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I recently read that according to Rice University up to 70% of the population is affected by candida, a systemic fungal infection. (source) That is a shocking statistic, but when you get into the definition and causes of candida it is clear why most people have candida or will at some point in their life. Antibiotics and a diet heavy in sugar-forming foods is a lethal combination for the bacterial balance of our guts.

As a teenager I came down with bronchitis and pneumonia at least twice a year it seemed. With every infection I received antibiotics. Then just when I was starting to learn about recovering my health from those antibiotics our oldest son was born. I had an infection just after his birth, and again I had to take a course of antibiotics. Since then, three years ago now, I have been researching, praying, and finding different dietary changes that have helped my body regain balance. My husband often jokes that I blame every bodily ailment on candida, but the truth is it can cause a host of different symptoms that would seem totally unrelated to the health of your gut.

What is Candida?

According to the Candida Wellness Center…

Candida Albicans is a negative yeast infection that begins in the digestive system and little by little spreads to other parts of the body. It is a strong, invasive parasite that attaches itself to the intestinal wall and can become a permanent resident of your internal organs. (source)

According to Donna Gates, author of the Body Ecology Diet…

A single-cell organism, candida reproduces asexually and thrives on some of the body’s by-products: dead tissue and sugars from food. Unless its environment is altered and its source of food is eliminated, it quickly monopolizes entire body systems, such as the digestive tract, and causes moderate to severe symptoms. (source)

How Can We Treat Candida?

Their are varying opinions on the best course of treatment for a candida infection or a gut flora imbalance. The Body Ecology Diet and the GAPS diet are two well known diets (and books) used to fight candida. While their are many differing opinions, there are a few agreed upon measures that you can take to fight candida and regain a proper bacterial balance in your body:

  • For at least a short period of time cut out all sugars, grains, fruits, dairy, and other sugar-forming foods. Usually this is either recommended for an "introductory phase" of a few weeks or less, or even for months, depending on the severity of your condition. For some time now I have strictly limited sugar, grains and fruits in my diet. I have not followed one plan specifically, but have found this step to be very helpful in maintaining even energy, not feeding the candida the sugar it desires, and giving the probiotics a fighting chance in my gut.
  • Add a lot of probiotic foods to your diet. Everything from lacto-fermented vegetables such as pickles, sauerkraut to probiotic containing beverages like kombucha or water kefir should be consumed at daily, if not at every meal. Then, when you can handle dairy, yogurt, kefir and other fermented dairy products are recommended. Jenny from Nourished Kitchen has recently published a book called Get Cultured: Probiotic Foods From a Nourished Kitchen which could be of help in discovering how to prepare these foods.
  • Take a high quality probiotic. There is a time and a place to supplement a healthy diet with something your body truly needs. I have written about choosing high quality supplements before, and probiotics is one that could greatly benefit anyone suffering with a gut flora imbalance such as candida. You can find a great source for a highly recommended probiotic here. Fermented cod liver oil is another recommended supplement for those battling candida.
  • Consume more saturated fats. The GAPS diet puts a lot of emphasis on healing your gut with saturated animal fats from grass-fed meats and ghee. This is right in line with the article I shared last week: 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat by Dr. Eades.

As I fight my own way back to health it is hard to say when the battle will have been won. I know that I am on the right track, but I also wonder how far I have to go. I do know that taking the above four measures has improved my overall health and the way that I feel on a daily basis, candida or no candida. I believe that these steps could help many others whether they are a part of that 70% or not.

What about you… have you every suffered from or successfully treated candida? What measures did you take and how did it improve your overall feeling of well being?

This post is a contribution to Real Food Wednesday.

 

21 Responses to Candida: The Unknown Epidemic? Finding Balance For Your Gut

  1. I was diagnosed with candida 11 years ago. At that time I gave up all sugars, starches, mushrooms, alcohol, yeasts, etc. It was amazing and I felt great. I now can feel when I’m out of balance and can regain control over my body. I am almost grain free, gluten free and that has helped so much. My gut was so ruined by antibiotic over use that I am still healing from it, and know that one day I will be much stronger. I see a lot of candida in my Health Counseling work and it is related to many other illnesses. This was a wonderful post and I’m happy to have found your site.

    Hannah

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  2. Jessica says:

    Thanks for this article. I agree that candida is quite widespread across our culture.

    This article also reminded me that for quite some time now I have been meaning to do a no sugar, low grain, no fruit anti candida diet. I think my hypoglycemia and skin issues would benefit a lot.

    Have you looked up grapefruit seed extract and caprylic acid extracts also oregano oil capsules? Those are all anti fungal and great for combating candida.

    I really need to get on the anti candida diet band wagon. Sugars and starches are sooo hard to give up!

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  3. Lisa Sargese says:

    What some folks call a “beer gut” I call a “yeast gut”. Notice how those big round pregnant looking male bellies on men stick out like bowling balls even though the man might not be obese in the rest of his body? I’m convinced it’s a build up of yeast in the gut!! My candida overgrowth started with antibiotics at 18 months old. It snowballed from there. Now I treat it with Pau D’Arco Tea, oregano oil, and avoiding all the grainy foods and sugars. I feel much better overall! Thanks for this post. I’ve added you to my blog roll :-)

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  4. I have struggled with candida for so long.. going on 17 years. I did not know for years why I had itchy symptoms. I went to Drs who said that some people are just normally itchy! I got checked for parasites but they came back negative.

    It has been 1.5 years since I have been eating low carb: no grains, no fruit, no sweet stuff. Still have symptoms.

    I take oregano oil, my probiotic foods and eat raw garlic every day and coconut oil.

    I did GAPs intro for three day but could not give up going dairy free. Those three days I was cured from my symptoms. I was so ecstatic about that. But I was miserable about my food choices. When I am ready to go dairy free I will start GAPS again.

    Drinking water kefir made me react initially. But I continued to drink it believing that the good bugs will beat out the yeast and sure enough I can tolerate WK much better now.

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  5. Melanie Christner says:

    I had the same situation happen as yours, after the birth of my fourth child. Antibiotics 3 weeks post-partum. I fought/am fighting the same battle 2 1/2 years later. Thank you so much for your post!

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  6. So with you! After infection after infection with breastfeeding, I got too many antibiotics and have been working on healing myself since.

    Excellent post.

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  7. Ricki says:

    I’ve been battling candida (this time) for about eight months now. My diet is very similar to the ones you mention, though I do eat GF grains. I’ve now reintroduced non-sweet fruits (berries, green apple etc) and a few other foods. My symptoms are about 90% gone, but I know from previous experience (I was on an anti-candida diet for 2 years about 10 years ago) that it can take a long time. For some people, myself included, diet alone isn’t enough–I’m also on antifungals, for now. Candida is truly insidious and can be very hard to clear from the body, but the results are so worth it!

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  8. Theresa says:

    How does one go about getting a definite answer that candida is the problem?

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  9. Amy Nyvall says:

    Thanks so much for your post. I’ve been trying to learn more about candida for the last few years. I too have been over dosed with anti-biotics in the passed, with a cure to no prevail. It became clear that if I wasn’t helping my body deal with what causes the infections in the first place, I might as well add antibiotics as a new course for every meal. I am going to order some grass-fed ghee . . . I’ve heard about it . . . but it caught my eye on your post and I think I’ll add that to my home. Thanks!

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  10. Shannon, great info here, I’m glad to have a good post about candida to send people to and will link to this in mine.

    Lisa, very interesting about the ‘yeast gut’!

    Kelly p.s. Stumbling now…

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  11. Elisa says:

    yeastinfectionadvisor.com is a good site for reference. I have struggled with Candida for a few years and am now going on 1 year free of sugar (and very little fruit and grains). I wish I could occasionally have a piece of cake or an entire bananna, but if I do I immediately get a flare up.

    Has anyone done research about heavy metals? I have a feeling they can keep you from getting rid of candida. If that’s the case, the next order of business for me (once I give birth, since I’m pregnant) will be to go on a heavy metals cleanse!

    I too am praying for an answer. Although I never want to go back to being a sugarholic, I don’t like having to eat like this either.

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  12. Vee says:

    My naturopathic doctor said my inability to knock candida down to normal levels while following her anti-candida diet and supplements protocol for four months indicated the need for heavy metals toxicity testing. Yep, it came back positive for toxic levels of 8 metals. So now I’m doing oral chelation for that. Another indicator of heavy metal toxicity was bloodwork showing my adrenals were exhausted from trying to “deal with” something on board in my body.

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  13. Nicole says:

    Great article, and so true. I just wanted to mention that I’ve tried dozens of different probiotics in my life, and I’ve had great success with Mt. Capra brand Caprobiotics + Plus. They are cultured in fresh, raw goat’s milk, and I feel a substantial difference with them in my supplement repertoire. Also, they make a superb enzyme formula. I order them both online from vitacost.com. Good luck, everyone!

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  14. c says:

    wow! our stories sound so similar! i have had bronchitis about once a year for my whole life, and a very poor immune system. i was in the hospital with strep b after my twins were born, and ive had about 12 breast infections while nursing the girls. i had started to wonder if i had a yeast problem. sounds like its time to take some action!

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  15. Would you recommend and enzyme like this? Or know anything about them? Or to pregnant women? http://www.vitacost.com/Enzymedica-Candidase

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  16. angela rojek says:

    diatomaceous earth..it heavy metal detox..parasite cleanse ..hormone balance..blood sugar balancer..safely rids plaque build up from blood..all with No side effects..google it… make sure its food grade and happy healing..Our family mixes it in room temp spring water then add something to mask the gritty texture..it has no taste and it’s cheap..

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  17. Shannon says:

    Jessica – I have heard of GSE, caprylic acid and oregano oil. Thank you for reminding me. I may have to supplement with those if I incur another flare up.

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  18. Shannon says:

    Lisa – Interesting analysis of the beer gut. If 70% of our society has some level of candida issues I’m sure there are many cases of “yeast gut”.

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  19. Shannon says:

    Catherine – Wow, thanks for your story. I pray that your gut will eventually heal itself.

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  20. Shannon says:

    Elisa – I have heard the same thing about heavy metals not allowing your body to cleanse. That is why I am in the process of cleansing the body of them through muscle response nutrition therapy with my chiropractor. I highly recommend it.

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  21. Shannon says:

    Vee – Thanks for sharing your story. I have heard that several times now and am beginning to wonder about that myself.

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