Combat this increasingly common health complaint with advice from renowned health writer and author Hazel Courteney
Candida albicans is a yeast that is responsible for the condition known as thrush. Doctors estimate that at least 75 per cent of women will experience it at some time in their lives. Although commonly found in the vagina, candida can also occur in the throat, mouth and gut.
Normally, relatively low levels of candida are present in the gut as they are balanced by large amounts of healthy bacteria, which helps to keep the yeast in check. Problems arise when the yeast begins to overgrow in the gut. This ultimately triggers a variety of symptoms including bloating, wind, constipation and/or diarrhoea and food cravings (especially for sugar and wheat-based foods). Other symptoms include headaches, mental confusion, memory problems, impotence, inability to concentrate, spots in front of the eyes, mood swings, skin rashes, persistent coughing, regular bouts of thrush, arthritistype aching joints and chronic fatigue. Candida can change its form and burrow through and irritate the gut lining, which increases the risk of food sensitivities and an exacerbation of the symptoms above.
It is crucial to keep the candida under control by using herbs, supplements and, most importantly, dietary changes. One of the primary triggers for candida is overuse of antibiotics plus eating too much refined sugar. Others are long-term use of the Pill, and steroids, chemotherapy, diabetes, HIV and pregnancy. Many women believe that you cannot have candida if you don’t have thrush, but the majority of women with candida do not have thrush. Men are also sufferers. Naturopath Steve Langley says: “Thanks to our over-processed, high-sugar diets and stressful lifestyles, candida imbalances now affect up to 75 per cent of the population, both men and women. It can become a serious condition if left untreated and remains little understood by many doctors.” He is right.
I strongly advise that anyone testing positive, via stool or saliva tests, for high levels of candida, should consult a doctor who is also a nutritionist.
Follow the yeast/sugar-free diet for two to four weeks before you add in any anti-fungal supplements or you may kill off the candida quicker than your body can dispose of it. This could lead to a general feeling of malaise. Should this happen at any time, drink more fluids, up your vitamin C and reduce your antifungals for a day or two.
Foods to avoid
- Initially, remove all yeast and fermented food from the diet – this includes breads, all aged or mouldy cheeses including Stilton, Brie, Camembert and so on. Alcoholic drinks – especially beer and wine – ginger beer, vinegar and foods containing vinegar (ketchups, pickles, salad cream, baked beans), soya sauce, gravy mixes (many contain brewer’s yeast), miso, tempeh and mushrooms.
- I know it’s hard, but try to avoid all white flour products containing yeast and/or refined sugar for at least two weeks, including crackers, pizza and pasta.
- Sugar feeds the yeast – so for a month avoid sugar in any form including honey, maltose, dextrose or sucrose and really sweet fruits such as grapes, peaches, kiwi and melon. Blueberries/blackberries and strawberries can also harbour moulds. Avoid these fruits until the candida has been brought under control. I know it will be hard as sugar is highly addictive but you also need to avoid dried fruits, fruit juices and canned drinks for this period as they are high in sugar. Artificial sugars such as aspartame should also be eliminated. Sugar is the biggest problem with candidaand we cannot overstate just how much refined sugar needs to be avoided.
- Avoid malted products – found in some breakfast cereals, brown Ryvita and malted drinks, such as Ovaltine and Horlicks.
- Avoid peanuts, peanut butter and pistachio nuts, which tend to harbour moulds.
- Avoid cow’s milk for one month.
- If you have really severe candida, for the first two weeks also avoid courgettes, carrots, corn and any of the squash family, as they quickly convert to sugars in the gut.
- Avoid any foods you know you are intolerant to.
- Garlic has potent anti-fungal action; raw is best. If you’re worried about your breath, chew on some parsley.
- Eat fresh fish and shellfish, chicken, turkey and lean meats, eggs, cooked tofu and pulses.
- Research shows that a candida infection leads to inflammation. To help combat this, eat more oily fish, nuts and lots of organic, unrefined seeds, which are also rich in essential fats.
- Include more artichokes, asparagus, aubergine, avocado, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery, green beans, leeks, lettuce, garlic, onion, parsnips, spinach, tomatoes and watercress in your diet. These types ofvegetables encourage healthy bacteria to proliferate.
- Fruits that are okay are apples, pears (not over-ripe), a little pineapple and cherries. Papaya and pomegranate are okay if not too over-ripe.
- Use organic rice, oat, coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
- Eat live, plain unsweetened yoghurt, which contains the healthy bacteria acidophilus and bifidus.
- Brown rice, lentils, corn, millet, buckwheat or rice pasta, oat cakes, soda bread, scones made with a little butter or organic raw walnut butter are all okay.
- As a wheat substitute, try yeast-free rye bread. It can take some getting used to but for a month it’s acceptable.
- Coriander and thyme are great herbs for helping to control this infection, so use liberally in soups and stews.
- As candida is usually linked to multiple food intolerances (especially to wheat, sugar and dairy), consider a food-intolerance test. Contact Genova Diagnostics on 020 8336 7750 or check out gdx.uk.net
- A comprehensive stool test and parasitology can also check for evidence of candida (plus other yeasts) in your body in addition to parasites and your levels of good bacteria. Contact Smart Nutrition on 01273 775 480 or visit smartnutrition.co.uk for details.
- For further help, contact the National Candida Society at candida-society.org.uk
- Recent research indicates that people who have persistent and chronic candida may have intestinal parasites. Herbal combinations containing wormwood, tincture of black walnut hull and cloves, plus the amino acids ornithine and arginine, help eliminate parasites. For details of candida cleansing formulas visit gandgvitamins.com.
- Read Erica White’s Beat Candida Cookbook (Thorsons)
Supplements to take:
• Yeast-free B complex
• Multivitamin and mineral
• Digestive enzymes
• Oregano oil
• Pau d’arco
• Black walnut
• Calendula tincture
Natural health loves…
Dida herbal supplements, £21.79, with cinnamon and peppermint oil to help maintain a healthy digestion and reduce gas and bloating after meals. For details go to newnordic.com or call 01482 300 695.