Nutritional Answers Yeast infection, Candida - the enemy within
One in three people in the Western world is thought to be suffering from yeast infection. For some, it causes chronic, incapacitating illness; for others it triggers just nuisance symptoms, but they can be both physical and mental, including an increasingly-common incidence of vaginal thrush but also many other symptoms of which the cause is less obvious – for instance, fatigue, aches and pains in muscles and joints, eczema, psoriasis and acne, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, frequent infections, depression and anxiety, PMT and other hormonal problems.
Feeling ill all over
In our intestines there live about five hundred different types of microbe, weighing anything up to five pounds in total. There are more microbes in the digestive tract than cells in the whole of the body! For us to be healthy, they should be in two camps, roughly 80% friendly bacteria (‘good guys’) and 20% potential ‘bad guys’ - which cause no problems provided they stay behind their boundary line. The most prolific bad guy is a yeast called Candida albicans, and various things are happening in this day and age to encourage candida to overgrow - hence, yeast infection.
Many sufferers see candida as an enemy, a dark invader who threatens to overwhelm them, and they learn that they need to engage in long and determined warfare. The only certain way to victory is to understand the enemy’s tactics and take the offensive with all guns blazing. This enemy will lose no opportunity to regain lost ground, so the battle must be unrelenting until it is fully won.
Thriving candida changes from a yeast spore into a fungal form, and the work of a fungus is to recycle organic material. To candida, the human body is just a pile of organic material so, given half a chance, it will start to recycle us! Though possibly not a fight to the death, it is certainly a battle for quality of life. Candida travels throughout the body and releases seventy-nine known toxins, and it is these toxins which are responsible for many of the symptoms. If you feel ill all over, it’s quite possibly due to candida.
The situation is largely man-made. Yeast loves sugar, and the average person today eats his own body-weight in sugar every single year because, in some form or other, it’s in almost every food we buy. In addition, antibiotics destroy friendly bacteria in the intestines thus enabling candida to move in, steroids (creams, inhalers and hormonal products such as the Pill and HRT) suppress immunity, stress pumps out adrenaline which causes sugar to be released into the blood, and bottle-fed babies start life with the wrong balance of gut microbes. There’s no doubt that we give candida every encouragement to thrive. The first stage in fighting back is therefore to start taking responsibility for our own health.
If you suspect you might have candida, try an anti-candida diet. If you feel worse to start with, you are almost certainly on the right track! This is because dead candida releases even more toxins than when it’s alive, so you experience a worsening of old symptoms or you ache all over and have a “fuzzy” head. This is known as ‘die-off reaction’. Take heart, because after a month you might well be saying that you feel better than you have for years. Die-off is a last-ditch deception by the enemy because it means that candida is being wiped out and victory is on the way. However, the battle has only just begun.
So what sort of diet do you need? You must avoid all sugars, including natural foods which contain them (fruit and milk) and also refined grains (which add to the body’s sugar-load, so eat only whole-grain flour, rice, pasta, etc.). Avoid yeast (in bread, gravy mixes), fermented products (alcohol, vinegar), mould (cheese, mushrooms) and stimulants (tea, coffee, cola). Believe it or not, meal-times can still be fun! Why not read my ‘Beat Candida Cookbook’? But diet alone is not enough; a full four-point plan is needed:
- Follow the anti-candida diet
- Take vitamins and minerals to boost immunity. For a tailor-made programme, you should consult a qualified nutritionist, or visit www.nutritionhelp.com for a personalised nutritional report.
- Take natural antifungals, one of the most useful being caprylic acid from coconut oil, but there are others. Start with a low level and increase gradually, to minimise die-off symptoms. Too much too soon would make you feel horrendous!
- Take probiotic supplements that include acidophilus to boost your friendly bacteria. Yoghurt is fine (unless you have an intolerance to dairy foods) but it won’t reach your colon so supplements really are necessary.
All four points are essential in the candida battle; even the smallest compromise or lapse from the diet will lead to failure because candida is extremely opportunistic.
But be warned! Anyone entering this battle-field will possibly find themselves in a minefield of confusion and depression caused by die-off toxins, so a responsible protocol includes support for the liver’s detoxification processes by taking herbal supplements like Milk Thistle and drinking plenty of dandelion root ‘coffee’ (very pleasant!) which stimulates the production of bile to carry toxins out of the liver.
It takes courage, determination and perseverance to win the candida war - but it can be done. I know because I did it! For over fifty years I fought an unidentified foe. Once the enemy had been unmasked, the four-point plan brought victory over life-long sickness. But please do get qualified help to support you throughout this relentless battle.
Erica White Dip.ION MBANT
Nutritional Director of Nutritionhelp Ltd
Author of ‘Beat Candida Cookbook’ (Thorsons), ‘Beat Fatigue Handbook’ (White Publications) and ‘Doughnuts and Temples’ (White Publications). All her books are available from Nutritionhelp or from bookshops or Amazon.