Could You Have Candida Overgrowth?

May 14, 2014

Could You Have Candida Overgrowth?

Two weeks ago, I went to the doctors for my annual exam.  My blood work was spectacular.  My blood pressure and heart rate were unbelievably good.  I love it when my doctor enthusiastically reads these results.

“Do you have any questions or concerns for me today?” He asked, lowering the lab test results to his lap.

“Yes!  I have these weird red blotches that won’t go away.  I also have eczema, I think.  I know you’re not supposed to self-diagnose over the internet, but I am almost certain I have candida.”

He examined a red blotch that had been residing on my arms for five months strong.  He reached for his pen, and scribbled as doctors do.  “This will take care of the rash.  It’s a topical cream.”

“If it is candida, shouldn’t I be changing my diet?”

“The cream will take care of it.  You are in good health.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if he really could diagnose candida based on that cursory look. Maybe because the test requires a fecal exam, he decided that he would by-pass the whole thing, since I am not on the brink of death.  These are only assumptions, but I wonder why I wasn’t tested.

We all have candida.  It is an yeast that lives in our mouth and intestines, aiding digestion.  The problem is, when there is an overgrowth of candida, it wreaks havoc, causing symptoms such as skin and nail fungus, depression, fatigue, various autoimmune diseases, thrush, brain fog, mood swings, vaginal infections, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea to name a few.  If that doesn’t scare you, how about leaky gut? Or fibromyalgia?

Over-consumption of sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, and antibiotics can all lead to candida.  Perhaps candida overgrowth is a new first-world problem that has not gained much medical attention, because it has been only in the last 50 years or so that we have added sugar to a large part of our diet, and that our bodies have been inundated with antibiotics, both internally and topically.

Between the 1970’s and the year 2000, Americans consumed 45% more refined carbohydrates.  That is 200 lbs of cereal, pastries, and bagels, among other things I live for.  Between 1959 and 2000, our sugar consumption increased 39%, or by 43 extra pounds of sugar (various types) a year.  An average American puts down 152 pounds of sugar a year.  In a day, that is 52 teaspoons! Even in my otherwise healthy lifestyle, I definitely have an excess of sugar–so could my rash be caused by my candida-friendly diet?

According to Annemarie Colbin’s Food and Healing, this isn’t our ancestor’s sugar, either.  The majority of sugar consumed is the refined white stuff, which goes through a process that includes sulfur dioxide, milk of lime, carbon dioxide, charcoal from charred beef bones, and calcium carbonate.  The sugar is now void of “water, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and fiber.”  Since the sugar is refined, or stripped down, our body responds in confusion and pulls the missing parts in order to digest the sugar.  These parts include B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron, among others, depleting our bodies.  Furthermore, raised insulin levels inhibit the release of growth hormones, which in turn depresses the immune system.

Ok, ok.  Scary? Yes!  I don’t need a leaky gut!  I don’t have time for an autoimmune deficiency!  So I began to research how I was going to treat this mutant monster in my gut.  I turned to The Candida Diet by Lisa Richards, which breaks the treatment down in three phases:  The diet, which starves the candida of sugar, then a regiment of probiotics, and finally antifungals.

No sugar is a no-brainer, but every Lent I try to give up sugar, and by Saint Patrick’s Day, I have given in to chocolate treats with a fervor.  The candida diet takes no sugar to a new level.  Unfortunately, the more candida we have, the more we crave sugar, because those freeloaders are demanding it! Still, I bite the bullet and plunge into the Candida Diet.

On the “Foods to Avoid” list:

  • Sugars.  All kinds, including agave, coconut sugar, maple syrup and dates.
  • Grains and glutens
  • Fruit
  • Some vegetables like beets, carrots, potatoes.
  • Processed meats, most all dairy.
  • Additives and preservatives.
  • Cashews, peanuts, pistachios.
  • Beans and soy products
  • Vinagar, except apple cider vinegar.

Forget it.

I run twenty to thirty miles a week.  I have a steady yoga practice.  I have given up booze, drugs, cigarettes, meat, eggs, and dairy (99% of the time).  The thought of no coffee or sweets makes life seem as though it would be down-right glum.  No beans?  No cashews?  Those are staples in my diet just after the coffee and sweets.

So what can I eat?

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic (raw)
  • Kale
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Almonds
  • Coconut meat
  • Flax Seed
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Oat Bran
  • Quinoa
  • These spices, teas, and herbs

Eating like this also elicits withdrawal symptoms that look to me like coming off of some hard drugs.  I do, however, get excited about probiotics.  They smooth out situations in the digestive tract!  After probiotics, there are the antifungals.  You might get a prescription for Diflucan, or there are the natural remedies that include coconut oil, caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract, garlic and oregano oil (though although according to Doctor Oz, oregano oil will also kill the good bacteria).

This entire process of killing off the evil 21st century microbial infestation takes one to six months–and I’m determined to take it into my hands. My M.D. said that I am in good health, and the itchy rashes on my body can be treated with cream–but I want to heal my body from inside out. By 2015, I will be on the candida diet.  I have to work myself in to it.  Psyche myself up. I’ll just keep drinking coffee to combat the fatigue, with my favorite mug as my external adrenal gland.  I won’t be a victim of our sad food culture; I wish to thrive.

 Related: Why You Should Be Aware of Parasites

5 Vegan Foods That Can Trigger Yeast Infections



Photo: Nikita Kashner via Flickr



Jessica is a runner, snowboarder, amateur gardener, yoga teacher, mala maker, cook, excellent eater, and is always listening to music. She lives on Cape Cod with her two children and husband.


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