I. What is a Candida Albicans Overgrowth?
Candida is the name given to a family of fungi that are ever present in the human body. There are over 20 species of fungi that belong to this genus. An overgrowth of any one of these organisms will turn into a fungal infection called Candidiasis. The most common species that is prone to overgrow is Candida Albicans. It is a specific yeast that exists in the intestinal tract, mucous membranes, and on the skin. In a healthy gut, this bacteria is kept at bay and doesn’t cause problems. (1)
An overgrowth of Candida Albicans can wreak your health in many different ways. It is the root cause of the ever-so-common yeast infection that affects around 75 percent of all American women. (2) It robs the body of energy, weakens the immune system, increases oxalates in the system which in turn poison the mitochondria, and often leads to Leaky Gut.If left untreated, the leaky gut caused from Candidiasis opens the door to Candida Albicans spreading into the bloodstream, resulting in a dangerous systemic fungal infection. (3)
The issue with Candida is that it is opportunistic and aggressive. If the gut flora on the intestinal wall is out of balance, weakening the immune system, Candida will take advantage and eagerly take over. It has a unique protein that allows it to adhere to the gut lining. This adhesive protein disables the human body’s natural mechanisms of removal.
It is important to note that Candida is asexual. When Candida grows it does something called “budding.” This slow growth method is much like a flower or a tree that buds flowers. Because Candida is asexual, and does not need a mate, it is virulent. As it grows it produces more branches off of those buds. Those branches multiply branches and their branches multiply branches. These act likes roots of a tree. As they get longer and stronger they literally burrow holes in the lining of your gut. This, even after Candida is controlled, results in a Leaky Gut, causing food to permeate into the blood stream.
II. How Do You Get a Candida Overgrowth?
There are multiple factors that contribute to the overgrowth of Candida Albicans:
First and foremost, one of the biggest factors in determining the health of your gut and it’s susceptibility to Candida fungal overgrowth is your Diet.
The Western Diet is anything but healthy:
Processed Foods: Processed foods dominate the shelves in local grocery stores and are loaded with chemicals, preservatives, and high amounts of sugar.
Pasteurized Conventional Dairy: Pasteurized dairy is devoid of any real nutrition and is loaded with hormones.
CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) meat: CAFO meat from conventionally raised animals on factory farms is loaded with hormones and antibiotics.
Pesticides, Herbicides, Fungicides: Most of the fruits and veggies you will find in your supermarket are heavily sprayed with pesticides and herbicides while many are even genetically modified (GMO).
Gluten/Grains: Gluten and most grains are gut irritants and have been shown to irritate the intestinal barrier, weakening immune health.
Absence of Cultured Foods: Cultured and fermented foods are completely foreign to most people’s diets and not consumed regularly.
The list goes on and on. All of the above factors each cause disastrous effects on gut health and can cause irregular gut flora, the perfect environment for candida to take over the gut and thrive It’s safe to say that the Western diet is a recipe for disaster and not supportive of a healthy gut.
There are a few specific foods that cause Candida Albicans to flourish:
Sugar: One of the biggest triggers for Candida to grow out of control is a diet high in Sugar. Sugar causes Candida Albicans to grow and thrive more than anything else. Unfortunately, in the Standard American Diet (SAD) there is sugar in almost everything so most people suffer from dangerously high amounts of sugar on a daily basis.
Foods High in Mycotoxins & Aflatoxins: When Candida overgrows and takes over the gut, it feeds on foods high in sugar. As these sugars are metabolized by this opportunistic fungus, certain toxins are produced in the gut as a by product. These Fungal toxins are mycotoxins and aflatoxins. Therefore, it is of upmost important to avoid eating foods that contain high amount of mycotoxins and aflatoxins such as peanut butter, almonds, pistachios, brazil nuts, maize, figs, cottonseed, Balsamic Vinegar, rice, and spices.
Surprisingly, there are many lifestyle factors that can weaken your gut health and cause an imbalance in your gut, contributing to a candida overgrowth. Some of these include high amounts of stress, lack of sleep, weak immune systems as the result of insufficient immune stimulation ( aka the hygiene hypothesis: the belief that people who live in mostly sterile ‘anti-bacteria’ environments don’t get adequate exposure to bacteria to build a healthy immune system ), and psychological and emotional stress such as worry, anxiety, and anger.
