Ok, brace yourselves.
Today’s topic is going to venture into uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing territory.
I’m just going to say it: yeast infections. Good, now it’s out there.
While most of the commercials on TV make yeast infections seem like an issue solely in the female realm, the truth is that yeast infections can happen to men, women, children, and even our pets!
The pesky culprit responsible for these infections is called candida, or more specifically, candida albicans, a type of yeast in the fungus family. We all have a healthy amount of candida in our mouths and intestines because it’s basically a bacteria that helps out with digestion and absorbing nutrients from the food we eat.
However, when your body has too much candida and it becomes an overgrowth, you’ll start to feel pretty icky.
This issue is actually more common than I thought. According to a study published in the journal Virulence, candida is the most common cause of fungal infections in the world.
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
When you have a candida infection in your mouth, it’s called oral thrush. Babies get candida breakouts on their skin and it’s known as diaper rash. When there’s an overgrowth of candida in the vagina, it’s diagnosed as a yeast infection.
But what if candida spreads throughout your digestive system and then grows to excessive amounts in your body?
Candida can affect all sorts of body parts such as:
The truth is that when a candida overgrowth is present inside us, that candida starts to release toxic byproducts, and our body absorbs those and the candida when it eventually dies.
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
- Feeling tired and worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Autoimmune diseases such as hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma, or multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD, and brain fog
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, rectal itching, or vaginal itching
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
If you have any of these symptoms and believe you may be the victim of a candida colony taking over your body, speak with your doctor or medical practitioner sooner than later. You’ll be tested for candida with a blood, urine, or stool test, which can all pick up on unhealthy levels of the bacteria.
When you’re stuck with an infection, there are only three things you can do to make it go away:
- Stop the candida from reproducing and spreading.
- Build up more of the good kinds of bacteria to kill off the bad kind.
- Transform and heal your digestive system to make it ward off future outbreaks.
If your infection is especially bad, your doctor may recommend adding an antifungal to your daily supplements until the infection disappears. Building up good bacteria through diet can sometimes take anywhere from a week to six months, depending on the state of your body when you start.
So how do we stop this issue from happening to us in the first place?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
How to Overcome Candida Through Diet
We can actually overcome candida through our diet. By cutting out a few bad foods and increasing our intake of good, healthy foods, we may be able to ward off excessive candida growth by withholding certain things from the bacteria that it typically uses to proliferate.
Here are a few ways to control candida through your diet and habits.
Stop Eating Refined Carbohydrates and Sugars
Have you ever made homemade bread from scratch? If you have, you know that you need to activate the yeast before you add it to the bread. The yeast is what makes the bread rise into a fluffy cloud of dough. You know what you feed the yeast when you activate it?
By now you guys know that sugar is like my number one enemy. If I was the good guy in the movie, sugar would be the treacherous villain, hiding in all my food and plotting his course of destruction in my healthy body.
So it makes sense that in order to eliminate yeast, you have to starve it and let it become weak. Take away its food and you take away its power to produce and get stronger.
It is going to be a challenge for your body at first to completely eliminate sugar and refined grains. Sugar is very addictive to your body, and you’re going to have withdrawals like anxiety, headaches, fatigue, irritability, and mood swings, just to name a few issues.
Start by eliminating all the obvious sugar candidates from your diet such as white flour, cookies, pasta, candy, etc., and replace them with healthier versions.
For example, start using almond flour to make homemade oatmeal cookies instead of buying processed ones. Use pure stevia extract or stevia leaves instead of sugar or honey. Switch out your refined flour pasta for pasta made from quinoa, chickpeas, whole grains, or veggies.
Instead of snacking on candy, make sure to keep some seasonal fruit around your home or office. But be careful here; fruit has natural sugars that can still feed candida. Keep your fruit intake to about half cup per day until you gain control of the infection.
Also make sure to avoid starchy veggies like corn, peas, potatoes, beets, parsnips, winter squash, and beans.
Cut the dairy, too! Dairy products like milk and cheese contain lactose, a form of sugar, so they should also be avoided during an outbreak.
Only Drink Alcohol in Moderation
While it’s true that most hard alcohol doesn’t contain sugar, it’s packed with calories. It doesn’t have any nutrients either, so the calories are truly empty.
But when you add alcohol into mixed drinks like margaritas or pina coladas, you get into some serious trouble with calories and sugar. “A typical piña colada has more than 650 calories, which is more than a Big Mac’s 576”. Considering that half of those calories come from sugar, that’s a very bad drink for candida sufferers.
Get Drunk Not Fat has an amazing chart you can check to see the number of carbs and calories in all sorts of alcoholic drinks.
If you want to imbibe occasionally, choose red wine or unflavored alcohol served neat. You’ll typically drink these beverages slower, so your liver will be able to process the alcohol better. Stay away from flavored vodkas which undoubtedly have sugars added to them.
Let Probiotics Be Your New BFF
When you want to rebuild your digestive system so that it plays host to more good bacteria than bad, probiotics will be your new best friend.
Probiotics will surge the growth of good bacteria, which will in turn eliminate the bad bacteria living in your gut. Research shows that not only will probiotics combat hostile bacteria by creating a ton of good bacteria, but they may also prevent or slow the rate of infection.
The Mayo Clinic says that probiotics may help:
- Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
- Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Treat irritable bowel syndrome
- Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
- Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
Make sure you’re taking probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus bifidus, and saccharomyces boulardii. A good source of probiotics can be found in plain yogurt or kefir, but remember to check both products to make sure they don’t contain a ton of sugar!
