Why Your Efforts at Eliminating Candida Aren’t Working!
Candida albicans is just one of many types of fungi that normally colonize the human mouth, gut, and vagina. In a healthy body, Candida is present only in small amounts and does not cause harm to their host. However, when the healthy microbial balance of the gut, oral, or vaginal microbiomes is disturbed, Candida grabs the opportunity to increase its own numbers, producing Candida overgrowth.
In the scientific literature, Candida overgrowth, also referred to as candidiasis, has been studied almost exclusively in severely immunocompromised patients, such as those with HIV; in these cases, Candida has typically spread to the blood, causing severe, acute illness.
However, Candida overgrowth can also occur, to a lesser degree, in the general population. In fact, anyone who's ever taken a round of antibiotics, suffered a gut infection, consumed processed foods, or been exposed to pesticides (i.e., basically all of us!) is at risk for Candida overgrowth.
Why We Develop Candida Overgrowth
Usually, the beneficial bacteria in your intestines keep Candida in check by secreting antimicrobial factors such as antimicrobial peptide Ll-37. (1) When beneficial gut bacteria are wiped out inadvertently by antibiotics, the risk of Candida infection rises dramatically. (2)
Pre-existing gut dysbiosis caused by organisms such as H. pylori and Streptococcus facilitates Candida overgrowth. (3, 4) Conversely, eradicating other gut microbiota imbalances may make it easier to get Candida under control.
Processed Foods and Refined Sugar
Candida thrives on a diet rich in glucose, a simple sugar found in starchy foods such as bread, pasta, and rice and in refined sugar. (5) Dietary starch is rapidly hydrolyzed to glucose, which acts as a morphogen, triggering the process by which Candida invades tissues. (6) Not surprisingly, Candida abundance in the digestive tract is strongly associated with the consumption of carbohydrates. (7) Conversely, reducing your intake of processed starchy foods and refined sugar can “starve” Candida albicans, reducing its numbers in your gut.
Emerging research indicates that pesticides, such as glyphosate, disrupt the normal gut microbiota. (8) By impairing the normal mechanisms that keep intestinal yeast in check, pesticides may indirectly promote Candida overgrowth.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol are linked to chronic vaginal candidiasis, suggesting a link between chronic stress and Candida overgrowth. (9, 10) Since the vaginal and gut microbiomes are closely linked, stress may also influence gastrointestinal Candida overgrowth.
A growing body of research indicates that oral contraceptives don’t just affect female reproductive function – they also have a significant impact on the microbiota. (11) Research has found that oral contraceptives increase levels of Candida in periodontal pockets, invaginations of gum tissue adjacent to teeth. (12) Since the mouth is the entrance to the GI tract, so it is possible that oral contraceptives also promote candidiasis further down the GI tract.
Hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar, provides a ready supply of glucose in the bloodstream to Candida, thereby promoting Candida overgrowth. (13) Managing your blood sugar is essential for getting Candida under control and minimizing the likelihood of stubborn infection.
What Are the Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth?
Candida overgrowth affects many parts of the body, ranging from the intestines to the brain. Listed here are some of the most common symptoms of this condition:
Interesting preclinical research indicates that Candida albicans penetrates the blood-brain barrier, entering the brain, triggering an inflammatory response, and impairing memory. The inflammatory response also promotes the formation of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, like the amyloid beta plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease. (14) These findings suggest that systemic Candida overgrowth may cause significant brain dysfunction.
Are you one of the many Americans suffering from brain fog? This ubiquitous problem may be caused, at least in part, by Candida overgrowth! Candida produces a chemical compound called acetaldehyde that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, causing brain oxidative stress and brain fog. (15) If you want to optimize your brain health over the long-term, then addressing Candida overgrowth is critical!
Your digestive health is dependent on the balance of “good” and “bad” microbes that live in your gut. When this balance is altered by inputs such as antibiotics, beneficial bacteria that usually keep Candida in check are reduced, allowing the fungus to gain a foothold and overgrow its bounds. The metabolism of dietary carbohydrates by Candida produces carbon dioxide gas, which can cause significant gas and bloating.
Candidiasis is frequently accompanied by deficiencies of nutrients needed for energy production; in this way, it is indirectly associated with fatigue. (18) Research also suggests that Candida overgrowth may contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome by depressing immune function, though more research is needed before we can draw any conclusions. (19)
The term “oral thrush” refers to a white, filmy layer of Candida albicans that often coats the tongue in cases of candidiasis. The fungus can also affect the gums and increases the risk of secondary infection with Staphylococcus aureus, another opportunistic pathogen found in the oral cavity. (20)
Recurrent Vaginal Infections of UTIs
Candida is an ordinary resident of the vaginal tract, but only causes problems when it oversteps its bounds. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include redness, itching, and thick, white discharge from the vagina.
While much less common, Candidiasis can also cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) with symptoms such as burning during urination, a frequent urge to urinate, discolored urine, and pain or pressure in the lower abdomen.
