It’s almost candida cleanse time! Why start now? Well, after the holidays, I’ve been eating sugar and drinking alcohol pretty regularly. And that, my dears, is like a fast pass to Candida overgrowth.
Causes of candida overgrowth
Candida infestation is usually a result of a combination of factors, like a high-sugar diet, antibiotics and stress. However, it is perfectly possible for Candidiasis to be caused by a long term, high-sugar diet alone.
High sugar diet
If you think this doesn’t apply to you, you may need to think again. Our modern, Western diet is packed full of sugar that we don’t even know is there. For example, you might be surprised to know that the processed meats that you see at the deli counter contain large amounts of sucrose.
Even if you order one of the healthier sandwiches at Subway, be aware that it contains a significant amount of sugar. A 12 inch, ‘Ultimate Veggie with Avocado’ sandwich, served on Honey Oat bread, actually contains 32 grams of sugar. That’s the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar! Would you eat that much sugar if it was placed in front of you just a little pile of crystals?
This is just one example of the proliferation of sugar in our diets. Even “high-vibe, superfood, all natural, vegan, raw, organic” eaters are at risk. All those super powders and fruits you’re adding to your smoothie? FULL of sugar. Those freshly-squeezed juices? FULL of sugar. Those kombuchas? Yep. Lots of sugar. Basically any bottled drink, even if it’s a turmeric supertonic – full of sugar, y’all – and even if it seems like a small amount – like 8 grams – that’s still 2 teaspoons of sugar – plenty for the Candida yeasties to munch on for a while!
Most salad dressings (especially the low fat ones and the vinegarette ones) get some or all of their flavor from SUGAR. Salads with honey toasted nuts, raisins, apples, dried cranberries – basically ANY salad that plays off of a savory-sweet flavor combo is laden with hidden sugar. Granolas and cereals – so much sugar EVEN IF it’s labeled honey, or maple syrup or coconut sugar. Sugar is added to pasta sauce, all kinds of other sauces and condiments and even to things like hummus, chips and crackers!
Last of all, DAIRY has very high amounts of sugar, just naturally present (that’s why cream tastes sweet!). So yogurt (esp. flavored), milk and cheese are also culprits EVEN IF they are RAW or sheep or goat.
Alcohol – Ayurveda sees alcohol as a “super sugar” – even if it doesn’t act or taste like what we think of as sugar, our body (and the Candida) processes it like sugar on steroids.
Even worse, researchers have shown that sugar dependency can quickly develop and is just like any other addiction. Indeed, a 2008 study discovered that sugar consumption can trigger the same neurochemical changes in the brain as cocaine, morphine and nicotine.
The truth is that most of us are eating high-sugar diets without even realizing it. And it’s not your fault – it’s just EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING. Yeeps!
Stress is a factor that is often overlooked when it comes to yeast infections and Candidiasis, but there is some very good evidence that the two are strongly linked. There are two different ways in which a period of stress makes a Candida infestation much more likely. These are an elevated blood sugar level and a weakened immune system. They are both caused by a stress hormone named Cortisol.
One of the main functions of Cortisol is to increase your blood sugar levels. This is part of the ‘fight or flight’ response generated by your stress hormones. The biological purpose is to provide an immediate resource of energy that your muscles can use to resolve whatever physical danger you are in. However, these days cortisol production is triggered much more by job-related stress and tends to continue for much longer periods.
Cortisol triggers your liver to convert all available biochemicals into glucose while SIMULTANEOUSLY restricting insulin production so the glucose cannot be removed from your bloodstream. The importance of blood sugar levels to Candida cannot be overstated. High blood sugar creates a favorable environment in your gut for Candida. The excess glucose in your blood means that less glucose is absorbed from your stomach and intestines, leaving more to fuel a Candida overgrowth.
The second way in which Cortisol can leave you susceptible to a Candida overgrowth is by weakening your immune system. There is little research available to describe exactly why this happens, but it appears to be part of the body’s efforts to shut down all nonvital systems as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response. A weaker immune system presents a greater opportunity for a Candida infestation, since the body cannot fight it off as strongly without a healthy and strong immune response.
Behind a high-sugar diet, antibiotics are the second most common cause of Candidiasis. If you have taken antibiotics within the last 6 months, you are much more likely to be suffering from a Candida overgrowth. This applies particularly to broad spectrum antibiotics, which are those that kill a wide range of bacteria, including the entire population of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.
