Candida albicans are the most common type of yeast which live in all of us. However, it becomes an infectious agent when it grows to pathogenic levels. Candida mostly lives in our digestive system but there are also some in mouths, skin and vaginas. In very vulnerable patients, such as those in hospital, it can become systemic and problematic. In this situation, it is referred to candidiasis.
Typical candida infections are in the vagina (see vaginal thrush), oral, digestive and skin systems. Symptoms can be specific to those areas, but some other common symptoms are fatigue, brain fog, skin rashes, vaginal discharge, sinus infections, joint pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea and cramps. Candida albicans can develop biofilms, which are communities of cells that stick to solid surfaces and are considered the most common state of growth for many microbial species. They are notoriously difficult to treat.
Overgrowth typically occurs when someone has a compromised immune system or has a low microbiome diversity. Beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive system help to control the growth of candida, so if there is low diversity the bacteria may not have the strength to fight in battle with it.
Contributing factors to impaired immune system and low microbial diversity are:
Antibiotic use (many women will encounter a bout of vaginal thrush caused by candida overgrowth after a round of antibiotics), especially broad-spectrum antibiotics, destroy bad and good bacteria in our gut. Good bacteria fight off pathogenic micro-organisms so we want to ensure we have good levels of these. If you’d like advice on the best probiotic for your particular needs please contact us.
High sugar diets and diets high in refined carbohydrates dysregulate our blood sugar levels which causes inflammation and impacts our immune system. Sugar is also the food of choice for candida so it will continue to grow with more sugar if you feed it. Thrush is commonly seen in patients with diabetes where there is blood sugar dysregulation. link
Stress and alcohol weaken the immune system. When our stress hormone cortisol is high, our bodies will prioritise lowering this over other biological processes. Alcohol directly impacts the immune system and depletes us of important nutrients needed for good health.
For women, hormonal changes throughout the month alter our vaginal microbiome, as different hormones can change the acidity levels. Vaginas need to be acidic to keep pathogenic bacteria at safe levels, so if the vagina becomes more alkaline then candida can start to overgrow and cause thrush. (link to hormone balancing blog).
The ‘Anti-Candida Diet’ is a popular approach for managing candida overgrowth. However, this diet is especially restrictive and isn’t 100% effective, meaning your symptoms may return once you stop the diet (which you will eventually have to do due to how restrictive it is).
Instead, we suggest following the suggestions below, which will optimize your health without restricting healthy foods:
Lowering your sugar intake: This can be helpful as candida love to feed off of it. Focus on reducing/removing refined sugar and carbohydrates. Fruit sugars are fine and encouraged, as there are nutrients in fruit which are important for immune health (critical for fungal overgrowth!). Sugar also disrupts our gut microbiome, which we need to be in tip top shape to battle against candida.
Eat plenty of vegetables and remember to eat the rainbow: There are important nutrients such as phytochemicals which play a pivotal role in digestive and immune health, along with fighting free radicals. Aim to eat 7 portions of vegetables a day and ensure to get a variety of colours as each colour has different health benefits.
Natural antimicrobials: Coconut oil, oregano and garlic are natural antimicrobials, so make sure to include plenty of them in your diet as they will help to kill off the candida overgrowth as well as strengthen your immune system.
Probiotics: For digestive health, if tolerated, include natural probiotic foods as these will add beneficial bacteria to your digestive system which help to fight off candida and other pathogens. Digestive health influences vaginal health, so this is important for vaginal thrush too. Examples of probiotic foods are sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir, yogurt and kombucha. Living Nutrition make a probiotic range from kefir and kombucha.
Be mindful of alcohol intake as it is high is sugar and depletes the immune system.
Antimicrobial supplements work to reduce and kill off pathogens (fungi, bacteria etc.) and help to rebalance microbial diversity. We suggest taking 1 type for 3 months and if the symptoms continue you can then swap onto another one for a further 3 months (always check with a health practitioner about any medications you are currently taking). Caprylic Acid is the most effective against candida, other suggestions are Oregano oil, Grapefruit seed extract, Allicin (garlic), berberine and olive leaf extract.
Beneficial bacteria help to repopulate the digestive system and strengthen it against pathogens. A specific strain that helps with candida is Saccharomyces Boulardii (actually a yeast itself), and this also improves the immune cells within the mucosal layer of the digestive system. You can also add a high potency multi-strain-biotic such as Synerbio High Strength Daily by Viridian which has some prebiotic effect too.
Medicinal Mushrooms are famous for their immune supportive potential. They strengthen and also modulate the immune system, meaning they help with over and under-performing immune conditions. We recommend shiitake.
You can apply some coconut oil topically to outside areas affected by yeast infections such as athletes foot and nail infections. Some people find relief from vaginal infections using coconut oil too.
Gastro Intestinal Test: this is a comprehensive stool analysis test that evaluates all the micro-diversity in your digestive system. If there is an overgrowth of yeast and other pathogenic microorganisms then it will show up here. It will help to identify which ones are most problematic and can help to target the therapy approach. (link to Genova stool test and microbiome test)
Food sensitivity: food sensitivities can show if you have an intolerance to some everyday fungi and yeasts in foods, and therefore might suggest that you need to avoid these foods/drinks. (link to food sensitivity test).
 Basmaciyan, Louise et al. “"Candida Albicans Interactions With The Host: Crossing The Intestinal Epithelial Barrier".” Tissue barriers vol. 7,2 (2019): 1612661. doi:10.1080/21688370.2019.1612661
 Talapko, Jasminka et al. “Candida albicans-The Virulence Factors and Clinical Manifestations of Infection.” Journal of fungi (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 7,2 79. 22 Jan. 2021, doi:10.3390/jof7020079
 Lohse, Matthew B et al. “Development and regulation of single- and multi-species Candida albicans biofilms.” Nature reviews. Microbiology vol. 16,1 (2018): 19-31. doi:10.1038/nrmicro.2017.107
 Pellon, Aize et al. “New Insights in Candida albicans Innate Immunity at the Mucosa: Toxins, Epithelium, Metabolism, and Beyond.” Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology vol. 10 81. 3 Mar. 2020, doi:10.3389/fcimb.2020.00081
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.