Some of the major symptoms I’ve been suffering for over 3 years now have been bloating, fatigue, discomfort after eating, food allergies, sugar cravings, and sinus congestion and sneezing. It was only a year ago that I found that the cause to so many of these problems was because I had candida overgrowth. It’s been a long and frustrating journey, but I feel like I finally have many of my symptoms under control, and I know my body well enough to know what will set off some of these symptoms again.
What is Candida?
Candida, or Candida Albicans, is a type of fungus found in the digestive tract and can also be present in other mucus membranes like the skin, mouth, and vagina. It’s a yeast present in everyone’s bodies in small amounts that aid in nutrient absorption and digestion. It only starts causing problems when it is overproduced from an imbalance in our gut bacteria. Candida overgrowth is a chronic health condition which causes leaky gut by tearing down the walls of the intestinal lining, and can not only lead to food allergies, but even cause vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and even foot fungus.
What Causes Candida Overgrowth?
There are several factors that contribute to the overgrowth of candida. You’ll find that many of the causes are related to imbalances in the gut:
- Chronic stress. Stress elevates our blood sugar, which feeds candida, and also lowers our immune system, which prevents our body to properly fight off pathogens like candida yeast.
- High sugar/high carbohydrate diet. Sugar is the main food source for the yeast.
- High alcohol consumption. Alcohol is sugar, and also feeds the yeast in our gut.
- History of taking antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy both beneficial and harmful bacteria, causing imbalances in our gut.
- Diabetes. Elevated blood sugar feeds candida.
- Heavy metal toxicity. Mercury fillings, chlorine, and fluoride kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Low stomach acid. Our stomach need to be acidic enough to kill the pathogens that enter our gut. When stress and high sugar diets raises the pH of our stomach acid, our immune system is compromised.
- Poor immune function. Low immune system leaves our body vulnerable to candida yeast, allowing it to grow rapidly.
- Contraceptive pills. Estrogen is known to promote the growth of yeast.
What Are the Symptoms?
There are many symptoms of Candida overgrowth, and they can vary from person to person. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Oral thrush. This is a condition in which the candida yeast is found in the lining of the mouth, very common in those with suppressed immune system.
- Bloating and digestive discomfort. This can range from acid reflux, gas, constipations, diarrhea, constant need to burp and cramps.
- Skin conditions. Acne is quite common with those with Candida. I actually get pimples overnight on my chin when I consume too much sugar. Some other conditions include hives, cysts, eczema and rashes. Skin and nail fungal infections can also occur, commonly on hands and feet.
- Constant fatigue and compromised brain function. When you can’t digest your food properly and suffering from a leaky gut, it’s hard to concentrate and your mood will suffer as well. This is due to the inability for the body to absorb the nutrients properly, and inappropriate materials passing through the intestinal lining, causing inflammation all over.
- Excessive sugar and alcohol cravings. When your gut is out of balance and candida is growing, it wants you to feed it. Candida thrives on sugar.
- Sinus problems. Congestion, sore throat, mucus, constant sneezing and coughing are all symptoms of Candida.
- Vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Candida can spread all over the and yes, even “down there.” Women who experience frequent yeast infections or UTIs commonly have gut imbalances.
- Weight gain & inability to lose weight. Anytime there is an inflammation in the body, your body cannot let go of fat, and will even cause weight gain. Candida can also contribute to hormonal imbalances, further contributing to the body holding onto fat.
If you have a gut feeling (Ha ha. See what I did there?) that you have candida overgrowth, I highly encourage you to take a stool test to confirm your suspicion. It is a very difficult illness to diagnose and there are many different gut dysfunctions that may result in similar symptoms. You can only treat it properly by knowing what the exact diagnosis is.
How to Treat Candida Naturally
Now that you have learned what candida is, there are some natural remedies that you can try at home. You have to start by healing your gut first, because that’s where it all starts. Depending on how serious your condition is, you may want to work with a Nutritional Therapist or a naturopath, but these some treatment methods that you can start right away to alleviate some of the symptoms.
