What relationship does your diet have with Candida?
In a healthy individual, Candida lives harmoniously in the digestive tract and vaginal tract of women. Yeast overgrowth occurs when immune systems are depleted or the intestinal tract is damaged, and the body absorbs yeast cells and various associated toxins, leading to a disruption in the body processes. Vulvovaginal candidiasis is a mucosal fungal infection cause by the Candida species, leading to symptoms of vaginitis.
Who gets it and why?
Vulvovaginal candidiasis may be an indicator for a more chronic, systemic candidal infection. When constructing an effective treatment plan, the goal is not only to eradicate the current candidal infection, but also addressing and correcting the predisposing factors to candidal overgrowth.
Predisposing factors to Candida overgrowth:
- Antibiotic use (particularly prolonged), and other pharmaceutical medications
- Impaired immunity
- Altered bowel flora
- Dietary factors
- Nutrient deficiency
- Impaired liver function
- Underlying disease states
Possible helpful dietary inclusions
Vaginal cell concentrations of beta-carotene may be significantly reduced in women with vulvovaginal candidiasis, and that decreased beta-carotene levels, and possibly other antioxidants, alter the local immune response, leading to disturbances in the vaginal flora and ultimately candida. Beta-carotene’s known immune enhancing properties together with low tissue levels of beta-carotene, supports the use of beta-carotene in the prevention and treatment of vaginal candidiasis.
Food sources include carrots, kale, spinach and broccoli.
Low Selenium status of the host can increase the virulence of various pathogens. Selenium is both an immune-modulator and immune enhancing nutrient, with added anti-inflammatory properties, all of which is important in the treatment of candial infections.
Food sources include brazil nuts, mushroom, salmon and eggs.
Research revealed the active constituent Berberine, expressed strong candidacidal activity in-vitro, and significantly decreased candidal cells in-vivo. Berberine has potent antimicrobial and antimycotic activity on numerous microorganisms, particularly an inhibitory concentration of
12.5mg/ml on the Candida albicans fungus.
Berberine is the active constituent found in different herbs such as barberry and goldenseal.
A key treatment aim in addressing a candidal infection is restoring proper immune function. Echinacea may be used to treat candidiasis infections, due to its antifungal and immuno-stimulating properties, although controlled studies are not available to determine its effectiveness.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi extracts have shown antimicrobial activity in-vitro, particularly against Candida albicans .Bearberry is also noted to have antibacterial, astringent, and anti-inflammatory effects on the genitourinary tract.
Although randomized clinical trials are not available, an in-vitro study by Hammer et al (1998) suggests topical application of diluted Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil is effective in the treatment against Candida. The antimicrobial properties of tea-tree oil appears to be due to the disruption in the permeability of cell membrane structures of microorganisms and denaturing of the protein.
Allium sativum (garlic) completely inhibits lipid synthesis of candida albicans. This blockage of lipid production appears to be an important component of the anticandial activity of garlic, inhibiting the growth of candida albicans. Allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, has also been found to significantly enhance the effect of amphotericin B against candida albicans in-vitro and in-vivo, mediated through oxidative damage.
Intestinal flora is an important contributor to the individual’s health, and is intimately involved in the individual’s nutritional status and immune function. As highlighted earlier, altered bowel flora can contribute to candidal infections, therefore a probiotic supplement can help replace those beneficial bacteria. A review of literature on probiotic use in vulvovaginal candida infections by Falagas et al (2006), found Lactobacilli, particularly Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus jensen, and Lactobacillus iners to be an effective probiotic supplement, as Lactobacilli are the most prominently dominant microorganism found the vagina of healthy women. Lactobacilli generate lactic acid and other substances, which maintain a low pH in the vagina, thus preventing the overgrowth of pathogens .
Food sources include fermented cabbage and yoghurt.
As sugar is the chief nutrient of Candida albicans, it is widely accepted that a restriction of sugar is necessary for its eradication and preventing recurrences.
 Yordanov M, Dimitrova P, et al (2008) Inhibition of Candida albicans extracellular enzyme activity by selected natural substances and their application in Candida infection. Canadian J of Microbiol; 54:435-440.
 Hammer K, Carson C & Riley T (1998)In-vitro activity of essential oils, in particular Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and tea tree oil products, against Candida spp. J of Antimicro Chemo; 42:.591-595.
 Falagas M, Betsi G & Athanasiou S (2006) Probiotics for prevention of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: A review. J of Antimicro Chemo; 58:266-272.