Dr. Melissa Anzelone, ND
April 14th 2022
If you are reading this article, you’ve probably heard of candida before, it can make you feel bloated, tired, and even give you brain fog. If you are trying to beat Candida now, or are just going to start tackling it, we’ve got some helpful guidance for you to make the process much more comfortable. As Candida overgrowth is cleared, many of us experience "die off" reactions that can mimic flu-like symptoms, also known as a Herxheimer rection, or a Herx reaction, for short.
In this article we’ll look at your gut microbiome- what it is and how your normal flora can go awry. We’ll touch on the overgrowth of Candida in your body, what that can feel like symptom-wise, and what we can do about it with food and supplement solutions. Lastly we’ll explore ways to manage Candida die off symptoms so the elimination of Candida overgrowth can be as painless as possible.
What is the Microbiome?
The microbiome is the term used to describe all microbes that live in your gut. These include bacteria, fungi, viruses, yeast and yes even parasites! There are good and bad organisms in your gut at all times and many of them are considered commensal. In other words, these beings live inside your body, eat the food you eat, and normally don’t cause any issues. On the other hand, when one or more of these commensal organisms start to overgrow and take over the gut environment, they can cause major problems for you. When this type of overgrowth occurs, it’s commonly called dysbiosis, a disruption of the normal microbiome. Candida is a common culprit of dysbiosis, often overgrowing in the intestinal tract and disrupting our gut microbiome's delicate balance.
What is Candida?
Candida or Candida albicans is a common commensal yeast that is found in the mouth, gut and vagina. Normal concentrations of Candida yeast, i.e. when it’s not overgrown or dysbiotic, actually promote gut health, nutrient absorption and also aid in digestion. This yeast is a part of the normal microbiome, but often overgrows in various parts of the body. For our purposes today, we’ll talk about Candida overgrowth in the gut.
What is Candida Overgrowth?
When the number of Candida yeast starts to outnumber the other commensal organisms in the gut, this is considered Candida overgrowth. This is very common in western society due to most people eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) and poor stress management to name a few causes.
When an overgrowth of Candida occurs, this triggers an increased inflammatory response within the gut. This trigger leads to changes in the lining of your intestine- making it more permeable or leaky, this can result in small food particles or pieces of Candida proteins leaking out of the gut. These particles travel throughout your body, inciting a greater inflammatory response on a systemic level. This can occur over and over again and can lead to unwanted symptoms or even to autoimmune diseases. This process is commonly known as “leaky gut”.
Common Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth
When Candida yeast outnumbers other organisms in your gut, your body may have multiple systemic symptoms or dysbiosis symptoms. The list may include:
- Decrease in energy
- Joint stiffness
- Skin issues like rashes, eczema or tinea versicolor
- Mood swings
- Digestive issues such as bloating and gas
- Frequent sinus and urinary tract infections
- Weight gain
What Causes Candida Overgrowth?
While there are many causes and factors involved in Candida overgrowth, we’ll cover the two largest contributors below:
Blood Sugar Imbalance
To dive deeper into what causes Candida overgrowth, diet is probably one of the biggest triggers. Candida thrives on sugar and can overgrow as a result of a high-sugar/high-carbohydrate diet or Standard American Diet (SAD). When we eat a diet high in carbohydrates, this macronutrient is broken down first by the mouth into simple sugars, then absorbed into the bloodstream further along in your digestive tract. Once mobile in the bloodstream, sugar can easily feed the growth of Candida throughout your body. Chronically high blood sugars can also trigger this overgrowth. This can often be seen after years of excessive carbohydrate intake and is usually accompanied by weight gain.
Lifestyle: Medications, Personal Care & Stress
Additionally, when you are stressed, our stress response system, or HPA (hypothalamic pituitary axis), is stimulated, ultimately releasing cortisol. This stress hormone increases our blood sugar and stimulates the growth of Candida systemically.
Medications such as oral contraceptives and antibiotics can also trigger Candida overgrowth.
Oral contraceptives can alter the pH of your genital tract causing good bacteria to die off and Candida to multiply and spread throughout your system. Estrogen, one of the main ingredients in oral contraceptives, stimulates Candida overgrowth. Other forms of birth control can stimulate Candida overgrowth as well, for example copper IUDs change the pH of your genital tract to a more alkaline environment, favoring Candida yeast overgrowth.
Having a high toxic burden in your body can also contribute to Candida overgrowth. Toxins such as mercury fillings, preservatives and pesticides in foods, and chemicals in personal care products can “clog” your detoxification pathways used to eliminate Candida from your body.
Dietary Support for Candida
Your diet is key when it comes to combating Candida. Foods high in carbohydrates feed Candida and help it spread throughout the body, while foods lower in carbohydrates generally do not cause overgrowth. That being said, carbs aren't evil... if you have a half a sweet potato once and awhile, that won’t disrupt or or offset all of the work you put into eliminating Candida overgrowth.