‘Endogenous factor’s is a fancy way of saying factors that already exist from within the body. There are many endogenous factors from both the body and inside the gut that could be the root problem, contribute to causing Candida overgrowth. These could include SIBO, pathogenic overgrowth and gut infections ( such as H. pylori ), and hormone imbalances.
One of the biggest factors that determines whether Candida Albicans overgrows in the gut or not is the state of an individuals microbiota (aka the gut flora in the large intestine). Gut flora resides on the inner most layer of the intestinal lining, the mucus layer. The body’s largest bacterial community is located in the gut with about 10¹² of bacteria per gram of tissue. In a healthy individual, their gut flora is dominated by beneficial microbes. A healthy gut flora includes beneficial fungi, protozoa, beneficial viruses, and even beneficial worms. In a healthy gut, all these beneficial microbes work together to live in harmony, keep the body balanced, and keep the tight junctions in the intestinal barrier working correctly.
Amidst the beauty of all the beneficial microbes, it is important to recognize that there are also hundreds of bad bacteria and pathogenic microbes that coexist along-side the beneficial bacterial strains. For an individual to be healthy and have strong immune system, these good bacteria must far outnumber the bad. When the gut flora is dominated by healthy microbes, the pathogenic bacteria are outnumbered and kept in check, often remaining neutral. However, these neutral microbes are very opportunistic and when given opportunity, will eagerly take over and turn pathogenic.
When the gut flora is out of balance, the immune system weakens, making that individual more vulnerable to sickness and disease (such as autoimmune diseases). The tight junctions in the lining of your gut walls weakens often resulting in leaky gut. (Source) Therefore, the condition of the gut lining is directly related to the health of the gut flora.
One of the biggest causes of gut flora imbalance is antibiotics. Upon taking a course of antibiotics, you not only wipe out the pathogenic bacteria but also the beneficial gut bacteria in your gut wall(3). This is devastating for your gut health. You don’t only ingest antibiotics when you’re taking a pill prescribed from your doctor. There are many sneaky ways they find their way into your system such as conventional CAFO meat and drinking water. (Source)
It is important to limit the use of steroids and synthetic hormones such as birth control and contraceptives. Steroids increase your blood sugar which can feed candida. Birth control pills actually alkalize the urinary tract which should be acidic, creating a welcoming environment for candida to grow.
Environmental molds, toxins and funguses can both contribute and aggravate a Candida Albicans overgrowth.
III. Do You Have a Candida Overgrowth?
Well, this is a list of some of the major symptoms, from topical to internal. This list is far from exhaustive.
- Athlete’s foot
- Jock itch
- Tinea rashes
- Thick, yellow fungal nails
- Vaginal Yeast Infection
- Crushing Fatigue
- Brain Fog
- Irregularity in Bowel Movements
- Abdominal Pain
- Food Allergies
- Intense Sugar Cravings
- Regular Sinus Infections
- Mood Disorders/Mood Swings
- low immune function
- chemical sensitivities
- Joint Pain
- It Can Drive Autoimmune Conditions such as Chronic Fatigue, MS, Hashimotos etc.
IV. How You Can Get a Candida Overgrowth Back Under Control
In this last section, I will give a basic overview of how to begin bringing a Candida Overgrowth back into balance:
The first step an individual can take to heal a leaky gut is to eliminate the foods that feed the Candida. It would be wise to eliminate these foods for a fair amount of time. The duration is subjective depending on the severity of the Cadidiasis. However, a good place to start is 12 weeks. Check out my following example of a protocol below:
12 Week Example Protocol
The foods to eliminate are:
- Foods High in Mycotoxins & Aflatoxins: Such as peanut butter, almonds, pistachios, brazil nuts, figs, Balsamic Vinegar, rice, and non-organic spices.
- Nuts: These can be added later and after learning how to properly prepare them through soaking and dehydrating to remove molds.
- Gluten: I think it’s best to eliminate gluten grains all together.
