So I saw this video about Candida recently that completely freaked me out. The symptoms of candida overgrowth align closely with many of the symptoms I’ve been having: rapid weight gain, difficulty concentrating, poor focus, irritability, chronic fatigue, eczema, severe allergies, digestive issues and more.
According to the Huffington Post, “Candida albicans is a naturally occurring, and usually benign yeast, that grows in the gastrointestinal tract.” Candida becomes a problem when it grows out of control. The result is candidiasis, which can be caused by a number of factors, including taking birth control or antibiotics, stress, or consuming a lot of carbohydrates, sugar or alcohol.
SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
The naughty, out-of-control candida bacteria living in your gut starts to crowd out the good bacteria. There’s a lot more we could go into here about the human microbiome, but in favor of keeping things simple, I reached out to Kathy McNeely, a nutrition educator and health coach. She says keeping a really good balance of bacteria in your gut is crucial, as the gut accounts for 75 percent of your body’s immune system.
“One of the things that bacteria in your gut does is help to make vitamins that are in your diet. Kale has a lot of vitamin K; bacteria in the gut helps convert that into something your body can use. Vitamin K would not activate unless it were for the gut bacteria,” McNeely says.
And everything would be okay if we were feeding ourselves with kale and other whole foods most of the time. Why? Because what you feed the bacteria is like giving guns to one side in an armed conflict.
According to McNeely, “You have good and bad actors in terms of bacteria in your gut. Feeding a lot of sugar feeds the bad bacteria—like candida.”
Certified physical trainer and natural health blogger Jeffrey “Bo” Boateng agrees. He says giving bad bacteria more sugar not only feeds it, it creates a vicious cycle.
“It gives you intense sugar cravings. It makes you more susceptible to illness. It lowers your overall energy levels. People who have a hard time losing weight have an imbalance of good bacteria to bad bacteria.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a cupcake. You just shouldn’t eat three <says the writer with a guilty look on her face.>
“It’s really all about balance.” McNeely adds. “If cupcakes were all you were eating, then you would be encouraging the growth of some of the negative bacteria in your gut and you’d experience a lot distress. By what you eat, you create the environment by which the good bacteria grow, and the bad bacteria grow.”
But is eating 80 percent kale and 20 percent cupcakes enough?
ENTER FERMENTED FOODS
As I started looking into what to do about the candida battle going on in my gut, probiotics and fermented foods were recurring themes. And not something I was unfamiliar with. Boateng was pushing these remedies when we trained together.
He was clearly a big fan of pickles, but said that other fermented foods and drinks—like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, kefir and miso—would help, too.
“Fermented foods cut down on your sugar cravings and get that candida—that bad bacteria—in check. It makes it easier to stay healthy in general.”
And Kathy McNeely, who also encourages her clients to eat fermented foods, says they do so much more.
“They play an important role in detoxifying some of the toxins in our environment that we might ingest—like the mercury in fish,” she says. They also help fight off cancer, reduce cholesterol and help maintain healthy digestive function.
Fermented foods are one of the foundations of Project Detox, an adventure in eating offered by We The Eaters to people seeking a healthier lifestyle. We invite you to make a commitment for the next six months to learn about whole food and nutrition from us, each other and a few experts along the way.
The Facebook group where we’ll “meet” is completely private—comments are visible only to members—to encourage an open and honest dialogue. The group is completely free to anyone who wants to participate. All you have to do is sign up.
In the meantime … what’s your favorite fermented food? We’ll be exploring them on the blog this month and would love to hear your ideas. Just leave a comment below or email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your recipe could be featured on our blog!