Brain fog, bloating, seasonal allergies, acne and skin reactions – these are just a few symptoms that can be linked to Candida albicans overgrowth. Many of us don’t realize the direct correlation between what we eat on a daily basis and some of these mild complaints, or that they can evolve into some serious symptoms and issues down the road.
Amie Valpone has been through it all. After a 10 year battle with a slew of illnesses, she came out on top and is helping others do the same. This month, we’ve asked Amie to share tips for folks when they FIRST find out they are diagnosed. Last week, we talked about adrenal fatigue; this week, we’re breaking down the ins-and-outs of candida overgrowth – a topic that’s not talked about a lot, but is suspected to be at the root of many modern ailments.
In her brand new book, Eating Clean, Amie is sharing a 21-day plan and educating us on how to change our diets to overcome candida, outlining the entire process of removing and then re-introducing foods and naming 13 trigger foods linked to candida symptoms. Candida may be one of the more challenging imbalances to manage, but we’re confident and comforted by Amie’s experienced advice. Here she is with her 5 steps for dealing with Candida…
I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to kill the out-of-control candida in my body. What blew my mind was the fact that after I got my candida under control, my seasonal allergies disappeared along with all of my other symptoms such as muscle pain, brain fog, bloating and more. Candida is a fungus, which is a form of yeast that lives in our mouths and intestines. We all have a small amount of yeast to help us with our digestion and absorption of nutrients. However, when this yeast grows, it releases toxic by-products into our body and causes numerous health problems from leaky gut and acne to muscle and joint pain, bloating and depression. After being on steroids in my 20s for my chronic illnesses, my candida was out of control. The interesting part was that I had no sign of yeast overgrowth anywhere in my body, but I had chronic muscle pain that was so painful that I could barely move and was bedridden for 4 months. That’s how sneaky candida can be. I went through tons of doctors telling me I was crazy and that there was no yeast in my body, but I didn’t give up. I knew there was an answer and I knew I could heal the underlying yeast and health issues in my body so I started working with a functional medicine doctor who helped me clear up my candida. In my new book, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, I talk about how to heal your gut, remove toxic food triggers that are contributing to your gut inflammation, as well as how to eat clean so your body can help kill off the candida.
Here are a few symptoms of candida overgrowth that you may experience:
-eczema, rashes, hives, psoriasis
-mood swings, anxiety
-sugar and refined carb cravings
– UTI’s or other vaginal infections
-bloating, diarrhea, constipation
Note: The symptoms are different for everyone so be sure to work with a functional medicine doctor and get a stool test done to determine if you have candida.
Here are a few things you can do if you are experiencing symptoms of candida. It’s very important not to self-treat for candida because killing off the bad yeast can have awful side effects and overburden your liver. Focusing on your liver health while cleaning up your candida is a smart idea. I always made sure to support my liver on a daily basis while doing my candida protocols.
The first 5 steps: How to deal with Candida
Cut out Sugar and Refined Carbs: Sugar and refined carbs both feed yeast. I know we all love these foods but they feed candida like crazy. Try cutting out your refined carbs and instead learn how to enjoy whole foods and fewer starches so that you are not feeding the candida on a daily basis. Everyone is different – some people can eat fruit and not have a candida flare up, while others can’t even bite into an apple without feeling sick. Start by cutting out all sugar and refined carbs and see how you feel. There is a very specific way to do this: Take notes daily on your progress and try slowly adding foods back into your lifestyle to see if they trigger any symptoms. What many people don’t realize is that you can eat a food today and react to it 72 hours later with something as minor as a headache. That’s what makes food sensitivities so difficult to pinpoint, but with some dedication and journaling, you can connect the dots to what’s going on with your immune system and wipe out candida for good.
Remove Alcohol: Alcohol feeds yeast. End of story. I know it’s not what you want to hear but it’s true. I had to cut out alcohol to heal my candida. It’s not ideal when you’re in your 20s and 30s living in Manhattan and trying to be normal, but my health and my well-being suffered until I started cutting out all alcohol. I’m happy with a seltzer and a lime at a bar – and my candida is gone.
Cut out Fermented Foods: Yes, fermented foods are wonderful if you have a healthy gut, but I learned I was feeding my bad bacteria by eating the fermented foods! So, if your gut bacteria is out of balance, eating fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, etc. can do more harm than good. This is why it’s important to get a stool test from a functional medicine doctor to tell what is going on in the bacteria in your gut so you can support it on a daily basis and clean up the bad ‘bugs’ while replenishing the ‘good bugs’. The candida and bad bacteria feed off fermented foods so my best advice is to stop listening to what everyone else is telling you is ‘good’ for you and listen to your own body. We are all very different and every food interacts differently with each of our immune systems.
Reduce Your Stress: Stress will surely add to candida overgrowth. Plus, what I never realized is that if you have an illness, virus or candida, your body is already under a lot of stress, even if you feel relaxed with your yoga, meditation, etc. I was always in a relaxed state but my organs, immune system and endocrine system were stressed out to the max trying to fight off everything. This stress then leads to other issues such as adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, leaky gut and more. It’s a viscous cycle. I was in it for 10 years. It’s not easy to break free, but it can be done. I’m living proof!
Alternatives to Drugs: Since oral contraceptives and antibiotics will lead to an increase of yeast in your body, talk to your doctor about alternatives. For me, it was steroids that exacerbated the problem. The scary thing is that my candida didn’t manifest until three years after I went off my steroids. So, it’s important to keep your body healthy and be mindful of how you are feeling and what’s going on in your body on a daily basis so you can get control of candida before it gets out of control.
Candida and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) cause similar reactions and symptoms so make sure you know which one you are dealing with. Although some of the remedies are the same (removing starch, sugar etc.) there are specific foods to avoid or reduce and anti-bacterial herbs that are used for SIBO. Dr. Allison Siebecker has done a lot of research and has a great website http://www.siboinfo.com
What are natural ways to treat Candida that aren’t antibiotics? Also, if you are dealing with a cold or asthma troubles, what are natural ways to deal with that? I have looked into a lot of natural alternatives but so far nothing for asthma. And nothing has seemed to clear up my candida. I’m still extremely reactive to foods (and I’ve been treated for SIBO naturally and it did nothing).
This is interesting as I’d always read that fermented foods are beneficial for candida because of the billions of good bacteria they contain. Dr. Hyman, what is your take on probiotic supplements and are there any in particular to look out for when treating candida? I’ve had a microbial organic acids test done and have high levels of arabinose. Many thanks in advance!