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Feeling tired all the time? Always getting thrush, or bloating? You could have candida, but there are some effective natural ways to ease this common condition.
Candida is a type of yeast that lives harmlessly in the mouth, gut, vagina, and on your skin.
But if something happens to upset the natural balance of your body, it can lead to fungal infections – 75% of women will get thrush at some point in their lives.1
If you’d prefer to take the complementary route, studies show that natural solutions may be a viable way to tackle candida.
Candida doesn’t normally cause any problems, but sometimes it can multiply too quickly, leading to an infection known as candidiasis.
Candidiasis is called thrush when it develops in the mouth or vagina.
It can also affect the skin and nails, causing infections like athlete’s foot, and may contribute to inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
Some practitioners also believe candida can enter the bloodstream, affecting the joints, heart and brain.
Symptoms of candida include:2
Stress can affect our immune system, triggering candida to grow, while using antibiotics for long periods of time can upset the balance of bacteria in our gut, reducing our defences.
Eating lots of processed sugary foods or drinking too much alcohol can also feed the yeast, causing an overgrowth of candida.
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Candida cells are protected by sturdy, hemicellulose walls and a tough ‘biofilm’.
In a laboratory trial in 2007, American researchers discovered that digestive enzymes that help break down the hemicellulose cell walls of fruits, vegetables and grains, may also help break down candida cell walls, and even prevent biofilms from forming.3
These digestive enzymes are made by ‘good’ gut bacteria but can also be found in supplements.
Some types of good gut bacteria, such as lactobacillus, can stop candida from multiplying.
In fact, one study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 2016 concluded that ‘beneficial bacteria, especially lactobacilli, could be regarded as a good alternative for the prevention and treatment of candida infections’.4
Garlic is a potent natural anti-fungal, thanks to powerful active compounds called allicin and ajoene.
In 1987, Japanese researchers discovered that ajoene could inhibit the growth of candida, while a laboratory study carried out by University Putra Malaysia found that allicin was effective at tackling candida.5,6
Trials by Italian scientists carried out on essential oils including mint, basil, lavender, tea tree and oregano, revealed that oregano oil could inhibit the growth and activity of candida cells.7
However, larger studies are needed to work out how the oil can be used as an alternative remedy for candida.
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Caprylic acid, found in coconut oil, is a known natural anti-fungal agent.
Joint research by the Kannur Dental College and Kannur Medical College in India confirmed that coconut oil had ‘significant antifungal activity’ on samples of oral candida.8
Your doctor may not diagnose candida, as it’s only medically recognised in people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
So if you have the symptoms listed above and they’re not clearing, see a natural health expert who can diagnose candida with a saliva test.
An anti-candida diet is considered the best way to tackle the condition. It effectively starves the yeast by removing the foods that help it thrive.
But be warned: the anti-candida diet is tough.
There are lots of foods and drinks you have to avoid, and you need to follow it for at least three months to stop the candida growing again.
Candida feeds on sugar and having excess amounts in your diet may be one of the factors that caused the yeast to thrive in the first place.
You need to cut out all cakes, biscuits and sweetened foods, from breakfast cereals to ready-made sauces.
Check labels and prepare food from scratch to cut your sugar intake.
It’s not just added sugar you need to avoid – many fruits are high in natural sugars, particularly dried fruit, and these fruit sugars can also encourage overgrowth.
Fresh apples and pears are lower in sugar so are fine to eat, but always go for the whole fruit; in juices, the sugars are concentrated.
Dairy contains lactose, or milk sugar, so you’ll need to avoid most dairy products as well.
Yeast in your diet can also feed candida. So avoid fermented foods, including yeast extract, bread, vinegar, blue cheeses, soy sauce and ketchup.
As alcohol is fermented and contains sugar, you need to avoid it. But you should also stay away from all sweetened drinks, including smoothies, squashes, fruit juices, and fizzy soft drinks. Instead, try herbal teas and still or sparkling water.
While it may sound a long list of foods to avoid, there’s a lot you can still eat while fighting candida.
It may be tough, but remember if you’re strict for just three months, it could make a real difference to your symptoms.
Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019
Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry