White coating on your tongue, mysterious skin rashes, bloating, constipation, foggy thinking and you’re always ready to eat something sweet? You could be suffering from Candida overgrowth. Many of my patients have had the frustrating journey
What is Candida Albicans?
Candida albicans is the most common kind of yeast that co-exists with humans. Under optimal conditions, candida plays a valuable role in our digestive systems, since we need small amounts of candida in our mouths and throughout our digestive system in order to fully digest our food.
The dose always makes the poison. As anyone who’s ever baked bread knows, yeast likes to grow. (It is a fungus, after all.) When circumstances are ideal, our gut bacteria keeps intestinal yeast growth in check, creating a harmonious balance between bacteria and yeast.
The delicate balance between gut bacteria and yeast
This delicate balance is, however, easily disturbed. For example, we can lose beneficial bacteria after taking a round of antibiotics, or fuel candida’s growth by bingeing on sugar or alcohol. Estrogen excess, birth control pills and stress can all multiply the amount of yeast in our systems. The result? Frustrating, sticky Candida overgrowth that causes more problems than just a pesky yeast infection.
Is systemic candida the same as a yeast infection?
Most people are familiar with different kinds of yeast infections. A candida infection in the mouth is called oral thrush, and is marked by white, bumpy patches in the mouth and on the tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing. A vaginal yeast infection causes redness, swelling, and itchiness, and produces an unpleasant white discharge. These reactions are typically immediately noticeable - and very irritating, and easily treatable.
In contrast, a systemic candida overgrowth can be much more subtle - although its impact may be more troublesome. When beneficial gut bacteria decrease and yeast multiplies, the overall effect on our bodies can be far-reaching. The gut has a powerful influence on other systems of the body from mood to periods.
Candida overgrowth is often overlooked or misdiagnosed because the symptoms vary so greatly. If you’re experiencing autoimmune symptoms, wondering why your thinking has been foggy recently, or trying to figure out troublesome digestive issues, it’s possible that a systemic candida overgrowth could be the underlying problem.
What are the symptoms of systemic candida?
1. Despite your best intentions, you have strong cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. (Candida wants to keep multiplying, so a taste of sugar will leave you wanting more!)
2. You feel itchy all over, especially, and sometimes embarrassingly, in the anal or vaginal area
3. Speaking of embarrassment, you suffer from toenail fungal infections or unexplained itchy foot rashes.
4. Your digestion feels out of whack, with a lot of gassiness and bloating.
5. You experience mood swings and frustration for no obvious reason - or you frequently feel anxious or depressed, even though you are doing your best to look after your emotional well-being.
6. Unexplained joint pain makes it hard to keep up with your exercise routine, and that lack of exercise is only worsening your other symptoms. You want to work out, but it’s not easy!
Diagnostic testing for gut bacteria and yeast
Boxed candida “kits” may be popular, but in reality overcoming candida overgrowth and restoring a healthy balance of yeast and gut bacteria can be very challenging. Our office can work with you to develop a program that’s tailored specifically for you - starting with a complete analysis and treatment plan.
Once we have a good picture of what’s really going on in your system, we can work on a plan to restore balance.
A holistic approach to managing candida
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as our holistic approach means taking an in depth look at various aspects of your lifestyle.
1 - Specialized candida diet
In general, the first step of treatment consists of dietary changes. (You knew that was coming, right?) Together we can work on a diet plan that works for you to starve out the candida.
Dietary changes should be realistic and manageable over the long term. After all, we want to create a sustainable solution, not a quick fix that may be too difficult to stick with. I always stress this with patients—talk to us about your diet challenges! We want to work with you to help, not leave you to fend for yourself.
2 - Say goodbye to sugary sweets
To get candida under control, patients have greatest success by limiting all processed sweets from their diet. We also recommend cutting back on starchy carbohydrates. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are the best options for a sweet treat.
3 - … and alcohol
Eliminating all fermented or moldy foods and drinks, including alcohol, will help control candida growth. This includes well known fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha, and also the less-obvious ones, like soy sauce or peanuts.
4 - Add extra fibre
Adding more fibre to your diet and drinking lots of water (2-3 litres a day is a good goal) can help improve your intestinal “transit time” so nothing lingers too long in your system. Most women don’t know that more than one bowel movement daily is ideal.
5 - Carbs are allowed, in moderation
It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t necessarily completely forbidden on a candida diet. Although processed flour can contribute to to a candida overgrowth and slower transit time, whole food carbohydrates such as rye or quinoa can add good fiber and minerals to your system. We can work together to look at your carb consumption and make any necessary adjustments. You can try a ketogenic diet (watch the dairy though!) but I often caution against this long term.
The steps above can
slow the growth of candida which may improve some of your symptoms, but as
always tackling one side of the issue isn’t enough. You also want to increase
the number of good bacteria in your gut. An effective way to do this is by
consuming more probiotics or “healthy bacteria”. That’s where we come in.
The effect of stress on candida
In addition to dietary changes, reducing your stress levels can help with Candida (not to mention just about everything else). When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which over time will increase blood sugar.
Since candida feeds off sugar, stress can make us more vulnerable to candida overgrowth. It’s not always easy to lower stress levels - life often gets in the way. However, we can change the way we react to stress through science-backed stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga.
Candida overgrowth is one of the more common reasons people seek holistic care. The good news is that we are experts in treating digestive issues.
If you suspect that you may be experiencing an overgrowth of candida, give us a call at 647-772-4396 Together we can make an effective plan to get you back on track.
Your Hormone Advocate,
Dr. Hillary Webster, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor with a thriving hormone-focused practice in the Danforth area of Toronto. Are you having trouble losing stubborn weight, or finding that your energy isn't what it used to be? Call Dr. Hillary for a free consult. Naturopathic hormone or thyroid testing and balancing could be just what the doctor ordered!