Fungal infections are estimated to occur in over a billion people each year, and recent evidence suggests that this rate is increasing. Fungi can infect almost any part of the body including skin, nails, mouth, respiratory tract and urogenital tract. Anyone can acquire a fungal infection, but the elderly, critically ill and people with weakened immunity have a higher risk.
What is candida?
Although there are several species of fungi, candida is often the organism responsible for many fungal infections. Candida is a type of yeast which is normally present within the body and is usually harmless. However, an imbalanced digestive tract can allow it to grow unabated, causing it to impact your ability to properly absorb nutrients, and increasing the risk of ‘leaky gut’.
What are the symptoms of candida overgrowth?
Candida multiplies, migrates and releases toxins, causing bowel problems, allergy, hormone dysfunction, skin complaints, thrush, infections, fatigue and emotional disorders. It is little wonder that Candida sufferers frequently describe themselves as feeling ill all over! Many only associate candida with genital infections or itching, but common symptoms include the following.
- Skin and nail fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot
- Frequently feeling tired, with chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory or lack of focus
- Skin concerns such as eczema, psoriasis, hives or rashes
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
Why sugar is the enemy
We all know that sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes and degenerative conditions. However, what many of us don’t know is that sugar actually feeds bad bacteria such as yeast and fungi in our digestive tract. Why is this a bad thing? We need more good bacteria to ensure a healthy digestive system and because our digestive system is responsible for absorbing nutrients and removing waste from the body, an imbalanced digestive tract is often the cause of a much larger number of degenerative conditions.
Why do we need good bacteria?
Healthy bacteria does a lot more than fight off bad bacteria. There are over 30 beneficial pharmacological actions of probiotics (good bacteria) that we know off. These include anti-viral, anti-allergenic, cardio-protective, anti-depressive actions and many more.
Unfortunately, our body’s bacteria is very vulnerable to lifestyle and environmental factors such as sugar or fructose, refined grains, processed foods, antibacterial soaps, antibiotics and pesticides. When we are exposed to any of these factors, our good bacteria is affected and our bad bacteria flourish.
Prebiotics vs probiotics
I have mentioned in previous blog articles why prebiotics (food for good bacteria) are better than probiotics. However, if you are on antibiotics, it may also be useful to take probiotics for that time period. Antibiotics work by reducing the presence of all bacteria in the body, and unfortunately that also includes beneficial bacteria. That is why many of us often get candida attacks after a bout of antibiotics.
So while probiotics are great for a season, prebiotics are highly beneficial for everyone take daily. Prebiotics are not bacteria strains, they are naturally occurring enzymes that act as food for good bacteria. Just as sugar is food for bad bacteria, prebiotics work to feed the good bacteria - helping them to multiply and keep candida and other fungi at bay. The best thing about prebiotics is that they help the body’s natural process instead of letting the body get ‘lazy’ the way probiotics do.
Other ways to optimize healthy gut bacteria include regularly consumed traditionally fermented foods such as lassi yoghurt, kimchee and sauerkraut, and yoghurt that contains lactobacillus acidophilus. Try to include antifungal agents such as garlic, olive leaf extract and turmeric into your regular diet or supplement regime; and be sure to avoid ‘candida foods’ such as sweets, white bread, processed foods and alcohol. Consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to strengthen your immune system and try to avoid a high stress lifestyle which can weaken your immunity.
Fighting candida is a tricky business, and you can never completely get rid of bad bacteria and fungi in the body. However, with a healthy diet and the right prebiotics, you can balance it out with beneficial bacteria – creating a healthy environment that promotes digestion, strengthens the immune system and beats candida overgrowth once and for all.
In good health.