One of the most common gut infections of all is an overgrowth of a kind of yeast called Candida albicans – a tiny microbe which has the potential to cause myriad health problems.
The infection is technically called candidiasis. This is what is meant by a yeast infection. The minute microbe Candida albicans multiplies, migrates and releases toxins. All of us have some Candida present as part of a normal balanced gut ecology; however, when it overgrows, it can afflict us with countless symptoms, both physical and mental: bowel problems, allergies, extreme fatigue, hormone dysfunction, skin complaints, joint and muscle pain, thrush infections and emotional disorders, many of which mimic other diseases and are frequently misdiagnosed.
A reliable test is the Candida antibody test (saliva or blood for IgG and IgA antibodies). It is important to confirm that you do have candidiasis before following a restrictive anti-Candida diet.
GOOD MEDICINE SOLUTIONS
1. Follow an anti-Candida diet
The aim of an anti-Candida diet is to cut off the Candida’s sugar supply. This should quickly improve your digestive symptoms and will stop fuelling the Candida’s growth. All forms of sugar must be strictly avoided, including lactose (milk sugar), malt and fructose (fruit sugar). Refi ned carbohydrates add to the glucose load in the body, so it is essential to use only wholegrain fl our, rice, and so on. The simplest way is to follow a low-GI diet, as this ensures that you will omit sugar and eat only slow-releasing complex carbohydrates.
Other substances to be avoided are yeast (bread, gravy mixes, spreads), fermented products (alcohol, vinegar), mould (cheese, mushrooms) and stimulants (tea, coffee).
Candidiasis often brings on cravings for its favourite foods; at these times steely determination is needed to keep to the diet. Even when Candida-related symptoms have completely disappeared, the diet should be maintained for several months to consolidate the newly corrected balance for gut flora. Before long, a ‘sweet tooth’ disappears, making it easier to stay on a sugar-free diet. Read Erica White’s Beat Candida Cookbook for recipes, which shows that mealtimes can still be an enjoyable experience.
2. Take immune-boosting supplements
A supplement programme is important to boost your immune system so that it can play its role in keeping the Candida under control. It is also important to correct imbalances in blood sugar and detoxify the body because Candida generates its own toxins.
This means increasing vitamin C and other antioxidants. I also recommend you follow an all-round comprehensive supplements programme, plus a supplement specifically designed to improve digestion, with both enzymes and probiotics and, ideally, glutamine – an amino acid that helps heal the gut – during the first month.
3. Take antifungal supplements
As surprising as it may sound, one of the best supplements to tackle Candida is itself a yeast, called Saccharomyces boulardii. It’s a non-colonising yeast, which means that it will never take up residence in your gut. As it passes through, it stimulates your gut’s production of an immune component called secretory immunoglobulinA (SIgA). Greater amounts of this immunoglobulin make it increasingly difficult for the Candida to stick to your gut wall. Some people with Candida may be hypersensitive to all yeast, including S. boulardii, so taking it could make you feel worse. In which case, you should wait until you’ve cut all yeast out of your diet for about four weeks to reduce your hypersensitivity and then introduce S. boulardii at very low doses and increase it very gradually.
This may mean starting with as little as 1 billion organisms (1/2 capsule) once daily before building up to the full dose of about 10 billion organisms a day. S. boulardii also helps to make the environment of your gut more hospitable to friendly bacteria, thereby enhancing their chances of taking up residence.
Other effective anti-Candida agents are caprylic acid (a fatty acid that occurs naturally in coconuts), oregano and olive leaf extract, supplements that work directly to kill off Candida overgrowth. They can be taken while you are taking the S. boulardii, but should be taken several hours apart so as not to kill off the S. boulardii as well. It’s generally best not to start any of the additional supplements until you’ve been on the anti-Candida diet and have been taking the S. boulardii for about a month in order to minimise the ‘die-off’ reaction (see below).
Caprylic acid is one of the most useful antifungal agents. Its great advantage is that it does not kill off your friendly gut flora. When taken as calcium/magnesium caprylatr, it survives the digestive processes and is able to reach the colon, where the Candida resides.
Oregano oil is another excellent antifungal agent. It also has the advantage of crossing the gut wall into the body, so it may be the better choice if you have fungal symptoms elsewhere in the body, such as athlete’s foot.
