I know we just met, but I’m going to ask you a very personal question: Have you ever had a yeast infection? Don’t be embarrassed. A lot of people get them. If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve suffered from the intense itching and white discharge associated with a vaginal yeast infection. Both women and men can also experience yeast overgrowth in the mouth (known as Oral Thrush), which can cause white lesions to form on the tongue and cheeks. Or maybe you’ve dealt with yeast overgrowth on the outside of your body, which can result in red, itchy rashes in the folds of your skin. No matter what type of yeast infection you’ve endured, it’s pretty fair to say that it was annoying and maybe even a little bit painful. Read on to find out why you get yeast infections, why they can be dangerous if left untreated, and how to naturally heal them.
The most common type of yeast infection found in the vagina, mouth, intestinal tract, and skin is caused by a fungus called Candida Albicans. Let me start by saying small amounts of Candida in the body is perfectly normal. In fact, very small amounts of yeast live inside your mouth and intestines on a regular basis. So there is candida yeast inside your body right now. Don’t worry, though, this is a good thing. When in proper levels, Candida actually benefits the body by aiding digestion and helping with nutrient absorption. The only time Candida is truly a problem is when it’s overproduced.
When the body produces too much Candida, you will begin to notice symptoms of a yeast infection (full list of symptoms below). While this may sound relatively harmless, think again.
If left untreated, Candida can spread to other parts of your body. It can break down your intestinal walls and penetrate the bloodstream. If that happens, toxic by-products will be able to enter into your body causing Leaky Gut Syndrome and a slew of other health problems. As you can see, it’s crucial to keep Candida yeast levels at bay.
7 Causes Of Candida Overgrowth
1) Poor Diet
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Standard American Diet (SAD)?” This refers to a diet that’s low in fiber and plant-based foods. It’s also high in unhealthy fats, complex carbohydrates (like sugar), and processed foods. SAD is linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, digestive disorders, poor gut health, and yeast overgrowth.
Doctors say one of the main culprits is sugar. The sweet stuff many people love (and can actually become addicted to) feeds bad bacteria and Candida yeast, allowing it to grow and spread. It’s important to realize that Candida isn’t only fueled by milk chocolate bars and cupcakes. There are hidden sugars in just about all processed foods — from sauces to condiments, and even crackers! Plus, grains can contribute to Candida since the body breaks grains down into sugar.
Now that you know sugar can feed Candida yeast, it may not come as a big surprise to you that people with diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) are more susceptible to an overgrowth/ yeast infections. Uncontrolled diabetes causes the level of glucose (AKA sugar) in saliva to increase, which creates a breeding ground for Candida.
If you are someone who rushes to the doctor every time you get sick then chances are you take a lot of antibiotics. Doctors sure do love prescribing antibiotics, don’t they? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they are needed to fight off stubborn infections. However, a lot of people use them as their first line of defense and such frequent antibiotic use can kill off too many friendly bacteria in your body. It’s that good bacteria that’s responsible for keeping Candida under control. So if you kill off too many of your beneficial bacteria, Candida may overproduce to an unhealthy level.
Before you turn to antibiotics, it’s always worth trying to heal your body the natural way. Eat plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables and lean proteins. Plus, make sure to stay hydrated and get enough rest.
While a glass of red wine a night can provide some health benefit, consuming too much alcohol could lead to Candida overgrowth. Knocking back a few too many adult beverages can alter the environment of your gut microbiome by killing off your beneficial bacteria. This is similar to how antibiotics affect your gut microbiome. As I just mentioned, good bacteria helps keep Candida under control.
5) Oral Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids help reduce swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. They are used to treat a number of different diseases, including asthma. Researchers now know that asthma patients who use oral corticosteroids are at a higher risk for Candida overgrowth and yeast infections in the mouth. In one study, researchers compared 143 asthmatic patients treated with inhaled steroids, 11 asthmatic patients not treated with inhaled steroids, and 86 healthy volunteers. They found a significantly greater amount of yeast in patients who used inhaled steroids.
If you use oral corticosteroids, it’s important to rinse/clean your mouth out after each use to help prevent Candida yeast overgrowth. Find out other ways you can naturally fight Candida below!
6) Cancer Treatments
While chemotherapy and radiation can kill cancer cells, these harsh treatments can also kill off the friendly bacteria that naturally fights Candida. According to a double-blind randomized study, one-third of cancer patients who were going through treatment had “invasive” candidiasis. Doctors say this can cause serious complications. If you are undergoing cancer treatment and begin noticing signs of Candida yeast, talk to your doctor about it immediately.
