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You may have heard of Candida before. It’s short for Candida albicans, a type of yeast that we all have in small amounts in our mouths and intestinal tracts. Candida is a normal part of a healthy gut biome, and as long as your gut is balanced by plenty of other beneficial yeasts and bacteria, Candida isn’t a problem.
However, if something disrupts your body’s bacterial balance — stress, poor diet, or certain types of birth control, for example — Candida can begin to grow out of hand, and you can end up with candidiasis, or Candida overgrowth.
As an integrative physician, I’ve worked with hundreds of women over the past decade who have had candidiasis. It shows up in a few different forms, and while it can be frustrating, it’s fairly easy to treat, provided you use the right strategy.
Let’s take a look at the causes and symptoms of Candida overgrowth, as well as my top ways to cure candidiasis naturally.
What causes a Candida imbalance?
There are a few different causes of Candida overgrowth.
Typically, Candida starts to take over when something disrupts the healthy bacterial balance in your body, or when your immune system is weak and Candida sees an opportunity to grow. Common causes of candidiasis include [1,2,3]:
- Antibiotic use. Antibiotics destroy your good gut bacteria, giving Candida an opening to grow excessively.
- Eating sugar or refined carbs. Candida yeasts thrive on sugars, and eating an excessive amount of sugar (or refined carbs, which behave almost identically in your body) can provide Candida with the food it needs to grow out of control.
- Stress. Stress weakens your immune system, opening you up to Candida growth.
- Drinking alcohol. Alcohol also weakens your immune system, and researchers have found that consistent or heavy drinking is a risk factor for candidiasis.
- Taking the pill. You also have Candida in your vaginal canal, and taking oral contraceptives increases your risk of getting a candidal yeast infection.
Symptoms of Candida overgrowth
The symptoms of Candida overgrowth depend on where you get it. Candida overgrowth usually happens in one of three places.
Oral candidiasis (thrush)
Oral candidiasis, sometimes called thrush, is Candida overgrowth in your mouth. In oral candidiasis, Candida typically coats the tongue and throat. Thrush is most common in babies and the elderly, but it can happen to adults, too.
Symptoms of oral candidiasis include:
- A yellow or white coating on the tongue, gums, tonsils, or throat
- Redness and pain on your tongue or throat
You also have Candida in your gut, and gut candidiasis is a fairly common cause of digestive issues. Symptoms include :
- Intestinal bloating and inflammation
- Poor digestion
- Stomach pain
- New food sensitivities
Vaginal candidiasis (yeast infection)
Candida is also the yeast that causes yeast infections. If your healthy vaginal bacteria start to fall out of balance (from birth control, for example ), Candida can take over and cause the following symptoms:
- Unpleasant smell
3 ways to cure Candida naturally
Candida overgrowth can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are a few different things you can do to control Candida naturally. Here’s my standard protocol for my patients who are managing Candida.
Eliminate sugar, dairy, and alcohol
Sugar, dairy, and alcohol all provide food for Candida yeasts, so if you’re dealing with candidiasis, the first thing to do is change your diet. I suggest eliminating alcohol entirely, or only drinking low-alcohol drinks (like wine) on very rare occasions, at least until your Candida goes away. You’ll also want to stick to two servings of dairy per day, preferably from yogurt or kefir (for their Candida-fighting probiotics).
Finally, cut out all refined sugar and limit yourself to two servings of low-sugar fruit (like berries) per day. Make sure you check your labels! A lot of processed foods have hidden sugar. You may get sugar cravings and fatigue for the first few days, which is a combination of sugar withdrawals (sugar is addictive) and excess Candida dying off because they don’t have food.
Stick to your low-sugar, low-dairy, no-alcohol diet for at least 60 days. Even though you’ll likely see results much sooner, 60 days gives your body plenty of time to get back into balance.
Probiotic bacteria can fight back against Candida, killing excess yeasts and restoring microbial balance in your body.
The best probiotic bacteria for battling Candida are members of the Lactobacillus family . Fortunately, Lactobacilli are the main probiotics in yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Alternatively, you can look for a probiotic supplement that’s high in Lactobacillus species.
Take a berberine supplement
Berberine is a natural antifungal compound found in the roots of the barberry tree. It’s particularly effective at killing Candida, which it does by disrupting the yeast’s protective biofilm and damaging its mitochondria .
I suggest taking 500 mg of berberine every morning and evening for 60 days. Keep taking it for the full time, even if your symptoms disappear earlier. You want to make sure you kill all the excess Candida so they don’t come back when you stop supplementing with berberine.
Manage Candida naturally
The three steps you read about above are my basic go-to protocol for getting rid of Candida. If you’re struggling with Candida overgrowth, give them a try. You should see improvement starting within 7-14 days.
And for more personalized health and lifestyle recommendations, try taking my free Power Type Quiz. It will tell you your power type and give you guidance about what you can do to improve your unique biology.
- Choi, J. H., Lee, C. G., Lim, Y. J., Kang, H. W., Lim, C. Y., & Choi, J. S. (2013). Prevalence and risk factors of esophageal candidiasis in healthy individuals: a single center experience in Korea. Yonsei medical journal, 54(1), 160-165. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521253/
- Vargas, S. L., Patrick, C. C., Ayers, G. D., & Hughes, W. T. (1993). Modulating effect of dietary carbohydrate supplementation on Candida albicans colonization and invasion in a neutropenic mouse model. Infection and immunity, 61(2), 619-626. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC302772/
- Spinillo, A., Capuzzo, E., Nicola, S., Baltaro, F., Ferrari, A., & Monaco, A. (1995). The impact of oral contraception on vulvovaginal candidiasis. Contraception, 51(5), 293-297. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7628203
- Kumamoto, C. A. (2011). Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization. Current opinion in microbiology, 14(4), 386-391. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3163673/
- Mailänder‐Sánchez, D., Wagener, J., & Schaller, M. (2012). Potential role of probiotic bacteria in the treatment and prevention of localised candidosis. Mycoses, 55(1), 17-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21672043
- da Silva, A. R., de Andrade Neto, J. B., da Silva, C. R., de Sousa Campos, R., Silva, R. A. C., Freitas, D. D., … & Magalhães, H. I. F. (2016). Berberine antifungal activity in fluconazole-resistant pathogenic yeasts: action mechanism evaluated by flow cytometry and biofilm growth inhibition in Candida spp. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 60(6), 3551-3557. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879420/