Sugar in many forms has made it’s way into our food supply in staggering numbers. In 1821 the average consumption of sugar was about 10 pounds per person, while today it has increased to about 154 pounds per person. Although sugar tastes good on the tongue, the complications it is causing to our health has been known for many decades and continues to increase.
One well known, but well kept secret is the role sugar plays in feeding the yeast, Candida albicans. Candida albicans is a specific type of fungus that grows as yeast and as filamentous cells. It is a tricky little organism and has the ability to change, morph, and adapt to its environment. It is a normal part of the microbial flora that makes up the GI tract found primarily in the mouth and intestines. A strong immune system and healthy ecosystem within the body will keep candida in check and prevent it from taking over its surrounding environment. However, there are several common things that can cause an imbalance in gut flora such as:
- A diet high in carbohydrates and/or sugar (isn’t this what we were taught to do by the Food Guide Pyramid?)
- Use of medications such as antibiotics or oral contraceptive pills
- Alcohol use
- Ingestion of chlorine (as in your drinking water or pool water)
- Heavy metal toxicity-mercury, aluminum, cadmium (such as dental fillings, baking pans, deodorant)
- Worms or parasites (interestingly enough we de-worm our dogs, but never consider it for ourselves)
When the immune system gets weak or the microbial flora of the body gets overpowered by this fungus, an overgrowth can cause candidiasis. This fungal infection can occur in many places within the body including the mouth (thrush), the skin, fingernails, genitals, GI tract, and can also occur systemically. This overgrowth can occur quickly. The reason why candida is troublesome is because these yeast cells produce a toxin that the body has to deal with. On a small scale, this toxin is easy to deal with, however when there is an abundance of candida, the toxin can cause a variety of issues which can become debilitating. Some common symptoms of candida overgrowth include:
- sugar cravings
- chronic fatigue
- swollen joints
- abdominal cramps and bloating
- foggy thinking
- mood swings
- bad breath
(can you relate to any of these?)
Candida Overgrowth Diet
While the idea of yeast overgrowth is new to the medical community, this has been studied for a several decades. There are many methods to decrease the abundance of yeast. All of them include a candida overgrowth diet, which means cutting out all forms of sugar and most forms of carbohydrates. This can be done gradually over time, however identifying and cutting out sugar completely will yield you the best results. Once you identify your sugar/sweet sources and plan around them you will start feeling results within the first couple of days. Then you can plan for an ill-like feeling, similar to the flu beginning on day 4 and may last for a couple of days. This is the result of the candida starting to release toxins as it dies off. Rest assured that this is normal and you will again feel better soon. To aid in the transition and decrease cravings for sugar there are several supplements that may be beneficial. Some of these include L-glutamine (which is great for also helping to heal the GI tract, but careful it may cause constipation), gymnema, chromium, and vitamin B complex. In addition, there are some essential oils that can also be beneficial such as oregano oil, lemongrass oil, and clove oil are a few. In addition to eliminating sugar and carbohydrates, slowly adding foods that have been cultured or fermented is a good way to inoculate your gut with the beneficial bacteria that can work in your favor. Incorporating a complete program can help you make the transition to a life without the need for sugar much easier. These are the starts of kicking the butt of candida. Depending on how extensive the overgrowth is will depend on how much more in depth you need to get with your program, but this is a great way to start.
This information is not intended to diagnose anyone or take the place of medical advice.