Chronic yeast overgrowth is something that’s often referred to as candida. If you’re not familiar with it, then basically, all you need to know is that we have all types of yeasts and bacteria in our bodies. Some are good and some are bad, and most live within our digestive tracts. The good “bugs” keep us healthy, energized, and protect us from the harmful toxins and everyday contaminants we encounter. They also help keep us regular and keep our skin, weight, and immune system in check.
Bad yeasts and bacteria do the opposite, and sadly, things that we eat in our diets can often fuel these bad “bugs” to become predominant in our systems, outnumbering the good bacteria.
Everyone has a type of yeast known as candida albicans in the gut. It’s one of the most well-known because it’s easy to get out of hand since it’s fed through sugar, or anything that converts to sugar in the digestive tract (like refined carbs, breads, pastries, cookies, very high starch foods eaten in abundance, candies, sweets, most processed foods, and some moldy foods like cheese, beer, and wine). Candida thrives on these foods and can grow at rapid speeds. When this happens, chronic yeast overgrowth occurs and is seen through symptoms such as: constant fatigue and headaches, depression, jock itch, possibly skin yeast infections like ringworm and psoriasis, multiple types of food reactions or allergies, brain fog, and a sensitivity to certain types of moldy, fermented foods (cheese, dairy, wine, beer). Some natural health experts also believe that sugar addictions stem from yeast overgrowth because the yeast needs “food” to survive, leading one to eat more and more.
Many natural remedies are available and you’ve likely seen all kinds of anti-fungal pills at health food stores that promise to help get rid of candida. While some of these may in fact fight the symptoms of candida and even cure mild cases, it’s best to treat the root of the problem first: removing the harmful foods and replenishing the good gut bacteria. One natural remedy that can help you restore good gut bacteria is an old-time classic treatment known as ACV, or apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is fermented with a beneficial yeast that acts as a prebiotic for healthy bacteria in your gut, so essentially it helps your good bacteria grow as you eliminate harmful foods that feed the harmful yeasts like candida. Apple cider vinegar is even applied topically to the skin to treat skin fungal infections, acne, and even used as an alternative treatment to chemical-filled creams for jock-itch.
First, it’s important to remove all the processed, refined, and even naturally sugary foods from your diet. Stick to lots of greens, low-starch root vegetables like turnips, green vegetables, and other low-starch vegetables, raw nuts and seeds that are fresh (to prevent mold encounter), as many fresh foods as possible, and low sugar fruits like berries, green apples, cucumber, limes, tomatoes, lemons, and some people handle citrus fine. You can also eat naturally sweet, healthy foods instead, and emphasize healthy fats from coconut, which contains anti-fungal properties naturally.
Some recipes you could enjoy might be: Jazzy-licious Kale, Mesquite Avocado Kale Salad, Escarole and White Bean Soup, Low-Carb Sugar-Free Vegan Protein Bars, Kale and Grilled Tomato Salad or a Chickpea omelet for something hearty. You can also learn to make lower sugar smoothie recipes without so much fruit, with a few of these natural, healthy tips.
After a while, once the yeast is under control, many people can add back low-starch grains like oats and quinoa, and some can even keep them in the beginning. Lentils, chickpeas, avocados, and even winter squash are also usually tolerated just fine on a yeast-free diet. The lower the sugar content of food, the better. Once you’ve replaced the harmful ‘food’ that candida thrives on, it’s important to add other items to your menu that can possibly help fight bad bacteria.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar as Part of a Candida Treatment Regimen
Apple cider vinegar is a stellar choice to help your body heal naturally because it’s known for so many healing benefits, including acting as an antifungal and antibacterial food. You’ll need to take it internally as it can help flush out toxins, mucus, and all types of harmful bacteria that can cause a backup during digestion and cause yeast to fester even more. Take a tablespoon diluted in some room temperature or warm water in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night after or before your meals. You can add some lemon and stevia if you need it to taste better. You can even add it to herbal teas over ice if you want (it’s actually pretty refreshing!). Try adding ginger to fight bacteria further, and whatever you do- buy the right kind of apple cider vinegar.
You need to purchase raw, organic apple cider vinegar so you know that the ‘mother’ is still intact, which is the good bacteria the vinegar grows on. (This is the cloudy appearance you see in the bottom of the jar.) A good brand is Bragg’s, though some others are available too. Be sure it’s also non-GMO and organic, whatever you do, to avoid pesticides and harmful chemicals that only feed bad bacteria.
Since apple cider vinegar is a prebiotic (which feeds the good bacteria), you need to be sure you’re taking in plenty of good bacteria so they can thrive. You can eat fermented foods that are helpful, such as sauerkraut, raw kimchi, and miso. You’ll want to avoid dairy, gluten and most wheat products, and other allergenic foods that can sometimes aggravate yeast overgrowth as well. Also, eat plenty of prebiotic-rich foods that can also help your good gut bacteria and take a plant-based probiotic as well.
You may find at the beginning of healing and battling yeast that you suffer a detox reaction where you feel worse before you feel better, but after several days or weeks, you’ll probably feel much better. You might also see some changes during digestion at this time, but keep in mind that your body is healing and getting rid of bad bacteria. Use warm baths, take magnesium or eat magnesium-rich foods if you find you have a hard time sleeping or with regularity, and be sure to get some fresh sunlight daily if you can. If you’re tired, allow your body to rest, and overall, just focus on eating healthier foods while your body adjusts.
Keep in mind that chronic yeast overgrowth can lead to larger health problems later on, so do your best to take care of your body. Though apple cider vinegar may not cure it completely, it can be used as a helpful tool in fighting candida. For professional advice on treating yeast overgrowth, see Body Ecology, a world-wide leading organization known for treating candida, The Candida Diet, and Ricki Heller, a renowned candida expert with recipes and tips for plant-based eaters.
Also see how to eat a healthy lower carb diet as a plant-based eater from one of our health experts, Registered Dietitian, Ginny Messina.
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