- Eliminate all sugar from the diet. This not only includes desserts and sweets, but also alcohol, fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains that all convert to sugar once ingested. All these foods feed the yeast in our gut, worsening the overgrowth of candida. I highly encourage you to do a sugar detox challenge. Don’t be discouraged. Once your gut heals and your candida is under control again, you can slowly start reintroducing some of these foods. In the beginning phase, you’ll really want to starve the yeast so it can leave the body.
- Find your food sensitivities and allergies. In order to truly heal the gut, you need to eliminate all foods that cause inflammation in the body. Try a 30-day elimination diet of common allergens (eggs, dairy, gluten, soy, and nuts) before introducing them back in one by one.
- Practice stress management. It’s paramount that you practice breathing exercises, rest, and meditation to get the stress out of your body. This also means eating in a relaxed state. Candida thrives in a high stress environment. When I was traveling in Thailand while healing from candida, I decided that I’ll enjoy certain foods that would normally give me severe reactions, like grains, alcohol, and fruits. However, I experienced only very minor symptoms because I was totally on vacation-mode and my mind and body were relaxed the entire time. The mind is a powerful thing, and you can work it to your advantage during the healing process.
- Increase your intake of vegetables and fiber. You need fiber in your diet to improve your digestion and get things moving in the intestinal tract so you can kick out the yeast in your gut. You can do this by eating copious amounts of low-carbohydrate vegetables.
- Implement fermented dairy and vegetables in your diet. It’s important to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria and healthy probiotics to help it heal. I highly recommend fermenting your own vegetables. I eat either sauerkraut or kimchi at every meal and I can tell the difference in my digestion. If you can handle dairy, milk kefir or homemade yogurt are great as well. I highly recommend avoiding sugary fermented drinks like kombucha and water kefir, because they can actually feed candida and help the yeast grow.
- Ingest raw garlic. Raw garlic cloves are antifungal and effective in fighting the candida yeast. There are pills that you can buy, but in my personal experience, it works best when you mince a whole garlic clove finely (I use a garlic press), let it sit for 10 minutes so it can release allicin, its healing and antifungal component, then just swallow the whole thing followed by several gulps of water. The taste can be quiet strong and it can burn a bit going down, but the results are quite amazing. I use this method every time I experience candida symptoms and it helps me feel better instantly.
- Take coconut oil regularly. I use coconut oil to cook often, and I’ve increased my intake of it after learning about its antimicrobial properties. It has both lauric acid and caprylic acid, which are effective in killing off yeast. You can even apply topically to reduce Candida symptoms on your skin or nails.
- Try oregano and clove essential oils. These essential oils are incredibly helpful in fighting off candida. You can use them topically by rubbing them on your stomach, or ingest them by putting a few drops inside empty vegetable capsules. They can be incredibly powerful.
- Drink plenty of water. It’s extremely important to keep yourself hydrated and drink water in order to expel the yeast and toxins out of your body. Especially once you start following this treatment plan and you start experiencing candida die-off, you’ll need enough water to get things moving inside so you don’t go through severe detox symptoms.
- Reduce your intake of coffee. Eliminate completely if you can. I know, I know… this is a difficult one. Coffee can be beneficial for some, but for those with compromised digestion, coffee can create imbalances in the pH of the stomach, gut flora, and even create stress and inflammation responses in the body that provides a favorable environment for candida to grow. I went off of coffee for about 3 months while healing the gut, and it made an incredible difference in my sleep, my digestion, and how much better I felt in the morning. Try dandelion root tea instead which cleanses your liver and aids in your detox process.
Keep in my that candida die-off symptoms are a real thing. Once you start starving the yeast and it feels the need to get out of your system, you may experience unpleasant feelings, such as:
- Bloating and digestive issues
- Rashes and hives
- Dizziness and nausea
- Fever and chills
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle and joint pain
- Mood swings and brain fog
This will pass. You need plenty of rest while you experience these symptoms to reduce their severity and for faster recovery.
If you find that even you have tried all these methods, but you still can’t seem to get rid of candida and you are still experiencing the yeast symptoms mentioned above, you may have deeper underlying issues. In this case, I highly recommend you work with someone instead of trying to figure it out on your own. Having candida overgrowth can be extremely frustrating (believe me, I know), and you may benefit greatly from having a practitioner look at what else is happening in your body.