Manage Candida overgrowth with this simple dietary plan
(NaturalHealth365) As is often the case with microorganisms that inhabit the body, the fungus known as Candida can be both hero and villain. An amazing 150 different varieties of this fungus exist – and the majority perform useful tasks such as promoting digestion and helping to absorb nutrients from food.
But, not all members of the Candida family are as blameless as this. The most common strain, Candida albicans, can cause various systemic infections when present in excessive amounts. In a new review published in the peer-reviewed journal Revista Argentina de Microbiologia, researchers noted the mechanisms this resourceful fungus has developed to defeat antifungal medications – including the ability to form into biofilms (sticky layers of pathogens that can be difficult to dislodge). While Western physicians treat Candida albicans infections with antifungal drugs, many people have reported that a specific diet can also help combat the condition. Let’s look at some foods to avoid – and foods to relish – to ease troublesome Candida overgrowth.
Beware, antibiotics can disrupt bacterial balance and “open the door” for Candida albicans overgrowth
Candida is normally found in small amounts in the mouth, intestines, and skin, where it is typically kept under control by “friendly” bacteria. While modest levels of Candida albicans don’t cause any harm, disruptions in the body’s bacterial balance – often in tandem with a compromised immune system – can lead to overgrowth, also known as candidiasis.
Risk factors for candidiasis include having diabetes; taking antibiotics, steroids, or oral contraceptives; having poor nutrition (particularly, eating a diet high in white sugar, refined carbs, processed meats, and alcohol); or having a weakened immune system due to chemotherapy or infection with HIV. Depending on the location of the infection, Candida albicans may be treated with antifungal powders or creams, with more severe cases requiring oral medications.
Candida albicans promotes inflammation in the body and can trigger autoimmune diseases
Candida albicans can pop up in many places on the body and can masquerade as a wide range of conditions. Candida albicans can cause oral thrush in the mouth, characterized by white, painful patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or throat. Candidiasis can also affect the vagina, causing redness, itching, swelling, painful intercourse, and vaginal discharge. Or, if the balance between “friendly” and “unfriendly” gut bacteria is disturbed – a condition known as dysbiosis – Candida infection can afflict the digestive system with diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and bloating and may even trigger ulcerative colitis.
Candida albicans can also cause itchy, painful skin infections, usually occurring in naturally moist places such as the armpits and groin. Finally, researchers have found that Candida can enter the bloodstream and travel to the joints, causing arthritis, pain, swelling, and stiffness. In a University of Pittsburgh study, the scientists reported that Candida can create an inflammatory response in the body, setting the stage for arthritis and other autoimmune illnesses such as psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.
“Pump the brakes” on Candida through proper nutrition
The Candida diet is a simple, healthy eating plan that aims to re-balance gut bacteria and ease inflammation through ample amounts of nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory whole foods. Specifically, it encourages lower-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and gluten-free foods while striving to eliminate sugar, gluten, alcohol, caffeine, preservatives, food dyes, and pesticides. However, the diet is intended to be short-term, and you shouldn’t attempt it unless under the guidance of a qualified healthcare provider or holistic health coach.
The diet involves temporarily swearing off high-sugar tropical fruits – such as papayas, dates, bananas, and mangoes – while opting for limited amounts of lemons, limes, and berries. Healthy monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, olives, and flaxseed oil, and judicious amounts of high-quality protein, such as wild-caught salmon and grass-fed beef are encouraged. Veggies on the “OK” list include cruciferous vegetables such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kale. (Cucumber, eggplant, onion, garlic, spinach, almonds, and tomatoes all get the “thumbs-up” as well).
Choose quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat over gluten-containing grains, and seek out antioxidant, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, rosemary, cilantro, and black pepper. Stevia and xylitol are permitted as sweeteners, while acceptable beverages include herbal teas, lemon water, and additive-free almond milk. Finally, probiotic supplements and foods, such as kimchi and fresh unpasteurized sauerkraut, are highly recommended – especially as studies have shown they can ease Candida symptoms and lower Candida counts.
While studies are limited, some research has supported the value of the diet. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Mycobiology, patients with intestinal candida albicans overgrowth were treated with either nystatin, a common antifungal, or a routine combining nystatin and diet. After three months, a significantly higher amount (85 percent) of cured patients was noted in the nystatin-and-diet group. The researchers noted the better outcomes and speculated that diet modification could reduce excessive prescription of antifungals.
Avoid pro-inflammatory food and drink
It’s not hard to predict many of the foods on the “no” list. Beer, wine, and liquor, as are caffeine- and sugar-laden energy drinks and lattes, are forbidden. When it comes to undesirable condiments, ketchup is a sugar-laden culprit – as is barbecue sauce and many commercial salad dressings. Likewise, canola oil, margarine, and soybean oil are off the table for now. Nuts believed to be high in mold – such as peanuts, cashews, pistachios, and pecans – should also be banished. The list of banned sweeteners includes aspartame, white sugar, agave, honey, molasses, maple syrup, and corn syrup. Soda and fruit juice are taboo, as are highly processed chips, baked goods, junk food, and fast food.
No doubt, the effects of candida albicans overgrowth can range from merely troublesome to virtually debilitating. Yet, the importance of proper nutrition in managing Candida overgrowth can’t be overstated. As always, it’s best to opt for organic foods whenever possible or practical. By bypassing inflammatory foods and emphasizing anti-inflammatory fare, you may be able to reduce Candida counts and “get a handle” on this troublesome condition.
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