Do you have a chronically stuffy nose or experience recurrent sinus infections? Candida overgrowth may be to blame! Fungal colonization of the sinuses incites a chronic inflammatory response, resulting in rhinosinusitis and frequent sinus infections. (21)
Skin and Nail Infections
A change in your skin’s microbiome caused by antibacterial personal care products allows Candida to overgrow, potentially causing athlete’s foot, ringworm, and fungal nail infections. (22) Eliminating antibacterial skin products from your personal care routine can restore a healthy microbial balance on your skin and get Candida infections under control.
As I mentioned earlier, Candida thrives on dietary carbohydrates, mainly glucose. It has cellular glucose sensors that keep tabs on its environment, signaling whether there is sugar available for consumption. To optimize its survival, Candida may send signals along the gut-brain axis, a network of neurons connecting the enteric nervous system of the gut with the brain, manipulating your brain and making you crave sugar! (23)
Why Is Candida so Hard to Kick?
Candida infections are notoriously difficult to treat because the fungus creates roots called hyphae that actively invade tissues. These hyphae anchor Candida to its location and must be destroyed to eradicate a Candida infection successfully.
Furthermore, if you do not clean up your diet and rebalance your gut microbiota, it will be hard to keep Candida at bay. To optimize your chances of success, I recommend eating an anti-Candida diet (more information on that below) and treating any other gut microbiome imbalances.
The Conventional Treatment Approach for Candida
The conventional approach to treating Candida overgrowth typically involves the use of antifungal medications such as fluconazole. However, a concerning body of research indicates that fungi, including Candida albicans, are becoming resistant to antifungal drugs, paralleling the alarming rise of antibiotic resistance. (24, 25) Novel treatment modalities are desperately needed. Fortunately, nature has provided us with an abundance of antifungal foods, herbs, and probiotics that can kick Candida overgrowth to the curb!
How to Treat Candida
Eat an Anti-Candida Diet
The first step in combating a stubborn Candida infection is to eat foods that inhibit yeast overgrowth. Avoid processed carbohydrates, refined sugar, and grains. Instead, eat grass-fed and organic meat and poultry, wild-caught seafood, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and a moderate amount of carbohydrates from foods such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and legumes.
Once you have a strong foundation for your anti-Candida diet, add in the following antifungal foods:
Cinnamon doesn’t just add flavor to your food – it is also a potent inhibitor of Candida! It inhibits the growth of antifungal-resistant Candida species and breaks up biofilms that allow Candida to persist in the gut. (26, 27) Incorporate cinnamon into your diet by adding it to a smoothie or on top of a baked sweet potato or winter squash.
Coconut is a delicious food that also happens to have significant antimicrobial activity. It contains lauric and caprylic acid, fatty acids with significant anti-Candida activity against Candida albicans; in fact, its antifungal activity is comparable to that of the antifungal drug ketoconazole! (28)
To get the most bang for your buck, eat unrefined coconut oil, which contains more of the key antifungal compounds than refined coconut oil. You can also use coconut oil for oil pulling if you have oral thrush or topically if you have a Candida infection on your skin.
Lactobacillus species, found in fermented foods such as kimchi and yogurt, compete with Candida albicans for colonization in the gut. (29) Kombucha has antifungal activity against several Candida species, and the probiotics in kimchi produce several metabolites with antifungal properties. (30, 31)
Olive oil is effective at killing multiple Candida species. (32) Interestingly, ozonated olive oil (olive oil that has been infused with ozone) is even more effective than regular olive oil and inhibits the growth of fluconazole-resistant Candida. (33)
Oregano, an herb from the mint family, has been used in medicine and cooking for thousands of years. Its essential oils have potent antifungal activity against Candida species. (34) While you can supplement with oregano oil, many people find it to be too harsh on their digestive tracts. Instead, I recommend incorporating it into your diet daily in salads and soups.
Fight Candida with Supplements
Candida overgrowth is notoriously difficult to eradicate. While the foods mentioned above are great for managing mild Candida infection, people often need something stronger to kick the infection to the curb. Enter MegaSporeBiotic, MegaMycoBalance, and MegaIgG2000!
MegaSporeBiotic is a 100% spore-based probiotic that maintains healthy gut barrier function and commensal gut bacteria while simultaneously targeting yeast such as Candida albicans. (35) One of the probiotic strains present in MegaSporeBiotic, Bacillus coagulans, produces antimicrobial molecules that inhibit the growth of gastrointestinal and oral Candida. (36) Bacillus probiotics also enhance the gut mucosal immune system, reducing the risk of recurrent intestinal infections. (37)
MegaMycoBalance contains a combination of two potent antifungal agents - undecylenic acid and bee propolis. Undecyclenic acid, a fatty acid derived from castor bean oil, targets Candida hyphae that have become embedded in the intestinal wall, essentially pulling up invasive Candida by its roots! (38) Bee propolis, a resin that bees use to protect their hives from pathogens, reduces Candida numbers and inhibits further colonization. (39)
Mega IgG 2000 is a dairy-free immunoglobulin supplement that fortifies the intestinal barrier, preventing colonization by opportunistic pathogens such as Candida, and binds microbial toxins. (40) It works synergistically with MegaSporeBiotic and MegaMycoBalance to create a gut environment inhospitable to Candida overgrowth.
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