What is Candida albicans?
Candida is a yeast that normally lives in our digestive and urinary tracts. It is part of our normal healthy intestinal flora (microorganisms that live in our gut). Candida helps prevent us from being infected by harmful bacteria.
Candida is kept in balance by having a healthy immune system and normal levels of good bacteria in our intestinal tract. However, if given the opportunity from a weakened immune system or a decrease in good bacteria, for example following a dose of antibiotics, or given the proper environment, from eating a high sugar diet, Candida will shift from its yeast form to its infectious form called a mycelial fungus. It is in this state that Candida can invade the body.
While in its fungal form, Candida produces finger like projections called rhizoids that can penetrate the intestinal wall and allow toxins, bacteria, and other things into the body that shouldn’t enter. This will cause a large amount of inflammation and lead to a long list of symptoms like food allergies, auto-immune disorders, fibromyalgia, ADHD, muscle aches and pains, sore joints, recurrent urinary tract infections, fatigue, foggy brain, acne, anxiety, depression, adrenal fatigue, bad breath and many, many more.
How can you know if you have Candida? In our office, Dr. Davis, our natural medicine expert and chiropractic physician, most commonly runs a simple urine test that will test for Candida overgrowth. You can also have your stool or blood tested. It is very important that you test for Candida. If you make the assumption that you have an imbalance and reduce the Candida levels too far you could end up with a difficult condition to correct called small intestinal bowel over growth (SIBO).
Once we have identified that Candida overgrowth is the culprit of your symptoms we follow a few basic steps to support the body’s natural balance.
Step 1: Eat a healthy, low glycemic index diet. Carbohydrates like sugar can feed Candida and promote overgrowth. Your diet should consist of 30-40% protein. The basis of the rest of your caloric intake should be low glycemic index vegetables, healthy oils like coconut oil, which helps balance Candida levels, and no more than two serving of fruits per day. Avoid things that negatively affect your gut flora like alcohol, herbacides and pesticides in our food i.e. eating non GMO products, and reducing other toxins like cigarette smoke.
Step 2: Supplement with the correct probiotics. Not all probiotics are equally effective at balancing the gut flora. Some are effective at reducing Candida levels and healing the gut and others are not. For example Saccharomyces Boulardii has been shown to reduce Candida overgrowth.
Step 3: Support your immune system. There are a number of great products that will help your immune system to reduce Candida levels. A coconut oil extract that is high in caprylic acid is a good choice. Just eating two tablespoons of coconut oil each day can also be effective.
Step 4: Digestive aids that reduce biofilms. Candida overgrowth can weaken you body’s ability to properly digest food. Taking proper digestive enzymes will help you to fully digest your food which facilitates better absorption. Some enzymes will also reduce one of Candida’s protection mechanisms called a biofilm. Biofilms surround and protect Candida from your immune system. Digesting this away will help you body fight the overgrowth and create microbial balance.
Step 5: Regular exercise has been shown to influence improve your normal gastrointestinal flora. Exercise will help you body to function more efficiently and will strengthen you immune system. It will also help restore energy levels.
Written by Dr. Steven Davis, Chiropractic Physican
Image source: Human Tongue infected with oral candidiasis By James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons