Candida - the good, the bad and the ugly
Candida is what we commonly call the naturally occurring yeast in our body, mostly Candida Albicans . Believe it or not, we all have this yeast (and others) present in our small intestine and colon as part of our microbiome. When kept in check by the beneficial gut bacteria, Candida is completely harmless. In fact, it plays its beneficial role in digesting sugars. Surely, that is good news.
The bad news is that Candida can easily grow out of balance when our good gut bacteria can no longer keep it in check. This also happens when we do not produce enough stomach acid to kill off any pathogens entering our system.
Candida overgrowth can follow an exposure to antibiotics, antibacterial cleaning products and soaps (bleach, too), the contraceptive pill, chlorinated water etc. Basically, anything which is designed to kill off bad bacteria will harm our good guys, too. It can even be due to second-hand exposure through ingesting meat and dairy from animals that had been fed antibiotics, or from pesticide and herbicide residue on our produce. And of course, a diet high in refined sugars (all the white products - rice, pasta, bread, sugar, cookies...) will feed Candida out of proportions. Have you ever wondered - candy vs. Candida??
The solution may be as simple as eating a healthy, largely organic diet, filtering our water supply and adding fermented foods on a regular basis (kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kombucha). Supplementing with probiotics in capsules whenever we need a treatment of antibiotics is a good idea, too. Just make sure you take the probiotics at a different time to the antibiotics throughout the day.
Sadly, for some of us these lifestyle changes won't be enough. How can Candida Albicans become such a huge problem?
As any good army general will tell you, you need to know your enemy. And trust me, this will be the ugly part.
When Candida yeast is left unchecked by our probiotic (gut friendly) bacteria it starts gaining strength. It will cover the walls of the colon and start spreading further. This is called Systemic Candidiasis.
You may know that important B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and also vitamin K2, are created in the colon by our beneficial bacteria. Candida covering the walls of the colon will impede this process.
At this stage, Candida will be growing its own tough walls ('biofilm'), like a protective shield. These tough fibrous structures end in sharp spikes that will pierce the colon walls, leading to a leaky gut.
Intestinal permeability or the leaky gut?
There is only one single cell between the content of your colon and the blood stream. As we know now, our B vitamins and vitamin K2 are made in the colon. Some permeability of the colon is a desired thing as we need these vitamins for optimal health. However, when Candida creates holes in our colon we get into a lot of trouble. All the undigested food and toxic matter from the colon will leak into the bloodstream, together with Candida toxins.
The result? Our immunity, liver, lymphatic system, kidneys, adrenal glands - they will all get highly taxed and stressed. This is usually the cause of an autoimmune condition - when the body starts seemingly attacking itself. When in fact, the immune system is attacking toxins and undigested proteins leaked from the gut.
As Candida spreads throughout the body it will change the PH to suit its needs. Normally, our blood is alkaline and our stomach juices are acidic. We need our digestive stomach acid to be highly acidic in order to break down foods to open up vitamins, minerals, proteins and other nutrients for absorption.
Sadly, once Candida forms its tough protective cover it will start to create a 'welcoming environment' in its host, the body. How? By changing the PH of the stomach acid to more alkaline and the PH of the blood to more acidic.
By the way, a stressful lifestyle is another trigger for Candida overgrowth. Add the constant biological stress from a total fungal overgrowth and we have a recipe for a disaster.
If you have been battling Candidiasis on and off for years, I hear you.
Did you follow a strict all sugar-free diet and take strong anti-fungal herbs? Did you get better and then as soon as you had a little homemade birthday treat coupled with a stressful day, your Candida problem flared up again? I honestly feel for you. I had been there many times myself.
The truth is that anti-candida diets and taking anti-fungals don't work long-term. As soon as you stop, Candida is back. Why? Because it was dormant in its protective shell. For us women it is even tougher to eliminate this pathogenic yeast because of our hormone fluctuations. Candida has estrogen and progesterone receptors, so even if you don't feed it directly with your diet it still manages to thrive off your hormones throughout the month.
Candida Albicans is a smart enemy, don't you think?
The good - not good, in fact brilliant news is that there is a way how to conquer Candida once and for all!
We need to do it in three steps:
1) crack the tough encasing structures and poke holes in them first,
2) add powerful anti-fungals that will impede Candida growth
3) add beneficial gut bacteria to repopulate the gut and heal the colon
4) increase your stomach acid so that it destroys pathogens in your gut
Thanks to all the latest discoveries in science we now know that Cellulase (or Hemi Cellulase) and Beta Gluconase are two plant-based digestive enzymes that can really cut through the tough fibrous walls of Candida. It is also good to include Caprylic Acid (supplement from coconut) to poke further holes into the fibrous structures - i.e. biofilm (=step 1).
Once they are open and vulnerable, potent anti-fungals (oregano oil, pau d'arco, garlic, berberine, black seed oil, olive leaf, cloves, grapefruit seed extract, neem, cinnamon, lavender oil...) can be used (=step 2).
Once we have cleared most of the Candida, we can start rebuilding the gut. With fermented beverages and foods and probiotic supplements (=step 3).
I should also mention that Saccharomyces Boulardii (a beneficial yeast, quite often added to probiotics) can help rebalance yeasts in the body.
