Your gut has its own microscopic ecosystem.
About 85% of it ought to be “good” bacteria, or “probiotics” (and by the way, probiotics are one of the four supplements that I recommend that everyone stay on indefinitely, unless you eat a heck of a lot of raw foods). But there are trace amounts of other organisms as well. These little guys are opportunists. That means that they don’t play offense, but as soon as the good bacteria get wiped out (by a hefty round of antibiotics, say), they will proliferate and fill in the empty space. (Nature abhors a vacuum — so said Aristotle.)
Candida is one of these opportunists. It’s a single-celled fungus, or a yeast, and it eats sugar. I tend to think of this when people tell me they’re addicted to sugar, or when a diet diary shows me they’re eating either a lot of sugar or white carbs (which are essentially the same thing).
Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
- Hypoglycemia. Because candida eat sugar, these people crave it, and in a vicious cycle, they eat lots of sugar, their pancreas produces a bolus of insulin, sugar rushes out of the bloodstream and into the cells, and blood sugar crashes. Then they get shaky and irritable.
- Sugar craving. They also crave white carbs, for the reason mentioned above — and again, these are the same thing.
- Brain fog. As a byproduct of its sugar metabolism, candida produces acetaldehyde – the same toxic byproduct your liver produces when processing alcohol. (Acetaldehyde is actually the chemical responsible for hangovers.) So effectively, candida can make you feel a little bit drunk! People usually describe it as poor memory, fuzzy thinking, or poor word recall. Acetaldehyde can also lead to headaches.
- Gas and bloating. Candida ferments the sugar you eat, and one of the byproducts of fermentation is carbon dioxide. Great in your lungs, but pretty unpleasant in your gut.
- Itching. Patients usually have this only if there’s skin involvement (jock itch, vaginitis, athlete’s foot, ringworm, intertrigo, thrush), but occasionally a patient will describe itching at some other body orifice, often the ears or throat.
- Food sensitivities. Candida byproducts irritate the gut lining, and over time this can cause inflammation. If the inflammation is severe enough, it can lead to food molecules prematurely coming in contact with the bloodstream, and this can trick your body into thinking the food is a foreign invader. This complicates treatment a bit, but it’s not at all uncommon.
- Cut out the sugar. Also cut out the white carbs (which are the same thing), as well as any other yeasts, fungi, or fermented foods (like vinegar and alcohol). You can add back the latter eventually, but it’s a good idea to always keep sugar and white carbs to a minimum!
- Kill the candida. There are some excellent over-the-counter antifungal products, but garlic is one of the most potent of all – and you can cook with it!
- Repopulate. I’ll say it again: everyone should be on a probiotic. Look for a 50/50 ratio of bifidobacillus to lactobacillus, and at least 20 billion organisms per day.
If you also have food sensitivities, it’s probably a good idea to get tested to determine which foods to cut out for the time being as well.
This process is simple (meaning straightforward), but it’s not easy, especially if you’re addicted to sugar. Give it six weeks, though, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.