When people talk about yeast infections, they are typically referring to an overgrowth of harmful yeast organisms.
Candidiasis is by far the most common type, and there are more than twenty species of candida, the most common being a type of fungus; Candida Albicans.
We all have small amounts of candida living on our skin and growing in our digestive tract, along with other harmful gut flora, such as fungi, parasites and bacteria, but it is usually kept in check by our "friendly" bacteria.
Candida co-exists with many other types of bacteria, but sometimes things go wrong and it's only when our natural defences are out of balance that we become vulnerable to overgrowth, then the levels of harmful gut flora start to outnumber the ones which help to keep us well.
Illness, poor digestion, a diet high in refined sugars and processed food and medication (such as antibiotics, which destroy both good and bad bacteria), are all factors that can create the perfect environment for dysbiosis - the technical term for too many bad bugs. In fact, yeast overgrowth is a common manifestation of dysbiosis.
When the immune system is under stress, or the liver is functioning poorly, the opportunistic organism candida is able to flourish. It can take root and cause damage to the mucous membrane lining of the small intestine, if left to grow unchecked.
In an already inflamed gut, candida can worsen any 'leaks'(as in cases of leaky gut syndrome).
If the yeast is able to enter the bloodstream, it can then travel to various other parts of the body and promote multiple fungal infections.
Some common signs of candida overgrowth include:
The end result of a prolonged infection can be an immune system that becomes overwhelmed with toxins and reacts by producing antibodies and inflammatory chemicals.
In these circumstances, it can be useful to overhaul your whole lifestyle, paying particular attention to your diet, toxic load, hormonal balance and digestion - it is estimated that as much as 70% of our immune system resides in the digestive tract.
The role of diet
The average modern diet and lifestyle are not conducive to healthy levels of gut flora and efficient digestion, which in turn make us more prone to yeast overgrowth and a compromised immune system.
For example, we are exposed to an ever-increasing number of toxins and petro-chemicals, not just from the processed foods we eat, but also the pollution and contaminants in the air we breathe, water we drink, personal care and household cleaning/fragrance products we use.
Sufferers can benefit from the following:
Eliminating foods and liquids which feed the candida and inflame the gut: Some foods provide energy directly to the candida yeast, while others impact the digestive system and the immune system, reducing the body's ability to fight infection.
If you want to beat candida overgrowth and avoid it in the future, give your body the best possible chance by avoiding things like refined sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, additive-laden processed foods, foods containing yeasts or fungi (such as mushrooms, cheese and milk) and other acid-forming foods.
Wherever possible minimise your use of medication and pharmaceuticals.
Incorporating more natural wholefoods into the diet: Just as there are foods that should be avoided as part of an anti-candida diet, there are also certain foods that can support your body's recovery, strengthen your immune system and help to restore gut health.
Increase your intake of nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables - preferably raw, organic and seasonal.
These healthful, natural whole foods are packed with enzymes, dietary fibre and other cleansing and protective nutrients (such as antioxidants, amino acids and phyto-chemicals).
Taking probiotics: As yeast overgrowth is often linked to an imbalance in bowel flora, there is also a good case for taking probiotics (good bacteria).
This can be through fermented foods and/or supplements. Some of the best probiotic foods include miso, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi.
If you choose to take probiotic supplements, choose ones with bacteria that colonise the gut and are high-strength and multi-strain.
Candida albicans can produce around 75 toxic substances that are poisonous to the body.
These toxins can contaminate tissue and weaken everything from the immune system, liver and kidneys, to the lungs, brain and nervous system and failure to promptly address a yeast infection can lead to candida organisms entering the bloodstream and colonising other areas of the body, such as the urinary tract, vagina, nails, mouth and skin.
This level of infection can result in a chronic systemic problem, with large numbers of yeast germs further weakening the immune system and perpetuating the problem.
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