What is Candida and will healthy eating play a role in the control thereof?
What is candida and what type of symptoms can one experience?
There are many types of fungi living in our body, including yeasts, known as candida. There are small amounts on our skin, intestines, and mouth which in small amounts is normal. When it starts to grow uncontrollably, it is known as candidiasis. Typical symptoms include oral thrush, tiredness and fatigue, recurring urinary tract or genital infections, gut issues (such as cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation), sinus and nail infections, or even joint pain .
What factors can lead to an overgrowth of candida?
Healthy or beneficial bacteria in the body helps to control the growth of candida, but when the immune system is weakened or there is a disruption of the healthy bacteria in the body, overproduction of candida can occur. Some factors that can lead to an overgrowth of candida are; taking antibiotics, eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, high alcohol intake, a weakened immune system, taking oral contraceptives, diabetes, and high-stress levels .
Role of diet and the overgrowth of candida
The food you eat plays an important role in maintaining the beneficial and “bad” bacteria in the gut. Avoid eating a large number of refined carbohydrates, sugary foods and drinks, and high lactose-containing foods and drinks. Candida uses sugar for cellular growth which can lead to an overgrowth of candida and promote the production of other "bad" microorganisms to grow .
Gluten can worsen inflammation in the gut, even in people who do not have Celiac Disease. Gluten can worsen the symptoms of candida overgrowth and leave the gut more vulnerable to the overproduction of other "bad" bacteria. Inflammatory foods, such as processed foods, can worsen inflammation in the gut which can also contribute to intestinal permeability .
Some changes can be made to help reduce the overgrowth of candida and lower the inflammation in the gut. This includes; avoiding added sugars, eating non-starchy vegetables, use healthy fats which are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation (nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, fish), limit caffeine and alcohol intake, avoid gluten, and include fermented foods .
Some foods have been shown to help with candida overgrowth including garlic, coconut and MCT oil, and curcumin. Garlic contains allicin, an antifungal substance, which has been shown to act against candida yeast. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid which has been shown to fight candida infections .
Role of probiotics in managing candida
Healthy bacteria in the gut support digestion and absorption of foods and supports a healthy immune system. An overgrowth of candida can put the state of beneficial bacteria out of balance, known as dysbiosis. Probiotics are an effective part of reversing Candida overgrowth because it helps to reintroduce healthy bacteria in the gut. Using a probiotic will help aid in digestion, reduce diarrhea, provide important nutrients such as Vitamin K, Vitamin B, and short-chain fatty acids, strengthen your immune system, and help to maintain gut health .
Probiotic foods include:
- Dairy products: yogurt, kefir.
- Non-dairy foods: coconut milk, water kefir.
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, pickles.
- Supplements: ask your doctor or dietitian for the best on the market.
Prebiotics are also important as they are the food for the probiotics. Prebiotics are a form of non-digestible fibers found in foods such as garlic, onions, and artichokes. Because the gut cannot completely break down this type of fiber, it passes through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and remains undigested. Then, after reaching the intestines, it is fermented by the microflora in your gut .
When candida is left untreated, it can spread to other organs and cause other health problems. When you do experience the symptoms of candida overgrowth, it is best to consult your doctor to receive the necessary treatment. Following a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables, fresh protein sources, and healthy fats, limiting refined and processed foods, and using probiotics may assist in taking control of candida overgrowth!
- Healthline. Kayla McDonell [Internet]. 7 Symptoms of candida overgrowth. Cited 2017 August. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/candida-symptoms-treatment#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2
- The Candida Diet. Lisa Richards [Internet]. The Candida Diet: An overview. Cited 2019 July 13. Available from: https://www.thecandidadiet.com/candida-diet-overview/
- The Candida Diet. Lisa Richards [Internet]. Probiotics for Candida: Sources, benefits & recommendations. Cited 2019 September 22. Available from: https://www.thecandidadiet.com/guide-to-probiotics/