Do you have a candida overgrowth?

April 14 2014No Commented

Categorized Under: Healthy eating, Healthy recipes for candida sufferers

When we think of candida, most of us think of the common symptom of a candida overgrowth of the candida albicans yeast, thrush.  Yet thrush is just one of the many symptoms you can get with a candida imbalance.

I say imbalance, because really, this is how we get the problem in the first place (a candida overgrowth) – an imbalance between our normal healthy gastrointestinal flora and the naturally occurring yeast Candida albicans.

Candida lives naturally occurring in our bodies – in the mucous membranes of our mouth, our intestinal tract and women’s vaginas.  If we have a “normal” healthy immune system and a good amount of beneficial bacteria in our intestinal tract, then really, we shouldn’t have a problem contributed to by this yeast.  However, if there is a lack of beneficial bacteria (flora) in our gastrointestinal tract and we start feeding this yeast a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, we can develop an imbalance between good and bad bacteria and this yeast can multiply quickly.

The candida albicans yeast will thrive in a body where it is being fed a diet that’s high in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white rice and pasta), regular alcohol, especially beer and wine, if you are a woman who takes the contraceptive pill &/or has a hormonal imbalance (PMT, acne, facial hair growth, stubborn fat around the tummy etc), are under regular stress, take antibiotics, use steroidal asthma inhalers or steroid cream or have uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

A lot of women find that with the hormonal changes they experience each month, the week before their period, they are affected by symptoms of a candida over growth.  A large percentage of women find this is the time of the month they get thrush, a urinary tract infection, their  skin breaks out with spots on their chin, or they may get constipated or have diarrhoea.  This is often the week that PMT kicks in, with many women’s personalities changing dramatically.

I’m not saying a candida over growth is the only cause of these symptoms or health problems, but in my many years of private practice, I have found that at least 70% of people have a candida overgrowth as their base problem.

My personal experience as a candida overgrowth sufferer

Candida Overgrowht

Too many antibiotics can cause changes to intestinal flora.

I realised I was a chronic candida sufferer in my early 20s, having not had a good start in life.  I was not breast fed, so did not have the opportunity to build up the beneficial intestinal bacteria, needed for a healthy immune system.  I suffered from re occurring bronchitis as a child and remember the delicious pink and yellow medicine fed to me regularly.  At 4 years, a developed rheumatic fever.  It affected my right hip and I couldn’t walk.  I spent a week in hospital.  I still remember it, especially because they made me wear a tie-up triangle type nappy and I specifically remember thinking But I’m a big girl, I don’t wear nappies (the things you remember!).

I started school late and always looked pale and sickly.  I spend quite a lot of time at home, tucked up on the couch.  I was never really pushed to do anything, I suppose because I was this sickly girl.  I was encouraged to swim to help to build up my lungs, so this was a real bonus especially growing up on the North Shore.

Our diet was simple, with most things cooked from scratch.  I lived on Weetbix, brown sugar and hot milk for breakfast every day of my childhood and peanut butter or mums jam on sandwiches for lunch.  Dinner was meat, potato and usually Watties mixed vegetables for dinner, with coleslaw in the summer.  If we were still hungry (which we were) we had a back yard full of fruit trees that we were encouraged to eat.

When I got my first real job at Penny lanes bakery in the city (I was 16 and a half), I couldn’t believe the variety of yummy food that was available, if you had money to buy it.  I remember getting $74 a week and I felt a new sense of freedom, to be able to plan what I was going to do with this money.  My new bosses “took me under their wing” and realising I was “under nourished”, they very kindly and generously let me eat anything I wanted in the bakery, at any of my breaks (I had 3 a day).  Very quickly I became a star employee and was given the role of closing the shop up each afternoon.  With this extra responsibility, I also got to take all of the left over food home, as it was made fresh each day.  I had never eaten so much before (and all white flour based, with heaps of sugar and cream), nor had my siblings.  The 4 of us all enjoyed that time, as hungry growing teenagers 🙂

With this change of diet to “bakery” food, my poor digestive system started playing up.  I remember my first attack of “piles”.  Grace the older lady I worked with laughed when I  told her of my affliction.  Little did I realise, these piles reflected the poor state of my gastrointestinal tract. Sometime over the next year, I went on the contraceptive pill.  My poor system was already overloaded so this just added fuel to the fire.  I left the bakery and moved to Warkworth. I became a workaholic, working 96 hours a week in my daughters grandparents business.  By the time I was 20 I was extremely fatigued, severely under weight (gone was all that bakery food) and very stressed. I decided I needed to change things drastically, so became pregnant.

My daughter was born with a lot of food intolerance’s, which looking back at now, it was no wonder.  She had glue ear and asthma and of course, the doctors options were antibiotics, steroids, Ventolin and surgery.  With Avalon having these health problems, it made me look into other options that may be available to treat her and that was really my start into natural health.  As well as this, it made me look at my own declining health and what I could do to help myself.  At age of 23 I was diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease, an acute inflammation of the abdomen.  It is no wonder really, considering the state of my gastrointestinal tract. As well as this, I was chronically fatigued.  I remember finding it hard to look after an active toddler, when all I really wanted to do was lie down.  I got thrush pretty much every month, which lasted for weeks and had developed acne around my chin, something I had never had before.

