Taming Candida

Sugar-driven yeast overgrowth can cause a variety of symptoms. Douse the fire with diet and supplements.
By Cara Lucas

Not feeling up to par lately? Can’t kick that sinus infection? Craving sugar multiple times during the day? Blurred vision? Abdominal discomfort accompanied by gas or bloating?

You can sense that something is off and that you just don’t feel normal, but your doctor can’t quite pin it down. It may not be in your head—candidiasis causes a broad and sometimes confusing array of symptoms that can leave you feeling out-of-sync.

Candida is a genus of yeast (Candida albicans) that occurs naturally in the body and, if kept in check, is generally deemed a “good” bacterium. However, different factors like medication, stress, and illness can send this fungal organism into serious overgrowth, leading alternative physicians to say it is the cause of numerous internal health disruptions that specifically affect the lower bowels, vagina, skin, and sinuses.

The condition known as candidiasis can do more than disrupt obvious areas, though. The altered pH of candida can suppress immune system functions, affect allergies, deplete the body of white blood cells, and induce digestive problems. Its symptoms can often be attributed to other illnesses like chronic sinusitis which traditional medicine attempts to treat with antibiotics, often only making symptoms worse and compounding other health issues in the process.

When the immune system is compromised or suppressed, yeast has the tendency to proliferate, colonizing in the body and, in extreme cases, the bloodstream. More often the case, the immune system is censored temporarily—due to various factors like poor diet, alcohol use, birth-control or antibiotic medications, hormonal changes, or exposure to environmental toxins—opening a window for yeast to grow unchecked.

Being selective with your diet, alcohol consumption, environmental surroundings, and medications are important first steps to control undesirable yeast growth. Yeast flourishes in the presence of sugars and thus consumption should be avoided as much as possible.

“Yeast grows by fermenting sugar,” says Jacob Teitelbaum MD, medical director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers. “So, if you drink a 48 ounce 'Big Burp' soda from your local Quickie Mart, that’s 36 spoons of sugar—which will cause a Candida ‘orgy’ in your gut!”

At minimum, you’ll need one to three weeks of eating “clean” to starve out candida. By restoring balance and curbing candida’s fuel source, you become prepared for elimination. Many integrative physicians recommend nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, oxygen therapy, Ayurvedic medicine, and acupuncture as helpful tactics for achieving this. The key is working with a clinician, because ridding your body of excess candida can make you feel much worse before you get better. Your doctor can help you prepare and minimize the effects of your purge.