Foods to Avoid While Clearing Candida
Thinking about the impact of sugar on Candida overgrowth, we should consider removing foods that are high in carbohydrates or that easily break down into sugars. Here is a guide to show you the foods with the highest carbohydrate content. While not an exhaustive list, this is a good place to start to remove foods that can easily stimulate Candida overgrowth:
- Starchy Vegetables: white potatoes, corn, beans, peas
- High Glycemic Fruits: bananas, mangos, figs, raisins, pineapple
- Processed Meats and Farm-Raised Fish: salami, pepperoni, salmon
- Gluten & Grains: wheat, barley, rye, rice, oats
- Dairy Products: cow's milk, butter, cheese
- Processed & GMO Oils: canola oil, soybean oil, margarine
- Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: aspartame, agave, maple syrup, corn syrup
- Certain High-Mold Nuts and Seeds: peanuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews
- Certain Beverages: caffeinated tea and coffee, sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol
Foods to Eat While Clearing Candida
Focusing on what foods to avoid to fight Candida overgrowth is just as important as focusing on which foods to enjoy. These foods do not contribute to Candida overgrowth and often often contain natural compounds that even inhibit Candida overgrowth. While not exhaustive, this list is a great start for you to focus on foods that are important in restoring the balance to your microbiome:
- Non-starchy Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, tomatoes, onion
- Low Glycemic Fruits: lemons, limes grapefruit, fresh berries
- Clean Proteins: pastured chicken, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish
- Healthy Fats: coconut and avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil
- Fermented Foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, unsweetened coconut yogurt
- Low Mold Nuts and Seeds: almonds, coconut, flaxseed, sunflower seeds
- Sweeteners: monk fruit extract and xylitol
Check out this article to learn more about the Candida diet. Typically providers recommend going on a Candida diet for up to 2 weeks or until die off symptoms start to decrease.
Foods That Fight Candida Overgrowth
If you are looking for support through your current supplement regimen or just want to add a little more to your Candida fighting routine, there are some additional spices, condiments, and foods that may give your body a greater advantage over Candida. Many of these solutions can be added to foods as flavoring and can go a long way in eradicating Candida as this list contains compounds with natural anti-Candida properties:
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple Cider Vinegar is unique in that it manages Candida and helps alkalize your body, preventing future overgrowth if consumed regularly
- Garlic: Garlic contains plant constituents that actually fight Candida overgrowth and has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties
- Oregano: Oregano oil is considered by many to be nature's antibiotic, containing antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. Taking oil or oregano in tincture or capsule form with a meal as needed, can help manage systemic overgrowth
- Coconut oil: Studies indicate that coconut oil can be utilized both topically and ingested to help manage Candida overgrowth
- Curcumin: Curcumin, derived from Turmeric, supports a healthy inflammatory response, which can help to reduce the effect Candida overgrowth has on the digestive system
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera is a key ingredient in many supplements and can even be ingested in a liquid form. This naturally soothing plant extract supports a healthy microbiome and can pause Candida overgrowth
- Lemons: To help cleanse your entire system, drink lemon water. Lemons are naturally anti-fungal and help alkalize the system
- Ginger: Ginger helps with digestion, and has properties that support a healthy inflammatory response. It is a potent detoxifying agent, purifies the blood and helps fight unwanted pathogens
- Licorice: Licorice root has been used for thousands of years to support digestive health and help combat Candida overgrowth
Supportive Supplement Solutions
There are many supplements available that can support you on your journey. Supplements for Candida die off include many different solutions ranging from beneficial yeasts, to probiotics, to binding agents such as activated charcoal and even various types of clay. Keep reading for our recommendation for the very best supplements for Candida die off.
Saccharomyces Boulardii for Candida Overgrowth
Saccharomyces boulardii is a beneficial yeast-based probiotic that can help to keep Candida in check. This helpful microbe is able to survive your stomach acid without being digested and makes it down to your gut where it works to support a healthy microbiome. Saccharomyces secretes a chemical called capric acid, which stops the growth of Candida as well as prevents its adhesion to the gut. It can also prevent Candida from producing a biofilm, a special protective layer Candida uses to avoid your immune system. (1)
Additionally, Saccharomyces competes with Candida for food, so if the Saccharomyces eats all of the Candida’s food, Candida can’t thrive. Another benefit of Saccharomyces B. is the fact that it’s transient, meaning it passes through the digestive tract just long enough to help with Candida overgrowth, but not so long that it overgrows like Candida and causes problems.
Pure TheraPro Rx’s Saccharomyces 10B delivers a minimum 10 billion CFUs of beneficial probiotic microorganisms per serving. Formulated with Lynside® PRO SCB Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Boulardii (unique patented strain CNCM I-3799), it survives stomach acid and temporarily colonizes the large intestine where it supports gut motility, a healthy bowel pattern, robust immune function and optimal digestion while Candida overgrowth is dealt with making it one of the very best supplements for helping with the Candida die off process.
