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Combating Candida albicans

What is Candida albicans?

Candida albicans is a type of yeast-like fungi that is present in practically every human being. In a healthy person it does not present much of a problem as it is kept under control by the existence of other micro-organisms sometimes called 'friendly bacteria.' Recently, candida has become more of a problem for many people. Your diet, our intake of antibiotics and stress levels are the key areas in which change will help to reduce of the amount of yeast residing in our system.

How do I know if I have it?

The most recognisable symptom of Candida infection is thrush or a similar condition - vaginitis. It tends to thrive in females more readily, yet it can be passed between the sexes. If you suspect you have thrush, t is important that you visit the doctor to rule out the possibility of other sexually transmitted diseases. Thrush can also be present in the mouth and in any areas of damp skin. Other symptoms and related conditions are many and varied, including: athlete's foot; toe nail fungus; migraine type headaches; fatigue; constipation; bloating; allergy; sensitivity to strong smells; poor memory; feelings of unreality; irritability; difficulty in concentrating; depression; numbness; tingling and weak muscles; heartburn; abdominal pain; diarrhoea; recurrent sore throats. If you experience any of these symptoms and they become worse after eating sugary or yeast rich foods then it possible that you are suffering from Candida overgrowth. Symptoms also tend to get worse in damp or mouldy environments. Check with your doctor or a complementary therapist to be sure.

How can I control it?

It is impossible to eliminate all of the Candida yeast from your body, yet it is possible to return it to a level at which it ceases to cause you problems. By improving your diet, reducing your intake of certain drugs and allowing time for stress reduction and relaxation you can gain the upper hand on the yeast. These changes will have a beneficial effect on your general health and will improve your overall quality of life - they are well worth attempting! If you have a sexual partner, it is important that they are making an effort to combat the yeast as well. Using condoms will help to prevent cross infection. Do not share bath towels as this can also spread the yeast.

Dietary change
Dietary change is one of the key aspects of Candida treatment. This is because most of the yeast tends to dwell in the digestive tract. The three most important types of food to minimise in your diet are sugar, yeasted foods and mouldy or fermented foods. Unfortunately, one of the symptoms of Candida infection is a craving for these foods, particularly for sugar. Once you recognise that by eating these foods you are feeding the yeast, thus enabling it to multiply inside you more readily, it becomes easier to resist the temptation. You may find it easier to stick to the plan if you regularly see a complementary health practitioner who will guide you through the process.

Sugar: Candida thrives on sugar; it is the micro-organism's favourite food. To successfully treat Candida, it is important that you eliminate it or, at the very least, dramatically reduce your intake. Avoid all products with white or brown sugar; malt or molasses; syrups and artificial sweeteners. Fruits, dried fruits, sweet potato and yams are best avoided or kept to a minimum. Most nutritional experts feel it is impossible to eliminate the yeast without ceasing to eat fruit for at least six months. That said a small amount of seasonal fruit - green apples or berries may be ok for some people.
Yeasted foods: yeasted bread; brewers yeast; yeast pates and spreads (yeast extract type) are best avoided. Eat yeast free bread in moderation.
Mouldy or Fermented: Avoid foods that have mould on them including blue cheeses. A small amount of miso or pure soy sauce (half a teaspoon per day) may be beneficial. Avoid all vinegars except for cider vinegar.

Foods and food supplements which are beneficial:

  • Carrots, beetroots and parsnips can help to reduce sugar cravings. Food state GTF Chromium can help if the cravings are very strong. Cinnamon is a natural source of this mineral, you can take up to a teaspoon a day to reduce cravings and help to balance blood sugar. Choose organic cinnamon to avoid chemical treatments and pesticides.
  • The following grains help to inhibit Candida growth: millet, roasted buckwheat (kasha), rye, oats, barley, amaranth, and quinoa. Grains should be chewed thoroughly and not overeaten. Rye and barley may cause bloating if you are sensitive to gluten.
  • Green (chlorophyll rich) foods are purifying and help to promote growth of beneficial bacteria. These include parsley, spinach, dandelion, nettle, chard, watercress, wheat grass, seaweed (all kinds especially kelp), and micro-algae (blue green, spirulina, chlorella).
  • Sprouted beans and grains are very beneficial, as are aduki beans and mung beans; apple cider vinegar; garlic (half a clove, twice a day or take garlic capsules); cabbage; acidophilus goat's milk yoghurt (cow's milk acidophilus yoghurt if too strong) and flaxseed oil (1 tablespoon a day).
  • Pau D'Arco (available as a loose herb or tincture) is anti-fungal, so are cloves which may be chewed. Also good are: cinnamon, lemon balm, dandelion tea.
  • Aloe Vera juice is helpful for digestive problems, it encourages the growth of friendly bacteria, and soothes irritated tissue.
  • Food state vitamin B complex, certain B vitamins are important for sufferers particularly folic acid, pantothenic acid and riboflavin, B vitamins are vital if symptoms are associated with stress.
  • An anti-oxidant formula will help the body to detoxify the toxic substances released by the candida organisms. It should contain Vitamins A, C and zinc and selenium.
  • An omega-3 rich Essential Fatty Acid supplement such as flaxseed oil or fish oil may be of value as it can help to reduce inflammation. It also nourishes the nervous system and brain.
  • For non-vegetarians: try to eat organic meat and fish containing no anti-biotics. Vegetarians should eat as much protein as possible to help blance their blood sugar.
A note on dieting. The Candida diet can be very tough for some people to adjust to. If you find yourself becoming bogged down with it, allow yourself a treat occasionally (e.g. a low-sugar wholegrain biscuit, some papaya, or two squares of dark, organic chocolate). It's better to do that than to give up completely. The Candida Albicans Yeast Free Cookbook by Pat Connolly is available upstairs at the Haelan Centre.

