As medical research continues to unlock the secrets of the human body, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the way we view ourselves needs a dramatic rethink. This is particularly the case when it comes to our perceived individuality: each person tends to think of themselves as a single entity — an individual organism that is mutually exclusive to the rest of the world. Due to imbalances in our diet or the way we live, certain bacteria or yeast species can outgrow their welcome and begin sapping the health and vitality of their host (you!). This is most apparent in Candida albicans, a yeast species that resides primarily in our gut.
But what we now know about human microbiology suggests that each person is about as far from a single organism as it gets. Take the gut, for example. Genomic testing of thousands of people has revealed billions of microorganisms residing in both our small and large intestines. These little guys perform a wide range of roles, from immunity to fat metabolism, and they vary considerably from person to person.
Without this microscopic community numbering in its billions, we’d quickly cease to survive. For this reason, our very lives are tied to the bacteria and yeasts residing in our gut — similar to the lungs, mouth, skin, and any number of other areas in and on the body. Can we really consider ourselves to be one organism when we rely so much on the microorganisms that call our body home?
The problem with candida
Under normal conditions, candida fulfills vital roles in our gut, mouth and, in some cases, reproductive organs. A healthy candida population helps to promote nutrient absorption, protect the intestinal tract from infection and even regulate hormones. But when candida gets out of control, it can quickly turn into the big bad pathogen.
When a person’s immune system is weakened — whether through diet, stress, antibiotics or all of the above — candida can no longer be held in check and begins to expand outwards. Fueled on by a regular supply of sugar, it’s favorite food, candida can rapidly grow from a small beneficial outpost to a tidal wave of ill health.
As the candida overgrowth expands, it begins to send its tendrils through the intestinal wall in search of more food. The ends of its roots then release toxic by-products directly into the bloodstream, eliciting an autoimmune response that can manifest in a myriad of ways — from persistent sugar cravings to chronic fatigue. Given time, candida can contribute to chronic mental fog, pain and swelling in the joints, digestive problems, immune suppression, yeast infections, bad breath, mood swings and plenty more besides. It ain’t pretty, folks!
The name of the game, then, is to bring your candida back under control — not to wipe it out entirely, but diminish its numbers to the point where your body can keep it in check.
How to cure your own candida
Luckily, there are plenty of simple, natural steps you can take to cure your own candida overgrowth. Here are my top picks for the most effective of the bunch.
1. Steer clear of sugar
As I mentioned earlier, candida feeds off sugar. This means that the more sugar you eat, the greater your candida overgrowth will be. Gradually cutting off its sugar supply will hinder the overgrowth. Eventually, this will mean it needs to return to its allotted place in your gut.
But cutting out sugar is probably harder than you might think. Sure, declining the proffered spoonful or two of sugar in your daily coffee is a step in the right direction, as is avoiding baked goods wherever possible… but sugar is hiding out in foods you would least suspect. Bread, for one, is high in complex carbohydrates that candida is very keen to feed off. Fruit, which is high in fructose, is another source of candida-friendly natural sugars that someone with an overgrowth would do best to avoid. Throw in sweetened drinks, processed goods and pasta, and you’ve some serious dietary overhauling to do!
While we’re on the subject of food, make sure to include plenty of coconut oil in your diet; the caprylic acid it contains is particularly effective at killing off candida.
2. Avoid antibiotics
Probably one of the main reasons why you’ve got a candida overgrowth in the first place is all those antibiotics your doctor put you on over the years. Antibiotics, I’m sad to say, aren’t selective in the way they wipe out bacteria — meaning they kill the good guys as well as the bad ones. And more often than not, bad guys like candida find ways to avoid being wiped out by antibiotics while the good guys get shot down in their millions.
This leaves plenty of free real estate for that power-hungry candida population to expand and begin taking over your gut. And with less beneficial microorganisms, your immune system becomes compromised and is less able to deal with the overgrowth.
The solution is simple: avoid antibiotics if you can. There’s almost always a better solution out there.
3. Invest in probiotics
The obvious next step after avoiding antibiotics is to try and repair some of the damage that was done by investing in some high-quality probiotics. Probiotics help to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria, thereby improving immune function and digestion and in so doing helping to curb the candida overgrowth.
For best results, find a product that has both probiotics and prebiotics: indigestible plant fibers that provide a ready fuel source for the beneficial new colonizers. Where possible, seek out brands which guarantee their prebiotic formula isn’t going to feed the candida overgrowth — that would be a step in the wrong direction, to be sure!
4. Get a daily dose of ACV or lemon juice
When I first suspected that I had a candida overgrowth, my very first step was to commit to drinking apple cider vinegar every single day. I had heard that ACV contains high levels of beneficial yeast species that promote a healthy gut microbiome and in so doing prevent the spread of candida. I had also heard that it is high in both acetic and citric acid, both of which are the sworn enemies of candida.
And it seems that those rumors were true. After drinking one or two tablespoons of raw ACV in a glass of water every morning for just one week, I began to see a regression in my candida symptoms. This correlates with what we see in the research literature: a 2014 studyshowed that apple cider vinegar had strong antifungal effects against none other than Candida albicans.
While it’s not a probiotic, lemon juice works in much the same way as apple cider vinegar. It is high in citric acid, it helps to cleanse toxins from the body and it has a strong hypoglycemic effect on blood sugar. And just like with ACV, drinking fresh lemon juice in a glass of water in the morning is the way to go.