In recent decades, the overgrowth of a naturally occurring yeast in our bodies, Candida albicans, has been recognized in the naturopathic and holistic realm as a condition that leads to many health complications and diseases.
Despite criticism that candida overgrowth – or candidiasis – is a fad diagnosis, it continues to be attributed as contributing to many systemic and polysystemic (meaning involving more than one body system) disorders and diseases, including the development of allergies.
Candida & The Immune System
One of the most susceptible systems to candida overgrowth is the immune system – our body’s defence against harmful pathogens, viruses and allergens. Normally, non-invasive yeasts exist on and in our bodies; however, problems with invasion and overgrowth arise when the yeast is able to thrive in or on someone who is taking medications or has a weakened immune system – or both.
A weak immune system can result in the reduction of the normal colon bacteria (that important microbiome I’m always telling you about) which help to keep candida at bay.
When this occurs, candida can change from a yeast into its fungal form and burrow stubborn roots into our intestinal wall and other mucosal linings. The intestinal cells absorb the toxic mycotoxins and other inflammatory compounds released by the candida through its metabolism and waste products.
Because many of these substances are antigenic – meaning that they are a foreign substance that induces an immune response in the body – our immune system will make antibodies in response to the antigens. This leads to a hypersensitivity reaction that may turn into a systemic (or polysystemic) disease.
The Vicious Cycle
Unfortunately, someone with chronic candida overgrowth – or candidiasis – is often unknowingly stuck in a cycle. The beginning of the cycle, or at least a major contributing factor – is commonly the prescription of antibiotics for an infection.
Because antibiotics are non-discriminating and kill off good bacteria in our body along with the bad, the new environment enables candida the space to thrive.
Once the candida is able to spread through the gastrointestinal tract and embed itself in the intestinal cells, it begins to compete with our body for nutrients to support itself. This leads to nutrient deficiencies when the yeast steals antioxidants and other nutrients before they can be transported throughout the body to other organs and tissues. Here, you can also see how an already poor diet – such as one high in candida’s favourite foods of sugar and refined carbohydrates – can support the success of candida and begin to affect other systems.
The disruption caused by candida takes the largest toll on our immune system because of the increased need for antibodies and immunoglobulins to combat the antigenic waste products released by candida, as mentioned above. At this time, a person is likely to contract an infection. It could be a vaginal yeast infection, or a severe flu, or what seems to be ‘food poisoning’, leading to the perceived need for more antibiotics… And so the cycle continues.
What can I do if I think I have candida?
Addressing candida overgrowth is not a simple feat. A proper protocol will include:
- immune support,
- dietary changes (particularly pertaining to sugar consumption),
- a potent anti-fungal protocol.
Cutting simple sugars from your diet is a crucially important and foundational first step. It addresses several layers of this problem: removing the food source for the aggressive yeast and addressing the effects of sugar on the immune system.
However, an aggressive plan developed by a naturopathic doctor, nutritionist or both is required and it will take a considerable amount of time (for most going through this it, quite literally, takes years).
A successfully customized plan will be built around your current allergies and the 4 main steps to addressing candida:
- Removing their food source, preventing division and replication;
- Severely reducing the current candida population with an anti-fungal protocol (after my own personal experience with candida I realize that it’s impossible to eradicate it, nor should this be our aim – we always have yeasts living with us, the key is that it remains in check);
- Strengthening and balancing the immune system through nutrition, supplementation, herbal medicine;
- Re-inoculating our good/beneficial microorganisms (the microbiome) to fight the good fight against candida for us in our gut.
It Takes Effort & Commitment
My personal experience with candida and allergy have lead me to believe that a candida diet is not the solution – at least it’s not the solution on its own. There needs to be a very big emphasis on supporting the re-establishment of good microbes (both bacteria and beneficial yeasts that compete with candida), as well as detox, and immune system balancing.
Many clients only do one strategy at a time. While it might be helpful, depending upon your situation to stagger or layer these steps, you cannot focus on only one and not the others. This leads to very poor outcomes.
I tried the candida diet without much else changing.
The result was: I was miserable and nothing changed.
I tried killing candida with tons of anti-fungal drugs.
The result was: I’m now resistant to anti-fungal drugs – they don’t even touch an infection for me.
I tried anti-fungal herbs & supplements on their own or in combination with probiotics. But without changing my diet or removing birth control, etc.
The result was: I spent a lot of money and nothing changed.
The message I’m sending you here is that the multi-disciplinary, multi-step/multi-layered approach is crucial and it takes a long time. You need to understand this so you can remain committed and put in the effort. This is not an easy thing to overcome.
If you want to explore reducing your sugar intake to see if it helps your candida (or suspected candida) issues, I have a program called: You’re Sweet Enough. Check it out, it might just be the right fit for you!