albicans is a member of the yeast family, a variety of fungi and it occurs within our bodies. It is present from the first few months in life and when the balance of our intestinal flora is healthy it remains without having any detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing. Health problems occur when the opportunistic yeast populations become prolific. This can occur when people take antibiotics – which is unfortunately too often than not!! Antibiotics destroy/kill all bacteria, so the candida which has been happily residing in the gut suddenly finds all its neighbours dying it jumps at the chance to take up the available space. C. albicans derives nutrients from our bodies via enzymes that it produces. Living naturally in the digestive system (lower intestines), vagina and also present on skin parasitically not symbiotically.
When the candida is in balance with our intestinal flora is acts like a yeast, but when it becomes a dominant habitant of the digestive system the invasive yeast branches out with hyphae (fungus like mycelium tract) and secretes a phospholipase disrupting cell membranes, causing inflammation leading to symptoms such as leaky gut syndrome, the candida now acting like a fungus can cross the walls of the intestines and affect other body systems and organs within the body. C. albicans produces over 79 toxic substances which can result in hypersensitive reactions causing symptoms such as muscle and joint pains, irritability, psoriasis, depression, headaches, fatigue, sexual problems (including infertility), memory loss, digestive disorders, itching, and learning problems such as Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism.
Common symptoms experienced with C. albicans include cold extremities, frequent urination, depression, sleep disorders irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), recurrent childhood ear, nose and throat infections, constant gas or bloating, endometriosis, constipation, heartburn, recurrent sinusitis and recurrent bronchitis. Allergic reactions to the yeast antigens can occur in chronic or recurring candida infections with inflammatory responses too!
Candida produces alcohol and acetaldehyde from its enzymic metabolism of sugar; acetaldehyde consumes B vitamins leading to depression, exhaustion and trembling. Exposure to acetaldehyde can also interfere with essential fatty acid (EFA) metabolism, the formation of acetyl-CoA and the availability of vitamin B6. Sugar is candida’s food source and in our diet there is above average sugar intake.
Nutrition has important implications on health, immunity and disease. Toxins in the body excreted by C. albicans can contribute to a multitude of diseases and disorders symptoms of which have been mentioned above. Without complete digestion of food and elimination of toxins, vitamins and minerals can become deficient even if they are consumed – therefore if you have digestive issues it would be beneficial to see a herbalist. If you have digestive issues you will struggle to assimilate the nutrients which you are eating and also you will struggle to access any supplements which you may also be taking.
Lots of food is prepared and processed prior to being sold for consumption, care should be taken when shopping for food to be aware of where it is sourced from and what goes into it. Medicines such as steroids and antibiotics, are given to animals reared for food and can be transferred to people when eaten. Oestrogens are given to increase meat yield and may be a causative factor of yeast infection, regular intake of meat and dairy may result in the absorption of antibiotic and hormone residues. Organic sources do reduce this risk but steroids and antibiotics used in animals and fruit production runs into water getting into tap water supplies. Drugs are designed to stay biologically active and are excreted quickly from animals and humans, passing into water supplies, possibly leaching into soils and accumulating in concentration in areas. Continuous exposure to pharmaceutical medication leads to resistant pathogens and possible allergic responses in people. This may explain why sperm counts are down in humans and animals after decades of women taking the contraceptive pill and excreting the medication in a biologically active form into the water supply. Our water is filtered but it doesn’t prevent pharmaceuticals from entering our drinking water, pharmaceutical medicines can also depress immunity.
The typical Western Diet isn’t nutritionally balanced either!! Overall it is low in fibre, high in refined starches (which are converted to simple sugars), contains saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats but not enough micronutrients, has high levels of preservatives and additives too. It contains a lot of fast processed foods and a multitude of foods that weren’t available prior to agriculture (Table is available at the bottom of this blog). Cultures who conform to the western diet experience the same issues – people on the western diet are generally overweight but undernourished due to the empty nutrients in the processed foods which are eaten!! The western diet results in health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Refined sugar influences states of micronutrient deficiency and lowered immunity but are added to a lot of foods to make them taste more appealing to us.