I went and saw the local naturopath and he told me I had a candida over growth and gave me my first probiotic.  He gave me some dietary advice and sent me away, telling me it was up to me to make the changes if i wanted to get well.  When I looked at the dietary information I realised that I was eating all of the foods I shouldn’t.  I had a really sweet tooth and would make cakes and yummy things, when I had the energy, to satisfy that sweet tooth.  I had recently bought myself a home brew kit and had been making my own beer, a big no no for those with candida.

I found it really difficult in the beginning to cut out the foods and other things I shouldn’t be having.  It made me think that I was an addict and addicted to the sugar.  For the first 4 days I craved sugary things and I had to stay really occupied so I stopped thinking about it.  I had to clear out my pantry and fridge of all the things that were not permitted and go shopping so there was something to eat!    I went off the pill.

Are you addicted to sugar?  I was.

Sugar is now considered to be highly addictive.

I looked into Candidiasis more and realised I was a chronic candida sufferer.  I realised that I had been suffering from this my whole life and thank goodness I now knew what my problem was.  I ticked almost all of the boxes with regard to symptoms you can experience with this overgrowth.

After 1 month of strictly following the dietary advice and taking the probiotic, I couldn’t believe the difference in the way I was feeling.  The inflammation in my abdomen was greatly reduced.  I still got thrush that month, but it wasn’t as severe and didn’t last as long.  I was starting to feel better when I woke up in the morning, like I had had a good night sleep.  My PMT wasn’t as bad. After 3 months on the regime, I found it really easy to follow.  I had become an expert in making cakes and muffins without sugar, just by modifying the recipe here and there.  The only time I got abdominal inflammation now, was if I had slipped up and eaten something I shouldn’t.  My body seemed to become super sensitive to problem foods and even if i only ate the tiniest amount, I would have a reaction to this.  I didn’t know if this was a good or bad thing, but it certainly helped me to stay on track.

I have been on a probiotic supplement since the first one and really, cant live without these.  Interestingly, I lost my sweet tooth and would much rather a savoury now, over something sweet.  I am really pleased I got sugar under control, as I really believe it is addictive.

I trained to be a naturopath and opened my first clinic from a room in my house.  I didn’t want my knowledge of candida to influence how I treated my customers, but the more stories I heard about peoples  medical history and particularly women, the more people I realised had a candida overgrowth as their base problem.

I was surprised to see how a candida overgrowth could affect different people.  As I have mentioned before, we think of it is just thrush, but this is just 1 of the many symptoms you can suffer with, when a candida overgrowth is your problem.   I realised very quickly, that having a candida overgrowth can affect the way your brain functions and not only your mood, but also your personality.

I had 1 customer who came to see me, who was suffering from anxiety so badly, she couldn’t face going to work anymore.  The problem had slowly got worse and worse.  She had seen her doctor but his option was to put her on anti anxiety drugs, which she had tried, but didn’t like, nor wanted to stay on,  so came and had an appointment with me.  When I went over everything with her, I realised she was a chronic candida sufferer.  I realised that the anxiety was the “end result” of a life time battling with this condition.  I talked to help about this and she could relate to what I was saying.  I put her on a probiotic, gave her the dietary advice, as well as some minerals and herbs to help soothe her nervous system.  Like the naturopath had said to me, I told her it was up to her to follow the dietary advice and that if she did, she should start to reap the rewards from this.   And she did!

Within 1 week of strictly adhering to the diet, she was back at work.  Not only did it surprise her, it surprised me as to how quickly someone could get positive results, so long as they made the changes.  The longer she stuck to the regime, the better she felt.  Many of the health problems she thought she was stuck with, disappeared and each month, she felt stronger and stronger, so long as she stuck to the regime.  She noticed that if she did slip up and eat a forbidden food, her symptoms of anxiety and panic would return and it would take a week of diligence to feel normal again.  But this was ok, as she was finally in control.

Here is some extra information I have written about candida, including the problematic foods, that need to be avoided.  It also goes over the supplement options we have, for helping to get that candida overgrowth under control.  We also have this section on our blog for recipes for candida sufferers.  If you have a recipe you would like to share with us, email us and we will post it for everyone to try.

So if you have tried everything to sort out your health problem, maybe treating it as a candida overgrowth would be a good step, especially if you haven’t tried this option before.  If you do try this, be true to yourself and follow it 100%.  Keep a diary, starting from day 1, as to what you eat and drink and what your symptoms are.  This way, you can very easily see patterns with regard to food consumed and physical symptoms.

Let us know how you get on and if by following this, you start to feel better.


Leanne James

Naturopath and founder Ideal Health

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