Candida: What It Is and What To Do About It

Candida infections seem to be on the rise. I have seen an increase in patients who have come to see me due to symptoms associated with candidiasis. Candida is a fungus that grows in the mouth, vagina and other body systems, like the digestive tract. It usually is found in immuno-compromised individuals, but I have also seen it in patients who are otherwise healthy. In this piece, I will be referring to candida in the gut. This is what I treat with nutrition therapy most often, and it is the type of candidiasis that I have found to most often negatively impact the body systemically (as opposed to candidiasis in the mouth or vagina).

Candida grows in the gut as a result of the imbalance of healthy gut flora (probiotics and prebiotics) and a high sugar diet. When healthy gut flora are wiped out (via antibiotics, food allergies and intolerances and/or some additives in food), the gut is exposed to other less-than-ideal bacteria, viruses and fungi (namely, candida). A candida infection can lead to digestive upset, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, night sweats, cold sweats throughout the day, fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances and mental fog, just to name a few. Not everyone experiences all of the symptoms of candidiasis; the collection of presenting symptoms depends on the severity of the infection and diet.

Food can either feed or fight candida. Generally, a lower carb approach works well (candida feeds on sugar), meaning that the diet consists of very little fruits, grains, potatoes, legumes and lentils and more lean proteins, nonstarchy veggies and healthy fats. However, removing foods that one is allergic to or intolerant of can also help to heal the gut and begin to restore healthy bacteria (see a doctor and/or dietitian to help you determine your allergies and intolerances). Candida usually needs to be cleaned from the gut before a probiotic regimen will make an impact, so speaking with your doctor about an anti-fungal medication or a more natural anti-candida supplement regimen would be the first priority.

Many of my patients use Renew Life’s CandiGone as a more natural approach to candidiasis treatment. CandiGone is an herbal supplement package that includes capsules and a liquid taken together twice daily. Usage depends on the severity of the candida infection. Accompanying foods and supplements that may be helpful in ridding the body of candida include the following:

Allycin compounds: these compounds, found in garlic, onions and leeks, contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that fight candida and boost the immune system
Coconut oil: the fatty acids in this oil have strong anti-fungal properties and play a role in healing the gut and boosting the immune system
Seaweed: contains iodine that often helps with hypothyroid issues (common in candida infections) and cleanses the intestinal tract of heavy metals and other pollutants
Cayenne Pepper and Ginger: these spices contain anti-inflammatory properties that increase metabolism and energy, while cleansing the intestinal tract of bacteria and Candida
Lemon and Lime: these citrus fruits contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and stimulate the movement of the bowels (peristalsis) to eliminate toxins and pathogens
Pumpkin seeds: these seeds contain a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, encouraging healthy intestinal absorption and movement
Olive oil: this healthy fat stimulates your immune system and helps to balance blood sugar, both of which fight the growth of candida
Fish oil: this supplement can, like the Omega-3s from pumpkin seeds, produce an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal effect that soothes and heals the gut (Norwegian Gold and Wiley’s Finest are my preferred brands)
Chlorella: this supplement is cleansing and healing for the gut, detoxifying heavy metals and pesticides, regulating blood sugar and improving energy
Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins boost the immune system, support detoxification the body and increase energy levels
Vitamins C and E: antioxidants that decrease inflammation, boost immunity and detoxify the body of pathogens and bacteria
Magnesium: this mineral boosts the absorption and movement of the gut, promoting healthy blood sugar levels and smooth elimination
Garden of Life RAW Candida Cleanse: this supplement can support your anti-candida diet, providing many of the nutrients and compounds that fight fungal growth
CandiZyme: Renew Life’s maintenance supplement that is a great follow-up to the CandiGone regimen and helps fight any potential for candida re-growth

Once my patients begin their anti-candida regimen, they often experience what is called “die-off” symptoms: fatigue, headaches/migraines, sugar cravings, diarrhea, colds, mucus, fever and some moodiness. The body’s inability to eliminate toxins at the rate they are being released into the bloodstream is usually the reason for these symptoms. I generally recommend being gentle in your diet and supplement regimen, taking one or two steps at a time, rather than making extreme changes. This can help the body better tolerate elimination of candida. Additionally, making sure your antioxidant intake is optimal and consistent is key to reducing “die-off” symptoms. Vitamins A, C and E can support this process, especially if you are getting these nutrients through organic vegetables and low-sugar fruits (if permitted).

As always, see your doctor or gastroenterologist to discuss your symptoms before taking action. Please don’t self-diagnose. Taking the steps to properly diagnose and treat your condition will ensure that you see lasting results.

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