When you hear about a yeast infection, the first thought might be that it is a woman’s problem, usually causing vaginal itching and discomfort. But did you know that this problematic yeast, Candida albicans, is present throughout the body, including the digestive tract, in both women and men? While it is true that Candida out of control can cause vaginal yeast infections and oral infections called “thrush,” it is also associated with a wide number of chronic diseases, and can increase the risk for certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer. An overgrowth of yeast in the intestines has long been thought to play a role in leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel disease (IBS). In general, the more yeast present in your intestines, the less room there is for the healthy good bacteria that play such a crucial role in having a strong immune response. By squeezing out these important, protective bacteria, yeast overgrowth can set the stage for a compromised immune system. There are even integrative medical practitioners who feel that yeast overgrowth contributes significantly to chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. So even though a “yeast” infection may seem trivial, the implications are far-reaching and can damage health dramatically. For all these reasons and more, it is very important to rid the body of excessive yeast. This week’s Terry Talks Nutrition will examine totally natural ways to take control of yeast and restore healthy balance.
What Is Candida Albicans?
Candida albicans is a common type of yeast (part of the fungal family) that lives in your body. It generally doesn’t cause trouble unless it starts to grow and spread out of control. Some of the natural systems to keep Candida in check are the healthy bacteria in your intestines. If they are destroyed by poor diet or antibiotics, it opens a window of opportunity for this yeast to spread like wildfire and take over their “houses” in the intestines. Excessive yeast in the intestines acts as a reservoir, and leads to excessive yeast in the vagina, urinary tract, mouth, between skin folds—anywhere it is dark, warm and moist.
What Are The Most Common Yeast Infections?
For many women, Candida albicans is associated with vaginal yeast infections, because it is already naturally present in the vagina. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 75 percent of women will have at least one yeast infection during their lifetimes. Unfortunately, the rise in yeast infections overall can be tied to the overuse of antibiotics, which in the case of candida have only served to make a stronger fungal strain. The most common yeast infection symptoms are vaginal irritation including itching and burning. Candida is often a recurring, frustrating part of a woman’s life. In fact, 40 to 45 percent of women will experience two or more episodes. An overgrowth of the yeast in the lining of the mouth is known as “thrush,” which can cause white lesions on the insides of the cheeks, tongue and tonsils, bleeding gums, a dry sensation in the mouth and throat, and even a loss of taste. While thrush is a more common concern for infants, it can strike adults as well. It doesn’t take much for candida to get out of control – if your immune system is even slightly weakened, yeast populations can explode in the body. When that happens, it can cause “brain fog,” fatigue, a craving for sweets, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, and a host of other health problems. It can even “burrow” through intestinal walls, contributing to leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. Sugar cravings can be common and this is understandable. Yeast thrives on sugar. The resulting weight gain and sluggishness are simply a part of this phenomenon. The problem is that the very sugar that you might crave simply feeds the yeast in your body, which makes you crave even more. Additionally, individuals with diabetes may have higher blood sugars because of their disease, which makes them particularly vulnerable to yeast overgrowth and yeast complications. In fact, sometimes the first symptom that someone has type 2 diabetes is recurrent yeast infections. Conventional treatment does what it can, but I’d suggest a different strategy: strong, concentrated plant oils that can bring the body’s systems back into balance.
