Reversing candida overgrowth
I am 38, and a mother of two. Over the last few years I have been gaining weight, getting more anxious, irritable, and depressed, and my energy levels are way down. I’m also craving sweets. It’s becoming hard to be a mom to my boys. What can I do about it?
There is a balance in and on our bodies between yeast and bacteria. This balance can be shifted unfavorably by antibiotic use, overconsumption of refined sugar and carbohydrates, oral contraceptives, impaired immune function, and stress.
Occasional yeast infections are normal. It is when yeast infections become a chronic issue or when systemic symptoms are present that there may be a yeast overgrowth in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Candida is the most common culprit when yeast overgrowth is a problem. Manifestations of yeast overgrowth include lethargy, depression, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating. Systemic symptoms can occur with candida overgrowth because this yeast releases toxic by-products, including acetaldehyde and ethanol, which freely enter our bloodstream.
A three-pronged attack
To effectively reduce candida overgrowth, three methods of attack need to be implemented at once. These methods include starving the yeast, killing the yeast, and repopulating the GI tract with friendly flora. Yeast feed on sugar, so the best way to starve them is to completely avoid sugar in your diet. This includes any added sugar, refined grains, and fruit. Patients typically avoid fruit for two weeks and then add one piece of low-glycemic fruit per day like berries, apples, or an avocado. All vegetables are allowed except any potatoes that are white inside.
It is also important to avoid any foods with high yeast content—like vinegar, alcohol, cheese, mushrooms, peanuts, and pistachios—as these foods can promote and maintain candida overgrowth.
There are several natural compounds that can help kill candida:
Caprylic acid: Coconuts contain a fatty acid called caprylic acid. This antifungal will work best if taken in between meals in divided doses ranging from 100 to 800 mg daily.
Garlic and garlic extract s: The major inhibitory component in garlic extract is allicin, so look specifically for products that have over 4,000 mcg of allicin. Eating raw garlic can also be helpful. Optimal allicin production happens when garlic is chopped and allowed to rest for 10 minutes before ingestion.
Oregano oil: The oil needs to be emulsified in a time-release tablet. Oregano oil works best when taken in divided doses totaling 600 mg daily.
Berberine: This alkaloid is extracted from plants like Berberis vulgaris and Hydrastis canadensis. Berberine works best when taken in divided doses totaling 400 mg daily.
While you are starving and killing the candida it is important to repopulate your GI tract with beneficial bacteria. Probiotics help prevent candida overgrowth by competing for nutrients and producing compounds that inhibit candida growth. To sufficiently repopulate your GI tract often requires at least six months of treatment with 20 billion organisms per day. Bifidobacteria and lactobacillus are the most common strains used. Taking probiotics with food ensures the pH of your stomach is higher allowing more organisms to survive the journey to your intestines.
Sometimes patients report a temporary increase in symptoms called the Herxheimer reaction. This reaction happens when the yeast cells die and release toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream. To relieve symptoms of the Herxheimer reaction make sure to consume copious amounts of water and consider adding liquid bentonite clay as an absorbent during this process. It is important to also use a fiber such as psyllium to keep bowel movements regular and absorb toxins from the dying candida.
Restoring the balance
These natural methods can help restore the delicate balance of flora in your GI tract. To ensure your symptoms are caused by candida overgrowth, request a comprehensive stool analysis from your physician. This test can also identify which natural compounds will be most effective against the candida overgrowth. As always, it is important to consult your physician prior to beginning any supplementation or dietary changes.
Sara Jean Barrett, ND, is a board-certified naturopathic physician practicing in Bloomington, MN. You can visit her online at altsolutionsforhealth.com or call 612.598.8627.