Genetically people with the blood group O are slightly more susceptible to yeast infections, although diet, nutrition and lifestyle also contributes to the aetiology of disease. Foods which exacerbate candida include refined carbohydrates, carbohydrate rich foods and high levels of sugar. This makes a lot of sense when you realise that all carbohydrates are digested, broken down into simple sugars – sugar is the building block for all carbohydrates. Yeast based or fermented foods can aggravate symptoms in people hypersensitive to C. albicans such as vinegar, wine, beer, alcohol, yeast extracts and spreads, mushrooms and blue cheeses.
The immune system can control an overgrowth of candida with the body’s mucosa prevents overgrowth and controlling populations of yeast when healthy; a diet high in sugar combined with a weakened immunity increases susceptibility to infection. Incomplete digestion, digestive enzyme deficiencies and diets high in refined food can contribute to destructive cycles in internal health. Ingestion of reactive foods reduces metabolism which increased intestinal permeability and reduces the intestinal capacity to digest nutrients; this leads to nutrient deficiencies which weakens the immune system and allows yeast to colonize areas.
C. albicans irritates the intestinal lining via enzyme release causing inflammation which further increases the body’s reactivity to certain foods. Magnesium, EFA’s and Vitamin B6 deficiencies are common in yeast infections. Magnesium deficiency leads to inflammation and ischemia in the intestines. EFA deficiency reduces immunity and the ability of the body systems and increases inflammation. Vitamin B6 and zinc deficiencies can also compromise the immune system.
Increased sugar in the diet, imbalances in blood sugars and metabolism of starches, fats and proteins contribute to C. albicans overpopulation. Stress reduces immunity and mucus secretions and consumes essential micronutrients such as zinc and vitamin C increasing the negative immunosuppressant actions. As complex beings every action and choice we make can have an impact on health. Exacerbating factors include sugar-rich foods, hormone contraceptives, steroids and drugs which stimulate yeast production. Antibiotics which destroy healthy flora, symbiotic bacteria e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus allowing other nonbacterial pathogens to multiply in its place. Antibiotics also damage intestinal mucosa: a physiological barrier to yeast infections and part of the innate immune system. Steroids and the contraceptive pill suppress immunity adding to the problem. Another contributing factor is amalgam fillings in teeth, due to mercury metal toxicity.
High protein and complex carbohydrates are more beneficial to patients than refined carbohydrates or sugars (although the only carbohydrates that I recommend are fruits and vegetables as they are packed with nutrients). Proteins are built up of multiple peptide chains of amino acids accessed from the amino acid pool after digestion, complete hydrolysis of proteins take place in the intestines. Amino acids are rapidly removed from the blood utilised by all cells in the body, especially the liver. Complex carbohydrates take slower to digest than refined products containing higher levels of dietary fibre and starch – but are still relatively new in the history of human diets as grains were only introduced 10,000 years ago – a blink of the eye in evolutionary terms! Insulin is released in the body to regulate the body’s blood sugars once carbohydrates have been fully digested. Complex carbohydrates ensure a slower release of sugars enabling blood glucose levels to remain balanced but due to they being relatively new to our diet can cause inflammation and symptoms of food intolerance which are similar to symptoms of candida – attempt an exclusion diet to see if your symptoms improve after reducing your carbohydrate content (remove bread, rice, pasta and pastries – you are allowed potatoes).
EFA’s such as linseed or evening primrose oil are recommended as they are high in omega 3 linolenic acid, a building block for anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and a bulking fibre. EFA’s are long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 3, also known as linolenic acid, works as a precursor of prostaglandins. Omega 6 – linoleic acid is a precursor of most prostaglandins, leukotriene’s and arachidonic acid. In plain English – Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory and Omega 6 can be pro-inflammatory. The western diet is high in Omega 6 which is pro-inflammatory. Physical characteristics of EFA deficiency include dry flaky skin, brittle nails and straw like hair – does this sound like you? Vegetable oils have disturbingly high ratios of omega 6, swap them for fruit oils such as olive oil and coconut oil and swap your margarine for butter too!! Just remember the portion size for fat is the size of an average dice.