And finally step 4 (and this is probably the most important step of all - especially for a long-term success), we need to lower the PH of our stomach acid. A super powerful stomach acid should simply burn any pathogens entering our gut. If this happens there is a very low chance of ever having to deal with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth, fungal infections, parasites, H. Pylori and other infections). Having a drink of apple cider vinegar in water just before a meal can be helpful. But while dealing with Candida overgrowth we need a more potent remedy. I highly recommend getting some Hydrochloric Acid capsules. Start with one capsule a meal and gradually increase to 3. See how you feel. You shouldn't feel any burning in your gut. On the contrary, you should feel less bloating and heavy after a meal and wake up more refreshed in the morning.
Talking about sleep and being refreshed in the morning. It helps to eat our last meal at least 3 hours before going to bed. When we wake up, if we have the time, we don't need to rush to eat breakfast straight away. Instead, we can postpone having our first meal a day and do some calm breathing or stretching, set out intentions for the day, do some journaling... There are many calm and calming things we can choose to do if we have the time. Starting our day calmly will help with stress reduction - and we know that stress is one of the triggers for Candida flareups. We want to minimize stress as much as possible. If there isn't much time in the morning, we can still find 2-3 minutes to calmly gaze at the sky, watch the sunrise, repeat a simple positive quote (aloud or in our mind) or do 6 repeats of calm breaths to the count of 4 (count to 4 on the inhale, hold for 4, exhale to 4 counts and then hold for another 4 - and repeat)... or anything else that you find simple and useful in the morning and doable in a few minutes.
Another useful tip while cleansing yeast from the body, is to support your liver with nourishing herbs - milk and/or blessed thistle, burdock and dandelion roots are all great. It also helps to increase fibre in the diet through vegetables and flax seeds (or even taking extra fibre like psyllium husk) to flush things out quicker.
Another piece of brilliant news is that the colon regenerates its lining every 5 to 7 days. When we do a Candida cleanse for 2 to 3 months (depending on severity, it can take from 2 weeks to 6 months) we go through the regenerative cycle at least 4 times. The more times the colon regenerates itself, the better and healthier we shall be.
A quick sum-up how to speed up healing:
Remember, it's all about supporting the body in all possible ways to alkalise it and strengthen the immunity, rather than trying to kill this fungal beast.
1) Candida causes severe acidity in the body - thus we need to alkalise, alkalise, alkalise.
You alkalise your body with minerals. When our body starts lacking minerals, we become acidic. As we already know, Candida alters the strong PH of our stomach acid to a very weak one. As a result, we won't be digesting foods properly and getting enough nutrients. Of course, this suits the fungus because it creates the perfect breeding environment.
So the key is to add enough minerals, but diet alone won't be enough. A good quality multivitamin and multimineral formula is a good idea. I personally take trace minerals (also known as ionic minerals and separately zinc and magnesium.)
Also, we need to increase the power of the stomach acid - with hydrochloric acid to begin with. Later on, once our digestion starts working better, having a drink of ACV just before a meal may be enough. This is the key if we want to balance our system for good.
2) Candida steals nutrients from the body (especially magnesium, biotin and B1) - thus we need to add the nutrients back. This is relating to point 1 above.
By adding minerals and B vitamins we support the immunity and nervous system (a happy nervous system = less stress), but also healing processes in the body. At the end of the day, it is the body that needs to do all the healing, there is no magical pill for it.
An important element of healing is also sleep. People often don't realise that we truly heal and regenerate in sleep. This is especially true in the case of Candidiasis. To try and get at least 8 hours of sleep every night AND get to bed before midnight (11pm would be even better!) is a must.
3) Candida creates TOXINS (all the brain fog, itching, rashes, liver issues etc. are signs of toxicity) - thus we need to keep on clearing the toxins. I mentioned liver support in the article above, however vitamin C is absolutely crucial, too. Once I realised that vitamin C in high doses is a powerful antitoxin I knew I had the final missing piece of the puzzle. Vitamin C in large doses acts as a powerful antioxidant, antitoxin, it has the ability to detoxify and alkalise the body, and it creates a hostile environment to pathogens. Candida certainly is a pathogen. I recommend you read my article on vitamin C here - I explain how to take it and which forms are best.
4) We need to support our microbiome. However, not many people are aware of the fact that when Candida takes over it can feed on fermented foods as well as most probiotic supplements. So in the initial stages of battling Candida it is best to avoid these.
However, there are soil based (also known as spore) probiotics that are able to regenerate the gut and support immunity in quite an amazing way. These probiotics come from the soil and they are part of our ancient DNA. In hunter, gatherer times we would be exposed to these all the time. However, with our soils becoming depleted, being exposed to pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics all around us, we are missing these beneficial spores in our lives. I believe this is the missing link to full health. Scroll down in this article to find the part about soil probiotics (or spore biotics).
I personally swear by spore probiotics. They help in many ways - I sleep better, feel calmer and my digestion works better, too. And they can help sort out Candida.
If there are only two expensive supplements you can afford - go for trace minerals and soil based probiotics. And definitely add vitamin C - which is relatively cheap. Foodwise, stick to your sugar-free diet, include coconut oil and garlic daily (as they are both antifungal), eat lots of greens (for magnesium and to alkalise the body), have plenty of good fats and protein daily, get as much sleep as you can and include fibre (read my article on flax/ golden linseed) to keep you regular (fibre also feeds your gut friendly bacteria). If you can, add a few liver cleansing/nourishing periods of 2-4 weeks (when you take burdock and dandelion roots, milk and/or blessed thistle in tea or capsules).
Hydrochloric acid is not very expensive to buy and it will be a total gamechanger for good!
I guarantee that after a few weeks you will start feeling like a new person! Give it a couple of months and you should really be able to embrace life to the full - energetic and happy.
Lots of vibrant health to us all!