Concentrated Plant Oils: Lab Tested for Excellent Health and Safety Concentrated plant oils are laboratory tested to accurately identify elements of their natural chemical composition and are up to 100 times more concentrated than herbal extracts. These powerful plant oils can contain as many as 300 biochemically distinct molecules, each of which is active in the body. Unlike essential oils used for massage and aromatherapy, these concentrated oils are tested and “fingerprinted” based on specific molecular makeup, species, marker compounds, purity and safety for internal medicinal use. The concentration process is crucial in working with medicinal plant oils – several tons of plant material may be necessary to yield just one liter (33 oz.) of concentrated oil. The extraordinary potency of these plant oils allows for relatively low doses, but very powerful health benefits. Let’s take a look at these amazing ingredients:
Thyme (Thymus serpyllum). You’ve probably used Thymus vulgaris as an herbal seasoning for foods you’ve cooked up at home. Thymus serpyllum, also known as “creeping thyme” or “wild thyme” is a different species that has thousands of years of traditional use for bronchial health, and has strong antiseptic properties as well. As in other species of thyme, Thymus serpyllum contains powerful compounds, including carvacrol, which shows strong yeast-inhibiting ability, and thymol, which is an antibacterial property, and can be used to treat infections.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata): One of the many species of eucalyptus, the essential oil of this plant contains 1,8 cineole, alpha pinene, limonene and globulol – all compounds that have strong antipathogenic and anti-inflammatory abilities. Reducing inflammation is important. It allows the body to spend its energies fighting Candida overgrowth rather than fighting the inflammation caused by the fungus, including swelling in the mouth, vaginal irritation, and the symptoms of IBS – all common effects of yeast overgrowth. But beyond reducing inflammation, eucalyptus oil has been found to have direct antifungal effects against 11 out of 12 fungal species, including Aspergillus fumigatus, Cryptococcus neoformans (another potentially dangerous yeast that can cause lung infections and fungal meningitis) and of course, Candida albicans.
Clove (Eugenia caryophyllus): Like other aromatic herbs, clove has a long history of use as both food and medicine. Current research has focused on the wide-spectrum antifungal abilities of clove essential oil. Studies show that its compounds – especially eugenol – had the strongest effect against pathogenic yeast strains, including Candida albicans. In fact, researchers noted that for some specific strains of Candida albicans, the yeast inhibition was virtually 100%! Additionally, this incredibly strong compound works against vaginal and oral candidiasis, making it a perfect component in any natural yeast-control regimen.
Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica): All of these botanicals are exciting and work very well synergistically, but one in particular – Ravensara – has tremendous benefits. This evergreen tree, native to Madagascar, was first noted by European traders in the 1640s and was used – like so many of the most effective herbs – as both a seasoning and a medicine. The people of Madagascar consider Ravensara a “cure all” and there’s little wonder why. Rather than being an immune system “booster”, it destroys disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and other “invaders” (and yeast overgrowth certainly counts as an “invader” when it becomes a health problem). Ravensara can be very sustainable – it simply requires extra care to harvest the material from the trees. Younger twigs and leaves make up the raw material for the oil, and as long as the tree isn’t stripped, or bark along the trunk “girdled” (removed around the entire circumference of the tree) harvests can continue for generations. Like so many of our precious botanical resources, there is a great effort in cultivating ravensara so that wild species can remain unharmed. Compounds in ravensara include 1,8 cineole, alpha pinene, and limonene, which are also found in eucalyptus, so there’s some good synergistic overlap between these ingredients.
Oregano (Oregano compactum): In rare instances, especially in long-standing chronic yeast infections, it may be necessary to add a potent, concentrated oregano oil to your anti-yeast protocol. However, for the majority of people, the above formula of thyme, clove, eucalyptus, and ravensara are able to completely address their yeast problems.
Controlling Yeast Is Key To Your Long-term Health
Controlling Candida is about more than stopping thrush or yeast infections. It means stopping the habits that can lead to yeast overgrowth to begin with. I’d urge you to stay away from sugars and carbohydrates altogether, to really kick Candida to the curb. For a more detailed look at an effective diet that works, please see my article, “Terry’s Traditional Diet”. Candida overgrowth is serious and can cause real damage to your body and weaken your immune system – possibly permanently. It’s important to start getting this under control right away. Consider these powerful, concentrated plant oil ingredients that fight fungal infections, strengthen your immune system, and provide a tonic effect for your entire body. If thrush is a particular concern, allow the softgel ingredients to dissolve in your mouth. These plant oils are strong tasting, so don’t be surprised – but you’ll also start your body healing even sooner. To treat IBS, leaky gut, or vaginal yeast infections, simply swallow the softgel as you would any other supplement. So why use a supplement that concentrates the effects on the digestive tract? Because if you control yeast balance in the digestive tract, you control it throughout the entire body. That’s why I recommend these ingredients for internal use – you’ll have a better balance of yeast in the digestive tract and that will make a difference everywhere in your body!