Go Easy On The Fermented Foods
Because I was.
I mean, I don’t drink kombucha because I like the flavor (ugh!), I drink it because I know it’s healthy for me.
But then again, most fermented foods contain sugar, bacteria, and yeast, some of the worst things to eat during a candida episode.
However, according to Body Ecology, “kombucha contains wild strains of yeast. Kombucha is also slightly alcoholic due to the activity of the yeast. The wild strains of yeast in kombucha are too great a challenge for the immune system of someone struggling with candida overgrowth”.
Fill Up On Fiber
You can think of fiber like a scrubbing sponge cleaning out your digestive system. When the fiber passes through your system, it grabs little organisms, toxins, and bacteria like candida and pushes them out in the form of a healthy bowel movement. You should have anywhere from one, to a few movements every day.
We’re really starting to get to know each other, huh?
An added benefit to increasing your fiber intake is that you’ll probably notice some weight loss. Fiber takes longer for our systems to process so we actually feel fuller for longer periods of time and tend to avoid overeating.
The best place to find fiber is in vegetables such as:
- Brussels sprouts
- Garlic (raw)
But don’t discount the fiber found in whole grains such as oats, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa.
You May Want to Switch Your Birth Control
Birth control pills may cause women to get yeast infections because they increase the levels of estrogen in their bodies. These higher estrogen levels actually increase women’s susceptibility to yeast infections.
But don’t stop taking your birth control pills without speaking to your doctor first.
There are so many different forms of contraception available on the market now and they all vary in ingredients and effects. You and your doctor should discuss side effects and symptoms like repeated yeast infections.
As Brenna Anderson, MD, explains: “In addition to treating the yeast infection, your doctor may be able to switch you to another type of oral contraception that won’t lead to any further yeast infections”.
…And Your Antibiotics
Sometimes your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic if you have ear infections, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, or even infected cuts and bad acne.
Any kind of infection is typically treated with a round of antibiotics. Because antibiotics kill all the bacteria in our bodies, good and bad, your infection may go away, but you also may have some serious side effects like tummy upset and skin rashes during your treatment.
Another one of those side effects?
Candida is basically immune to antibiotics. So when the antibiotics kill all the good bacteria, candida has a free-for-all party without chaperones. Candida reproduces like crazy and will suddenly lead to a yeast infection.
Try not to use antibiotics for minor issues like colds or the flu; remember that these issues are usually the result of a virus infection, not a bacterial one, so the antibiotics won’t even truly help. While these issues may go away with time and rest, the candida colony will only expand.
However, if you’ve spoken to your doctor about your hesitation to take antibiotics and you’re still prescribed one, ask your doctor about a narrow spectrum antibiotic instead. Narrow spectrum antibiotics only kill what specifically needs to be killed according to your infection. However, broad spectrum drugs, which is what’s most commonly prescribed, will kill all good and bad bacteria.
Whichever drugs you’re prescribed, always make sure to finish the bottle prescribed to you. If you stop before the course is over, the infecting bacteria may become more resilient and tougher to get rid of later.
Consider Adding Some Gut-Friendly Supplements To Your Diet
Caprylic acid is a type of fatty acid that can be extracted from coconut oil and palm oil. Caprylic acid is thought to have antifungal properties that may “lessen the candida yeast’s ability to grow and replicate”. It works to break down the cell walls of the yeast bacteria, which eventually cause the yeast cells to die off.
If you’re shopping for supplements, you may also want to check out L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps strengthen the walls and lining of your gut. The stronger these walls are, the harder they will be for bacteria like candida to breach them.
Further, The University of Maryland Medical Center states that glutamine may help strengthen the immune system and reduce the likelihood of infections.
Consider using that aloe vera plant for more than just a healing gel for sunburns. I recently learned that the “aloe plant is widely known for its antifungal properties, which may supposedly stop the candida from growing and kill the yeast that is present”.
You can either apply pure aloe gel topically to soothe itchiness and irritation when you have an outbreak, or drink aloe vera juice to prevent infections. Aloe vera “contains enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that also offer anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits”.
Don’t forget to load up on vitamin C!
“Vitamin C inhibits growth of candida and kills off existent bacteria in the vagina and intestines by providing an acidic environment. Acidity counteracts the alkaline environment required for candida bacterial survival”.
If vitamin C supplements tend to be too harsh for your stomach, you can always find vitamin C in red and yellow peppers, citrus fruit, and unsweetened cranberry juice.
Relax and Stop Stressing
As if you need another reason to stop consuming sugar, did you know that sugar can actually exacerbate anxiety, depression, and stress?
No, sugar doesn’t cause these issues, but as our bodies metabolize sugar and release insulin, the way our brains respond to stress becomes harder for us to manage well. This inability for our brains to cope with stress can trigger panic attacks and generalized anxiety.
According to Natural Health magazine, “when stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol which can weaken your immune system and elevate blood sugar levels, and yeast feeds off sugar”.
Take a break and sit in a quiet place with a warm mug of green or chamomile tea to meditate and ease your mind.
That wasn’t so bad, right?
Even though talking about candida isn’t the most fun, it’s a fact of life that most of us will have to deal with a yeast outbreak or infection at one (or multiple) time in our lives. By knowing what types of food trigger growth periods, we may be able to prevent infections from happening as often.
Besides, following some of these rules, like limiting the amount of refined carbs or processed sugar you eat, are actually practices I fully encourage everyone to take part in because they lead to a healthier you.
Were you surprised to learn that you can overcome candida through diet? Tell me what you think about this approach in the comments!