Candida overgrowth can give rise to a number of symptoms from digestive upset to brain fog. Here our Digestion Advisor Ali discusses some of the causes and some top tips on how to control it going forward with our 6 step treatment plan.
Candida is a natural organism (yeast or fungus) that lives in small numbers in even the healthiest of guts. When we talk about someone having candida we generally mean that they have a candida overgrowth whereby the natural equilibrium of bacteria and yeast that exists in our gut has fallen out of balance.
Candida is opportunist which means that in certain situations, it takes the opportunity to multiply. Common causes of this include certain changes in diet or medication. So, if given the chance, candida will over-populate and symptoms from digestive upset to brain fog can easily crop up as a result.
Over time, candida overgrowth can contribute to problems such as leaky gut syndrome within the digestive tract but there are also links with other more serious, systemic conditions too such as autoimmune diseases.
Here we outline how to prevent this and help stop candida in its tracks. Our 6 step treatment plan which includes combining a number of home and herbal remedies may help to curb candida once and for all.
Candida albicans is a natural organism (a type of yeast or fungus) that lives in small numbers in even the healthiest of guts. Within the natural balance of bacteria and yeast that naturally exists in our digestive tract, candida normally doesn’t cause a problem because the proportion of our good bacteria helps to keep this opportunist yeast under control and in balance. However, if our levels of good bacteria diminish or certain lifestyle habits become apparent (for example changing dietary patterns), this can give candida the opportunity it needs to thrive and symptoms can soon appear as a result.
As candida thrives and metabolises sugars from the food we eat, it releases microbial toxins – one of which is called acetaldehyde. This chemical can not only have local effects (which can result in digestive symptoms such as flatulence,constipation or diarrhoea) but it can actually have systemic effects too, which is why candida is often associated with a wider range of symptoms; from headaches to joint pain.
Candida can be a tricky one to treat and can have lasting effects on the body. A multidisciplinary approach is often required to help get this pathogen back under control. Everything from diet to lifestyle factors such as stress can have an impact.
When candida multiplies and becomes a pest some of the symptoms which can crop up are as follows:
Digestive discomfort –As the balance of bacteria in the gut becomes distorted, uncomfortable symptoms become apparent. The production of beneficial short chain fatty acids can become diminished as the levels of good bacteria are taken over by toxin-leaching yeast. These can upset the local environment of the gut and give rise to altered bowel habits, flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea
Sugar cravings – Yeast feast on simple sugars to survive so as candida gets out of control, it can have a surprising ability to influence our appetite and initiate cravings. Sugar cravings in particular are often an indication that candida infections could be at play, but watch out for cravings for carbohydrates, yeast foods or alcohol too.
If chronic candida isn’t resolved, then the problem can become out of hand and more systemic. This means other areas of the body can become affected and additional symptoms can materialise:
Leaky Gut Syndrome – Leaky Gut syndrome can crop up as a result of candida. The structure of candida is thought to damage the lining of our gut wall which can give rise to this condition. As the name suggests, Leaky Gut affects how our food is absorbed in the gut. The regulatory system becomes too lax which means that molecules of food are absorbed too early and toxins or pathogens are able to pass more freely into our bloodstream. In turn, Leaky Gut is thought to play a role in digestive issues such as food intolerance and allergies, especially if left unmanaged over a longer period of time
Fatigue – With chronic candida often comes chronic fatigue. This is thought to be down to the effects this pathogen can have on the integrity of the gut. Nutrient malabsorption can occur whilst your liver is also on high alert trying to process the barrage of toxins and pathogens entering your system
Brain fog – As a result of the toxic by-products of the yeast itself such as the chemical acetaldehyde, people can suffer feelings of ‘brain fog’ or even feel intoxicated at the hands of this pesky infection. As the toxins affect our nervous system our cognitive functions can become compromised
A furry tongue or bad breath – Candida is present throughout the whole digestive system so an imbalance in one area can easily translate into symptoms elsewhere. Bad breath and a furry white coating on the tongue are tell-tale signs to watch out for and suggest your gut may not be too happy.
