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What Is Candida?

When it comes to health and wellness, you may have heard some things about Candida and Candida overgrowth. If not, listen up as it may be contributing to your health woes. Simply put, Candida is a type of yeast. There are many varieties and about 20 are shown to cause problems in humans. Some Candida is naturally present on the skin and in the mucus membranes, but it can become problematic when there is an overgrowth. When overgrowths occur, the Candida can turn into a fungus and cause an infection (candidiasis). This can happen in one particular region (e.g. thrush in the mouth or throat, yeast infection) or can be systemic.

Due to its role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, Candida overgrowth in the intestinal tract can lead to a variety of digestive disturbances. The overgrowth breaks down the intestinal wall which results in the release of toxic by-products into your system (often referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”). In short, it seriously disrupts your gut microbiome. Because symptoms like fatigue, digestive problems, brain fog, and depression can be related to a variety of conditions, systemic Candida infections can be hard to diagnose.

What Causes Candida Overgrowth?
As mentioned, Candida lives in the gut and plays a role in digestion. Thus, the foods we eat can make a big difference. Sugar feeds the yeast cells, allowing them to grow and spread, and contributing to Candida overgrowth. Inflammation has also been shown to be an underlying cause, so avoiding foods that cause inflammation is beneficial. And a diet that supports a healthy gut microbiota is important as well.

There are foods that should be avoided as a preventative measure and to help heal candidiasis. Avoiding sugar is key, so nixing candy, cookies, pastries, and sugar-sweetened drinks goes without saying. Some foods known to be healthy can actually promote Candida overgrowth and be detrimental to the healing process for candidiasis. If you are trying to heal your gut and want to discourage overgrowth, keep these foods out of your diet.

Agave
This sweetener may be touted for its low glycemic index, however, it is still a concentrated source of sugar, mainly made up of fructose. Other sweeteners to avoid include honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrups, and any other sugars by a different name.

Xylitol
You may think that artificial sweeteners would be a good alternative, but that is definitely not the case. They are no good for your digestive system, making it hard to maintain a healthy gut environment. Other artificial sweeteners to avoid include aspartame, sucralose, sorbitol, and stevia.

Excessive Amounts Of Fruits
Fruits do provide important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, however, some also contain lots of sugar. You will want to avoid bananas, dates, grapes, mangoes, and dried fruits and, instead, opt for lower-sugar fruits like berries. And as far as nutrients go, lots of vegetables offer great nutrition without excessive amounts of sugar.

Green Juice
These seemingly healthy elixirs are often made with lots of fruit. If you must drink your greens, omit the fruit and toss in some ginger or lemon juice to balance the flavor while adding an anti-inflammatory boost.

Grains
While grains do provide essential vitamins and minerals, those carbohydrates break down into sugar in the body. In addition, the gluten in grains like wheat, barley, and rye can also trigger inflammation in those who are sensitive and can impair gut integrity. A great alternative would be cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.

Wine
Alcohol is off-limits because it contains yeast, and the sugar in wine and carbohydrates in beer do not help either. And, in general, alcohol is tough on the gastrointestinal system and can affect sleep and impair our immune system.

Kombucha
Fermented foods, like kombucha, provide probiotic bacteria that support a healthy environment in the gut that may help protect against candidiasis in the long run. However, if you are actively trying to treat an overgrowth, you will want to avoid these as these beneficial bacteria in excess can act as food for the Candida cells. Try sparkling water infused with citrus or cucumber or your favorite herbs as an alternative.

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