth often presents with very similar symptoms to some food intolerances – things like fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and headaches. The most effective way to identify candida is through a stool test, however this is expensive, so for most of my patients I test for candida via a blood test. These results, in conjunction with a thorough discussion of symptoms, can help to pinpoint if you are experiencing an issue with a candida overgrowth or if it is a food intolerance problem.
Symptoms that indicate a candida issue include:
- Itchy bottom
- Itchy ears
- Bladder infections
- Jock itch, tinea and fungal infections of the toes
- Cravings for sugar, bread and alcohol
What causes candida overgrowth?
The three most common causes of candida overgrowth are antibiotic use, a long term high-sugar diet (more than the occasional chocolate bar, but as films like That Sugar Film are letting people know, sugar is everywhere in processed foods), or a long period of stress.
How to treat candida?
Effective treatment of candida should be based around three key pillars:
- A low sugar diet
Candida feeds off sugar, so it is important to remove as much sugar as possible from your diet. As well as obvious sources of sugar like lollies, desserts, soft drinks and alcohol, for the most effective treatment, it is recommended to follow a low carbohydrate diet that also limits natural sugars. This means cutting out starchy vegetables and limiting fruits and grains. Instead, you should be eating non-starchy vegetables (lots of greens!), meat, fish and non-glutinous grains, along with herbs and spices to make your food yummy and interesting.
Probiotics will compete with the candida yeast in your gut, and if you promote the good bacteria they can overpower the candida overgrowth. However, I recommend using probiotics under supervision, as there are many different strains and it’s important to find the one that is right for your individual circumstances.
There are a range of natural antifungals that can help to treat a candida overgrowth when used in conjunction with diet and probiotics. These include caprylic acid which is found naturally in coconut oil, oregano oil and herbal medicines such as Horopiti and Pau d’ arco. Garlic also has strong antifungal properties.
So you suspect you might have candida, what now?
I strongly advise against self-diagnosing a candida overgrowth, as its symptoms can be similar to many food intolerance reactions. For all my patients, I conduct testing in conjunction with a pathology lab to accurately diagnose issues and increase the chances of successful treatment. If you think candida overgrowth might be your problem, come in for an appointment and we can start the investigative process. A clear diagnosis is the first step to better health.
Have you had issues with candida overgrowth in the past? What treatment helped you? Tell us about your experience in the comments.