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Did you know that there is more bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract than there are cells in the whole of the human body? Quite a staggering statistic and one that certainly highlights the importance of making sure that there is a healthy balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria that populate this area of the body.
Candida, is a yeast that is normally a harmless part of the intestinal flora. However symptoms can arise when an overgrowth of this fungus occurs. Candida can break down the wall of the intestine and penetrate the blood stream which releases toxins into the body and can potentially cause issues around the whole body – from leaky gut to depression.
What is Candida?
The term Candida usually refers to the species known as Candida albicans. This is a single-celled yeast that, in the majority of cases, is a harmless part of our intestinal flora. Candida albicans is present in approximately 80% of the human population and symptoms can arise when a overgrowth of this fungus occurs.
Candida is somewhat of an enigma when it comes to a diagnosis because it affects each person differently and often in a different area of the body. For this reason it is often a condition that is misdiagnosed which can lead on to further problems.
Common forms of Candida
Those at risk of Candida
Candida overgrowth occurs when the normal immune system defences are weakened by illness or poor diet. For example, diets that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and low in essential micro-nutrients.
Stress is considered a further contributory factor, in particular chronic stress which is known to negatively impact the immune system. In addition, chronic stress is frequently accompanied by poor diet and this, combined with inadequate good bacteria, provides Candida with the ideal environment to thrive.
Factors that can contribute to Candida overgrowth include:
Common signs and symptoms of Candida overgrowth:
Candida has also been quite heavily linked to the development of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus etc.
Clearly not everyone is troubled by Candida overgrowth; and prevention is possible by maintaining good general health and a strong immune system, and also reducing stress where possible and eating a healthy diet high in fibre in order to encourage the growth of good bacteria.
Adequate stomach acid is also important. Low levels of hydrochloric acid are frequently discovered in people who frequently and repeatedly suffer from Candida and other bacterial infections. Correcting low levels of hydrochloric acid, if present, is an important part of any programme to reduce the risk of reoccurrence.
Maintaining the balance
As with digestive health in general, the key to keeping Candida albicans in the ‘minority’ is maintaining a healthy balance of friendly bacteria. The consumption of fermented foods, including plain natural yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha will assist in maintaining a healthier digestive tract. Eating foods rich in prebiotic fibres is also important – vegetables including onions, leeks, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes and dark leafy greens.
The problem with Candida overgrowth is that often when the treatment stops the infection reoccurs because the underlying causes – that is imbalanced gut flora and need for immune support – have not been addressed.
Candida is part of the normal gut flora so it may not be possible to remove it; the aim is to reduce any overgrowth and rebalance the gut flora.
Caprylic Acid – natural dietary fatty acid which assists in the maintenance of a normal intestinal micro-flora. Studies have indicated that dietary caprylic acid helps to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and other opportunistic fungi in both the small and large intestines. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid. Choose Extra Virgin Organic coconut oil. For cases of oral thrush it can be allowed to melt in the mouth and then swilled around and spat out. Eat some as well – coconut oil is nice added to smoothies or stirred into porridge once cooked.
Garlic – One of the best known foods associated with having anti-fungal properties with research that dates back to 1936 – including that garlic can help with the removal of pathogens such as Candia. It should be consumed fresh, raw or as a good-quality supplement.
Oregano – A herb, which has been shown to possess a broad spectrum of anti-microbial activity, used to inhibit the growth various food-spoiling fungi and yeast organisms, as well as demonstrating additional anti-fungal activity against non-pathogenic yeast.
Grapefruit Seed Extract – Often referred to as citricidal, has a long history as a cleansing agent. Research supports its use in combating a variety of common infectious agents, evidencing antibacterial activity against a number of gram-positive and negative organisms.
Green Tea Extract – Green tea is a natural source of catechins, considered to provide anti-microbial properties against oral, intestinal and food-borne bacteria. Research points to Green tea as a source of anti-fungal activity against candida species.
Onions, bay, thyme, cloves, and cinnamon have also demonstrated anti-fungal properties.