What is candida overgrowth and what are the symptoms?
Candida is a naturally-occurring yeast or fungus that inhabits the mouth, gut, vagina, and other mucosal membranes of the body. Ordinarily, it is harmless, existing in balance with the trillions of other bacteria that make your body home.
Concerns arise when that balance is disrupted. This disruption can transpire from stress, poor diet, poor lifestyle, poor sleep, antibiotic use, oral contraceptives, and other disruptors.
There are over 20 strains of candida that can cause infection. Candida albicans is the most common. Candida albicans is often referred to as “opportunistic,” quickly jumping at the chance to spread if the conditions are vulnerable.
It will quickly overpopulate and overpower good gut bacteria, and the symptoms are not fun: low energy levels, interrupted sleep, immunity issues, ringing in the ears, and sluggish digestion.
Western medicine’s approach to candida overgrowth is to completely eradicate the yeast in order to relieve the associated symptoms. Ayurveda, on the other hand, takes its characteristic approach of identifying and addressing the underlying cause of candida. Then, we use herbal remedies to restore a balanced microbiome.
Krimi Roga: The Treatment of Candida in Ayurveda
Ayurevda described the microbes that live on our foods and in our guts as krimi. They blamed the proliferation of bad bacteria or krimi on poor hygiene—a concept 2,000 years ahead of its time!10 Furthermore, krimi roga, or treatment of undesirable microbes, was not aimed at annihilating them but rebalancing the host and its environment.
This fascinating insight is still not on the radar of medical science today. Instead of killing bacteria, as we do today with drugs and harsh herbs, they suggested to:
- remove them physically
- remove the cause of the infestation
- alter the nature of the bacteria and the environment of the human gut11
They went on to suggest the prakriti (nature or basal makeup) of the human host, as well as the parasite, can both be suitably modified with dietary and lifestyle habits, herbal and mineral support, and immune-enhancing Ayurvedic procedures.
Today, we have volumes of science to suggest that stressful environments, highly processed foods, and imbalanced diets can severely compromise a healthy microbiome, setting the stage for candida overgrowth.12
How Does Candida Take Over?
Ayurveda says the underlying cause of frenzied proliferation of candida is agnimandya, or deficient digestion. Deficient digestion results in production of ama, the byproduct of undigested food. Ama is then absorbed into the bloodstream or lymphatic system. This toxicity is the root of many health issues.
Invariably, ama will accumulate in the seat of vata, the lower digestive tract. The seat of vata is governed by apana (downward-moving) energy. Apana regulates growth of flora in the gastrointestinal tract. As ama accumulates in the small and large intestines, it will putrefy and ferment, inhibiting normal flora from proliferating. Under these conditions, yeast has free reign to spread through the intestines unchecked.
The next stage of the candida growth process is a result of intestinal absorption of ama into the liver and blood. In Ayurveda, it is believed that once yeast (candida) enters the bloodstream, the step-by-step generation and regeneration process of the seven tissues of the body becomes interrupted or imbalanced.
If the seven dhatus (tissues)—which include rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), medha (fat), majja (nervous tissue), asthi (bone), and shukra (sperm and ovum)—are imbalanced or improperly formed, overall lack of vitality is the result.
The dhatus are formed in a carefully designed succession. If any one of the dhatus is improperly formed, production of shukra will be inhibited. Properly developed shukra transforms into “ojas” the final culmination of the digestive process and of dhatu development, provides the body with procreation, vitality, luster, long life, and health. It is this overall lack of vitality that colors the symptoms of candida proliferation.
Reigning it Back In
From an Ayurvedic perspective, there are two important strategies when it comes to controlling candida:
- Restore integrity of digestive strength (agni).
- Build immunity back into the body.
In Ayurveda, it’s understood that candida overgrowth can present differently based on body type, and can respond to a different protocol depending on the form of candida overgrowth. There are three forms: vata, pitta, or kapha.
Below, I’ll walk you through how to tell which form you may be suffering from, 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 becomes unbalanced from:
- Excessive intake of pungent, bitter, and astringent foods
- Hard-to-digest proteins
- Wheat, dairy, nuts, and soy
- Too much cold food
- Excessive travel
- Suppression of natural urges
- Excessive intercourse
- Irregular eating and sleeping habits
Signs of vata imbalance include:
- Dry skin
- Nervousness, moodiness, and an inability to cope
- Occasional constipation, gas, and bloating
- Swings in energy levels
- Unbalanced sleep patterns
If these are paired with signs of yeast imbalance, this can be considered a vata presentation of candida.