Olive leaf contains an active ingredient named oleuropein, which helps to kill Candida. It is also an antioxidant.
Artemisia is a herb with broad-spectrum antifungal properties, which is useful against a wide variety of pathogens without disturbing friendly flora. If you suspect you may have a parasite other than Candida, use a broad-spectrum antifungal agent such as artemisia.
4. Re-inoculate the gut with probiotics
Supplements are needed to carry the beneficial bacteria into the intestines and re-establish a colony of healthy bacteria. The role of these bacteria is to increase acidity by producing lactic acid and acetic acid, and to inhibit undesirable micro-organisms that would compete with them for space.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the major coloniser of the small intestine and Bifidobacterium bifidum inhabits the large intestine and vagina; B. bifidum also produces B-vitamins. Other helpful bacteria are the transient Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which also produce lactic acid as they pass through the bowel. These friendly bacteria are contained in yoghurt, which is therefore a helpful food provided you don’t have an intolerance to dairy foods.
To ensure safe passage of these bacteria through the gastric juices, it is necessary to take them in a capsule supplying large numbers of viable organisms in freeze-dried form. Two capsules should be taken daily, at breakfast and dinner.
An Acidophilus cream is a beneficial aid for a vaginal fungal infection.
5. Deal with die-off
Thriving Candida releases a minimum of 79 known toxins. Dead and dying Candida releases even more. A general feeling of toxicity includes aching muscles, fuzzy head, depression, anxiety, nausea and diarrhoea. In specific areas where Candida has colonised, there can be an apparent flare-up of old symptoms, such as a sore throat, thrush, painful joints, eczema, and so on. This unpleasant situation is known as ‘die-off’, or formally as Herxheimer’s reaction.
The art is to destroy Candida slowly but surely, so that it is not being killed off faster than the body can eliminate the toxins. Initial die-off is usually triggered by the diet, and by vitamins and minerals as they boost the immune system to fight it. These first two points of the four-point plan usually cause more than enough die-off for most people to cope with, and antifungal agents should not be added to the regimen until this phase is over. By the end of a month, the majority of people claim that they feel better than they have in years! This is the time to add the anti-fungal and probiotic supplements to the programme.
Most people on caprylic acid should be able to start with one medium-strength capsule (about 400 mg) daily, without too much difficulty. If, after five days, you are not battling with die-off symptoms, the dose can be increased to 400 mg x 2, and so on, up to six capsules daily. After this, you can graduate to a higher-strength capsule (about 700 mg) three times daily and increase again if necessary.
The climb up is seldom straightforward, however, and at some stage there might come a surge of die-off reaction necessitating a drop to a lower level, or even a complete break, while the body eliminates the toxins. This should not be regarded as a setback, but simply a necessary part of the process.
Drinking plenty of fluid and taking good levels of vitamin C and the B-vitamins will speed up detoxification. Eventually, caprylic acid will accomplish its job.
- Nuts, seeds, beans (pulses)
- Whole grains
- All fast-releasing carbohydrates
- Yeast-rich and fermented foods (bread, gravy mixes, yeast-based spreads, alcohol, vinegar)
- 2 x high-potency multivitamin minerals with antioxidants, providing at least 10 mg of vitamin D, 10 mg of zinc, plus B-vitamins and antioxidants
- 2 x vitamin C 1 000 mg
- 1 x digestive enzymes, probiotics and glutamine capsule with each meal
- 1 to 5 x Saccharomyces boulardii (1 billion viable organisms)
- 2 x Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (5 billion viable organisms), taken twice a day away from the following anti-fungal agents:
– 1 to 6 caprylic acid 400 mg
– or/and 2 to 6 drops of oregano oil
– or/and 2 to 6 olive leaf extract 500 mg (20% oleuropein)
– or/and 2 to 4 capsules of artemisia (350 mg), or 10 to 20 drops of artemisia extract
Don’t follow this restrictive diet unless you’ve been clinically tested to confirm candidiasis. Insufficient quantities of the anti-Candida agents will be ineffective but too much can make you feel worse while the Candida dies off. It is best to follow the suggestions above under the supervision of a nutritional therapist who can advise you on the correct supplements to take at each stage of your recovery.