Not long after I discovered the many benefits of essential oils back in 2012, I also learnt about the havoc that candida can play in our bodies. I had been experiencing this for almost 20 years. Possibly following a nasty gut parasite, many months of antibiotic treatment and a stressful job. Not a good combination!
The range of symptoms that a candida overgrowth can cause is extensive and overgrowth can be easily triggered. My symptoms were mainly bloating, numerous trips to the toilet and food intolerances. I saw many different specialists who all diagnosed the same thing: IBS (or Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
After learning more about candida, I decided to investigate and see if that was perhaps the cause of my suffering. I discovered that thankfully candida can often be easily managed by making a few simple changes. So that’s what I did. And things got better. A lot better! I am pleased to say that as long as I manage my stress levels (and avoid too much sugar) I am symptom free most of the time and no more food intolerances. Happy days! If you want to learn more then read on!
So, what is Candida?
Candida is a benign sugar fermenting yeast that is normally harmless as a single-celled fungus. It largely resides in the gut and is a vital part of intestinal ecology in small amounts. If the fungi overgrow then they can become parasitic, exit the gut, and cause chronic inflammation throughout the body.
There are many different species of candida. The most common type, Candida Albicans, lives in all the body’s mucus membranes including our intestines.
Everyone has candida within them: we are born with it. Candida usually lives harmoniously with our other intestinal fauna such as acidophilus, and it is these bacterial residents that keep candida under control, preventing a “population burst.” Candida’s function in the body is mainly to remove putrefied food matter in our digestive system (mostly caused by improper digestion due to low stomach acid) before any potentially harmful bacteria multiply and become threatening to our health. This picture shows candida penetrating living tissue.
After we die, candida acts to decompose the body. It is usually kept under control by the gastrointestinal “good” bacteria and the immune system, but trouble can arise when certain conditions are present. If your candida levels become too high it can cause an infection, known as candidiasis, which can lead to health problems throughout the body.
Systemic candidiasis is a relatively modern disease and was not recognized or defined until the 1980’s. This is because its symptoms are so varied and often duplicate those of other illnesses. Unfortunately, diagnoses of candidiasis is typically limited to visible manifestations, e.g. a vaginal or oral yeast infection. Often the recommended treatment is with antibiotics, which kill the intestinal good bacteria that control candida. Treatment has typically been directed towards eradicating these visible conditions alone without addressing the more serious, hidden, infection.
What causes Candida overgrowth?
Under certain conditions, candida can begin growing out of control in the intestines, branching out and colonising the gut. In this process, candida can eat away at the intestinal walls, spread into the bloodstream, and infiltrate other tissues. The normally benign yeast can literally transformed itself into an aggressive, destructive, fungal pathogen that can cause a variety of seemingly unrelated health problems. This condition can be serious for two main reasons:
- It often goes undiagnosed, allowing the yeast to spread uncontrollably, and
- the numerous symptoms it produces severely tax the immune system, forcing it to deal with not only the yeast infection, but the other conditions the yeast causes.
A truly vicious cycle can ensue: a person is weakened by a candida caused problem, say cystitis, and goes to a doctor who might then prescribes antibiotics. The drugs kill off more of the intestinal bacteria which control candida, making the candida overgrowth worse, leading to more infections and more antibiotics, etc. At its most destructive, candida can exhaust the adrenal glands, leading to Addison’s disease; can interfere with digestion so much that very few nutrients are absorbed from food; and can cause life threatening infestations of the vital organs and the brain.
There are a number of reasons that can cause an imbalance of candida including:
- Intestinal pH imbalance, e.g. from acidic drinks, sugar etc.
- Reduction of good bacteria in the gut, e.g. from antibiotics
- Stress and adrenal fatigue
- Suppressed immune system from toxic metals including mercury fillings
- Lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer
What are the Symptoms of a Candida Infection?
