What is candida?
Candida (albicans) is a common type of yeast, or fungus. You can find candida in different parts of your body such as the skin, mouth, intestines and vagina. When healthy, you will usually not notice anything about it’s presence. But if candida increases and starts to dominate the good bacteria in your bowels, you may suffer from unpleasant symptoms. We call this candida syndrome.
Mainstream medicine does not recognise the syndrome because the symptoms do not seem to be directly related to a specific health issue. In practice, however, it often turns out that there are good reasons to assume that someone is suffering from it. The symptoms of this yeast overgrowth vary from person to person and can make diagnosis of candida syndrome a little bit more complicated.
So what are the symptoms?
In a healthy and balanced presence, candida is a yeast that helps with nutrient absorption and digestion. But if that balance is disturbed and candida increases, typical candida overgrowth symptoms can occur. Usually those symptoms are very common in nature and more of a nuisance than pathological. These symptoms can include:
- chronic fatigue with no apparent sleep disorder
- unexplained mood swings
- vaginal yeast infections
- oral thrush
- sinusitis, persistent cough or post-nasal drip
- suddenly developing food intolerances or increase in symptoms of already established intolerances or allergies
- intestinal symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, belching, constipation or diarrhoea
- brain fog and associated concentration and memory problems
- skin and nail fungal infections
- persistent obesity and inability to lose weight
- leaky gut
What causes this increase in candida?
When candida presence is balanced it is helpful for digestion. But the following factors can disrupt that healthy balance:
A sugar-rich diet
Fungus thrives on sugar: it helps it multiply and grow more quickly. Eating too much sugar can also negatively affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to that rapid growth of fungus. So sugar plays a double role here.
When antibiotics do their job, they kill both good and bad bacteria. This imbalance can contribute to candida overgrowth.
High oestrogen levels
Any hormonal imbalance that can cause a spike in oestrogen can also contribute to candida growth, for example during pregnancy or if you use hormonal contraception.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are medical conditions associated with candida. When blood sugar is not under control and there is an excess of glucose throughout your body, it provides the perfect environment for candida to grow.
Certain medical conditions and treatments
Medical conditions known to affect the immune system, such as AIDS or cancer, and certain medical treatments, for example steroids and cancer treatments, can weaken your immune system, increasing the risk of candida growth.
Can I test for candida syndrome?
Besides an evaluation of symptoms, there are a few other ways to diagnose candida syndrome:
- a comprehensive stool test is the best method to determine what is happening in the gut. You collect your stool using a stool kit and send it to the lab
- a candida antibody test checks your blood levels of IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies for an immune system response
- an organic acid test in turn checks the urine for organic waste left by the fungus
Why is keto recommended?
Treating candida is not always easy. It takes time to regain a healthy candida balance. The emphasis lies heavily on diet and certain supplements.
A keto diet is naturally low in carbohydrates and completely free of added sugars. The candida will therefore starve itself; after all, it needs sugar to thrive on.
By eating less than 25 grams of net carbohydrates and consistently choosing unprocessed gluten-free foods without sugars and other unhealthy additives, you are meeting your own nutritional needs and help kill the bad fungus.
Keto foods to avoid
If you have candida syndrome, you will have to be a little more careful about what you eat compared to a regular keto diet. Fermented and mouldy foods that feed the fungus should be avoided, as well as:
- cheese and other dairy products
- peanuts, pistachio and cashew nuts
- regular vinegar
- soy sauce
However, apple cider vinegar, kefir, mozzarella and goat cheese are allowed.
Other remedies you may consider
This is a natural remedy with a powerful taste that can help treat candida.
Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid). These acids have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
A probiotic helps rebalance the gut. Choose an enteric-coated probiotic that contains multiple strains of at least one million good bacteria. Specific strains of probiotics that help fight candida are:
- Saccharomyces boulardi (Brewer’s yeast)
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bacillus subtilis
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus helvecticus