Candida albicans is a type of yeast that lives naturally on our skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In fact, there are nearly two dozen types of Candida species that live in our bodies.
This type of yeast, which I will refer to simply as Candida, normally does not cause harm, and in fact is beneficial to the body. However, when there is an overgrowth of yeast it can lead to infection, most typically affecting the mouth, throat, or vagina.
In order to treat a Candida infection, it is possible to prescribe allopathic medications, such as fluconazole or mycostatin, but these only serve to keep a current infection at bay, and do not generally provide a cure unless taken for a long period of time.
Long-term use of these drugs may cause liver damage, as well as nausea and skin rashes (Buckle, 2003). A holistic protocol that involves food and lifestyle changes rebalances the yeast back to a healthy state. It also provides a healthier option with long-term beneficial effects. I will describe what it might entail.
More on Candida albicans
First, let me tell you more about the yeast. Candida albicans is a single-celled organism that wouldn’t survive outside of a host, such as a human body.
Candida live naturally in the body within the digestive system, and under healthy conditions have a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship, where humans provide protection, and in turn receive vitamins and nutrients from the yeast (Petersen, 2014). This yeast lives in conjunction with other microorganisms, such as bacilli bacteria, sharing in the symbiotically beneficial gut environment.
When Candida Becomes a Problem
When there is a disturbance to this symbiotic balance, such as through a course of antibiotics that eliminates the bacteria, the yeast is able to proliferate quickly, and often spreads to other areas in the body, including the skin, mouth, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and vagina (Buckle, 2003; Petersen, 2014).
Yeast can also proliferate when there is a change in the body’s pH, where an alkaline condition is favorable for yeast to grow in. The pH within the vagina is normally around 4.0 to 5.0, but if the pH rises Candida grows quickly (Buckle, 2003).
When a Candida overgrowth occurs in the mouth or throat it is called thrush, and when it occurs in the vagina it is a yeast infection. There is also invasive candidiasis, an infection in which the yeast enters the bloodstream (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2017).
When the relationship with Candida is no longer beneficial to the human, it becomes a nuisance. It can cause problems with digestion, absorption of nutrients, allergies, skin problems, itching, unsightly and unpleasant discharges, tiredness, inflammation, irritation and lethargy, among others (Buckle, 2003; Petersen, 2014).
Candida release toxins that contribute to muscle aches and pains, joint pain and stiffness, other yeast or fungal infections, lack of coordination, lack of concentration, problems with vision, headaches, depression, acne, hives, weak nails, and postnasal drip (Petersen, 2014).
Yeast infections can be more prevalent on those who are on birth control pills, or who suffer from immuno-compromised or immune suppressed conditions, such as diabetes, those taking antibiotics, or those undergoing radiation and chemotherapy (Buckle, 2003).
A compromised immune system can also contribute towards yeast infections. The immune system can become weak from stress, adrenal fatigue, pesticides, smoke, petrol fumes, radiation, lack of oxygen in the body, unhealthy lifestyle, diets high in sugars and processed foods, and different types of minerals and chemicals, such as chlorine, fluorine, and food preservatives (Petersen, 2014).
Candida overgrowth can be treated by changing the food we consume. For instance, it is beneficial to consume a fresh and whole that is rich in vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, clean meats, poultry, butter, eggs, lemon, and fresh fruit, although fruit should be limited to one or two servings daily (Haas & Chace, 2012).
Changes in food also involves avoiding foods that encourage the growth of Candida. This includes avoiding all forms of sugar, baked goods, alcohol, vinegars, fruit juices, pickled vegetables, dried fruits, cheese, refined flours, mushrooms, and breads (Haas & Chace, 2012).
It is also best not to consume foods with yeast, such as breads, yeast extracts, wine, beer, and cider, as well as some night-shade vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant (Petersen, 2014).
Essential Oils, Herbs, & Supplements
Supplements can help support the body, particularly vitamins C, E, A, and B complex, as well as zinc, betaine hydrochloride, and acidophilus taken from capsules or yoghurt (Petersen, 2014). A study conducted on 24 women showed that consumption of yogurt enhanced with probiotics reduced both oral and vaginal yeast infections (Hu et al., 2013).
Essential oils that help fight the infection of Candida include tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, particularly for oral and vaginal infections; cinnamon, Cinnamomum spp., for oral infections; and West Indian lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus, for topical infections (Buckle, 2003; Ulbricht, 2010).
Herbs that have antifungal activity against Candida include lemon gum, lemon balm, cajuput, long pepper, holy basil, ajowan, eucalyptus, clove, garlic, goldenseal, myrrh, and Echinacea (Buckle, 2003; Petersen, 2014; Ulbricht, 2010).
Possible Challenge: Sugar
The hardest part may be dealing with the sugar cravings and removing sugary foods. Yeast thrive and grow on sugar, and inadvertently, our bodies crave more sugar when we have an active Candida overgrowth.
I would recommend decreasing sugar intake gradually, to allow the body to get accustomed to not consuming sugary foods. For instance, begin by replacing sweets with dark chocolate. Eventually replace dark chocolate with fruit. Then limit fruit to one or two servings daily, and after, until the Candida gets back to normal levels, avoid fruit altogether. The idea is to eat a lighter diet that is free of sugar.
These types of changes, may also help us feel more alert and energetic, and lead to better health with improved symptoms.
Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils In Practice(2nd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Candidiasis. Fungal Diseases.Retrieved on May 7, 2018 from http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/
Haas, E. M. & Chace, D. (2012). The Detox Diet: The Definitive Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, and Detox Plans(3rdEd.). Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
Hu, H., Merenstein, D. J., Wang, C., Hamilton, P. R., Blackmon, M. L., Chen, H., Calderone, R. A., & Li. D. (2013). Impact of eating probiotic yogurt on colonization by Candidaspecies of the oral and vaginal mucosa in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women. Mycopathologia, 176(0), 175-181. doi:10.1007/s11046-013-9678-4
Petersen, D. (2014). Nutritional regimen for Candida albicanscontrol. In NAT 502 Anatomy & Physiology II. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Ulbricht, C. E. (2010). Natural Standard: Herb & Supplement Guide- An Evidence-Based Reference. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.