Candida: What Is It and What Do You Do About It?

stomach

One of the steps I am taking this year, in my pursuit of a more natural and healthy lifestyle, is to detox yeast from my system. The story of Jenny McCarthy’s austistic son (Louder than Words) finally pushed me over the edge as far as believing that an overgrowth of yeast in the body is the cause of many health-related issues.


In addition to reading of the remarkable changes in Jenny’s son in her book, I have also come across this subject repeatedly in other forms — books, the Internet, magazines, forums, and even NPR radio. The more I have read and heard, the the more convinced I have become that this is the cause of some of my own health related concerns.

I first heard of yeast overgrowth when I read The Diet Cure for the first time a few years back. It made sense to me, but not so much that I was ready to pursue such a change in my own life. As time passed, however, my asthma and allergy medications multiplied and I began feeling tired all the time, not to mention recurring infections, so I decided to take a second look at the possibility of a yeast overgrowth occurring in my body.

Candida

All of us have yeast to some extent in our bodies, also known as Candida. In a healthy body system, the yeast is working conjointly with other microorganisms and a healthy balance is kept for everything to function well, especially within the digestive system.

In an overgrowth, however, the Candida “takes over the body” and imbalance results. With that imbalance, symptoms such as bloating, lethargy, headaches, fatigue, inability to concentrate, eczema, recurrent yeast infections, and even carb and sugar cravings that seem out of control, may result.

Candida Overgrowth: How it Occurs

The regular yeast living in one’s body can become too much through the frequent use of antibiotics. Some books also state that the use of birth control pills can lead to an excess of candida within the body, since progesterone stimulates the growth of yeast.

In addition to the medical causes, poor diet, frequent alcohol consumption, and sugar also contribute to a candida overgrowth. In fact, sugar grows yeast. Just bake a batch of bread and add a little sugar to your yeast/water mixture and watch the reaction between the two!

Candida Overgrowth Quiz

The Diet Cure has a questionnaire to help determine if there is a yeast overgrowth in the body or not. If you aren’t interested in purchasing an entire book in order to determine if this is a problem, there are several online questionnaires you can make use of.

The Cure

There are two ways that a yeast overgrowth can be addressed.

The first is through a partial cleanse*. Doing this (which is what I am currently doing) consists of putting healthy bacteria into the body, drinking plenty of water, incorporating grapefruit seed extract into your diet (this helps kill yeast), and going easy on foods laden with sugar, including fruits. Garlic is also a yeast inhibitor, but I haven’t been able to consume this on a daily basis yet.

You can put healthy bacteria in your body by buying pro-biotic supplements at your local health food store. Eating yogurt and drinking kefir are also great ways to replenish the body with healthy bacteria.

The second way to combat yeast is to undergo a complete yeast detox. This includes taking the above steps and avoiding all wheat and dairy products, including cheese (though goat cheese is acceptable). Carbohydrates, such as potatoes, are also discouraged (starches turn to sugar), and very strict detox diets will also prohibit carrots due to their sugars. During a detox like this, any alcoholic beverages are also advised against.

The complete detox can be costly due to buying special pastas and breads and grains (gluten/yeast free) to incorporate into your diet, although it will help the ultimate goal of ridding the body of excess yeast take place much quicker.

Depending on the amount of yeast in the body, this detox can take from one month to six months. One way to test whether or not you have fully achieved a yeast detox is to eat a yeast laden product, such as bread, and measure your reaction. If you feel gassy, bloated, and sluggish within an hour’s time, chances are you’re still dealing with too much yeast in your body.

What to Expect During a Yeast Detox

Depending on just how much excess you have, a yeast detox can prove to be an uncomfortable process. I have not done the strict detox and yet, even with the little I have done, I went through almost a month of nausea and even vomiting. Other side affects may include more fatigue than usual, headaches, a mental fog, and extreme cravings for sugar. Remember, yeast needs sugar to thrive and grow, so for awhile, as you starve it, it’s going to want what it needs to keep from dying off. The cravings are actually a good sign that the yeast detox is working.

You may also observe a cloudy film in your bowel movements and after urinating. This is the body sloughing off the excess yeast, and while disturbing, it’s another healthy sign that something is happening.

I actually started my detox in early December, getting a head start on the New Year. The first month was the worst, but now I have more energy than I have ever had and my stomach is flatter now than it was pre-pregnancy! The never-ending bloat is gone. I’ve also noticed a huge reduction in the amount of sugar and breads I crave. I can’t say I don’t ever want them, but it’s not the type of cravings that drive me almost bonkers if I don’t fulfill them.

I have also lost weight due to cutting down my sugars and carbohydrates as well (I have eliminated sugar almost completely but do still eat wraps, cereal, and pasta here and there). Only time will tell if the yeast detox has helped my allergies and asthma (a spring/summer issue) but I’ve already seen so much change, I’m confident I’ll see an improvement in that area as well.

Getting rid of the excess yeast hasn’t been an easy road and I still have some time left before I think I am completely free of it, but I have already found that it is worth it. If you’re still on the fence and undecided about whether or not there is validity to the whole yeast-overgrowth claim, I’ll encourage you with what I told myself: if I’m wrong, what’s the worst that can happen? I go a few months without breads and sweets and my body becomes healthier anyway. If I’m right, well then it was worth the effort!

*As always, before starting any new diet or detox program, please consult your family doctor — especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or diabetic!

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