Candida albicans is a yeast that is normally present in our gastrointestinal tract, skin, and vaginal tract in women. Under normal circumstances it remains in those places causing no harm whatsoever. However, it is quite common for candida to grow out of control and cause many debilitating symptoms. An overgrowth of candida is probably one of the most common conditions that I see in patients with digestive disturbances. But it doesn’t stop there. Candida can cause (directly or indirectly) any of the following symptoms or conditions: irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, GERD, sinusitis and chronic sinus problems, inability to lose weight, thyroid imbalances, headaches, vaginitis, chronic fatigue, “foggy-headedness” or inability to concentrate, food allergies or sensitivities, pre-menstrual syndrome or dysmenorrhea, skin rashes, depression, pain, yeast infections, and more. The question now is: why does it grow out of control?
There can be any number of reasons that someone has an overgrowth of yeast. The main thing to think of however, is a person’s diet. And the main culprit in the diet is definitely sugar. This obviously includes foods like pies, cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, soda, donuts, brownies, and the like. However, even so-called natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, corn syrup, brown sugar, fruit and fruit juices are problematic as well. One more “food group” needs to be added to the list. I’m referring to refined grains and flour products. This would include bread (even whole grain), cereals (even sugar-free), muffins, croissants, pancakes, waffles, etc.. Although these foods are not sugar per se, they quickly get metabolized into sugar (or glucose). Additionally, any foods that actually contain yeast or fungus will certainly be a problem. And don’t forget alcohol, as that is certainly a very refined “sugar”.
The problem with these foods and sugar is that they actually “feed” the yeast or candida. It is synonymous with adding gasoline to a fire. So in order to quell a yeast or candida problem, one MUST avoid these foods temporarily. Other factors leading to an overgrowth of yeast or candida include a weakened immune system, nutrient deficiencies (particularly certain minerals), and use of antibiotics. All of the above can lead to an imbalance between the amount of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the intestines. This imbalance in intestinal or vaginal bacteria can be both a cause and effect depending on how the problem began. The length of time it takes for this condition (and it’s related symptoms) to resolve will depend on many factors including: the amount of candida in the system, the strength of the immune system, intestinal and digestive integrity, and nutrient status.
In addition to dietary changes, supplements are usually necessary to fully eradicate the problem. Think of dietary changes (i.e.: avoiding sugars and refined grains) as a way of starving the yeast. Specific supplements on the other hand can actually “kill-off” candida as some can act as natural anti-yeast or anti-fungals. Additionally, certain supplements that address mineral deficiencies and help strengthen the immune system can often be necessary. And lastly, probiotics (or “good” bacteria) as well as digestive enzymes and/or hydrochloric acid may be necessary.
In general, this can be an easy condition to eliminate, IF you avoid sugar and yeast-containing foods. Besides the obvious sugary foods and flour products, it’s often also necessary to avoid eating fermented, fungus/mold-containing, and aged foods such as: vinegar, mushrooms, aged cheeses, soy sauce, and also peanuts and corn (they often contain a fungus or mold known as aflatoxin). High starch vegetables like potatoes, carrots and beets can be an issue in very stubborn cases. The extent that these dietary changes need to be in place will certainly vary individually. Although, I would say a minimum of three weeks is necessary, and it would be wise to avoid pure sugar-containing foods afterward in order to prevent a recurrence.
If you don’t avoid eating the above mentioned foods, the situation usually becomes a vicious cycle. Eating sugar and refined carbohydrates feeds the yeast, and disrupts the balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the intestinal and/or vaginal tract. This will result in a weakened immune system and altered gastrointestinal integrity which causes the yeast to continue to grow out of control. This will ultimately result in more immune compromise, allowing the yeast to continue to grow; and so on. As you can see, without changing your food intake, it can be very difficult to clear up this problem.
Please keep in mind that vaginal yeast infections almost always indicate a gastrointestinal overgrowth of yeast. And candida and yeast infections do not discriminate…men are just as susceptible as women to succumbing to the deleterious effects of candida in any part of the body. The worst two cases of yeast infections I’ve “seen” in my patients were among a male and a female.
Because this is such a rampant problem with potential “far-reaching” effects, it would be wise to rule this in or out in many different symptoms and conditions.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology