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.