You don’t have to have the symptoms of thrush to be suffering from a candida infection. Symptoms are widespread and can include:
- Night sweats
- Brain fog & poor memory
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- Sensitivity to certain smells and fragrances
- Impotency and infertility
- Extreme lack of energy
- Brain fog
- Learning difficulties, poor concentration and memory
- Low mood
- Food cravings (eg sweets, alcohol, carbonated drinks)
- Food sensitivities
- Decreased libido
- Autoimmune disorders
- Head tension
- Muscle aches
- Inflamed joints
- Bladder infections
- Gas & bloating
- Constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Bad breath
- Sinus infections
- Burning tongue
- Nail infections
- Nappy Rash
- Jock itch
While these symptoms can indicate other illnesses, if certain factors are present in one’s personal history the symptoms are likely to indicate candida overgrowth. These factors include:
- Prolonged, or repeated, use of antibiotics, corticosteroid drugs, and/or birth control pills, at any time in the past,
- A diet high in processed sugars which encourages candida growth, and
- Preexisting immunosuppression caused by drug or alcohol abuse, multiple blood transfusions, debilitating illness, organ transplants, or chemotherapy.
All three are NOT required to bring on a case of candidiasis: excessive “sugar binging” can cause it just as surely as antibiotics can.
How to Test for Candida?
There are a number of tests that can be used to check for Candida, including a simple ‘spit test’ that you can try at home. For more information, you can visit: http://www.thecandidadiet.com/testingforcandida.htm
What are some ways to manage Candida?
Natural therapies are a great way to support your body when you are dealing with this, and relief can take a long time (several months or longer depending on the length of time one has had it growing). This might seem long, but once candida has colonised the body, it wants to stay.
Recommended natural supports include:
- Good nutrition including a healthy diet to starve the yeast
- Avoiding processed foods, sugar, carbohydrates, grains, potatoes, rice, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol
- Avoiding Genetically Modified (GMO) Foods
- Try to include: organic meat & eggs, good fats (olive oil, coconut milk, nuts, seeds), dark green leafy vegetables, non starchy veg, low sugar fruits (berries, lemons, limes, grapefruit), beans, winter squashes, quinoa, good low glycemic sweeteners, (e.g. xylitol, stevia, agave)
- Balance the body’s pH levels by avoiding acidic foods and reducing stress
- Drink plenty of water (add lemon juice to help re-alkalise body)
- Rest and good quality sleep
- Reduce the load on the nervous system e.g. using Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils such as cilantro
- Promote healthy immune functions using Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) melaleuca and oregano essential oils
- Support a healthy digestive tract by creating an unfriendly environment with a supplement such as GX Assist.
- Support the healthy cleansing and filtering functions of the liver, kidneys, colon, lungs, and skin by using Zendocrine.
- Support the immune system, by using the essential oil blend On Guard (avoid antibacterial soaps as they kill both the good and bad bacteria)
- Use a good probiotic such as PB Assist and fermented or cultured foods eg kefir
- Use a good supplementation, such as LifeLongVitality
- Support the clean gut using CPTG essential oils such as Myrrh, Frankincense, Digestzen and DDR Prime.
What is Die Off?
When you take away candida’s food which is sugar, and attack the yeast with herbs and supplements, it can die, causing a condition known as die off. Die off can last from a few days to a few weeks and the severity of reactions can vary from person to person. Quite often, people may feel some combination of digestive upset, an aching head, mood irritability, lack of energy, and cravings for sugar. Exercise and drinking lots of water are often helpful as they assist your body to eliminate some of the triggers.
If you have had experience with candida and its treatment then we would love to hear from you.
If you’d like to learn more about how I use essential oils for our health and happiness, why not pop over to my GreenLifeOrganics Facebook Page or our online community GreenLifeOils. Or, in the meantime, you can request some free samples to get you started or click here for step by step ordering instructions. If you are not sure where to start then contact me on +44 (0) 7557337363 or email@example.com for a free 20 min wellness consultation.
- Conquering Candidiasis Naturally by Stephen C. Byrnes, N.D., R.N.C.P.
- The Candida Directory and Cookbook by Helen Gustafson and Helen O’Shea. 1992; Celestial Arts Publishing.
- The Yeast Connection by William Crook, M.D.. 1986; Vintage Books.
- Candida Albicans: Could Yeast Be Your Problem? by Leon Chaitow, N.D. 1985; Thorsons, U.K.