- Soy, Corn, Peanuts: Unless organic, these are best avoided because they are usually GMO. They also can have aflatoxin (mold) which sin’t good for you. In general avoid them.
- Dairy: Go dairy free for a few weeks. Then try some grass-fed cultured dairy such as goat kefir. Stay away from conventional, pasteurized dairy.
- Processed foods/Fast Food/High Fructose Corn Syrup, Etc.
- Hydrogenated Oils: These oils are rancid and oxidized meaning they are toxic. Most Plant/vegetable oils fall into this category such as: canola, soy, grapeseed, rapeseed, flax oil etc.
- Excessive amounts of sugar: Going over 25g of sugar a day is too much. This may be hard but it must be done.
- No Fruit: Avoid fruit for at least 12 weeks as fructose can cause digestive issues for a weak, unhealthy gut. After the 12 week period, you can gradually add back in low sugar fruits and see how your body handles the fructose.
- No Sugar and Carbohydrates: This includes white rice, processed foods, white potatoes, etc. These raise your insulin levels in your body. Limit even complex carbs and healthy sugar. Things like quinoa, fruit, sweet potatoes and other starches should be avoided in the beginning of this protocol.
The foods TO eat:
- Gut Healing Foods: Bone Broth, Collagen/Gelatin, Coconut oil, Slippery Elm Tea
- Gut Healing Supplements: Krill oil, L-Glutamine, Licorice root, Collagen/Gelatin
- Fermented Raw Grass-fed Kefir: sheep or goat is easier to digest than cow’s milk
- Organic Protein: Grass-fed beef, wild game, organic free-range chicken, organic free-range eggs, fish, seafood etc.
- Healthy fats: Coconut oil, Avocados, Gee, Animal fats such as Duck fat etc.
- Green Leafy Veggies: Lots and Lots of green veggies!
Also, adhere to this general rule to attain an alkaline body: at least fifty percent of your plate should be GREEN veggies.
Work on managing your stress levels. Make sleep a priority and try to set your sleep/wake schedule to the same times every night to balance and regulate your circadian rhythms. Avoid over-exercising. During this period of healing your gut, focus on calm, centering forms of movement and exercise such as yoga. Yoga will also help with detoxification of your lymph system.
Restoring Beneficial Gut Flora:
To restore the beneficial microbes into your gut, you need to introduce fermented foods into your daily diet. This is a critical step as it’s going to begin to reseed your gut with good gut flora. By varying your fermented foods coupled with a high quality probiotic supplement, you seed your gut with many new strains of good bacteria, building a stronger microbiota. are so many options from the store available today. Here is a list to go buy immediately and begin ingesting daily.
- Kefir (goat or cow’s milk), preferably organic, grass fed and raw
- Yogurt (sheep, goat or cow), preferably organic and grass fed
- Lacto-fermented Vegetables (not pickled)
- Sauerkraut (must be lacto-fermented)
- A High Quality Probiotic Supplement
Treating with Anti-fungals:
You can also take anti-fungal supplements. For best results, seek the guidance of a holistic/naturopathic doctor for a specific protocol. The most common anti-fungals used to treated Candidiasis are:
- Pau ‘d Arco: Drink Pau ‘d Arco Tea. This tea is a tonic herb. This means that it is not toxic and can be consumed daily. The name literally means “pull the bow.” Its history lies in Amazonian tribes using it for bow and arrow making. It would never grow mold or rot. It’s anti fungal, anti bacterial and anti viral properties make it a power house.
- Cloves/Clove Oil
- Oil of Oregano
- Undecylenic Acid
- Lemongrass Essential Oil
- Melaleuca Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
Testing for Candidiasis:
After first trying all of the above recommendations, if Candidiasis symptoms stubbornly persist, it would be wise to seek testing with a medical professional. I would recommend working with a holistic naturopathic doctor/practitioner that practice integrative medicine if at all possible.
Some tests you could ask them about in testing for Candidiasis are:
- Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis
- BioHealth #401H
- Organix Comprehensive Profile from Genova Diagnostics
- Organic Acids Test from Great Plains Laboratory
Remember, in the end, lab tests are only one part of diagnosing Candidiasis. Be sure to discuss your entire personal health history, signs and symptoms with your practitioner.