Listen to your Gut.
Your digestive tract is so cool it goes by a slang word: gut. However, it’s important to note that when most naturopaths or doctors refer to “gut health” they are specifically referring to the bacterial balance within your intestines. That’s because the intestines, particularly the large intestines or colon, is its own special ecosystem, or microbiome.
At all times, your intestines host a variety of bacteria. Some of these types of bacteria are not very good for you, while other kinds of bacteria keep them in check. Think of your gut as a checks and balance system. When the bacteria in your gut are in harmonious balance, your body is happy and everything performs beautifully.
So…what happens when things go out of whack?
Since it’s the main job of the intestines to absorb nutrients and minerals from the food we eat, keeping our gut healthy and our bacteria in balance is paramount to maintaining overall health. In fact, Hippocrates believed that “all disease begins in the gut.” When more bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria in our intestines, this throws that little ecosystem off, causing a host of health issues ranging from annoying to life threatening.
Candida Albicans is a member of the gut’s microbiome and can also be found in small amounts in the mouth and vagina. This fungus, when existing in healthy numbers, helps the body absorb nutrients during digestion. However, when an imbalance in your gut occurs, candida likes to steal the show and TAKE OVER. Such a diva.
Symptoms of a Candida Overgrowth Include:
- Chronic Fatigue, feeling tired and worn down
- Bloating, constipation
- Weight gain
- Digestive Problems/IBS
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, lack of focus
- Arthritis/Achy Joints
- Recurring Yeast Infections
- Itchy Scalp or skin, eczema, psoriasis, rashes
- Food Allergies/Gluten-Intolerance
- Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or other Auto Immune diseases
What Causes Candida?
Overuse of Antibiotics:
Antibiotics are really good at their job: killing harmful and unwanted bacteria. However, they’re a little too good at their job, because they kill pretty much ALL bacteria in your body, both the bad stuff and the good stuff. That’s why it’s really important to take some good quality probiotics after taking a round of antibiotics to give your body some healthy bacteria and restore gut balance. In fact, it’s a good idea to ALWAYS take Probiotics. Research tells us that it can help with IBS and digestion, urinary tract infections, and boost your body’s immune response.
I recommend Garden of Life, Raw Probiotics, but there are many good quality probiotics at your favorite health food store. Look for the best brands in the refrigerated section, since probiotics are living cultures and best preserved when stored away from heat and moisture.
A Diet high in Sugar and Processed Foods:
Candida feeds on sugar. Kind of like Cookie Monster. So foods high in sugar, high in preservatives, and foods that break down in your body as sugar, (like refined flours, pastas, cookies, etc.) all create a perfect breeding ground for Candida to take over your gut.
Stick to whole foods with minimal ingredients and low sugar to avoid feeding candida. Avoid refined white sugars and flours when possible, and switch to natural sweeteners and whole grains. And remember: homemade is always best!
Birth Control Pills:
Guess what? Most vaginal yeast infections in women are actually an overgrowth of…you guessed it: Candida Albicans. And birth control can play a roll in this. Although hormonal birth control does not directly cause yeast infections in women, it does alter the bacterial make-up of the vagina. Most birth control contains two female hormones: estrogen and progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone). These added hormones disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance, which makes it more likely for a woman on birth control to get a yeast infection.
Also, it’s believed that the estrogen in hormonal birth control causes the vagina to create more sugar. This excess of sugar (coupled with imbalanced hormones) is the perfect condition for Candida and bacteria to flourish, which can lead to a yeast infection.
We’re all heard that stress is bad for us. In fact, a long time ago, back down our evolutionary pathway, stress provided our cavemen ancestors that flight or fight complex. It also gave us heightened alertness to focus on something important at hand. Although there are still situations today that call for our bodies to release cortisol (our stress hormone), long-term chronic stress levels weaken the immune system and can cause yeast overgrowth. Chronic release of cortisol also continually stimulates sugar production in the body. Too much sugar = higher risk of candida takeover. Are we seeing a pattern with sugar here?
Chlorinated water and air pollutants:
Often times chlorine is added in small doses to our tap water to kill pathogenic bacteria. However, chlorine has been linked to a higher growth rate of candida. Any chlorine in drinking water, laundry products, swimming pools and spas can get into the body through the mouth, skin, and nose. Other chemicals like air pollutants, beauty products such as hair color or nail polish remover, gasoline, and cleaning products can all lead to weakened gut health as well.