We get the first part of our gut flora from our mothers; the remainder is acquired from our environment and the food that we eat. By the time we reach adulthood, a typical healthy person will be carrying around 500 individual strains and as many as 100 trillion bacteria. The worrying thing about patients who have taken antibiotics is that this flourishing population of gut flora can take years to recover. In fact, your gut flora will probably never show the diversity of strains that it did before your antibiotics.
The irony is that those with acne VERY OFTEN get prescribed oral antibiotics as a remedy – I certainly took at least one several month course of daily antibiotics as a teen! 🙁
The effect of antibiotics is to remove all competition for microorganisms like Candida. With more space and nutrients available, the fast-growing Candida yeast cells quickly multiply. Within a short period of time they transform into a pathogenic, fungal form, dominate the gut and start to cause all the symptoms of Candidiasis. The loss of your usual gut flora severely weakens your immune system, and it also gives a free pass to Candida to multiply and start releasing its toxic byproducts into your bloodstream.
Moving forward, if your doctor prescribes you antibiotics for a seemingly minor illness, get a second opinion or ask about other options. Losing your gut flora is not a trivial matter and may have serious health implications for you in the future. Sometimes a few days off work and some rest will even be enough, so be sure to explore all options before taking the antibiotics.
Sometimes – obviously – antibiotics are absolutely necessary. For example, in the case of major surgery or serious bacterial infections, antibiotics can literally save your life. However if you must take them, be aware that they are not only just killing your infection; they are destroying an important part of your immune system at the same time.
If you have to take antibiotics, there are still things you can do to minimize the impact on your gut flora. Taking a course of good probiotics or regularly consuming fermented foods daily like kefir or fermented veggies will reduce the damage to your gut flora. The goal is to replace the ‘good bacteria’ in your gut as fast as the antibiotic kills them. Don’t worry that the probiotic will prevent the antibiotic from working – it will simply replace the beneficial organisms that you have lost, NOT interfere with the antibiotic’s effectiveness.
The pill is just NOT a friend to your hormones or your acne as you’ll recall from this post -and now it turns out it encourages Candida overgrowth as well.
The estrogen in the contraceptive pill stimulates the production of glycogen within the vagina. Glycogen is an energy store and an ideal food source for the Candida yeast cells living there, which can quickly lead to a Candida overgrowth. The contraceptive pill is even more likely to lead to a Candida overgrowth if combined with antibiotics. This is because in a healthy person the excess glycogen can be metabolized by the ‘good bacteria’ in your vagina and turned into lactic acid. If these bacteria are destroyed by antibiotics, all of the glycogen is available as food for Candida.
Unfortunately, the pill is not the only device that can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. IUDs have also been shown to act as a breeding ground for Candida. Researchers found that Candida Albicans is able to attach itself to every part of the IUD, whether it was plastic or copper, and that this created recurrent yeast infections among patients.
The diaphragm is another contraceptive device that is a risk factor for yeast infections. Diaphragms suffer from the same disadvantage as the IUD. Sitting in your vagina for a prolonged period of time, they can become a breeding ground for Candida Albicans and a cause of repeated yeast infections.
Not sure what to do for birth control? Stay tuned – I have a post on this coming up! 🙂
Ugh, no way! There’s more? Yeppers…
So, other things that aren’t quiiiiite as critical but are still good to know about include:
If you have diabetes, that means there’s a lot of sugar in your blood, and it means your immune system is weakened.
Chlorine in drinking + household use water + pools
Long term exposure to chlorine weakens the immune system.
Although this is controversial, some believe that mercury fillings can exacerbate symptoms of Candida overgrowth and – you guessed it- weaken the immune system.
Although we hear all the time that our modern diets are too acidic, AND although Candida yeast grows best in an acidic environment, for the Candida yeast to turn into its more virulent, pathogenic form, it requires the pH balance to shift to neutral or slightly alkaline.
This is the source of much confusion. Because: when we are looking to cure a Candida infestation, should we reduce acidity in the intestine to slow the growth of the Candida yeast, or increase acidity to eliminate the more virulent Candida fungus?
The answer: you need to do whatever you can to prevent the Candida yeast from switching to its fungal form – this form is way more harmful and dangerous. Maintaining the acidity in your gut is more likely to do this and, in combination with a low-sugar diet, it will help to reverse your Candida infestation.
Is THIS YOU?
PS I’m curious – what food is a sneaky sugar trojan horse for you? Read the nutritional info and let me know what beloved food of yours is tricking you into eating hidden sugar!