Candida albicans is a tiny yeast that inhabits our intestinal tract (and other moist areas of our body) and is the subject of much concern in the natural health world.
While medical doctors scoff at the idea that Candida can cause illness, many people swear by anti-Candida diets and claim that they feel much better when they eliminate sugar and other foods that might contribute to the growing of these yeasts.
There is a big gulf between what most natural medicine practitioners and medical doctors think about Candida. To confuse you even further, I’m going to suggest to you a completely different way of looking at Candida that dispels some of the myths around this one-celled creature, but also helps you to understand why the anti-Candida diets do work and how important that might be to your health.
Not Just Candida
The problem with Candida is that it doesn’t travel alone To understand this, you have to understand a concept called dysbiosis.
Perhaps it is just human nature to simplify things, but the story of Candida is much more complex than one simple yeast causing your pain and discomfort. Dysbiosis best described as an imbalanced gut bacterial ecosystem. The ecosystem in your gut (also called your gut flora) is a big deal and when you are eating sugar and foods that act like sugar, you are changing the ecosystem in your gut (and not in a good way).
There are both good and bad bacteria throughout your digestive system. The health of your digestive system relies heavily on having a balance between the good and bad bacteria that inhabit your gut. Unfortunately, many of the things we do every day destroy that balance, from poor food choices, stress, and exposure to chemicals in our environment, all tilt the balance in the favor of bad bacteria.
When bad bacteria thrive, we don’t.
Bad bacteria are bad because when they grow, they produce all sorts of toxins that are harmful to our bodies. Candida itself produces toxins that some people seem are extremely sensitive to. Imbalances in our digestive flora are tied to all sorts of diseases, from heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and more.
The first thing to remember is this: Candida is not alone, there are other critters such as bacteria that can harm you just as much as Candida does. It is not just Candida, but a general shift from health gut bugs to unhealthy gut bugs.
Can Candida Make me Crave Sugar?
This is a bit tougher to answer than you might think: The answer to this question is yes and no.
Most people think that Candida causes them to crave sugar as if the small one-celled organism can collectively take over your mind and cause you to crave more sugar. As far as we know, Candida doesn’t have that kind of mind control powers.
But what does happen when you eat a large amount of sugar and foods that act like sugar is that you grow gut flora that also like sugar.
Here is what happens: Imagine you have a garden full of food that rabbits love. When you have a garden like that, you are more likely to have rabbits eating the food in your garden, the same is true of your gut: If you are constantly eating foods high in sugar, then you grow a bacterial colonies that also thrive on sugar.
Now, if you have a gut full of sugar-loving organisms, what happens when you stop eating so much sugar? The bacteria, yeast, and other critters in your gut munch most of the sugars that you are eating (even if you are eating very few). The end result? You (your body) is not getting many of these sugars (because the bugs get to them first). This is one of the reasons why you crave sugars so much when you go on a low-sugar diet: the bugs are eating any sugars that pass their way (after all, they are hungry too). The larger reason is that sugar is an addiction.
An anti-Candida diet helps you to feel better because it restores the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in your gut. It also is another good reason to kick sugar. Understanding dysbiosis also helps you to understand why your cravings for sugar to increase when you kick sugar foods: There are so many bacteria and other critters clambering for food that you don’t get as much.
The best way to deal with dysbiosis is to take herbs that make it hard for them to thrive. My favorites are the berberine-containing herbs (such as Oregon Grape, Barberry and Goldenseal). Look for supplements that contain these when you are looking for an anti-Candida diet.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you understand what is really going on when you go on an anti-Candida diet, the results are the same: You feel better. More importantly, you are increasing your health.