Candida albicans or C. albicans for short, is a specific yeast strain and member of the fungus family. This yeast lives in the body along with other microbes constituting the gut microbiome. When in balance, Candida is harmless. It is found in the intestinal tract of 40% of healthy adults without provoking an adverse response. However, if Candida grows unchecked, it causes Candidiasis, a pervasive yeast overgrowth or infection.
Although almost 20 species of Candida may cause infection, C. albicans is the most common culprit. Yeast infections may develop in your gastrointestinal tract, esophagus, vagina and mouth. This article explains the causes of Candida overgrowth and the steps you can take to get it under control.
Causes of Candida Overgrowth:
1. Taking antibiotics frequently or long term
- Antibiotics kill off gut microbes, good and bad alike. Without good bacteria to balance out the bad, it becomes more likely that certain microbes, like C. albicans, will overgrow and cause problems like yeast infections.
- Additionally, the disruption of gut microflora causes the body to produce less biotin, a type of B vitamin. Biotin helps suppress the transition of C. albicans into the form that causes yeast infections. So, less biotin equates to a higher risk of candidiasis.
2. Using corticosteroid drugs (especially inhalants) or having a compromised immune system
- Corticosteroid drugs suppress the immune system, reducing symptoms of an overactive immune system, like asthma or autoimmune conditions. Weakened immune systems increase the risk for candidiasis including those with HIV/AIDS and malignancies.
- Specifically, using an inhaler puts you at greater risk for oral yeast infections.
3. Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes
- Diabetics tend to have higher sugar content in their mouth. Sugar feeds yeast infections, creating a greater risk for oral candidiasis.
4. Diets high in refined grains, sugars and other processed inflammatory foods
- Poor diets over time can lead to disruptions in the gut microflora, leading to higher risk of candidiasis.
5. Lifestyle factors
- Poorly controlled stress, lack of sleep, and excess alcohol consumption may increase your risk for yeast overgrowth.
How do I know if I have candida overgrowth?
Certain symptoms point to possible yeast overgrowth. If you have any of the below symptoms, consider yeast overgrowth as a possible reason:
- White coated tongue
- Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- Bad breath
- Frequent Urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Cravings for sweets/carbohydrates
- Hormonal imbalances or mood swings
- Aches in joints and muscles
- Gas, bloating or sudden onset of food sensitivities
- Poor concentration
- Skin problems
What do I do if I have candida overgrowth?
Yeast overgrowth results when the body is not in prime condition and the immune system may be impaired. It is essential to identify and address the root cause of ill-health and then find measures to rebalance the internal gastrointestinal environment. This approach helps improve overall health and boost the immune system. Therefore, candida treatment does not address complete eradication of this yeast-strain, but rather balancing the body’s ecosystem.
Keep in mind that Candida is opportunistic, so the best way to reduce its growth is by starving it of its preferred fuel source. This is where diet and supplement changes come into play. There are several versions of the “Candida Diet” first popularized in 1983 with the book, The Yeast Connection. At this time, there are not conclusive, published studies that elucidate the best anti-Candida diet. Below are some tips to consider if you have Candida overgrowth.
Try out some of these anti-candida overgrowth tips:
Remove/limit REFINED grains and sugars from your diet:
- This helps restore your immune system and reduces inflammation.
- Corn syrup, fructose, lactose, glucose, sucrose, honey, molasses, cookies, cakes, processed or boxed snacks made with flour, potato or corn starch should be eliminated.
- Fresh whole fruit is okay in moderation (1-3 servings per day), but avoid overly ripe fruit, fruit juice and dried fruit.
Add high quality animal or vegetarian sources of protein to your diet:
- Aim for organic, unprocessed meats like chicken, turkey, eggs, beef, lamb, or pork. Wild-caught fish and shellfish are also good choices. Avoid processed meats.
- For vegetarians, all legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) as well as whole grains and nuts/seeds are acceptable protein sources.
Eat unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables:
- Examples include cauliflower, kale, spinach, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers and broccoli.
Limit foods that contain or grow yeast and/or mold:
- These foods include yeast-containing breads, mushrooms, aged cheeses, liquor, beer, and wine.
- Those who are sensitive to Candida may become reactive to yeast and mold and should consider limiting exposure to them.
Take a probiotic (at least 25 billion CFU) or eat probiotic-rich foods:
- This helps restore balance to the gut microbiome.
- Some sources of probiotics from foods are yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or kefir. Making your own fermented foods yields the highest content of beneficial bacteria, although you can find most of these foods at your local grocery store as well.
Use caprylic acid:
- This is a type of fat called a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) found primarily in coconut oil.
- It is a potent antifungal and does not kill off beneficial microbes!
Use clove and oregano oil:
- These oils act as potent antimicrobials.
- Try adding a few drops of these potent oil extracts to your mild cooking oil.
- Garlic also has strong antifungal properties and can help with yeast overgrowth.
- Garlic contains allicin, the compound responsible for its beneficial properties. You can choose to take a supplement that contains allicin or eat more garlic!
Yeast overgrowth may be tough to spot, but knowing some of the signs and symptoms could help you identify this imbalance. Candidiasis can be controlled with dietary and supplement measures. Overall, improving the health and balance of the gastrointestinal tract will boost your immune system and allow this yeast strain to live in harmony with your body.
- Neuhauser I. Successful treatment of intestinal moniliasis with fatty acid-resin complex. AMA Arch Intern Med 1954;93(1):53-60.
- Goldberg, Paul A. “The reduction of Candida albicans ‘yeast’ overgrowth using Fungal Defense and Primal Defense along with lifestyle modifications a 23 patient pilot study.” Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Nov. 2003, p. 80+. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.
- Singh, Arun, et al. “Oral candidiasis: An overview.” Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, vol. 18, no. 4, 2014, p. 81. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.
- Maleskey, Gale. “Treating Candida infections with diet: the internet is filled with diet tips for dealing with Candida overgrowth. EN sorts the facts from fiction.” Environmental Nutrition, Mar. 2016, p. 3. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.