Candida albicans yeast is a naturally-occurring intestinal inhabitant which is normally kept in check by a properly balanced intestinal medium. Candida albicans becomes a concern when the intestinal flora’s good bacteria is out-populated by this yeast, which is commonly included under the heading bad bacteria. The now-flourishing yeast can enter the bloodstream via the enteric cycle and elicit the classic yeast symptoms of low energy levels, interrupted sleep, immunity issues, ringing in the ears, and sluggish digestion.
The Western approach to candida overgrowth is to eradicate the yeast and therefore relieve the associated symptoms. Ayurvedically, it is considered most important to address the underlying cause of candida while using herbal remedies to rebalance the body towards a healthy intestinal medium.
How Does Candida Take Over?
In Ayurveda, the etiology, or cause underlying the uncontrolled proliferation of candida is considered to be agnimandya, or deficient digestion. Deficient digestion results in the production of ama, which is the by-product of undigested food. Ama is then either absorbed into the bloodstream or lymphatic system, creating a toxicity and the ground floor for many health issues. Invariably, this ama will accumulate in the seat of vata found in the lower digestive tract. The seat of vata is governed by the apana (or downward moving) energy, which regulates the growth of flora in the gastrointestinal tract. As the ama accumulates in the small and large intestines, it will putrefy and ferment, thus inhibiting the normal flora from proliferating. Under these conditions, yeast has free reign to spread throughout the intestines unchecked.
The next stage of the candida growth process is a result of the intestinal absorption of ama into the liver and blood via the portal system.
In Ayurveda it is believed that, once yeast enters the bloodstream, the step-by-step generation and regeneration process of the seven tissues of the body can be interrupted or damaged.
If the seven tissues – which include rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), medha (fat), majja (nervous tissue), asthi (bone), and sukra (sperm and ovum) – are damaged or improperly formed, an overall lack of luster and vitality is the result. The dhatus are formed in a carefully designed succession, and if any one of the dhatus are improperly formed then the production of sukra will be inhibited. Sukra, the final culmination of the digestive process and of dhatu development, provides the body with immunity, procreation, vitality, luster, long life, and health. It is this gross lack of vitality and immunity that colors the symptoms of candida proliferation.
Reigning it Back In
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the two most important strategies in reigning candida back in are, first, to ensure the integrity of the digestive strength (also called agni, or fire) and second, to build immunity back into the body. With both of these in place, the treatment to kill off the excess yeast with medical drugs or herbs can safely and effectively be employed.
In Ayurveda, it’s understood that candida overgrowth can present differently based on body type, or prakriti, and can respond to a different support protocol depending on whether it’s a vata, pitta, or kapha form of candida overgrowth. Below, I’ll walk you through how to tell which form may match your presentation, and how to support each accordingly. After that, I’ll give you some general lifestyle suggestions that any presentation of candida overgrowth will benefit from.
Vata Candida Issues
Vata is aggravated by the excessive intake of pungent, bitter, and astringent foods; sugar; hard-to-digest proteins; wheat, dairy, nuts and soy; too much cold food and excessive travel; the suppression of natural and normal urges; excessive intercourse, and irregular eating and sleeping habits. Signs of vata aggravation include dry skin; nervousness, moodiness and an inability to cope; constipation, gas and bloating; ups and downs in energy levels, and unbalanced sleep patterns. If these are paired with signs of yeast imbalance, this can be considered a vata presentation of candida.
1. Start with an ama decreasing diet. This involves avoiding dairy, sugar, breads, and mucous-producing foods. Cold and raw foods should also be avoided. Sip hot water every 20 minutes and drink eight to ten 8oz glasses of warm lemon water per day. Eat a large relaxing lunch and a warm cooked soup for dinner. Avoid fruit juice and eat fresh fruit in moderation and separately from all other food groups. Use hing, ginger, basil ajwan, and garlic to spice your food*.
2. Start each meal with equal parts of ginger juice and honey, and a pinch of lemon juice, salt, and cumin powder*.
Pitta Candida Issues
Aggravated pitta can put out digestive fire in the same way that a flood of boiling water will put out a flame. Pitta is aggravated by greasy and spicy foods, and sugar. Signs of pitta imbalance are acidic digestion and occasional heartburn; bloating; yellowing complexion; irritability; swelling and other issues of the joints; yellowing loose stool; raised body temperature, and excessive thirst. Remember that often times the upward flow of vayu can take a vata based candida issue and mix it with a pitta presentation. Both sets of symptoms at the same time indicates a vata and pitta combined cause. A support protocol would then have to address both vata and pitta.
1. Eat more fresh raw leafy green vegetables, avoid sugar and fruit juice. Emphasize pomegranates and bitter herbs, veggies, and spices.
Kapha Candida Issues
Kapha is aggravated by the intake of food that is too heavy, too oily, and cold, and by pasta, bread, and sugar. Overeating and sleeping after meals produces ama and puts out the digestive fire. In this case digestion becomes slow and difficult. Kapha yeast issues can present with lowered immunity, swollen glands, water retention, heavy mood, fatigue, and excessive sleep.
1. Avoid all mucus-forming, oily, and greasy foods. Avoid salt and sugar. Eat primarily grains and vegetables. Dandelion, asparagus, kale, collard greens, and spinach are foods to increase.
2. Flavor food with pungent spices like cayenne, ginger, black pepper, clove, and curry.
Lifestyle Tips to Keep Candida in Check
If you are experiencing the signs of yeast overgrowth, it can be very helpful to follow a regular daily routine in waking, eating, and sleeping habits.
- Wake between 5 and 7am
- Take lunch between 12 and 1pm
- Take dinner between 5 and 7pm
- Go to bed between 9 and 10pm
Perform a sesame oil self-massage in the morning, followed with a warm bath or shower. You can learn how to give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage here.
Make lunch your main meal of the day – the biggest and most satisfying. Dinner should be light. Breakfast should be very light and is optional. Favor food that is freshly prepared. Avoid leftovers, frozen, canned, or processed food.
Sip hot water frequently throughout the day (every 1 or 2 hours or as often as desired). This keeps the digestive fire alive and flushes ama from the system. If you feel anxious, sipping hot water also settles the nervous system.
Get fresh air and regular exercise (preferably outdoors) through such methods as a morning or evening walk, sun salutations or other yoga asanas.
Extra Mealtime Tips
- Eat in a settled environment.
- Eat three meals a day and avoid snacking (except for the between lunch and dinner yogurt lassi, below).
- Eat only when hungry, after the last meal has been digested. Stop eating when you feel satisfied, but not yet full (about 1/2 to 3/4 full).
- Sit quietly for at least five minutes after eating to promote digestion.
- If dairy tolerant, take a lassi (yogurt mixed with water, 1:1, 1:2, or 1:4) during lunch and between lunch and dinner, as needed to promote digestion. It is best to make lassi with freshly made yogurt. Although traditionally lassi can be sweet or seasoned, with yeast issues you’ll want to keep it savory, flavoring with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, for example, or salt, ginger, and cumin.
- Avoid cold food or drinks, especially foods and drinks taken directly from the refrigerator.
- Avoid heavy food at the evening meal, including heavy desserts, yogurt, cheese, oily food, and fried food.
Ayurveda is all about going downstream with the cycles. Combining the dietary and lifestyle suggestions in this article with your existing protocol for candida elimination will help support the body in regaining balance, which will help your body heal itself – the cornerstone of Ayurveda!