Dietary Support for Vata Candida Issues
- Start with an ama-decreasing diet. This involves avoiding dairy, sugar, breads, processed foods and fats and mucus-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.
- Start each meal with a drink: equal parts of ginger juice and raw honey, a pinch of lemon juice, salt, and cumin powder.
Herbs for Vata Candida Conditions
The seat of vata is in the large intestine which is where most krimi or microbial imbalances arise. To treat vata candida I use a microbiome and intestinal environment reset with three primary herbs.
- Slippery Elm prebiotic for one month
- Gut Revival 1 packet twice a day for a month
- Constipated: Elim I: 1-4 caps twice a day for 2-3 months. For Loose Stools: Leaky Gut Support (Previously called Elim II): 1-4 cap twice a day for 2-3 month.
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 becomes unbalanced from:
- Greasy and spicy foods
Signs of pitta imbalance include:
- Acidic digestion and occasional heartburn
- Yellowing complexion
- Swelling of the joints
- Yellowing loose stool
- Raised body temperature
- Excessive thirst
Oftentimes, 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 indicate a vata-pitta combined cause. The support protocol would then have to address both vata and pitta.
Dietary Support for Pitta Candida Issues
- Eat more fresh, raw, leafy green vegetables
- Avoid sugar and fruit juice
- Eat pomegranates
- Eat bitter herbs, veggies, and spices
Herbs For Pitta Candida
Pitta types are prone to inflammation and the origin of this infalammation is in the digestive tract. As a result of excess pitta or an alteration of the environment of the intestinal tract undesireable microbes or krimi can opportunistically proliferate. This often causes pockets of candida or krimi that we now call biofilm. The best Ayurvedic herbs for biofilm and candida are both Neem and Tulsi Holy Basil.
For pitta types in the warmer summer months I suggest LifeSpa’s Neem Plus and for pitta types in the cooler months of suggest LifeSpa’s Tulsi Holy Basil. Dosage: 3 caps after each meal for 2-3 months.
Kapha Candida Issues
Kapha becomes unbalanced from:
- Food that is too heavy, too oily, and cold
- Pasta, bread, and sugar
- Sleeping after meals produces ama and puts out digestive fire
Signs of kapha imbalance include:
- Slow and difficult digestion
- Sluggish immunity
- Water retention
- Heavy mood
- Tiredness and excessive sleep
Dietary Support for Kapha Candida Issues
- Avoid all mucus-forming, oily, and greasy foods
- Avoid salt and sugar
- Eat primarily grains and vegetables
- Eat dandelion, asparagus, kale, collard greens, and spinach
- Flavor food with pungent spices like cayenne, ginger, black pepper, clove, and curry
Lifestyle Tips to Keep Candida in Check
If you experience the signs of yeast overgrowth, it can be very helpful to follow a regular daily routine. Here are some lifestyle tips to keep candida in check:
- Wake between 5am and 7am
- Take lunch between 12pm and 1pm
- Take dinner between 5pm and 7pm
- Go to bed between 9pm and 10pm
- 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.
- Perform a sesame oil self-massage in the morning, followed by a warm bath or shower. Learn how to give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage here.
- 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), such as a morning or evening walk, sun salutations, or other yoga asanas.
Herbs For Kapha Candida
The seat of kapha is in the stomach and chest where mucus can commonly accumulate. The stomach in particular is the first defense against exposing the rest of the digestive tract to undesirable microbes that can alter the intestinal environment downstream.
The key to addressing a kapha candida condition is to ensure the strength of the agni in the stomach called jathara agni. This is best down by resetting the upper digestion with includes kindling acid production in the stomach with the coordinated production of bile from the liver and pancreatic and duodenal enzymes to complete the digestive process.
To understand this process fully, I suggest you read my free Digestive Troubleshooting Guide eBook.
To get started I suggest you reset the balanced production of stomach acid with either LifeSpa’s Warm Digest. Start by takin 1-2 before each meal.
We RecommendReset Digestive Agni (Fire) Protocol
Extra Mealtime Tips
- Eat in a settled environment.
- Eat three meals a day and avoid snacking (except for an afternoon 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 to promote digestion. It is best to make lassi with freshly made yogurt. While traditional lassi can be sweet or seasoned, with yeast issues, you’ll want to keep it savory, flavoring it with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, 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 flowing with cycles, rather than fighting against the current. Combining the dietary and lifestyle suggestions in this article with your existing protocol for candida elimination will help your body restore balance and help your body heal itself.
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