I wrote a little about why the words "I am doing the candida diet" annoy me so much on my Facebook page yesterday and, this morning, was still thinking about it and how I haven't gone deep enough on this site about how this "blanket" diagnosis and the ensuing one-size-fits-all "quit sugar" prescription that is shouted from the rafters of internet hell. "What on earth would make me more 'all knowing and all seeing' than the average Anti-Candida diet?" you may ask.
The answer:: BASIC BIOCHEMISTRY!!!
Let's first address the pure definition of candida (or candida albicans) which is a fungal organism or yeast that lives within the GI tract. It is a pathogen that lives in every body regardless of health. It is balanced out by the good or "friendly" bacteria that also lives in the GI tract. You can't eradicate it and, frankly, even pathogens such as candida albicans and e.coli serve a purpose in the body. For example, they make the intestines slightly acidic which retard the growth of illness causing bacteria.
Some of the symptoms of a candida overgrowth are as follows::
- Skin and nail fungal infections (such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus)
- Feeling fatigued or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
- Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
- Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Vaginal infections or oral thrush, urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
How many of you raised your hands and said "I have a candida overgrowth!"?
Here's the thing. Every single one of those symptoms have a root cause and NONE of those symptoms have a root caused by candida. Did I blow your mind yet? Furthermore, NONE of those symptoms or disorders are mutually exclusive with candida. They could be exacerbated by candida but aren't necessarily caused by candida. Doctors make things worse by isolating symptoms and overprescribing antibiotics and/or steroids which can aggravate issues.
Let me be clear before we go any further. Some of these symptoms can be caused by candida but, as we will discuss in the next sentence, digging a bit deeper and going to the root of the reason for candida is going to be crucial if, indeed, you have a candida overgrowth.
Candida overgrowth happens when immunity is reduced. In fact, Candidemia, a potentially deadly form of candidiasis, that occurs when candida overgrowth is so prevalent that it crosses into the bloodstream is a common concern in those with compromised immunity such as those with HIV or AIDS. Those with any kind of compromised immunity generally have a deficiency in IgA antibodies which exist in secretions and on surfaces at such levels that keep candida from the potential for overgrowth.
Those with hypothyroidism have an IgA deficiency which means their secretions are more susceptible to candida overgrowth. Diabetics also have a propensity to candidiasis as do those with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Even those with reactive hypoglycemia might find themselves with greater chances for candida symptoms.
Now the big shocker. Those with estrogen dominance have one of the biggest risk factors for candida overgrowth due to the fact that excess estrogen feeds the yeast. Estrogen does this normally in order to alkalize the vagina during ovulation to protect sperm from the acidic nature of an acidic vagina. The problem is when estrogen "hangs around" unopposed in the body or by progesterone, as is what happens with estrogen dominance, for the rest of the cycle, candida keeps feeding on the sugars raised by the excess estrogen which leads to candida overgrowth which causes vaginal yeast infections or vaginal thrush.
Also, excess estrogen blocks the Thymic gland from functioning properly thus decreasing immune function since the maturation of T-cells, the body's primary immunity, is the responsibility of the Thymic gland.
"What the heck is a T-cell??" Let's just say it's the T-cells in the body that protect from candida, other illnesses, and even cancer.
Some estrogens such as 4-hydroxy and 16-hydroxy estrones are, by their very nature, carcinogens as studies have shown women with elevated of 16-hydroxy estrogen have a high rate of breast cancer. This fact, coupled with the fact that they feed yeast and suppress immune function make correcting estrogen dominance imperative to balanced health.
What's worse than these facts is that every single Anti-Candida diet recommends getting rid of every bit of sugar in the diet to eradicate candida. But here's the thing; well nourished yeasts (as yeasts do thrive on sugar) rarely pose a problem providing sugar isn't pounds of excess sugars hidden in every day foods. Fruits and small amounts of natural sugars like maple syrup, raw honey and, indeed, small amounts of cane sugar in the course of a largely unprocessed Real Foods way of eating help keep candida at bay because sugars are processed higher up in the intestine and trickle down into the lower intestine where they nourish bacteria (both good and those considered bad).
Side note:: Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) stimulate yeasts (as they stimulate excess estrogens) while healthy saturated fats suppress yeasts as they are, by nature, antibacterial.
When yeast isn't nourished they project invasive filaments into the wall of the intestine in search of sugar. These invasive filaments can cause perforations in the GI tract as they advance into the bloodstream and, if not quickly destroyed by white blood cells, grow exponentially and can overtake the system.
Remember, a no sugar diet raises cortisol and increases stress in the body and reduces immunity. No matter how good a very low or no carb may feel, it is only because of the surge of stress hormones enabling your "fight or flight" response. Long term use of this way of eating will impair the thyroid leading to a suppressed metabolism. Eating natural sugars like ripe fruits and juices nourishes yeast and is pro-thyroid which not only combats stress in the body, lowering cortisol, but also stimulates IgA secretions.
Also, nutrition is not the only reason for cortisol surges. Reducing stress factors in your life or employing tactics that help you deal with stress such as meditation, yoga or gentle exercises also keep cortisol under control.
What's the bottom line? Treating the root causes of what would increase candida, estrogen dominance, leaky gut, thyroid dysfunction, immune deficiency, is a vastly superior method to merely treating candida as the treatment will most assuredly lead to more factors for the growth of candida.