(disclaimer: I am not a doctor, only a former sufferer of Candida who has researched this topic to death. I am happy to provide links to medically backed documentation if needed and while I am not authorized to give medical advice, I am happy to provide suggestions that have worked for me and others in the treatment of Candida overgrowth.)
Candida is an evil, tricky beast. It lives in everyone’s gut and is designed to work symbiotically with our microbiome, but it can quickly become a monster if given the oppurtunity. Some things that trigger candida overgrowth are; excessive carb, sugar and alcohol consumption, antibiotic and hormonal contraceptive use as well as a high stress lifestyle.
Being an opportunistic fungus, it can be notoriously hard to eradicate once it takes over. The best measure of defense against candida is to avoid an overgrowth in the first place. This can be done by opting for natural forms of birth control and avoiding antibiotics when not medically necessary. It is also important to eat a low sugar, grain free diet rich in pre, and probiotics and to manage stress with whatever means necessary.
Unfortunately, thanks to modern high carb, high stress lifestyles candida overgrowth is becoming a chronic problem for many people. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a female problem, men are also susceptible, however, studies have shown that high estrogen levels can be a contributing factor.
It is common for candida sufferers to be labeled as hypochondriacs due to the long list of vague, seemingly unrelated symptoms, however, it is not to be taken lightly. In severe cases of long term, untreated candida, the fungus can spread into the blood stream leading to effects on the brain, heart, and lymphatic system. It overburdens the liver as your body struggles to filter out endotoxins. It increases intestinal permeability, leading to leaky gut and other associated disorders. It is shown to trigger autoimmune disorders and has even in some studies been linked to higher instances of cancer.
Scary stuff right? In my quest to heal my own autoimmune disorders I kept stumbling back upon the word ‘Candida’ and decided to learn all I could about it. Eventually, I reached the conclusion that treating this yucky fungus would be a necessary first step in my healing journey.
So how do you identify Candida overgrowth in your body and what do you do if you think you’ve got it?
There are some obvious symptoms of candida that shouldn’t be ignored, these include;
1. Fungal infections (yeast infections, jock itch, ringworm, toenail fungus, perioral dermatitis etc.)
2. Fatigue, brain fog and worse than normal forgetfulness
3. Autoimmune disorders and associated symptoms
4. Digestive issues (bloating, gas, gurgling stomach, stomach pain and nutrient deficiencies)
5. Mood swings and irritability
6. Intense carb and sugar cravings
If you recognise two or more of these symptoms in yourself, it is time to get serious about crushing this evil fungal monster, so you can take back control of your overall health.
One thing I have learned from my own experience, is that Candida is not quick or easy to treat. It may be tempting to just toss back fistfuls of antifungals and go on living, but the process is not so simple. Massive Candida die offs will cause symptoms far worse than the actual Candida itself and is not advised (take it from someone who has learned this one the hard way!)
In order to let your body do a good job of detoxing, it is important that your method of attack is slow and strategic while special care is simultaneously taken to support your liver throughout the process.
There are many candida cleanse kits available online as well as in stores and they are not all created equal! If you choose to go this route do your research and read reviews. There are also a few super effective antifungals available otc. Because I’m such a granola cruncher, I always opt to go the natural route first, however in in extreme cases of Candida it is recommended that you seek medical advice.
My six most important natural tools for fighting candida are;
1. A parasite cleanse. Parasites may seem unrelated to Candida but they can operate symbiotically. Parasites often reside in your liver and it is vital that the liver be strengthened first so it can do its very important job of removing all the endotoxins produced in the Candida die off. Many anti-parasitic ingredients are also antifungals so starting with a parasite cleanse is a great way to come out swinging and weaken that candida right out of the gate.
2. A well planed diet. When battling candida, a well planned diet is life. A grain free, reduced carb diet is what worked for me but in severe cases a full blown anti candida diet or keto may be necessary. Candida lives off carbs and sugar, it needs to be essentially starved for a long period of time to actually die down to healthy, long term levels. In addition to avoiding high glycemic foods adding fermented foods such as sour kraut and kimchi to your diet, can be helpful to replenish good gut bacteria.
3. Antifungals. One of the trickiest things about Candida is that it can build up a resistance to various antifungals, which leads to the argument that antifungals should be rotated. Still, other scientists would argue that this can lead to quicker strain mutations and make candida stronger in the long run. I don’t know about you, but I find conflicting advice super confusing. At the end of the day what worked for me was selecting one high quality herbal antifungal and simultaneously supplementing my diet with natural antifungal food sources such as raw garlic, kefir and pau d’arco tea. Start with the recommended dose and taper it up or down according to your die off reaction.
4. Liver support. Warm water with lemon, dandelion root tea, bitters, these should all become a part of any Candida fighting diet. Your liver will be working overtime for you throughout the duration and is going to need a little extra love to get the job done right.
5. Sauna and dry rubbing. This is a detox tool I personally used with positive results. I am sure people can do a fine candida cleanse without it, but I found it useful to speed up my toxin elimination and it seemed to reduce die off symptoms as well. Rub a bore bristle brush over your body starting at your extremities and moving towards your heart, step into a hot sauna (infrared is best) and get your sweat on. That’s it. Not only is a good form of detox, it has improved my cellulite and made my skin glow.
6. Probiotics. Good ones. They can and should be taken throughout the duration of the candida diet but especially when your course of antifungals is over. Because antifungals will inevitably kill off some good bacteria, it is extremely vital that the good stuff be replenished. I now try to maintain a steady stream of probiotic supplementation for maintenance. I know good probiotics can be pricey, but they are so worth it. I have had scary moments where I’ve noticed symptoms creeping back up when I don’t take them for prolonged periods.
So that’s it, I would say my candida symptoms have improved about 85% since the completion of my cleanse and have stayed steady at this level. I ended up staying on a fairly strict candida diet and antifungals for three full months and continue to supplement with pre and probiotics regularly. Whenever I notice symptoms creeping up I find relief in cutting back carbs and amping up my probiotics. I plan to undertake another three-month candida cleanse some time in the next year and hope to knock this beast out completely. I’m also quite confident that eating a largely grain free, moderate carb diet has helped me to maintain the progress I have achieved.
On another note… I seriously can not wait to sell my house so I can start messing up my kitchen again! I have so many great grain free recipes just waiting to be dropped. Stay tuned. xx