Garlic is beneficial for reducing yeast overgrowth, it modulates the cardiovascular system, boosts immunity, and is anti-fungal and anti-oxidant. Anti-microbial effects of garlic against C. albicans can be attributed to its constituents – diallyl disulphide and allyl alcohol. Vitamin C is also beneficial as it detoxifies the body and enhances immune function, 200mcg daily of chromium normalises blood sugars, ginger helps by stimulating the circulation and grapefruit seed extract helps to clear yeast and other pathogenic microflora without disrupting the beneficial flora in the intestines. This is just the tip of the iceberg of beneficial foods and supplements to help with candida overgrowth.
Prevention and control of C. albicans is a slow process which can take months. Patients need to be strict, ensuring that they have optimum nutrition, increasing the intake of whole foods and supporting the body in the removal of toxins. The body’s natural defences and healing potential need improving and yeast activity needs reducing depriving it of sugars. Excretory organs need supporting to detox the body of toxins and damaged tissues need to be repaired and supported. Boiled water has a reduced surface tension and can carry toxins to be eliminated. At first patients should eliminate sugar rich foods and refined carbohydrates for 4-10 days, keeping a diary to find out which foods aggravate them.
Patrick Holford recommends a simultaneous four point plan consisting of:
- Anti- fungal approach introducing products such as propolis a natural bee product which is effective on fungal infections of the skin and body and can be taken internally or grapefruit seed extract is a powerful antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral which doesn’t affect good bacteria and also garlic as mentioned above (it you are on pharmaceutical medication check with a herbalist or your doctor before introducing grapefruit into your diet).
- Probiotics help to rectify damage caused by recurrent antibiotic use by re-establishing healthy colonies of good bacteria in the intestines which increase acidity by producing lactic acid and acetic acid which inhibits pathogenic flora. Hundreds of different species are found naturally in the intestines living off partially digested food, completing the digestion process, providing us with B vitamins, biotin, folic acid and vitamin K. Probiotics naturally re-inhabit our digestive tract with healthy bacteria, it also helps to improve our moods and emotions!!
- Supplements can be taken to correct imbalances of glucose tolerance, hormones and histamine levels and detoxify body such as Vitamin C to rid the bowel of toxins – but are only effective if our digestion is working well. If you experience bloating, wind, spots on the forehead, cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation then your digestion isn’t up to speed and you may not be accessing/assimilating the supplements you are taking.
- Complying with an anti-candida diet – simple sugars such as lactose and fructose should be excluded, refined carbohydrates should be eliminated and wholegrain carbohydrates reduced. Avoid yeast, fermented products, refined carbohydrates and stimulants. It is stated that an anti-candida diet should be maintained for a year to consolidate newly corrected healthy gut flora. Avoid all sources of sugar, including fruit for the first month and yeast containing foods such as alcohol and vinegar. Avoid yeasted breads, pastries and pastas, processed and packaged including breakfast cereals, caffeine, condiments, mushrooms, malt products, dried and candied fruit, processed and smoked meats, luncheon meats, sugar and foods containing sugar. Vegetables, grain, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds can be eaten in plenitude.
C. albicans is parasitic yeast which can overpopulate areas of the body causing health problems and inflammation. It gains nutrition via enzymes, creating toxins which can add to symptoms. Diet is essential in the treatment of yeast overgrowth. Supporting homeostasis and redressing health imbalances a slow and painstaking process. Ecosystems observed in nature are delicately balanced and the same applies to the hundreds of different microflora found in the gut. Taking responsibility for certain actions and restraining from using several conventional medicines will help the situation, but immunosuppression of any kind, such as stress, can cause a relapse back to its original dysbiosis. Adherence of several factors including supporting the immune system enabling repair, eating nutritionally balanced whole foods, using anti-fungal agents and repopulating the intestine with non-pathogenic microflora are stringently required.
Table of foods in the western diet which weren’t available to pre-agricultural society
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