7) Weakened Immune System
If you have a strong immune system then Candida yeast infections are rarely serious because the body will kick in and defend itself. However, if you have poor immunity then an infection can easily spread. In severe cases, the yeast can actually affect your blood, membrane lining the heart muscle, or membranes around the brain. Some people who suffer from a weakened immune system include:
- Small children
- The elderly
- People diagnosed with an autoimmune disease
- People diagnosed with HIV/AIDS
Signs of Candida Overgrowth
While a yeast infection is a clear indicator of Candida yeast, it’s not the only one. Below is a list of various different signs of Candida overgrowth. They include:
- Recurring vaginal yeast infections (itching and white discharge)
- Rectal itching
- Oral thrush (white tongue)
- Skin and nail fungal infections (i.e. athlete’s foot or toenail fungus)
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
- Digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Autoimmune diseases
- Mood swings
- Sugar cravings
- Sinus infections
- Hormone imbalance
How Can You Tell For Sure?
If you are experiencing the warning signs of Candida overgrowth, talk to your doctor. Your primary care physician may want to get you tested. A blood test, urine test, or stool test can reveal if you do in fact have Candida overgrowth.
How to Naturally Fight Candida Overgrowth
1) Eliminate The Bad Stuff In Your Diet
First things first, eliminate processed foods filled with refined carbohydrates and sugar. When you go food shopping, make sure to read ingredient labels very carefully. You may be surprised to find out the amount of sugar that’s hiding in some of your favorite foods. If you’re trying to fight off Candida, the best thing you can do is to avoid all processed/ boxed foods. That means, try to stick with whole foods that don’t require an ingredient label. Think about it — broccoli doesn’t need an ingredient label because it doesn’t have any ingredients!
While shopping your grocery store’s perimeters (that’s where the healthy food is), keep in mind that most fruits are filled with sugar. While it’s natural sugar, it’s still sugar and could feed yeast. If you are struggling with Candida overgrowth, it’s best to eliminate fruits for a while.
Additionally, stop eating fried foods and drinking alcohol.
2) Eat Organic Vegetables
Many vegetables have a detoxing effect on the body and can help control Candida. Check out this video for some ideas on what to eat during the first week of your Candida Diet:
3) Introduce Coconut Oil Into Your Diet
Coconut oil has powerful anti-bacteria, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties that help protect the body. One great way you can use coconut oil every day is through oil pulling. Simply put a spoonful of coconut oil into your mouth first thing in the morning, swish it around for 10-2o minutes, spit the oil into a garbage bag, and brush your teeth like normal. This will help “pull” bad bacteria or yeast out of your mouth (perfect for fighting against oral thrush)!
You can also cook with coconut oil, use it to replace butter, or eat it straight from the spoon!
4) Load Up On Garlic
Garlic has potent anti-fungal benefits that have been proven to fight Candida. Researchers say it’s all thanks to a phytonutrient called allicin. To reap the greatest benefit, enjoy your garlic raw. A few ways you can enjoy raw garlic include:
- Add it straight to homemade salads
- Put it in homemade dressings/sauces
- Add it to guacamole
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria in our gut that help control Candida. They are found naturally in certain foods such as:
- Live-cultured yogurt
- Miso (miso soup)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
If you aren’t a big fan of these foods, you can also get your daily dose of beneficial bacteria through a supplement. Probiotic supplements are becoming increasingly popular and are safe for everyone. They are even considered safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Additionally, there are probiotic supplements on the market designed specifically for kids.
As with anything, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before starting a probiotic supplement. Since all probiotic supplements contain different bacteria strains that benefit various functions of the body, your doctor may even be able to recommend the perfect brand to fight Candida.
6) Reduce Your Stress Level
Stress takes a major toll on the entire body, including your gut. When stress hormones are released into the body, good bacteria (the ones that control Candida) are attacked and killed. In one study by Ohio State University, researchers placed an aggressive mouse into a cage of docile mice. They then compared the gut bacteria of the stressed-out mice to a group of calm mice. They found the stressed mice had lower amounts of a particular (important) bacteria strain.
I know that lowering your stress level is easier said than done. After all, you have bosses to please, kids to tend to, housework that needs to get done, and relationships to maintain. Plus, you probably commit to way more things than you have time for. While finding time to relax and de-stress can be difficult, it’s extremely important to start prioritizing your mental health. Take some time to meditate, go to the gym, walk outdoors, read a book, hang out with some friends, or relax in a detox bath. Whatever makes you happy, make sure to schedule it into your busy day. Remember – your health depends on it!