Thanks to one of my readers for asking:

Can you please explain what “Candida” is, what are the symptoms/causes and how can it be diagnosed and treated? What is the best way to treat candida. I have been doing research and I came across treelac, do you know anything about it?

Candida is a single-celled form of plant life, an omnipresent yeast that inhabits the land, air, water and even our bodies. We usually live in harmony with candida, but too much can cause yeast infections. Depending on the severity of overgrowth, the problem can range from annoying to fatal.

How does Candida become a problem?
It all starts with dysbiosis, a loss in the balance of bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms in our mouth, digestive system and vaginal mucosa. Certain conditions promote the overgrowth of organisms that had been kept a bay previously. Modern medicine tends to focus on the infecting organism (i.e. candida, plus bacteria and protozoa) but the truth is that we have these organisms in us already. If the conditions are right for them and unbalanced for us, they will alter the immune response which allows them to go from harmless to overcrowded and begin secreting harmful toxins. These toxins irritate and break down the intestinal barrier. These breaks then creates toxic conditions in our entire body.

Modern medicine focuses on three candida infections: mouth and esophagus, vaginal yeast infections and infection of the blood. Candida as a cause for many conditions in the context of dysbiosis has been overlooked. These conditions caused by Candida are called candida-related complex (CRC) and can affect multiple systems including:

Cardiovascular – increased inflammation and higher cardiac risk with elevated c-reactive protein and homocysteine (a blood test for increased risk).

Endocrine – disturbances in blood sugar, altered thyroid and adrenal gland function, PMS, decreased sex drive, painful periods.

Gastrointestinal – gas bloating, IBS,intolerance to certain foods.

Immune – decreased resistance to infections, food sensitivities and allergies.

Neurological – difficulty concentrating, short term memory deficit, chronic fatigue syndrome, mental fogginess.

Psychological – anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, reduced attention span, hyperactivity.

Urogenital – vaginal yeast infections, cystitis, prostate disorders, other-inflammation, skin issues (blotching, eczema, rosacea), post nasal drip, asthma.

Causes of overgrown Candida
Anything that weakens the immune system paves the way for Candida (i.e chemotherapy, AIDS, taking steroids). Yeast can also grow from the overuse of antibiotics. Like I’ve mentioned before, antibiotics do save lives but they kill the good and the bad bacteria. The yeast is resistant to antibiotics and this will allow overgrowth. There are other medications of course that can disrupt the the gastrointestinal lining such as NSAIDS (i.e. Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin). Antacids decrease acidity in the gut and this can also promote yeast.
Diet is a major factor for yeast overgrowth. A diet high in refined carbohydrates allows candida to thrive.

Deficiencies in selenium, zinc, iron, B12 and folic acid are linked to candida.

Stress can increase yeast growth by elevating the hormone cortisol which has a dual action of decreasing the immune function and elevating blood sugar level. On top of this, we tend to eat more refined carbohydrates when we are stressed.

How to restore balance
Remember that yeast is within us already. You cannot kill it off as it will just come back. You are much better off to find ways to live a lifestyle that doesn’t promote yeast and starves it off:

Diet: As mentioned before, yeast thrive in sugar. Eat a diet with very little refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, white rice, white potatoes). Alcohol is a toxin and affects the immune system. Try to stop or decrease to a maximum of two drinks per week.

Stop ingesting yeast: fermented foods and those that contains mold and yeast introduce yeast and yeast buds into the body. Yeast is found in citric acid products, fruits, vinegar from fermented wines, ciders, mushrooms, cheeses. Milk and milk products don’t contain yeast but the sugar lactose does promote it. Leftovers should be eaten within 48 hours.

Replenish gut bacteria: take supplementation of probiotics (see blog post on probiotics), butyric acid and fructooligasaccharide (fos). These will replenish your gut bacteria.

Treatment depends on the severity and location of the infection. Natural products include aged garlic extract, cat’s claw root, grapefruit seed extract, oregano leaf extract and caprylic acid.

You could also explore doing a cleanse.