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 and exists in balance with the trillions of other bacteria that make your microbiome home.
The concerns arise when that balance is disrupted. This disruption can transpire from stress, poor diet, poor lifestyle, poor sleep, antibiotic use, and oral contraceptives.
There are over 20 different strains of candida that can cause infection. Candida albicans is the most common. Candida albicans is often referred to as “opportunistic,” as it will quickly jump at the chance to overgrow and spread if the conditions are vulnerable.
It will quickly overpopulate and overpower the 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, and only then use herbal remedies to restore a balanced microbiome.
How Does Candida Take Over?
Ayurveda says that the underlying cause of frenzied proliferation of candida is considered to be agnimandya or deficient digestion.
Deficient digestion results in the production of ama, the by-product of undigested food. Ama is then either absorbed into the bloodstream or lymphatic system, creating a toxicity and the platform for many health issues.
Invariably, the 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, and inhibit 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. This can disturb digestion, the ability to detox, and the manufacturing of the body’s major tissues.
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 become interrupted or imbalanced.
If the seven dhatus (tissues)—which include rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), medha (fat), majja (nervous tissue), asthi (bone), and sukra (sperm and ovum)—are imbalanced 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 is improperly formed, the production of sukra and ojas will be inhibited. Sukra and ojas are the final culmination of the digestive process and of dhatu development, provides the body with needed ojas for procreation, vitality, luster, long life, and health.
It is this overall lack of vitality, immunity, and ojas 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 the integrity of the digestive strength (agni).
- Build immunity back into the body and remove ama.
With both of these in place, the treatment to kill off the excess yeast can safely and effectively be employed.
In Ayurveda, it’s understood that candida overgrowth can present differently based on body type, and can respond to a different protocol depending on whether there is 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 governed by air, and can easily become imbalanced from stress and excess anything. The seat of vata, or the seat of the nervous system, is in the colon—making the colon the first place the body is affected by stress. Decreasing stress levels is critical to keeping vata balanced. Your gut houses your microbiome, which is easily imbalanced by vata stress. This makes vata body types somewhat more vulnerable to issues like candida.
Vata energy disturbing the gut’s microbiome environment must always be evaluated when addressing candida, as the gut is the source of candida overgrowth. Balancing vata will be key for all body types struggling with candida.
Vata becomes unbalanced from:
- The excessive intake of pungent, bitter, and astringent foods
- Excess sweets and sugar
- Inability to break down hard-to-digest proteins
- Too much cold food and drink
- Drinking and not chewing meals
- Excessive travel
- Stress and overwork
- The suppression of natural and normal urges
- Excessive sex, irregular eating and sleeping habits
Signs of vata imbalance include:
- Dry skin
- Nervousness, moodiness and an inability to cope
- Occasional 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.
Dietary Support for Vata Candida Issues
- Start with an ama-decreasing diet. This involves avoiding dairy, sugar, bread, 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, fennel, cumin, basil, coriander, ajwan, and garlic to spice your food.
- Start each meal with equal parts of ginger juice and honey, and a pinch of lemon juice, salt, and cumin powder.
We RecommendReset Digestive Agni (Fire) Protocol
PITTA CANDIDA ISSUES
Pitta (fire) is seated in the upper digestive organs and is easily disturbed by excess vata and overzealous behavior.
Aggravated pitta can put out or disturb the digestive fire in the same way that a flood of boiling water will put out a flame. Excess pitta, or digestive heat, can pull vata (air) from the large intestine upwards, disturbing the delicate balance of microbes in the gut and fan the fire of digestion, with the vata wind blowing on the digestive fire.
This is called the enteric cycle, where the blood from the gut drains directly into the liver, potentially causing liver and gallbladder congestion—sometimes called excess liver and digestive heat.
Over time, the body can compensate for the excess heat by turning off the digestive heat (stomach acid production). This allows undigested food and toxins to enter the lower digestion, resulting in ama (residue from undigested food) and aggravated candida and kapha.
Pitta becomes unbalanced from:
- Greasy and spicy foods
- Racing through meals
Signs of pitta imbalance include:
- Acidic digestion and occasional heartburn
- Yellowing complexion
- Swelling of the joints
- Yellowing loose stool
- Raised body temperature, and excessive thirst
- Skin issues
Dietary Support for Pitta Candida Issues
- Eat more fresh, raw, leafy green vegetables.
- Avoid sugar and fruit juice.
- Emphasize good, pitta-reducing fats like coconut oil and ghee.
- Emphasize bitter roots and herbs, veggies, and spices.
KAPHA CANDIDA ISSUES
Kapha comes from the words “to stick together,” and is caused by congestion. Kapha body types are prone to holding on to water and becoming congested. During times of congestion, the lymphatic fluid, which is a kapha-based fluid can become sluggish.
The lymph carries the immune system, and when stuck in traffic, immune function can become compromised. This lymph-immune congestion first starts in the lymph around the intestines, then backs up into the intestines, causing a disturbance in the microbiome and allowing opportunistic candida to flourish.
Kapha becomes unbalanced from:
- Eating food that is too heavy, too oily, and cold
- Excess processed and packaged foods, like pasta, bread, and sweets
- Overeating and frequent eating
- Sleeping after meals produces ama and puts out the 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 a 90% plant-based diet that includes whole grains.
- Dandelion, asparagus, kale, collard greens, and spinach are foods to increase.
- 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 of waking, eating, and sleeping habits. Here are some lifestyle tips to keep candida in check:
- Each day:
- Wake between 5am and 7am
- Take lunch between 12pm and 1pm
- Take dinner between 5pm and 6pm
- 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.
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. While traditional 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 flowing downstream with the 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 which, ultimately, will help your body heal itself.