Probiotics for Candida
The best probiotics to manage Candida overgrowth include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These strains are the most studied and found to be clinically effective restoring balance to the digestive tract. (2)
A healthy microbiome is key to preventing Candida overgrowth, and reversing it. We spoke about how Saccharomyces boulardii can be key to promoting a healthy gut.
Probiotics are also key in keeping Candida yeast at bay. Strains like Lactobacillus have been clinically shown to balance the flora of the microbiome and help to inhibit Candida overgrowth. This probiotic strain grows in the digestive tract and doesn’t allow the Candida yeast to grow alongside it. It does this by providing a physical barrier to Candida growth, Lactobacillus also eats Candida’s food source, and this probiotic has also been shown to stimulate the immune system to help get rid of Candida overgrowth.
Pure TheraPro Rx’s Power Probiotic 100B™ provides 100 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) including two strains of Lactobacillus probiotic as well as 2 strains of beneficial Bifidobacterium:
- HOWARU® Bifido (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019)
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium longum
These strains are key to promoting a healthy microbiome by inhibiting or offsetting Candida growth.
Candida Die Off Symptoms
Often as we make healthy changes to our diet or add supplements to our routine, Candida starts to die off. Many people describe Candida die off symptoms such as:
- Brain fog
- “Flu like” symptoms
- Symptoms similar to seasonal allergies
- Bad breath
- Coated tongue
- Skin rashes
Another name for Candida die off is a “Herxheimer reaction”. As the Candida die off, they release an endotoxin-like product which increases the inflammatory response in your body. This is a normal reaction to Candida die off and is a good sign that dysbiosis and leaky gut symptoms may diminish.
Candida die off symptoms can occur as soon as three days or as long as ten days after making changes to your diet or supplement protocol. As you continue through the process, symptoms should lessen and energy and focus should increase as Candida overgrowth and endotoxins are being cleared from the body.
Managing Candida Die Off Symptoms
Understanding how to manage Candida die off symptoms is key to restoring balance to your gut microbiome and feeling your best. Here are some ways to make the process of clearing Candida overgrowth easier:
- Make Diet Changes Gradually - when making the switch to a clean, healthy eating plan, you may have a more pleasant experience if you make changes gradually rather than starting an extreme detox diet or cleanse. Many providers recommend transitioning to a diet that has less sugar and fewer carbohydrates each day rather than going sugar and grain-free overnight.
- Start Supplementation Slow - sometimes starting supplements with a lower dose than recommended can help manage Candida die off symptoms, as the Candida will die off at a slower rate. This can make the managing of Candida die off symptoms easier to handle.
- Reduce Stress - prioritizing relaxation, rest and slowing down during this process. Activities that allow you to de-stress are key since stress can further deplete your energy. Focus on getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Find time to do self-care practices like walking, yoga, acupuncture, or massage. In addition to promoting relaxation, these activities can also increase circulation and support detoxification.
- Reduce Exposure to Toxins - Exposure to toxins like preservatives, cigarette smoke, alcohol, excessive caffeine consumption or unnecessary medications can overload your body’s natural detoxification system, preventing the processing of Candida endotoxins, making managing Candida die off symptoms worse.
As you start on your journey to beat Candida, or if you are already in the midst of it, hopefully this article has helped. We hope it enriches your understanding of how Candida overgrowth can cause many unwanted symptoms, and what you can do about managing Candida overgrowth. Remember the supplements we spoke about: Power Probiotic 100B™ and Saccharomyces 10B can greatly assist you through the process of combating Candida overgrowth and dealing with uncomfortable Candida die-off symptoms.
Or check out this article for more information on Candida overgrowth that may help with managing your Candida die of symptoms.
If you feel like your Candida overgrowth has caused leaky gut, please check out this resource for information on how to repair your leaky gut.
This article was written by Melissa Anzelone, ND, who has worked in the naturopathic field for 11 years and trained under Drs. Ashley Lewin, Peter D’Adamo, and David Brady. She exemplifies her passion for natural health by helping clients balance hormones, intervene in metabolic disease, and promote weight loss using the most gentle modalities first.
- Murzyn A, Krasowska A, Stefanowicz P, Dziadkowiec D, Łukaszewicz M. Capric acid secreted by S. boulardii inhibits C. albicans filamentous growth, adhesion and biofilm formation. PLoS One. 2010;5(8):e12050. Published 2010 Aug 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012050
- Ribeiro FC, Rossoni RD, de Barros PP, et al. Action mechanisms of probiotics on Candida spp. and candidiasis prevention: an update. J Appl Microbiol. 2020;129(2):175-185. doi:10.1111/jam.14511