First of all, I should start by wishing all of my readers a Happy New Year, and a healthy and happy 2014! Now that the party season is over, January gives us a great opportunity to reevaluate our health and set some goals for the new year. It’s the ideal time to commit to improving your health, both by eliminating some of your bad dietary or lifestyle habits, and by creating some new, more health-affirming habits too.
This is especially true of those who are suffering from Candida, because the holiday season is full of things that can make a Candida overgrowth worse. Sugary treats can feed the Candida colonies in your gut, while frequent colds and flus can weaken your immune system and leave you particularly vulnerable to Candida and other pathogens. By the time many of us reach the first week of January, we’re tired, sick and ready for a full detox.
The good news is that the journey to better health and vitality can start immediately. In this post, I’ll show you how following a Candida diet, low in sugar and packed full of healthy vegetables, will support your immune system and restore balance to the vital microorganisms in your gut. And taking supplements like probiotics and natural antifungals will improve your digestion, provide a further boost to your immunity, and give you the healthiest possible start to the new year!
Why Is The Holiday Season So Difficult For Candida Sufferers?
There are a number of factors in play during December that make it particularly hard to stick to a low sugar diet and maintain a healthy immune system. There are so many opportunities for socializing with family and friends, and the social pressures to indulge in sugary foods and alcohol are never higher. This leads us to make health-impacting decisions that we would be unlikely to make during the rest of year. Here are three reasons why now might be a good time to make some changes.
Reason #1: Sugar
There are many ways in which eating too many sugars can affect your health. Metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, obesity, and cancer — all of these have been linked to excess sugar consumption. But for those of us who are susceptible to Candida overgrowth (or Candida Related Complex), eating too much sugar also provides the Candida colonies in our guts with the building materials that they need to grow.
What is the relationship between sugar and Candida albicans? Those Candida colonies need sugar for three reasons — to build new cells (80% of the cell walls are composed of carbohydrates), to convert from yeast to fungal form, and to create protective biofilms. Simply put, sugar enables Candida to both expand its colonies faster, become more aggressive in spreading around your gut, and hide from your immune system.
Reason #2: Alcohol
What about alcohol? There is a common misconception that alcohol raises your blood sugar, but this only tends to be true immediately after drinking. When you consume alcohol, your body secretes more insulin, which soon leads to lower blood glucose levels. Furthermore, alcohol negatively affects the hormone response that would usually act to restore your blood glucose. Ever noticed that you feel really extremely hungry the morning after drinking? That’s the effect of the low blood sugar, which can persist for up to 16 hours after alcohol consumption. You might think that low blood sugar would be a good thing for Candida sufferers, but this is not the case. It often leads to overeating, and it certainly weakens your resolve to avoid unhealthy, sugary foods.
Moreover, alcohol (and particularly the excessive alcohol consumption typically seen during the holiday season) leads to immune deficiency and impairs your ability to fight off pathogens like Candida. It does this in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it prevents your white blood cells from multiplying. These crucial immune cells defend us from pathogens, but their ability to respond to attacks in severely impaired by excessive alcohol. Secondly, drinking too much alcohol can lead to deficiency in vitamin A (which regulates the immune system) as well as other nutrients like folate, B12 and calcium. Here is a longer list of seven reasons to cut back on your alcohol.
Reason #3: Illness And Antibiotics
There is one more risk factor that you should be aware of in the winter months. Frequent illnesses like colds and flus can deplete an already-weakened immune system. As our immune systems gear up to defend us, we become more vulnerable to other pathogens like Candida. And when we are ill, many of the good dietary and lifestyle habits that we follow (like exercise, for example) go out of the window.
The holiday season is when many people resort to antibiotics to get them through all their family and work commitments. Often incorrectly prescribed, antibiotics have an enormously disruptive effect on the beneficial microorganisms in our intestines. These ‘gut flora’ help us to digest our food, produce vitamins essential for our wellbeing, form a crucial part of our immune system, and prevent the unrestrained growth of Candida colonies. Always remember that antibiotics might cure your illness in the short term, but they have long term consequences for your health that cannot be ignored.
Take The First Steps To Restore Your Health
I’ve covered a few of the reasons why the holiday season is particularly troublesome for those with Candida overgrowth. Chances are that at least one of those applies to you, and as we start the new year you are probably not feeling your best! This is a great opportunity to commit to a healthy eating plan and take the first steps towards beating your Candida. Here are a few lifestyle and dietary changes that can have an immediate, positive impact on your health and vitality.
Follow a low-sugar diet
The first step to restoring balance to your digestive system and boosting your energy levels is making some changes to your diet. It’s time to cut all those sugary foods out of your diet. That means the obvious candidates like sugary snacks and sodas, as well as less obvious ‘hidden’ sources of sugar like pasta sauce, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereal, and sports drinks. Always read the label, and remember that sugar might not always be labeled as ‘sugar’. It might also be listed as dextrose, molasses, high fructose corn syrup or a number of other variants. In fact, many food labels will contain two or three different types of sugar, all under different names.
Cutting back on sugar also means eliminating most fruits from your diet. Fruits (with a handful of exceptions) tend to have a high sugar content and should be avoided at first. Start by including low-sugar fruits like avocado, lemon, and lime in your diet, then add more low sugar fruits like berries and green apples as you progress. Candida albicans is just as happy feasting on the natural sugars in fruit as the added sugars in your soda.
Don’t worry about eating insufficient sugar — if you are eating lots of vegetables they contain more than enough carbohydrates to fulfill your body’s requirements. And you can maintain your energy levels by eating some good quality proteins and fats instead. If you’re looking for healthy, low-sugar meal plans, our Ultimate Candida Diet program includes a recipe book full of tasty recipe ideas.
Take some high quality probiotics
Many doctors and naturopaths recommend that we should all take a quality probiotic supplement each day. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy digestive system, boost the immune system, and can even reduce the side effects associated with antibiotics. They are particularly useful for those with Candida Related Complex, who often suffer from a weakened immune system and severe imbalances in their gut flora.
Probiotics help to fight Candida in a few different ways. They support healthy and effective immunity by ensuring that your immune system is ‘primed’ to react to pathogens. They compete with the Candida albicans for the resources available in our intestines, preventing the Candida from growing too fast. And they regulate the acidity in your gut, an important factor in healthy digestion and another crucial part of your immune system.
You can get probiotics from lots of different sources, not just commercial supplements. Natural probiotics like kefir and yogurt are great alternatives that you can purchase at the store or even make at home. Make sure that the brand you buy has a low sugar content, contains no flavoring, and includes live cultures (this should be noted somewhere on the label).
Make changes to your lifestyle
A few simple changes to your lifestyle can go a long way at this time of year. Doing a little more exercise will not only support your immune system, but also boost your circulation and improve your detoxification pathways. Don’t overdo it though. Consistently over-exercising can weaken your neuroendocrine system, leading to something called adrenal fatigue, and negatively affect your immune system. Light exercises like swimming, walking and cycling are great ways to start.
Taking saunas can improve your circulation, open up the pores in your skin and aid in detoxification. Supplements like milk thistle and molybdenum are also excellent options for those looking to detox, and they also help your liver to process some of the toxins that are released by Candida albicans.
You might also consider practicing yoga, deep breathing, or other techniques to reduce stress. Stress is one of the major risk factors for Candida, and it has a very powerful effect on your immune system and general vitality. Lastly, getting sufficient sleep is another way to give your body the help it needs to fight off infection and maintain healthy energy levels.
More Techniques To Restore Your Health
That’s just a small selection of the techniques that you can use to fight Candida and restore your health. Although this post is directed at Candida sufferers, you might have noticed that these tips are appropriate for anyone looking to maintain a healthy digestive system and restore their vitality. Cutting out excess sugar, taking probiotics, and doing a little exercise are principles that every one of us should follow.
There are lots of other ways in which changing your diet and lifestyle can aid your fight against Candida. Our Candida Diet program contains lots of tasty, sugar-free recipes for you to follow, as well as a simple timeline to restore your health. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy a wonderful, healthy year!