Reducing intake of drugs
Anti-biotics: Many people experience a rise in the level of Candida in their system after taking anti-biotics. These drugs tend to be over-prescribed by GPs. Often a complementary practitioner can help to get to the root of an illness without using antibiotics. If you have to take a course, it is wise to take acidophilus tablets to re-populate the gut with friendly bacteria. There are some products available that are specially designed to take with antibiotic medication.
Alcohol: alcohol is a fermented product, which stimulates the growth of the Candida yeast. Generally people find they are more sensitive to beer, lager and cider. Try to cut out alcohol completely, or dilute with sparkling water and keep intake to a minimum.
Contraceptive pill: women taking the pill might find that they are more susceptible to Candida, if all other measures have failed, it might be worth considering a change of contraceptive. See your GP for advice.
Caffeine: reducing intake of caffeine drinks can help to reduce stress. If you are a regular consumer of caffeine cut down to one cup a day. The following herbs may be drunk freely to help to reduce stress: German Chamomile (can be combined with mint) Mellow-Calm mixture and Lemon Balm.
Drug intake in general: most drugs tend to have a debilitating effect on the immune system and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Acupuncture can be a helpful support in cases of addiction (e.g. nicotine, alcohol and other recreational drugs).

Please Note: Do not stop any regular medication without the advice of your GP.

The benefits of relaxation and stress reduction
Many people find that Candida symptoms get worse when they are going through a stressful period of their lives. When we are more stressed our immune systems do not work as well and thus the yeast is more able to multiply. Increased adrenaline levels cause the release of sugar stores into the bloodstream, providing food for the yeast. Also, during periods of stress we tend to eat more comfort foods (often sugar rich) that feed the yeast. This is a cycle that is well worth breaking. It can seem difficult, but it is important to make time for relaxation.
Going to a yoga or Chi Kung class; enjoying a walk in natural surroundings; having an aromatherapy massage or bath are all ways of unwinding. Try to make these treats regular occurrences in your everyday routine. Meditation can be profoundly relaxing and its benefits can seep into your everyday life. Simple practises like deep breathing in stressful situations can be very beneficial. Therapies such as shiatsu, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology and massage all help to reduce stress levels. A course of treatments is ideal.

Treating the symptoms

Your GP may advise you on various products to control the yeast overgrowth. If you wish to choose more natural methods, these are outlined below.

Please Note: In the following instances

  • if you suffer a severe case of Candida albicans infection
  • if you are pregnant or breast feeding
  • if you have a long standing illness or
  • if you are on medication

it is always best to consult your GP and a qualified complementary health practitioner. Some of the herbs recommended here are not suitable for people on certain types of medication or for pregnant women. See also .

Supplements that can help reduce Candida overgrowth

Please Note: commencing a course of any of the following anti-fungal supplements may cause an acute reaction as the candida yeasts are killed. This is known as a die-off reaction. If you experience flu like symptoms or any other uncomfortable symptoms stop taking the supplement or reduce the dosage. Consult a practitioner if you are unsure. See also .

Biocare's Caprylic Acid: a calcium and magnesium rich supplement, which encourages the growth of friendly bacteria.
Grapefruit seed extract (Citricidal): this product is active against harmful yeasts and bacteria, yet does not destroy the friendly bacteria, which helps to push out Candida. Take for one month whilst following the other guidelines in this article. Start off with 4 drops three times a day, building up to 10 drops three times a day. It is not suitable for those with sensitive/irritable bowels. Also available as capsules.
Acidophilus capsules: take one human strain acidophilus capsule in the morning before breakfast. It is best taken with a glass of diluted aloe vera juice. Once opened, store the capsules in the refrigerator. If you have recurrent cystitis, try acidophilus with cranberry capsules.
Bioforce's Spilanthes tincture is anti-fungal (use instead of grapefruit seed extract).

Please Note: Always read the label carefully to check for contra-indications. Ask the Haelan Centre staff if you are unsure.

Topical applications to reduce irritation
Those with thrush should wear lose clothing and cotton underwear; don't wear tights or tight trousers. After visiting the loo, wipe from front to back to avoid cross infection. Use natural, unperfumed soaps and detergents. Many women have found that tea tree pessaries help relieve thrush symptoms. One single drop of tea tree oil, no more, on a tampon can also be effective. (Do not use these methods if you are pregnant).
Yoghurt
, applied either on a tampon or with the help of an applicator (block one tube and replace tampon with yoghurt), can be very soothing. Leave in for four hours once or twice a day.
Biocare's Yeastguard
is an acidophilus-garlic pessary which has been shown to be effective for relief of thrush symptoms.

Sources:
Healing with Whole Foods (Revised Ed.), Paul Pitchford , (North Atlantic Books; 1993);
Candida Albicans: Could yeast be your problem?, David Hoffman, (Thorsons, 1991);
An Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, Thomas Bartram, (Grace Publishers; 1995)
Candidiasis - An Update, Erica White, (Lamberts Bulletin)

Written by Julia Moore CHEK level 1 Holistic Lifestyle Coach

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