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Top 3 Candida Fighters
Top 3 Candida Fighters
There might be a hostile takeover happening in your body and you don’t even know it: strains of yeast growing out of control. Perhaps you have some of the telltale signs—intense sugar cravings, gas or itchiness in your body’s warm, dark nooks and crannies. Yes, its symptoms are often annoying and uncomfortable, but it’s the long-term problems Candida albicans yeast overgrowth can cause, such as mood swings, fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome-type symptoms, that can really wreak havoc on your body. Fortunately, diet and supplements can help you get things back in balance.
We humans actually carry hundreds of types of yeasts and fungi in our bodies, including candida. Generally, these microbes live in harmony with other gut flora, but a high-carbohydrate diet, certain medications and other factors, such as gluten sensitivity or exposure to viruses or parasites, can alter the delicate balance in the gut and cause yeast overgrowth symptoms, says Alena Guggenheim, ND, an instructor at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Ore.
It’s no wonder candida overgrowth is becoming such a common condition—most of us feed yeast lots of its favorite foods and create the perfect environment for it to thrive. “Our modern diets have become heavily based on refined carbohydrates in the form of breads, soda, chips, pasta, fruit juice, etc., which provides easy food to yeast species,” says Guggenheim. “The second problem is the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics work well to kill bacteria—the good and the bad bugs living in our guts. Unfortunately they don’t touch the yeast species that are then left behind. With no competition, they grow like crazy.”
Fight the fungus
Oftentimes, symptoms are evidence enough of yeast overgrowth, though there are specialized stool tests that measure yeast and fungal levels if you want to be sure. Either way, your first line of attack when dealing with out-of-control yeast is to starve it. Generally, an anti-candida diet starts with the elimination of all sweeteners, fruit, fruit juice, white-flour products, alcohol and anything fermented. Depending on the severity of the condition, it also might mean no grains or carbohydrates of any kind.
“Deciding which foods must be avoided greatly depends on the level of yeast overgrowth and overall health of the person,” says Guggenheim. When dealing with candida, it’s best to focus on lean protein, vegetables, nuts, seeds and plenty of pure water. “Most people do well staying on an anti-candida diet for two to four months,” Guggenheim says. “I generally try to have patients symptom free for at least one month before attempting food reintroduction—and start slowly. One would certainly not do well to go off the wagon with pizza, beer and ice cream, as this can cause a major and more severe return of symptoms that can be hard to undo.”
Once you’ve started depriving the yeast of the foods that feed it, adding a few supplements to your regimen can further decrease its hold on your system and even repopulate your body with healthy bacteria. Here are three top picks.
Probiotic supplements replenish the intestines with the healthy bacteria they need to keep candida in check and function normally. “The best-studied species is Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which seems to actually kill candida—not just compete with it for nourishment,” Guggenheim says.
It’s generally recommended to use a probiotic supplement that contains a variety of bacteria strains, and at least 5 billion units of each. “If the product does not list the number of each individual species on the label, it is not a high-quality product,” says Guggenheim, who recommends her patients take at least 20 billion units of mixed bacteria per day.
Another effective probiotic bacteria strain is Saccharomyces boulardii, which is actually a beneficial yeast that has been shown to inhibit the grown of candida. “This probiotic is often very helpful for patients who have had many rounds of antibiotics or tend towards diarrhea,” Guggenheim says. She usually recommends taking 250 to 1,000 mg per day in divided doses.
This medium-chain triglyceride (a type of fat) is a natural antifungal found in human breast milk as well as coconut oil. As discussed in a November 2001 study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, since caprylic acid is fat soluble, it is believed to have the ability to reach candida deep within cells, where it breaks up the yeast membrane and shuttles it out of the body.
Available in both liquid and capsule form, caprylic acid is best taken with meals, separately from probiotics. A general dose is between 500 and 1,000 mg per day, and it is most effective when taken for two to three consecutive months.
Grapefruit seed extract
“Grapefruit seed extract is a very potent antimicrobial, meaning it kills all sorts of small things like bacteria, viruses, yeasts and parasites,” Guggenheim says. Though these effects have not been proven in the laboratory, many healthcare practitioners and patients have witnessed such results.
Guggenheim often prescribes 15 drops of grapefruit seed extract in a small amount of water, taken two to three times daily. It is best to take grapefruit seed extract separately from probiotics, and as always, check with your healthcare practitioner before starting any new supplement regimen.
Linda is a nutritional anthropologist and freelance writer in Portland, Ore. Her work has been featured in Body & Soul, Fitness, Glamour, Natural Health, Yoga Journal and many other national magazines. She is also the author of the User's Guide to Natural Remedies for Depression (Basic Health Publications, 2003).
June 14th, 2012