So why do we get candida overgrowth in the first place? Understanding the underlying causes is often an important step in the management of this condition:
Diet – Dietary factors can be enough to tip the balance of bacteria off in your gut. We know that candida and bad bacteria generally thrive on sugar and refined carbs, whilst our good bacteria will thank you for sources of fibre found in prebiotic foods including garlic, leeks, onions and asparagus
Medications – Antibiotics are a big problem when it comes to candida. Unfortunately they not only harm the bacteria (which of course is the intention of this medication in the first place) but actually, antibiotics can also have a negative impact on the good bacteria in our gut which we want to protect. Other commonly prescribed medications such as the contraceptive pill may also affect the natural balance of our hormones which in turn can affect your bacteria levels
Stress –Chronic stress may also influence your chances of developing candida. Stress can affect the functions of the stomach and your stomach acid levels can easily become diminished if you find yourself under some extra pressure. Sufficient stomach acid is important for regulating the pH and environment of the stomach, which in turn, helps to regulate the secretion of gastric juices at further stages of the digestive system. These gastric juices and the environment that they create can then influence our levels of bacteria– phew! So, in conclusion – stress is one to watch
A compromised immune system – Up to 70% of our immune system lies in the gut so if pathogens are present there, it is our immune system’s responsibility to keep them in check. If our immune system is under strain then this won’t happen effectively and we risk having pathogens grow out of control.
If you suspect candida is a problem we’ve formulated a simple treatment plan that can help reset the balance of bacteria and yeast in your gut:
1. Make the necessary dietary changes. First and foremost, you need to stop feeding the candida the sugary and yeasty foods it needs to thrive. We generally don't advise extreme diets - just try cutting out some of the common culprits such as bread, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol and Marmite. Instead you want to include some natural antifungal and prebiotic foods which will help to keep the yeast under control whilst giving your good bacteria a well-needed boost. Lots of fresh vegetables will do the trick such as garlic, leeks and asparagus, plus coconut oil is a great option for cooking with too
2. Chew. You’ll be happy to know that step 2 is super easy. Well we say that, but right now many of us simply aren’t chewing properly! The act of chewing helps break down the food we eat and helps to activate the production of some all-important digestive enzymes. These steps will help to keep candida under control, plus it’s also really important in the case of leaky gut or food intolerance.
3. Keep your bowel function brisk. If your gut is sluggish, you’ll only risk encouraging further dysbiosis. Stale poo is not the environment we want to create! By sorting your diet, water habits and using a herbal aid if necessary, you can help to get that bowel moving!
4. Stress & Sleep. Although you might not assume these factors are relevant, we know that stress and sleep can have direct effects on your immune functions which are super important for keeping pesky candida in check. Aim to address any existing issues then consider giving your immune system an extra boost with some Echinacea. Echinacea has also been used traditionally as an antifungal so that's a simple way of working on two fronts at once!
5. Next, support that stomach. We now know that getting our stomach working optimally is important for supporting our gut. Bitter herbs complexes such as Digestisan when taken meticulously before meals, may help to stimulate your stomach into action.
6. Introduce pre- and probiotics. Once we’ve started to support the stomach you can begin to focus more specifically on the task at hand – getting that gut back in working order! Now there are some antifungal programmes out there, but many of these are actually quite harsh on the system. Remember, we don’t want to risk replicating the problem that antibiotics often bring in that our good gut bacteria can end up becoming compromised!
Hello. My name is Alison Cullen and I am an experienced nutritional therapist with a clinic in Ayrshire, Scotland. I currently combine running my clinic with the role of Education Manager for A Vogel. I lecture, train and write extensively on health issues, which I find endlessly fascinating.
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Join experts Eileen Durward and Ali Cullen in the beautiful A.Vogel garden as they talk all about digestion including their tips on how to improve your digestion and how bitter herbs can make a huge difference to helping your digestive problems.