What is Candida Overgrowth?Candida comes in many different forms, but the most common form found in the human body is candida albicans. In short, candida is a yeast that grows within the human body. Candida can exist all throughout the human body. The science and medical communities are unsure if candida is present because of testing instruments or if it truly lives throughout the body, organically. Either way, candida albicans, in a healthy and normal body, is not a cause for concern. It is part of the normal make-up of the body. Often, it is assumed that yeast infections only affect women, but that isn’t the case. Candida albicans live in both men and women, causing all sorts of symptoms. Candida can be a cause of these yeast infections since it is a yeast. One of the most prevalent places that candida albicans exists in the body is in the gut flora. In a healthy gut system, candida makes up about 10-15% of the gut flora. As candida becomes overgrown, however, it can make up 85-90% of the gut flora while the gut bacteria (both good and bad) only makes up the remaining 10-15%.
What Causes Overgrowth?Modern-day Americans live a life that is a huge opportunity for fungus like candida albicans to grow. Average nutrition standards are pretty low in America as the average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar each day. Yeast (candida) eats sugar. So when more and more sugar is consumed, yeast continues to grow and grow. Imagine making a loaf of bread. Flour and water are the main components and then, in order to get the bread to rise, we need to add yeast. And what does the yeast need in order to grow? Sugar. It is fascinating to put all of the bread ingredients into a bowl and watch as the yeast literally begins to bubble and rise. It is the same thing that happens in our bodies when candida meets our food. Once the yeast has a clear path for growth and sugar to consume, it becomes ‘overgrown’.
How Does Candida Overgrowth Start?Antibiotics. What is different now compared to 50 years ago is the introduction of very powerful antibiotic therapy. The granddaddy of them all – penicillin- was actually derived from a fungus and was considered to be the greatest scientific advancement for humankind in the last century. It has truly changed how we treat infections. That being said, the creators of the antibiotics had no idea what the long-term effects would be in the microbiome of the human being. Without knowing fully what too much antibiotic therapy could produce, it was given for almost every ailment up until the mid-1990s. If a child had a sniffling nose in 1960, they could reasonably expect to be taken to their medical doctor for a shot of penicillin in their back. Of course, every parent wants the best for their child, so it was easy to sell the idea that any sign or symptom should be looked at by a medical professional to see if antibiotics were needed. While it’s true that most illnesses were kept at bay by the antibiotic therapy, scientists and medical doctors did not realize what effect this amount of antibiotics would have on the microbiome, or gut-brain relationship. Yes, the symptoms of the illness would go away quickly, but bigger issues would arise. One of the most prevalent issues to come about due to the over-prescribing and overuse of antibiotics is candida yeast overgrowth. Antibiotics work like a forest fire. It comes through and sweeps out all of the big trees that have been the major players in the environment along with all of the undergrowth. When the fire finishes, what comes back? The undergrowth and with it, often new species of plants and trees are able to blossom. The gut is the same. When antibiotics come through, they kill off all of the bacteria, both good and bad, along with any fungus. What is able to grow back quickly since it is now unhindered? Candida albicans. Antibiotics are not the only way that candida can become overgrown. By simply having poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle can allow candida to flourish. Things like too much sugar, overeating processed foods, and never constricting your organs to encourage detoxification will slowly, but surely, open the door for candida to enter your body.
What are the Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth?There are a number of symptoms associated with candida albicans overgrowth, often referred to as candidiasis. Some of those symptoms include:
- Sugar cravings
- Joint pain
- Skin issues like psoriasis or eczema
- Brain fog
- Gut issues like flatulence, constipation, or diarrhea
What Can I Do to Remove Candida Overgrowth?There are a number of things that help in the fight against candida albicans overgrowth.
1. PreventionIt is known that allowing candida to grow out of control is the overuse of antibiotics and poor nutritional and wellness choices. Those are the 2 main culprits. So, what can be done to avoid this from even being an issue? Here are 3 steps of prevention:
- Watch for antibiotics in the foods that you consume. Over 60% of the medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in food-producing animals. Therefore, they are then consumed by the public. It is worth at least being aware that a person will usually take some antibiotics via the consumption of animal fibers.
- Be aware of sugar intake levels. Sugar comes in many forms and can hide behind many different names. Becoming educated on the various types of sugar is key to being able to make informed decisions about the foods that are being consumed and what they might do to your body.
- Live a low-stress life… on purpose. So often, we think that stress-free living is the absence of stressors. But that rarely exists. Choices need to be made that will limit the power of stress over one’s life so that the immune system can keep all bad bacteria, viruses, and fungus (including candida yeast overgrowth) at bay.
2. Intervention & CleanseNow that you know that the human body hosts candida albicans, it is likely that many people suffer from candida overgrowth and just don’t know about it! There are chemical tests that can be done at a medical office, but the symptoms are more telling. There is definitely not a downside to keeping the body clean on a cellular level, even if there isn’t a current candida overgrowth that the body is fighting. So, what is the best way to intervene and cleanse the body?
- Include all of the prevention steps listed above. Watch antibiotic intake, lower sugar levels along with processed foods, and keep a low-stress level in life.
- Go after the candida overgrowth by using products designed to kill candida, consuming fermented foods, fasting periodically, keeping a good sleep schedule to allow for proper rest, and by implementing supportive exercises like walking or yoga.
- Actively cleanse your entire body and re-establish what ‘normal’ looks like. So often, when people hear of a cleanse the immediate thought that comes to mind is that, “this is just a fad diet. It’s so fast…” A cleanse should be fast! It’s not healthy to be doing an intense cleanse all of the time, but it is healthy, down to a cellular level, to do an in-depth cleanse by restricting diet and getting rid of excess, intentionally. Once per year is a great rhythm for cleansing, aka detoxifying.
- Introduce pre-biotics to the gut flora. Probiotics are pretty mainstream now, and they are a great thing to include in your diet. However, they aren’t nearly as effective if there isn’t anywhere for them to take hold and grow. Pre-biotics are designed to lay the groundwork, making the environment such that a probiotic has the best chance to flourish.
3. Maintenance CareOnce the body is rid of candida yeast overgrowth, it is important to maintain great health, especially when it comes to the gut. Ancient cultures understood that all health stems from the gut and as a society we are beginning to come around to that truth once more. A few helpful tips for great gut health and keeping candida overgrowth from reoccurring:
- Continue to watch what goes in the body. Diet, vitamins, medications, drinks… all of these play a role in gut health.
- Maintain emotional health. You know the feeling you get when you hear bad news or come under tremendous stress that you weren’t anticipating? Where does the emotion of that stress tend to hit you physically? In the gut. So, do the hard work of having conversations that need to be had or setting boundaries that need to be set in order to limit the effect of negativity and stress that is part of the human experience.
- Get on a great multivitamin. Specifically one that enhances rest for the entire body and supports organs of elimination such as the kidneys, liver, and gallbladder.
- Limit the amount of caffeine that you take in. Caffeine stimulates the adrenals glands and when those become overstimulated, it is a difficult path back to health.