Did you know that there is more bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract than there are cells in the whole of the human body? Quite a staggering statistic and one that certainly highlights the importance of making sure that there is a healthy balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria that populate this area of the body.
In this week’s article we are going look at Candida, a yeast that is normally a harmless part of the intestinal flora. However symptoms can arise when an overgrowth of this fungus occurs. Candida can break down the wall of the intestine and penetrate the blood stream which releases toxins into the body and can potentially cause issues around the whole body – from leaky gut to depression.
In this article we look at ways of preventing the overgrowth of Candida using the 4R protocol – REMOVE, REPLACE, REINOCULATE and REPAIR – to restore balance to the gut.
What is Candida?
The term Candida usually refers to the species known as Candida albicans. This is a single-celled yeast that, in the majority of cases, is a harmless part of our intestinal flora. Candida albicans is present in approximately 80% of the human population and symptoms can arise when a overgrowth of this fungus occurs.
Candida is somewhat of an enigma when it comes to a diagnosis because it affects each person differently and often in a different area of the body. For this reason it is often a condition that is misdiagnosed which can lead on to further problems.
Common forms of Candida
- Oesophagitis — Candida infections of the mouth can often spread to the oesophagus, causing oesophagitis. This infection most commonly occurs in people who are receiving chemotherapy for cancer or people who have AIDS.
- Thrush — Thrush is the common name for a mouth or female genito-urinary tract infection caused by the Candida albicans. It affects surfaces around the lips, inside the cheeks, on the tongue, or in and around the vagina. Similarly to Oasophagitis, Thrush is common in people with diseases such as cancer and AIDS as both reduce the efficient functioning of the immune system.
- Cutaneous (skin) candidiasis — Candida can cause skin infections in areas of skin that receive little ventilation and are unusually moist. Some common sites include the ‘nappy’ area; areas around the groin and in the crease of the buttocks.
Those at risk of Candida
Candida overgrowth occurs when the normal immune system defences are weakened by illness or poor diet. For example, diets that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and low in essential micro-nutrients.
Stress is considered a further contributory factor, in particular chronic stress which is known to negatively impact the immune system. In addition, chronic stress is frequently accompanied by poor diet and this, combined with inadequate good bacteria, provides Candida with the ideal environment to thrive.
Factors that can contribute to Candida overgrowth include:
- Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Consuming a large volume of alcohol
- Living a high-stress lifestyle
- Taking antibiotics, because they reduce levels of friendly bacteria with can provide Candida with the opportunity to over populate (please follow this link to find out more about the Antibiotics ‘problem’)
- Taking oral contraceptives
Common signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth:
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus
- Feeling tired and having a lack of energy
- Suffering from chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues such as bloating or constipation
- Anxiety or depression
- Skin issues such as eczema
- UTI’s and vaginal infections
- sugar and carbohydrate cravings
Candida has also been quite heavily linked to the development of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus etc.
Clearly not everyone is troubled by Candida overgrowth; and prevention is possible by maintaining good general health and a strong immune system, and also reducing stress where possible and eating a healthy diet high in fibre in order to encourage the growth of good bacteria.
Adequate stomach acid is also important. Low levels of hydrochloric acid are frequently discovered in people who frequently and repeatedly suffer from Candida and other bacterial infections. Correcting low levels of hydrochloric acid, if present, is an important part of any programme to reduce the risk of reoccurrence.
Maintaining the balance
As with digestive health in general, the key to keeping Candida albicans in the ‘minority’ is maintaining a healthy balance of friendly bacteria. The consumption of fermented foods, including plain natural yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha will assist in maintaining a healthier digestive tract. Eating foods rich in prebiotic fibres is also important – vegetables including onions, leeks, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes and dark leafy greens.
The problem with Candida overgrowth is that often when the treatment stops the infection reoccurs because the underlying causes – that is imbalanced gut flora and need for immune support – have not been addressed.
So what about the Anti-Candida Diet with no sugar, fruit or yeast as a treatment for Candida? This has traditionally been recommended for Candida overgrowth and people can find some of the diet protocols very onerous to continue with long-term.
For a number of reasons this may be an outdated approach and the focus now is on supporting the immune system and rebalancing the gut flora. Certainly, eating sugary foods (including fruit juice) is a bad idea as it will suppress the immune system (as well as having many other negative health effects). Fruit, however, does not need to be totally excluded – one to two portions of low sugar fruits such as berries, plums or apples can be eaten. Avoiding yeast may not be necessary but could also mean a happy avoidance of gluten grains. Candida has been implicated as a trigger for Coeliac disease.
4R Programme – REMOVE, REPLACE, REINOCULATE and REPAIR
Candida is part of the normal gut flora so it may not be possible to remove it; the aim is to reduce any overgrowth and rebalance the gut flora.
Options include pharmaceutical drugs, but various natural nutrients are available with anecdotal and historical usage. There are however no currently permitted health claims in relation to Candida reduction or eradication.
Foods and nutrients with anti-fungal properties (we also supply links to the relevant products):
Caprylic Acid – natural dietary fatty acid which assists in the maintenance of a normal intestinal micro-flora. Studies have indicated that dietary caprylic acid helps to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and other opportunistic fungi in both the small and large intestines. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid. Choose Extra Virgin Organic coconut oil. For cases of oral thrush it can be allowed to melt in the mouth and then swilled around and spat out. Eat some as well – coconut oil is nice added to smoothies or stirred into porridge once cooked.
Garlic – One of the best known foods associated with having anti-fungal properties with research that dates back to 1936 – including that garlic can help with the removal of pathogens such as Candia. It should be consumed fresh, raw or as a good-quality supplement.
Oregano – A herb, which has been shown to possess a broad spectrum of anti-microbial activity, used to inhibit the growth various food-spoiling fungi and yeast organisms, as well as demonstrating additional anti-fungal activity against non-pathogenic yeast.
Grapefruit Seed Extract – Often referred to as citricidal, has a long history as a cleansing agent. Research supports its use in combating a variety of common infectious agents, evidencing antibacterial activity against a number of gram-positive and negative organisms.
Green Tea Extract – Green tea is a natural source of catechins, considered to provide anti-microbial properties against oral, intestinal and food-borne bacteria. Research points to Green tea as a source of anti-fungal activity against candida species.
Onions, bay, thyme, cloves and cinnamon have also demonstrated anti-fungal properties.
If low stomach acid is suspected, you might consider a digestive supplement that contains hydrochloric acid and if indicated some digestive enzymes. Alternatively 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water can be taken with meals.
It is essential to rebalance the gut flora to prevent the repeated overgrowth of Candida. Friendly gut bacteria displace Candida through competitive exclusion. They also stimulate the body’s natural immune response. A broad spectrum Live Bacteria supplement can be used. In addition, Saccharomyces boulardii is a micro organism that is often used as part of anti-candida protocols as it displaces pathogenic yeast species.
Diet – a well balanced diet, rich in vegetables, good quality protein and healthy fats and low in processed foods.
Maximise immune function –Supplementing to ensure adequate levels of all essential micro-nutrients, including those for immune function. A well balanced multivitamin and mineral is important for this, and extra zinc, vitamin D and vitamin A, which are all important for immune function, may be warranted
For those who have a lowered immune function, additional support in the form of beta glucans may be helpful.
If you have any questions regarding the health topics that have been raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
[email protected], 01684 310099
Amanda Williams and the Cytoplan Editorial Team: Joseph Forsyth, Simon Holdcroft and Clare Daley